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Oaxaca is beautiful...

In cooperation with: Visit Mexico
nyc
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Oaxaca is beautiful...

I did not have the chance to see Oaxaca before the disturbances, so I cannot compare it to before. But I do not understand what "graffitti" or "damage" people are talking about. Compared to any European capital (like Paris or Prague) Oaxaca has no graffitti. Perhaps most of it had been cleaned up by the time I got there because most buildings were painted in these beautiful Crayola deep and bright colors. I thought they looked beautiful. Or perhaps I have a lower standard, grafiitii to me is any city after an election...there is nothing even remotely like that in Oaxaca. As for construction/destruction, I live in New York, and there is much more of that over here, that there was over there,

As for the damage that Go Mexico talks about...all the tourist sites we went to, were open and there was 0 damage. From the ruins, to the churches, to the museums. I tried hard to find where the damage at the Camino Real happenned, and could not find it. It is like new.

As for the merchants, none were as desperate as they seem in Delhi, Cairo, or Cuzco. We were not hounded. We bought beautiful dresses and toys for our niece.

I only saw two signs of desperation. Our tour guide (who came recommended and is well like by some people on trip advisor, so this might be personal) was really pushy in terms of trying to get us to visit stores and restaurants he liked (I assumed he was getting kickbacks.) If you are planning to book a guide ahead of your trip, these are questions I would have liked to ask. Are you a liscenced tourism guide? (ours was not and he could not enter Monte Alban or Mitla and was generally not knowledgeable.) What is included in your fee? (None of the tickets were included in our fee and it would have been much cheaper to book a local tour that included everything.) I would not book a tour in Oaxaca in advance, as you will have many choices.

The other desperation was at the restaurants. They were empty. We walked past several of the ones with good reputations (as in written about in travel and Leisure and the like) and did not see one customer. But this is not only Oaxaca...it was also like that in Puebla and to a certain extent in DF. We ate in a famous, but empty restaurant in Puebla, and got food poisoning so severe, that it required antibiotics, so by the time we got to Oaxaca we were scared to eat in an empty restaurant that perhaps was not getting the kind of food turnover that keeps things fresh. We ate at the Camino Real (that really tries hard to keep things clean, they use ingredients like french butter because it is packaged differently and more antiseptically) and Casa Oaxaca which had a decent amount of bussiness. The food at the Camino Real is surprisingly good and at Casa Oaxaca it is spectacular.

The only signs that something happenned here are the heavily armed policemen around the Zocalo. (we also saw them in Puebla.)

I am glad we came at a time like this. Any other time, we might have seen a more crowded and touristy Oaxaca, which might not be as charming. Oaxaca is laid back and very well preserved. There is lots to see and do. I highly reccommed Oaxaca and I will be back!

nyc
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1. Re: Oaxaca is beautiful...

I forgot to note that we were first time visitors to Oaxaca. We saw some American tourists, some French and other assorted Europeans, a group of Argentinean girls. The Camino Real had about 20 guests.

Las Cruces, New...
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2. Re: Oaxaca is beautiful...

marpaz -

I don't know if this is appropriate but don't know how else to find out: can you reveal where you got food poisoning in Puebla, as I did, too. It was a restaurant listed in all the guidebooks and well-recommended on this site, so I thought it was just me, perhaps. My incident was on Dec.19 at the F---- S---- C---- (getting Victorian here).

I'm glad to hear that Oaxaca is recovering. I hope to return there in March. Thanks for your encouraging report.

Sydney, Australia
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3. Re: Oaxaca is beautiful...

We have now been in Oaxaca for 3 days - this place is a stunning colonial town with lots of colour.

If you are afraid of visiting, please don't be.

We feel totally safe and have simply enjoyed what most people come here for. It does seem quiet but the Zocolo was buzzing.

If you are looking for a place to stay...Casa de las Bugambilias.

Lovely B&B, terrific hosts and a great little cafe out the front.

I wouldnt miss this place for the world!

nyc
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4. Re: Oaxaca is beautiful...

This is for Mama Ocllo...the restaurant in Puebla is the one you are talking about...we ate there on the 1st and were violently ill that same evening. We are sure it was that place because we had a late breakfast at the Condesa in DF and felt fine, and had eaten there the previous days and felt fine, and the Condesa has 2 very busy restaurants and was completely full of guests, so if there had been a problem it would have been quickly detected. We did not eat anything until dinner in Puebla. We drank only bottled water and we wash our hands often.

The doctor suspected that it was contaminated cheese. Did you have the Pueblan appetizer plate that came with the pico de gallo and cheese combo? We remember that it was luke warm. My sister got much sicker than I did and she ate most of it. She also had the dish that came with poblanos and huatlicoche.

I don't know if you had the same experience we did, but when we reported it to our hotel (who sent us to FSC, they thought it was funny that we were sick.) Everyone else in Mexico, including the doctor tried to convince us that it isn't the low hygienic standards in some restaurants in Mexico, but us "Americans" that have such delicates stomachs. We were told that it happens to all travellers. They changed their tune, when we told them that we travel often and did not get sick in places like Cairo, Bombay, and Beijing and certainly not Europe. We are very careful about where we eat and one would assume that the FSC would be a safe place to eat! To anyone out there, do not eat in an empty restaurant in Mexico, no matter how well recommended! The hotels are safer! (We wanted to eat at our hotel but their restaurant was close. Other guests ate at the very busy Royalty in Puebla and did not get sick. We didn't eat there because we wanted something that specialized in more local food.)

Thanks for responding. If anybody else got or gets sick there, that restaurant should be reported.

Las Cruces, New...
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5. Re: Oaxaca is beautiful...

marpaz - Thanks for answering.

No, I had the 3 moles plate, which only had a little cheese on top:

1 traditional mole, and red and green pipian; besides that, just some pan and I can't remember what I had to drink. The restaurant wasn't entirely empty, but I think it was close to closing, so perhaps I got what had been sitting around all day.

Just going by how busy the restaiurant is may not work either. The next night, I was going along the arcades at the north side of the Zocalo, walking behind a couple of policemen. Lots of girlish shrieks arose behind us, we all turned around, and there was a medium-sized rat strolling under the tables at McDonald's, which was quite full. I was glad I'd eaten several blocks away.

After the FSC experience, I gave up on internationally famous restaurants, went back to eating in clean-looking smaller places, and never had another problem. Like you, I'm pretty careful what and where I eat, having been well-scared by Peace Corps training lectures before I went to Peru in 1962, and also by some other Peace Corps people who weren't careful, turned extremely yellow, or got horrid ailments. Got no time for that.

I hope you and your sister have recovered and continue to enjoy Oaxaca.

Oaxaca
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6. Re: Oaxaca is beautiful...

That was a great posting by Marpaz. I would just like to clarify the issue of using licensed tour guides. Here at Ollin Bed and Breakfast our guests frequently use taxis to visit the ruins and outlying villages. For 2 or 3 persons you can expect to pay between 100 and 120 pesos for a driver and car--who may speak only a little english, or perhaps none at all. The driver will not likely have the knowledge of a licensed guide. If you are on a budget, speak spanish, and have a good guidebook, this is a nice option. For an english speaking driver (not a licensed guide) with an airconditioned van that will hold 6 persons comfortably you can expect to pay about 140 to 160 pesos per hour. For a licensed tour gude with an airconditioned van you can expect to pay between 180 and 200 pesos per hour. The licensing procedure insures that the guide will be very knowledgable about the history of the region and that english will be spoken.

There is always the option of a commercial tour which will allow you to see the same places at a reasonable price, however, most of our guests prefer the flexibility of a driver or guide.

nyc
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7. Re: Oaxaca is beautiful...

We did see a rat (mouse) in Puebla! it wasn't at the McDonalds though, it was on that main street at the edge of the historical area.

I guess, based solely on my personal experience and nothing else, because I am sure there are people who would beg to differ and they would have every right to do so... I would say skip Puebla and go straight to Oaxaca!

The weather was also nicer in Oaxaca and the Camino Real had better service and the nicest bell men in the world for the same price that we paid in Puebla.

Las Cruces, New...
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8. Re: Oaxaca is beautiful...

I think I'll go back to Puebla - someday. I didn't nearly exhaust all the possibilities of things to do and see there, though I admit Puebla doesn't have Oaxaca's sort of, I don't know what to call it, integrated character, as if the whole city of Oaxaca has a personality. Puebla is more like just a big city with lots of interesting things to do, in and around.

texas
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9. Re: Oaxaca is beautiful...

We went to Oaxaca in early August, both experienced travelers, and we both got sick. We ate at the same restaurants, different choices.

It was pretty bad for a day or two.

My mom came later, stayed at the Camino Real, ate all her meals there, and never got sick.

Americans who live in Mexico tell me that it is the sometimes dirty water used to irrigate fields that gets into porous foods, like lettuce and strawberries, that gets us sick. Plus, the occasional cook with dirty hands. Yes, that can happen anywhere , I know.

Oaxaca, Mexico
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10. Re: Oaxaca is beautiful...

I had wanted to stay away from this particular thread, but have been reading some disturbing comments regarding restaurants, and the comments by one poster receiving praise from a local resident.. Generalizations such as "the hotels are safer" are ill conceived in my respectful opinion. Anyone who eats "all her meals " at the Camino Real is missing a tremeandous part of Oaxaca. I can't imagine eating all one's meals anywhere, be it Casa Oaxaca, Los Danzantes, the Camino Real, or Juan's Taco stand. Whatever happened to the adage regarding diversity? The most troubling was the advice "...do not eat in an empty restaurant in Mexico, no matter how well recommened". Two problems arise. 1) Americans tend to eat their meals much earlier than Oaxacans, so if they go by a great restaurant mainly frequented by locals, at 1 pm for lunch or 7 pm for dinner, on balance there won't be anyone there. Should this be a reason to not eat, for example at eateries which have been around Oaxaca for quite some time without relying on tourist dollars for their existence such as Los Almendros, El Mirador, Veracruz, and even La Toscana? 2) Let's take the touristy restaurants, some of which are quite good. Should you walk away because no other travelers have arrived there yet, just because it's empty ... notwithstanding a stellar reputation? Even at the Camino Real, if staff forgets to disinfect, wash their hands, etc, patrons will get ill. And it happens. Are staff members at Casa Oaxaca, Temple, Los Danzantes, Azucena Zapoteca, Doña Chica, etc, any less likely to make the effort to disinfect than those at Hotel Victoria, Hotel San Felipe and the others of that class? They all make a living from tourism moreso than from locals so they have the same motivation. Those who shun the smaller roadside restaurants should also perhaps reconsider, if they are "seasoned travelers". We, and some of our guests, have had memorable meals at little roadside eateries without incident. One just has to be careful and watch for signs of meat refrigeration, cleanliness, freshness, use of disinfectant and purified water, etc. In fact it's often easier to tell at a small place or a taco stand where there's an open kitchen, than in a more substantial restaurant where you can't see what's going on in the kitchen. If you trust your tourguide with your life by virtue of the fact that you're spending a day with him in his vehicle in the countryside, then perhaps at least consider trusting him with your intestinal tract. In spite of the foregoing, I think it's prudent to consider the length of your vacation when deciding the extent to which you should take eating "risks". If you're in Oaxaca for a week or less, then it might make sense to err on the side of caution by avoiding eating in the markets or on the street unless you have your set rules and understand on balance under what circumstances you might get ill. Two days of seven under the weather might not make sense. However, if you're here for 10 days or more and trust your hotel to be able to make sound advice in the event your stomach starts to feel queezy, in terms of meds (or better yet get a doctor to come and treat you), it's perhaps a different story. The key is to take steps at the first sign of any G.I. problems so you can get immediate treatment and miss not more than a day of touring and otherwise enjoying.