One year in Mexico I decided to moved from the north end of the city to the more central Zona Dorada in Mazatlán.
While I hated giving up the daily water taxi ride I used to take to get to my gym, the 10-minute bus ride I had to take instead was a straight shot down Avenida del Mar, meaning that it went down the main avenue that runs parallel to the ocean. A very pleasant trek.
The view itself from the buses' windows is interesting enough on its own. You pass dozens of colorful street stalls selling clingy beach dresses, upscale and working-man open air restaurants and bars, as well as intermittent views of the ocean as you pass. Lack of zoning laws may create problems for residents but it certainly makes for a more interesting bus ride.
A saint? The Virgin?
To the right out of the picture is a drawing of Al Pacino.
Buses are contracted out by the city and owned by individuals. Like yachts, they are given names. It might be a comfortable and modern touring bus or it might be one of the beat-up buses with open windows that you expect in Mexico. You never know what you are going to get.
With so much going on outside, it took a number of trips before I noticed that the inside of the buses was just as interesting as what I saw out the window.
The interiors often have a point of view, demonstrated by graphics displayed in front and sometimes along the entire inside roof of the bus.
This is like having your name on your car...showing pride in your 'house."
Not all are decorated but some interiors have become real canvases. I always wonder how the art got there and what inspired it. Did a favorite driver get permission to choose or does the “Scarface” mural express the tastes of the owner of the bus?
Did someone just come up to the owner and say, “Mind if I graffiti the interior of your bus with a homage to Che Guevara?
Was the artist paid or volunteer? The quilted black leather padding on the over-sized steering wheel - whose idea was it, and who paid for it?
Recently, a few pan-handlers have appeared on the plusher bus that goes all the way from the northern tip of the city to El Centro in the city’s southern tip. The pan-handler tells the other riders a story of hardship and always includes profuse apologies for being there.
"There is no greater pride for a father than an honest son."
He may play a guitar or be wearing workingman’s clothes, as if ready to get off the bus and repair something on the spot if the opportunity arose. In my limited experience (I’ve only seen these guys in the last few weeks), they have never, ever been in the least intimidating, as I’ve seen pan handlers in downtown Denver become.
I love Uber and taxis in Mexico. I'm not sure if this life would be possible without them. They get me around quickly and you can have great opportunities to practice your Spanish. These daily bus rides, however, are like when I took the Metro to work in Washington D.C. years ago, making me feel more like just another resident in her city, living her life rather than a tourist. Some days that's all I want.
Traveling from one Mexican town to another is a whole different experience, as these buses are very luxurious. Most expat friends of mine, even those who own cars, often still prefer to take them when traveling in Mexico. Here, Bus Bud gives you "10 Commandments" of taking these buses in Mexico.
Next up: Mexico always means stepping outside your comfort zone, and that's a good thing.
Most recent: Whether you're in Mexico or Southwest Oklahoma, maybe you want to think about saving your skin with natural remedies. Wandering around a Mexican botanical store offers unique ideas.
About the author:
Hola - I'm Kerry Baker and am a partner with Ventanas Mexico as well as author of the "Interactive Guide to Learning Spanish Free Online,' the best of free internet tools you'd never find on your own, organized into lesson plans. Perfect for those of us who get bored with the same tools every day (like me).
Written for the potential or current expat, the Guide shows you how you are never too old to learn a second language. Use the book's lesson plans or create your own with tools you'll never find in a Google search, a number of them from Spain, for example.
Recently released: "If Only I Had a Place" a guide to living luxuriously in Mexico for less, along with a listing of rental concierges. Renting is different in Mexico. Learn before you err.