DIA 51: Tijuana, Mexico
Millas viajó: 7,168
Estados visitados: 20
Tiempo: 64, frio
Hoy escribo en español. Cuando visito San Diego, yo quiero ver Tijuana, México. Camino de San Ysidro, California a Tijuana.
I wanted to write this entire post in Spanish but it would’ve been too much work. So anyway… as soon as I decided to visit San Diego, I knew I had to go to Tijuana. Unfortunately, over the past few years Tijuana, like many Mexican border towns, has become more dangerous, with drug gang gunfights and even kidnappings. Over the last four years a few dozen Americans were kidnapped and held for ransom. So the question was, How to visit safely?
My first thought was to visit San Diego and find someone to go down with me. But then I remembered couchsurfing.com, the worldwide network of friendly people who let you stay with them, and it occurred to me maybe I could find someone in Tijuana. So I browsed the profiles and found Victor, who let me couchsurf at his place on Sunday and showed me around town. He speaks Spanish and English so traveling in Tijuana was much safer and more enjoyable with him.
The only trouble was getting to his place. One thing I decided based on my research was that I was absolutely not taking the van into Mexico. You have to buy special Mexican insurance, and then driving around with a Pennsylvania license would make myself stand out as an American. So I parked in one of the many lots at the border in San Ysidro, California and walked across the border.
The top half of this photo is Tijuana. The bottom half is California, and the wall is in the middle.
Walking into Tijuana alone was slightly unnerving but I have mad street smarts. I’m very good at walking purposefully and confidently so I look like I know where I’m headed. I researched so I’d be aware of the tricks Mexicans use to prey on tourists. After crossing the border I found a cab (one of the Taxi Libre cabs with a running meter, as opposed to one of the yellow cabs with no meter where the price is negotiated and the driver will sometimes change the deal as he sees fit) and headed towards Victor’s place.
The cab driver didn’t recognize the address and he spoke no English. I can usually communicate in Spanish at a very basic level, but this guy and I were having serious communication problems. And I couldn’t call Victor because my cell phone couldn’t make calls in Mexico. This was turning into a bad situation. But then Victor called (I could receive incoming calls), and I put him on the phone with the driver to direct him to the right place.
It just happened that the day of my visit was the city’s annual Festival de la Paella y el Vino. We never got any paella, but we got some vino (por gratis!) The festival featured mariachi bands and flamenco dancers, one of whom was Victor’s close friend.
Victor gave me a tour of the redlight district. Prostitution is technically not legal here, but la policia look the other way. There is a section of town where lots of young women stand on the sidewalk, just waiting for customers. Twenty dollars is pretty much the going rate for whatever you want. It’s pretty astonishing. I’ve seen that in other cities but it was never so blatant.
Then we hopped in the colectivo and headed to the beach. The beach in Tijuana isn’t much to see. But it’s interesting because you can see the wall separating the U.S. from Mexico. The wall even extends into the Pacific Ocean.
Then we headed back downtown and stopped in a few bars. At one place the bottled beer cost as little as 15 pesos (about $1.15.) Super cheap! The last stop was a dance club which was a lot of fun. Es una fiesta de bailamos!
I loved having a chance to use my elementary Spanish skills, even if just with a bus driver or bartender. Tijuana was great fun to visit and I’m happy I did. Now someone let me back into the United States!