Photo of the Day: Stanito in Esfahan

Dear Reader,
One of the best benefits of traveling in company is that casually your travel buddies are excellent photographers. My friend Lichix took this photo of me in Esfahan while visiting the stunning Masjed-e Jameh Mosque, the biggest mosque in Iran and the pioneer of Islamic architecture.

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With this post I’m opening a thread of How-To posts dedicated on how to take beautiful pictures in places where the camera is not very welcome. Stay tuned! 🙂

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Stanito and the Guineafowl Puffer fish

Dear Reader,

There are experiences in life which are just wonderful and unique and expressing them with words is not enough 🙂

It all happened on a weekend…

We went diving in a secret location. We were told that the conditions were not ideal, meaning visibility was poor, but that we could still enjoy appreciate the smaller creatures of the oceans. It is true that when visibility is great you tend to focus on big creatures like manta rays, sharks, whales, and what not.

This time, however, surprises came in small size.

No sharks, no nothing big, but this guy was worth the entire experience.

Meet the friendliest guineafowl puffer fish

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Our dive buddy found him, he was slim, once in his hands he puffed up immediately

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Gilles grabs him first before passing him onto me

And then he laid in my hands

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First time I hold one in my hands. He felt soft, slimy, spongy, until I let him go

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Puffy fish swims away

No need for sharks or big buddies. This puffy little guy was worth the trip.

 

Unknown Mexico: Colourful Michoacan

Dear Reader,

I truly find that real Mexico is found only in few places. I say this because this country tends to be stereotyped and often confused to what spring-breakers look for every year.
Don’t fall for that trap, my dear Reader, for you’re looking for authentic and genuine sites. You’re not after mass commercial tourism. You’re after meaningful places, meaningful culture and discovery.

So this time I want to take you to Michoacán, my favourite state in all Mexico.

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Wilderness of Anganguen

Michoacán is often regarded as a black-list state, a dangerous nest of narcos that yearn to hide among its many hills. It might be true but the way I see it is different. Besides, “danger” in Mexico is a very volatile concept, and all the Manzanillo lovers should know that Colima has in fact become very dangerous in spite of nobody saying anything about it. Check on this independent news website for more information about Colima.

Why I love Michoacán

Michoacan is simply divine in many ways.

“If you want to form an idea of our journey, take a map of Mexico and you will see that Michoacán is one of the most beautiful and fertile regions of the world, crossed by hills and lavish valleys, its prairies watered by several streams and its climate temperate and healthful.”
Marquise Calderón de la Barca

Michoacán is unique fusion of natural wild beauty, picturesque colourful, art, tradition and culture. Traveling through Michoacán is to take an extraordinary trip to the heart of Mexico, and I don’t mean it in geographical terms.

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Michioacán has an infinity of mountains which never tire your eyes, many lakes and indigenous towns. In these towns people still speak their own native languages and some of them even struggle with Spanish. The towns of Pátzcuaro, Meseta and Paracho are a vivid example of it: these towns have preserved the traditions and language of the invincible empire of Purépecha Empire (allegedly distantly related to the Quechua people from north of Peru), which dominated the region.
Michoacán is a cultural hegemony where indigenous groups such as the Náhuatl offer a wealth of traditions, fairs, fiestas (see my post on Halloween and the Day of The Dead), customs, music, dance, handicrafts, cuisine and architecture. And while the characteristic towns have maintained their indigenous legacies, the attractive cities of Pátzcuaro and Morelia have preserved their colonial heritage.

Alternative Tourism in Michoacán

The geographical location and actual situation of Michoacán makes this state an unexplored sanctuary for nature lovers, adventurers, and those looking for an adrenaline rush. In Michoacán you can surf, you can mountaineer, you mountain bike, you can dive, you can camp, and even simply star-gazing. It’s not only the geology of Michoacán that makes it favourable in adventure travels, but also the variety of climates it harbours:  rivers, lakes and springs bring the cold from inside the mountains, while the open ocean conveys the tropical warmth of the coast.

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What Michoacán is like today

Michoacán has the capital of avocado. Or aguacate. You name it. Uruapan is officially Mexico’s largest supplier of avocados and some say the world’s avocado capital too.

In spite of Michoacán’s many natural attractions that could easily make the most attractive of all Mexican states, it suffers greatly from the reputation it gained over the past few years due to drug-fuelled incidents over the past years. Ever since the former President Felipe Calderón declared and initiated the war on drugs by sending military forces into Michoacán, the state has been a hot spot and black listed destination to everybody, locals and not. Plenty of websites strongly alert about the risk of traveling to various Mexican states due to threats to safety and security posed by organised criminal groups and drug cartels. The situation fluctuates, one year it is constantly on the news while the following one you won’t even hear the name Michoacán.

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Even though current President Enrique Peña Nieto has repeatedly promised to take a different approach towards the war on drugs, he still deployed thousands of troops to Michoacán in order to suppress the violence that has led many communities to take up arms.

Even though several years have passed since the most hazardous incidents in the area, locals still won’t do their homework and dig a little bit deeper. The state, unfortunately, still is in the negative headlines even though overall things have considerably quieted down and left the top place on the list to its neighbours.