During last year’s trip to Mérida, we stumbled across La Parranda, a funky restaurant/bar in the downtown area. With a few great meals and memories under our belts, we came back this year to gather a few more.
Literally translated, La Parranda means ”The Binge”. We did the name proud.
While roaming around the city, we had wandered past it many times. It seemed like your average, touristy kind of place…nothing to write home about. In the evening, however, it gave off a totally different vibe.
In Mérida, on the weekends at dusk, they close off many streets around the central square allowing the restaurants to spill out onto the sidewalks and beyond. It makes for a whole lot more ambiance.
The place has a load of kitsch about it…typical Mexicana abounds. The enormous sombreros are brought out with mock rifles so the customers can pose for cheesy photo-ops. After a few tequilas and Margaritas, it’s hard to resist.
The well-stocked bar that was responsible for this bout of silliness….
A nicely varied menu…some touristy favorites, but quite a few regional specialties. No idea why we didn’t grab some of the ”Mayan’s Cuisine”. Great reason to hurry on back!!
If you’re ever trekking around the Yucatán, Izamal is a cool little place to visit. It’s a short, half-hour ride, eastward
from Merida. Izamal is Mexico’s “Cuidad Amarillo” as most of the buildings are painted in vibrant shades of yellow.
After a couple of hours touring the sites, our guide directed us to one of his “favourite” lunch spots. His suggestion seemed a bit lacking, menu-wise, so we wandered up the road in search of some authenticity. We came across Los Mestizos, a small family-run establishment. Seeing “Comida Regional” quickened my pace considerably. Before I knew it, I was enjoying one sensational dish.
Mexico is a snacking wonderland. From the ubiquitous taco stand to a wide variety of regional treats, antojitos can be found virtually everywhere. Wikipedia sums up antojitos perfectly: “a Mexican street snack designed to satisfy a craving“.
Granted, our first stop isn’t “exactly” street food, but comes damn close.
As we were wandering the streets of Piste, near Chichen Itza, I had an intense craving for Pollo Carbon (Grilled Chicken). We passed by a few empty spots with some dodgy looking poultry on half-warm grills. After nearly giving up, we spotted smoke billowing from a thatched hut a block away. At the very front of the small restaurant an older lady was tending the grill. Three or four whole, butterflied birds were slowly being cooked to perfection over smouldering charcoal. Heaven.
Sometimes the best places don’t even require a name.
As we approached, salivary glands went into overdrive. I was literally drooling. I just stood there enveloped in the mouthwatering, smoky aroma. Looking around the few occupied tables, I noticed everyone was digging into a shared platter. As there was no menu and no signage whatsoever, we ordered a whole chicken.
In preparation for our upcoming trip to the Yucatan, never having been to Isla Mujeres, I figured I’d check out the lay of the land on Google’s Street View. What an amazing tool. After toodling around awhile, I came across this unique and intriguing façade. At first I thought it was somebody’s really cool beach house.
After arriving in Isla, I met up with my friends and we went on a walkabout seeking some dinner. Within five or so minutes we hit an intersection. I looked off to my right and there it was.
Turns out that unique building is La Luna Seaside Grill. It’s run by a couple of restaurateurs from Hamilton, Ontario.
Aside from it being an absolutely visually stunning room, it is, obviously, Canadian-run. That means any big hockey game is on in their bar.
After three days amidst the mayhem that is Sài Gòn, it was time to head up to Huế. Huế is a short, one hour flight north of Sài Gòn. With a couple of lengthy flights in economy under my belt, I opted for business class this time around. It was pretty much a no-brainer. Economy was fifty bucks…first-class, a hundred.
The extra fifty doesn’t get you a whole lot…just a bit more room to stretch out and a couple of pretty decent sandwiches.
Before heading off to Vietnam my goal was to experience as much of the local cuisine as possible. On my first day, after a somewhat hearty breakfast and a lengthy walkabout, it became painfully obvious that big eating was out of the question. The extreme humidity literally sucks away a great chunk of your appetite. That’s probably what accounts for the locals eating small, light meals throughout the day. With that in mind I headed off to Ben Thanh Market for a nice, light snack.
Chợ Bến Thành (Bến Thành Market) is Sài Gòn’s main marketplace. Normally a vibrating hive of phrenetic energy, at 8 in the morning, not so much. Kind of perfect for someone who just wants to scope the place out without the onslaught of arm-tugging vendors.
After spying out a stall with some favorite items, I settled in for some refreshment.
One thing I’ve always been meaning to try is Young Coconut Juice. Actually, it’s green coconut water. The liquid is nature’s sports drink. Slightly sweet, mild-tasting and an excellent source of potassium. A great revitalizer in this climate.
Sài Gòn is by far the craziest place I’ve ever seen. Having only travelled to the U.S. and Mexico, that isn’t saying much. But based on what I’ve seen the past couple of days, I can’t imagine a more amped-up, wild and woolly, free-for-all street scene. Thousands upon thousands of motorbikes and scooters drive by blithely flaunting virtually every traffic rule…sidewalks are expressways if your lane gets too clogged. An hour ago my taxi driver pulled a u-turn amidst several dozen bikers. No screaming, a bit of tooting…no big deal. It’s all very surreal. From afar it appears like utter chaos. When you’re in the midst of it (at least from the backseat of a chilly taxi) it’s almost serene.
The worst thing here, aside from the heat, the sheer amount of traffic and noise that comes with it, is the humidity. Being a rather big lad doesn’t help a bit (I’m on my third shirt and it’s not quite noon!). Just opening my hotel room door invites in a hot, muggy wave of moist air. The rooms, lobby and even the elevator are air-conditioned, just not the hallways. There is no respite at any time of day. On Day One I figured on an early start to beat the humidity. I took this shot of a street vendor’s brazier just before dawn. It’s not out of focus – just severely humidified.