07 May, 2013

USA Adventure: Part 4 - Tijuana

Phew! I'm back from Fiji and back into the blog. Sorry for the delay, but I'm back properly now so no more breaks I promise! Now where were we...oh yes, Tijuana!
Well, we almost didn't go to Tijuana. We'd been planning to the whole time but every American we told we were planning on going, we were met with looks of horror and dire warnings about being careful and how brave we were and how bad it was down there at the moment. It certainly cast some doubt over our visit, but we figured we'd come all this way and you only live once and we had travel insurance and if we were to die in Tijuana well it was a hell of a way to go. Ha.
So, a little nervous, we caught the tram to the border and walked up the ramp past the high walls and barbed wire through a turnstyle that brought us into Mexico. It was definitely intimidating, especially when you are met on the other side by heavily armed military. But we followed the crowd of people going over, onto the bridge that crosses the 'river' which is more like a dirty trickle surrounded by concrete, rubbish and beggars. I held onto my handbag very tightly and simultaneously tried not to make eye contact with the people coming towards me all while trying to keep my eye on them and make sure they weren't up to anything dodgy.
There was a bit of a smell and plenty of flies but we made it across the bridge and into a smattering of shops. We knew the tourist shopping area wasn't far but weren't entirely sure in which direction it was. Not wanting to go off by ourselves in an area we didn't know, we saw a fully uniformed and heavily armed officer (we're not sure if he was security or police) so we decided to ask him for directions. He was quite friendly and helpful, but as we went to leave he asked us where we were from. When we told him Australia, he offered us drugs, whatever we wanted and said he could get us a really good price. Shocked, we told him we weren't interested and tried to walk away but he followed us, telling us he'd be right here if we changed our minds!
We couldn't believe it!! But we had also heard stories like that where it is actually a trap and if you say you are interested in the drugs, they arrest you. Either way, it was an interesting experience! We made our way to the tourist shopping area and were charmed by the colourful little stalls selling all kinds of knick knacks and cultural sourvenirs. Everywhere we went, everyone was trying to get us to their stall or shop and offering all kinds of deals. We even got offered $2 margaritas and $1 tattoos! No thanks!! Another thing shop owners do is offer you free shots of tequila to come and look in their store. We had heard about this and that some of the tequila could be dodgy, so we were wary of this.
Evenutally we found a nice looking store and the owner was quite helpful instead of doing the hard sell like everyone else. He offered us a shot of his homemade tequila. At first we refused and kept browsing but he offered again and we thought, what the heck? So we tried it, but he made it clear we were to sip it rather than shot it, in order to fully appreciate the flavour. As I brought it to my lips, I knew it was going to be good. It had this delicious vanilla smell to it. It was freakin amazing!! I could have had a huge glass of it straight and just sipped it, it was so yummy! By the time we left the shop we'd had 3 shots each and had bought a fair bit. Stepping back out into the sunlight and hot street we all felt a bit woozy but rather nice haha
We shopped around for a while, bartering with the locals and refusing many of the street vendors who are very persistent in trying to get you to buy. We bought all kinds of clothes, jewellery, sugar skulls, key rings, wrestling masks, wrestler figurines and guadeloupe statues. We didn't take too much cash on us as we were being cautious in case we got mugged and we were soon low on cash so we managed to track down a US ATM after a few failed attempts at trying to figure out the ones in Spanish! Unfortunately for whatever reason, the ATM wouldn't give any of us any money and actually ended up eating my card!!
We figured with little money, we'd have to call it a day soon but not before an awesome lunch! We sat down at one of the local restaurants and laughed because the whole menu was in Spanish! I'm not sure what we were expecting but we couldn't tell what anything was. Thankfully we had a great waiter who was very friendly and recommended a tradtional dish for us. It was AMAZING!! It came out in a big volcanic bowl and had all kinds of delicious bits and pieces in it, as well as a basket of tortillas and you basically made your own. It had everything from chicken and beef to seafood and even cactus!! It was fantastic and we had a great lunch with plenty of margaritas.
Down to our last few dollars we figured we'd better head back over the border so we lined up for a while to clear immigration. Considering how tight US security usually is, I was quite surprised by how relaxed and easy the whole process of coming back into the States from Mexico was. They just looked at my passport and basically said ok come on through! haha We caught the tram back to the station and had a car pick us up and take us back to our hotel where we got ready to celebrate our last night in San Diego at the famous Bali Hai!
The Bali Hai is an iconic bar and restaurant on the northern tip of Shelter Island that was opened in 1955 as a tiki oasis that combines Asian and Polynesian influences. The place is absolutely beautiful and has an amazing view of the water! It also has a fantastic tiki cocktail menu and serves fine food. We totally indulged over a delicious dinner and plenty of cocktails, including collecting a mug which we tried to do at almost every tiki establishment we visited while in the US. Then it was home to bed for a good night's sleep before setting off for Long Beach the next morning.
You can catch up on the beginning of my USA adventure in Vegas including my Vegas tattoo, the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender, the wild west and tiki bars of Arizona, our San Diego experience, making it back alive from Tijuana, Long Beach and the Queen Mary, amazing Palm Springs and all the adventures of Hollywood!

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