The latest stint of my consulting career was Mexico, and I normally travel to Industry-heavy, not-so-popular destinations. Influenced by movies and books, I had a very distinct picture of Mexico – Big mustached men wearing cowboy hats, sipping tequila lazily under big broad trees on a country side. Alright, I am being a little dramatic but honestly, I didnt expect Monterrey to be such an advanced place!
Monterrey, being the northernmost metropolitan city in Mexico, the 3rd largest city, nation’s 2nd largest industrial center and the closest to the US border, it resembles any mid sized city in the US!
The striking characteristic of Monterrey are its friendly people. People go to lengths to help you in need and they always wear a big hearted smile on their face. Reminds me of India, and as a consequence it made me feel at home instantly.
Infrastructure is unquestionably advanced, most freeways are 6 laned and there are a ton of flyovers to ease traffic flow. It is a different story that driving in Monterrey is a summation of driving ethics of India coupled with the infrastructure of the US, which is a dangerous combination of high speed and rash driving. Whenever I was in a local taxi, I held on to dear life and everything else I could hold on to in the car (for the lack of seat belts) and breathe like I was going into labor until I reached the destination.
It is interesting to notice that although the local population speaks zilch English, People listen to English music and popular pop and hip hop numbers are played in the malls and radio stations all the time.
Needless to say that all the major US chains like Sears, HEB, Macy’s, J C Penny have a presence in Monterrey and the dressing style of people is very similar to that of US.
Being a vegetarian, food was one of the biggest concerns I had. Mexicans dont understand the concept of a vegetarian diet and the fact that everyone speaks little or no English did not help. I have visited and lived in a lot of non-English speaking countries in the past, but what distinguished Monterrey from the other places is the monotony in food. Lets save my ramble on Mexican food for another post. 😀
Monterrey is a very pretty city situated in a valley with mountains surrounding the city. The most popular mountain, and the eminence of Monterrey is the Cerro de la Silla or the Saddle mountain that resembles a horse saddle. For V and me, it was a feast to do some hike in Monterrey and we definitely want to go back some day to do the arduous trails in the mountains.
Formerly a vast steel-factory complex, an industrial zone has been transformed into a huge urban park called the Fundidora Park right in the heart of the city. The iconic smoke stacks and industrial relics are retained to give an apocalyptic feel that is in sync with Monterrey’s heritage. The attractions here are great for a family outing, and a ride on the bike makes for a good pass time on a pleasant evening.
Palacio de Gobierno is the building where the office of the governor is located and opens up to a spectacular view of Monterrey.
Unfortunately, despite the natural beauty and a wonderful city in itself, Monterrey is home to drug cartel issues and as a consequence was unsafe to venture out to the local markets on my own. It is not uncommon to see completely armed soldiers patrolling in the city as there was an outbreak of open fire and gang wars about an year ago and the life of the general public were put in danger. So I was advised to stick with Spanish speaking people or locals whenever I stepped out of the hotel.