Once upon a time, I decided to go to Tijuana. A buddy and I were both in town for some work stuff and we decided it would be a novel idea to go stay south of the border a few nights.
We made our way on foot to Tijuana, hopping on a light rail train in downtown San Diego and riding it all the way to the border with nothing but our backpacks. Crossing the border was quite the experience. Basically there was a giant wall, a giant, metal turnstile, and a giant-ass sign that said MEXICO.
No one cared that we were entering Mexico. There was no one to check our IDs, our bags, or even to just stare us down.
The dichotomy between the US and Mexico is utterly astounding. There are people trying to sell you things everywhere! One of the first gentlemen (to use the term lightly) we encountered basically summed up the spirit of Tijuana in one short conversation.
“Hey guys, you interested in some fajitas…. No, well how about some beers…. No, well how about some pills man, we got pills…. No, well how about some girls man, I can find you the best girls…. No….”
So essentially, in one fail swoop this guy went from peddling Mexican food to prostitutes. We stopped him at the hookers for fear of what we’d be offered next.
In the Lonely Planet guidebook, Tijuana is described as the modern metropolis of Mexico. A haven for fine dining and high art. This is bullshit. A lie. Yes, there are the occasional upscale establishments here and there, including one of the nicest Marriott hotels I have ever stayed in, but make no mistake- Tijuana is a shithole.
There are hookers ranging from women who you could easily mistake for Sofia Vergara all the way down to toothless, meth hungry lizards who are practically selling themselves for free. It is nothing short of a fabulous mess where the adventurous soul can easily have the time of his life, but just as easily end up robbed or dead the next morning.
Tijuana, I think I love you
Yeah, you read the heading right. Mine and my best buddy’s time in Tijuana is definitely one of the greater adventures of my life. Here we were, two gringos walking in on foot with nothing but our backpacks, making our way miles inland to the hotel with only a basic working knowledge of Spanish. We were scared, our lungs burned from all the smog, and we stuck out like sore thumbs walking around all the places gringos don’t walk (basically anywhere outside Avenida Revolucion or the Zona Norte, for those looking for trouble.
I wish I could take my wife to Tijuana to experience the grand spectacle, but it is definitely no place for a lady, and I’m not so sure I care to return to that God forsaken armpit of a city. But the city did have its redeeming qualities here and there.