It has been a year since my trip to Colombia last December and I decided to put together a video showcasing some of my photos from that trip. I hope you enjoy! I look forward to making other videos for future and past trips when time permits!
It sounds contradictory, I know. I often think about those experiences I may have missed on the road or things I got myself involved in that looking back, I wish I hadn’t. I’m not one of those people who think that everything happens for a reason or that there is any rhyme or reason at all to what we do in this world. That being said, I think it is good to look for positives in the negative experiences we go through, as well as inspiration from those missed chances.
1. Sleeping on the tour bus during our stop at the Corinth Canal: In 1996 my mom took me on a two week tour of Italy and Greece. This was my first real travel experience. We did a whirlwind tour of Rome, Florence and Venice before heading off to Greece. I loved Greek mythology and couldn’t wait to get to Athens to see the Parthenon. The only problem was, by this time I was already starting to get worn down from the long bus rides between cities and since the tour bus was generally pretty empty there was plenty of room to spread out and take naps. As a teenager, and still today, there was nothing I loved more than a nice long afternoon nap. I took that nap right through our stop at one of the most impressive ancient engineering feats the world has seen. The canal that separated mainland Greece and Peloponnesia. My mom tried waking me up but I refused as if the canal was my first period math class that I didn’t want to go to. To this day my mom never lets me forget how incredibly lazy I was that afternoon.
Why I don’t regret it: If it wasn’t for that day festering in the back of my mind all the time, I would have missed out on a lot of experiences because I was too tired to get motivated. I would have missed out on the St. Charles Bridge in Prague at sunrise. I would never have woken up at 4am to catch a train into the city center to enjoy the bridge virtually by myself as the sun rose above the spirals of the old town. Who knows, I might have also missed a flight or two by now if sleep was more important than making it to the next city.
2. Getting on that moped in Ko Pha Ngan: I arrived to the party island of Ko Pha Ngan at night after a three hour ferry ride from the mainland of Thailand. Ko Pha Ngan is known for its Full Moon parties which are basically giant raves on the beach. The island is also known for its moped accidents. I arrived three days before the next Full Moon party started so most of the accommodation right on the party beaches were full. I ended up staying a few miles down the coast of the island which were accessible by either rickshaws or moped. I actually went out to the moped rental shop pretty shortly after arriving but since I had a few beers on the ferry, and I have absolutely no experience on a moped, I decided to wait till the morning. The next morning I headed back to the rental shop and picked out a nice red moped and headed off for Hat Ryn Beach to check it out. Ko Pha Ngan is a beautiful island but it the roads are dangerous. I kind of had an idea of what to expect but due to my lack of experience on a moped I was still very careful. I think my over carefulness and stiffness is what did me. Just after about ten minutes of some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen and feeling on top of the world, I turned a corner going down hill and essentially froze up my hands and broke too hard, flying off the front end of the moped and sliding over some dirt, sand and concrete only stopping as I inched towards a rock. I suffered second degree burns on my legs which are scarred to this day. I had to pay for the damages on the moped. I spent the remainder of my time in Ko Pha Ngan miserable and hot getting only short breaks from the pain while I was in the doctor’s office being cared for by the incredibly sweet Thai nurses who would re-wrap my bandages. I eventually left the island and headed for the mainland to Bangkok and on to Chiang Mai where I spent most of my recovery time. Only problems is, I really never recovered. Because I was in the tropics and constantly on foot, in danger of getting the wounds wet, they never really healed fully. It wasn’t until I returned home that the sores closed up entirely. All in all, I could have looked back at this and said it ruined my entire trip.
Why I don’t regret it: Chicks dig scars. Seriously though, I think this experience has given me a healthy dose of reality. I’m not invincible. In a kind of eerie way, my last blog post the day before the accident was about how I’m not afraid of anything and how dangers are often only perceived. While that post was more about the dangers I can’t control, like random acts of violence or terrorism, it still hit close to home when I looked back at how arrogant I might have been. While I will never shy away from an activity just because it might be a little dangerous, I will at least have a little more hesitation and assess a situation closer before diving in. Getting on a moped for the first time on an island notorious for taking out travelers was certainly reckless on my part. That being said, It is an experience that may save my life some day.
3. Not going to the Colombian national soccer final in Medellin while I was there: This one hurt pretty bad. I had spent the two days prior to the “Catergoria Premier A” championship game between Independiente Medellín and Atletico Huila. The second leg of the aggregate final (two legs with scores combined) was held at the national stadium in Medellin on Sunday night during my week stay in the City of Eternal Spring. Two nights earlier Medellin took a lead over Huila and the city was in shutdown party mode. I had originally thought the tournament was over because of how electrified the city became after the first match. Myself and a couple of other guys took to the streets to find a place to join the festivities. The streets were filled with Medellin youth waving their flags, singing, and chanting. I kept thinking back at when my Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the Super Bowl in 2003 and how we partied in the streets. It was a different vibe this night though. It was so intense and the streets were literally flooded with the red and blue of Independiente’s colors. Mind you, this was only the first match still.
Fast forward to Sunday night and we watched the final at the bar of Tiger Paw Hostel in El Poblado (an upscale and safe district of Medellin). A couple of us had talked about going to the final but things never really panned out. Later that night, once Independiente put the nail in the coffin of Huila, Medellin erupted. I thought Friday night was intense but it was nothing close. The sounds of fireworks, whistles and horns that reverberated through the valley were awesome. I was already a bit tired from the Thursday to Saturday stretch in Medellin that kept me up till the late hours either dancing to house music or Latin rock-n-roll. Those Paisas in Medellin LOVE house music.
A few hours passed and a couple of other guests at the hostel I was staying out came back in jerseys they purchased at the match. A whole group of them made it out to the stadium, bought tickets and experienced the excitement first hand. I was disappointed in myself for not being more vocal around the hostel to let people know I was interested. I didn’t really build a relationship with the guys that ended up going but that shouldn’t have stopped me. I shouldn’t have been so hesitant to spear-head my own mission to the stadium. It isn’t like I’ve never shown up to a sporting event minutes before and gotten a ticket. I guess the idea of football in South America gave me a bit of hesitation. Especially considering Colombia was the country that was so angry at a 1994 World Cup own goal that someone murdered a player. OK, in all fairness that is not and should not be a representation of Colombia. In fact, out of all the places I’ve been Colombia has to rank towards the top for the generosity and kindness of the people.
Why I don’t regret it: Are you kidding me? Of course I regret it. That being said, this article is about finding the positives in perceived regrets. I don’t know, I’ve always considered myself pretty spontaneous and I was disappointed, after the fact, that I didn’t do more to get it done I had it in my head that it wasn’t a smart idea and it would be too difficult to pull off, yet only hours after a ton of other travelers went and did it and had a story to tell. Next time I’m in that position I’m going to have to dig a little deeper. I do not ever want to miss another opportunity to experience something unique. So often we follow the same trails blazed by travelers before us, either laid out for us in a guide book or through word of mouth. I had an opportunity to attend the biggest match of the year in the city that was hosting it for what would have amounted to maybe $100 total, and I passed it up. Never again. Lesson learned.
4. Spending a weekend at Chungking Mansions in Hong Kong:
What a terribly wonderful place. Chungking Mansions, located at the southern tip of Kowloon in the Tsim Sha Tsui district, is well known for its cross cultural, diverse and seedy atmosphere. Chungking is a mostly residential complex but is also well known on the travel route as the cheapest accommodation you can find in Hong Kong. There is a reason this place comes as cheap as it does. It is an absolute fire hazard and the room you find yourself sleeping in is rarely larger than the bed itself. My first night was spent in a room no larger than a walk-in closet. Upon exiting the elevator to the floor my guest house was on I was greeted with writing on the wall that said, “No Jews, U.S.A., U.K.” Chungking Mansions were also featured in an episode of Locked Up Abroad where some travelers were caught up in a Nepalese gold smuggling scheme. Chungking is a miserable yet endearing bottleneck of travelers, transients and immigrants. There is a large presence of Africans, Indians and Arabs alongside Chinese and other South Asian nationalities. It can be quite intimidating upon first arrival and I imagine some travelers turn back immediately and opt for a more pleasant resting spot during their stay in Hong Kong.
Why I don’t regret it: This is exactly why I travel. I want to experience things that put me outside of my comfort zone. I’ll admit, I was shocked by my guidebook’s recommendation of Chungking Mansions as a decent spot to find accommodation. The welcome, “no U.S.A.” graffiti on the wall of my floor made it clear that at some point someone didn’t want me. It was unnerving but eye-opening at the same time. As a white male now entering my 30’s, it is rare that I get to experience race or nationality based discrimination. That’s an experience I probably won’t ever experience again at home in the United States. I spent a total of four nights in Chungking Mansions and did eventually find a more roomy guesthouse. I value the experience and I hope to return to Hong Kong to teach someday. And who knows, I may end up back at Chungking Mansions for a few weeks while I get on my feet. Everyone should experience it at least once!
I could and very well may live in Medellin some day.
I might spend my 30th birthday and graduation celebration in Cartagena and Medellin and will be looking for friends to join me this time.
Usually when I am coming home from a trip I’m exhausted and ready to come home. I feel like I could keep going this time.
I never really saw myself as interested in South America apart from making sure I set foot on the continent at least once. I think there is more for me here.
It is sometimes hard to find Colombian food in Parque Lleras.
Americans are sometimes difficult to talk to when overseas. If they’re expats they tend to downplay your interest in coming there to live just like them.
I’ve learned that Colombia is no more or less dangerous now than it was 7 years ago if you stick to the tourist destinations. Many locals have been surprised at the comment that Colombia is now “safer.” To them, the dangers still exist and have always been some part of life outside of the cities in guerilla controlled areas.
Julien taught me a lot about the perception that the French have of Americans. I can’t say I disagree with any of his points.
Lucy, Bob, Laura, and Jaime, thank you for the inspiration to go to Colombia. Maybe someday I’ll make it to Cali.
Tiger Paw hostel was too much fun. I look forward to making Brian (the owner) throw me a birthday party in August.
Paisas are warm and welcoming people. Paisa is the term for a person who is from and has deep roots in the valleys in and around Medellin. They are said to be pure and distinct, and an isolated population.
I didn’t eat McDonalds while I was in Colombia.
My last meal however was a burger and fries from Presto, a popular Colombian fast food restaurant.
I just flew over Jamaica.
American Airlines is terrible.
I drank a lot of tap water in Colombia. I’m still alive.
Traveling in Colombia is not that difficult.
I wish Tampa had a metro and cheap taxis.
Beer was excellent in Medellin. Just another reason to live there.
Cocaine is HUGE in Colombia. Fortunately, I’m too old for peer pressure.
I want to make a pros and cons list for living in Medellin.
It waited till the last day I was there and on my way to the airport for the sun to shine and the skies to turn blue.
I learned the basic salsa steps and can dance Salsa solo but as soon as the girl starts doing her thing I fall apart.
I’ll skip the last two days because frankly they weren’t very interesting. Football yesterday all day, lots of rain… Saturday night clubbing and a late night rave atmosphere at Club Carnival just outside of town.
Today I woke up at 9:00 after a pretty long sleep. I asked Diana, the wonderful girl who works here at the hostel to instruct me on how to get to the ParaGliding site and then I was off. I had to make my way to the metro station and take the train to Estacion Caribe where I would buy my bus ticket to San Felix. I boarded the bus which became more and more crowded as the trip continued. Eventually an older lady had gotten on and after no locals offered their seat I got up and told her to sit there. Her daughter was with her and I showed her where I needed to get off and she promised to warn me before the stop.
I arrived at the site and was asked to read the waiver just in case the winds took us the wrong way into the mountain and I was crushed. I watched a video of some other person doing the take off and then a video of someone landing. The videos were 4 second clips. Basically, I was told to run run run run on take off and then put my feet high in the air on landing. A lot of the conversing before hand was in Spanish. The person responsible for locking me into my suit and strapping the harnesses was no more than 15 years old. Ah, Colombia.
Here comes the best part. The pilot pulled a flask from his pocket just as he was strapping himself to the chute. I looked at it and he said, “Don’t worry… it is empty.” I would be much happier if he had said it was full. A shot of Aguardiente at 2400 meters high in the Andes mountains would have been fun. And that would have meant he was sober. Either way, I didn’t worry too much the whole deal and just started to run run run when I was told to.
We took off down a decline and then shot up in the air as the wind took us. It was amazing. I have these dreams where I’m able to fly but I always have to run run run run and then spread my arms and legs to sort of float up. In fact, I had that dream last night. It was so much like that. I thought paragliding was quick where you just descent slowly but the pilot has the ability to keep you up there for as long as you want. We circled around the side of the mountain for a bit and checked out a couple of waterfalls. Then he asked me to lean to the right, “derecha por favor Joseph, derecha mas.” So I did what he said and we slowly climbed higher and higher until clouds began either being at eye level or below.
It was so cool to see the tops of mountains below me. The city was down below too but we didn’t hover over it. It was difficult to see Medellin itself but the pueblo nearby was clear. Birds were hanging around us and a couple of other paragliders as well.
We spent a good 30 minutes in flight and on the way down towards the end he asked me if I wanted to do some adrenaline stuff. Even though I was already beginning to feel sick to my stomach I decided why not? He told me to shift quickly to the left and then to the right and then very quickly and hard to the left to make us lift and spin in a circle. I watched the ground and the houses below start swirling at me pretty quickly. It was quite intense but soon after landed and I was safely on the ground.
All in all it was a great experience. I loved the location with the mountains and the clouds. I went alone but that was OK since they can only take one at a time. It was a pretty personal experience. The pilot asked me if I was bored because I was quiet but I was really just taking it in.
Oh, and the best part… the afternoon of paragliding in total cost me $40. (80,000 pesos)
I must apologize for the slow updating. Things have gotten into full swing here at the hostel. Large groups coming and going, people getting to know each other. There was a mixer last night, the hostel did a beer pong tournament. I was paired up with a Colombian girl named Sandra, we lost but then I filled in for a player who had to leave and then won the tournament with my partner who was another Colombian guy who shows up every Friday and usually wins. It was a lot of fun. People of all different nationalities, some learning the game for the first time. I’ve only played it two other times. Since I lost first and then luckily paired up with the best player I decided to donate my small winnings back to the bar. The 25,000 peso pocket was enough for 8 shots of aguardiente that I asked the bartender to pour.
Most of you that know me pretty well, know that I don’t typically go out that often, especially to night clubs. Thurs-Saturday is big for the nightlife in Medellin so a group of us have been going out. I’ll spare you all the details of every night but it has been a ton of fun. The best part is that by the end of the night my wallet doesn’t feel any lighter. We did a college-type club on Thursday night called Babylons. You pay 30 mil pesos which is about $15 for cover then have a seat at any number of tables. The waiter eventually shows up and brings you bottles of whatever you want until you don’t want anymore. The popular choices are aguardiente, rum or vodka. You get free mixers all night. So once you pay your cover there is no reason to open your wallet again. I was with Tyler, an American from Indiana and Johnny, an Australian-Ghanan guy. The experience was a lot different than at home. Within a few seconds of sitting down a table with three girls made eye contact. Johnny and I speak very little Spanish and the little bit that I know is difficult to use in a club with loud music. Tyler took the lead and eventually we sat with them, drank, attempted dancing salsa, and just had a general good time. It was pretty mellow overall.
Yesterday morning I woke up and wanted to go to the metro cable which is a “skyride” of sorts like at an amusement park. The metro cable was meant to service the slums of Medellin that are spread out across the foothills near the outskirts of town, but now it has become a popular tourist attraction. I paid about 1500 peso (.75) for a ticket from Poblado to Acevedo station and then changed to the metro cable line that runs east-west. There are about 3 stops that drop you off at Santo Domingo station where you can get off or just circle back around. I decided to get off and have a coke and check out the views. The weather has been overcast all week so i haven’t gotten any really good photos yet. I also lost all my photos from the day yesterday when I tried to transfer them over to the computer. I’m not too upset about the cityscape pictures because I can go back and take them again when th sun is out but I took a bunch of photos of graffiti that I don’t think i’ll get back to. The afternoon in total cost me about $2. Can’t beat that.
I had a late afternoon snack at a Lebanese restaurant in Parque Lleras. I just had some pita and hummus and an orange drink. Every place in Parque Lleras has wifi so if anyone wants to visit Medellin who is self employed and has to do business, this is a good place be.
I made my way back the hostel where the beer pong would eventually start. It was a pretty good deal. The buy in was $5 and they filled the cups halfway with the micro brew that they have here from the tap. Which reminds me, I never made it out to the beer brewery the other day. There are three types of the micro brew, Cordilleras, an amber, pale ale and wheat. All three are very good. After the beer pong it started pouring so we sat around and waited and then most of the people in the hostel headed out to a club called Blue. The hostel is really cool in that it has some backpackers, some ex-pats that come here and then a mix of locals that enjoy it too so even though I’ve spent some time here I’m still getting to meet a lot of good people. I’ve gotten some good advice on working and moving and made some friends that would be a good source of info in the future.
There is more but I am tired of writing. I’ll probably do another “quick notes” update either today or tomorrow. They work better for getting out the little things that I don’t remember when I’m writing. The weather is looking pretty dreary today and I’ve done most of the tourist things inside the city. They’re throwing a birthday party for a backpacker that is here and we’re probably gonna watch some bowl games.
Tyler and I are trying to get a group together to go to this soccer match tomorrow. It is a playoff game and might actually be the final. We may go down to th stadium and get tickets for tomorrow.
Paragliding Monday probably.
Last night after uploading photos and blogging I headed down to the hostel bar. When traveling solo it is a necessity to strike up conversation with others so that you don’t spend your evenings by yourself. I asked what they were drinking (rum and cokes) and joined them. The Medellin Anejo is a pretty good rum in my opinion. I’m considering updating my Beer and Pizza reviews to include Rum. Beer, Pizza and Rum reviews.
After about an hour of talking and the usually travel pleasantries like where are you coming from, where are you going, how long will you be here, we started to plot the evening. The French guy, Julian has been going back and forth between Colombia and Central America while the Brit, Guy, is heading home in a couple of days. Since Guy is leaving tomorrow night he wanted to check out the Luces de Navidad last night. I planned to eventually go see them but joining along with two others was a better idea.
So, luces de Navidad, what can i say… they are by far the most incredible display of Christmas lights that I’ve ever seen. Cities within Colombia compete but Medellin always win. The river that goes through Medellin is light up and has fountains and lights that stretch as far as the eye can see. There were water fountains with children playing in them and families just having a great time. We took some photos of each other and headed to the bridge for a better look at the river. We were standing there for no more than a few minutes and a family came up to introduce themselves. A man with his wife and his mother were enjoying the Christmas lights as well and offered us some shots of Aguardiente (think Ouzo or Sambuca for Colombia). The people in Colombia are so incredibly friendly. I am having such a good time meeting locals even if I can only understand 1/4 of what they say.
After the lights we headed back to El Poblado where the hostel is, in order to change into clothes to go out. All three of like electronica so we tried to find a place to go. Unfortunately, Wednesday night isn’t very happening so we ended up staying close to the hostel and ate at a really good Mexican restaurant in Parque Lleras. It was perfect timing because Medellin was playing a huge soccer match against another Colombian team in a final of some tournament. Medellin won, 1-0 and the party started. The entire Parque Lleras turned into a festival with flags waving and people chanting, it was quite the experience. We had a few beers and wandered around a bit. Guy ended up going to sleep but me and Julian wanted to head out again and some of the other people at the hostel, including the owner also wanted to go out. We ended up at a bar in Parque Lleras where we hung out for a little bit and I decided it was time to head back around 3am. I figured we’re probably going to hit up a late night club at some point so I wanted to save the money and didn’t want to risk seeing sunrise and wasting away today.
That being said, I still wasted today away. That’s OK though, I needed a down day. Guy is heading out on a night bus to Bogota tonight but Julian is staying a bit longer. The big group that just showed up last night includes a few Americans and Canadians who have either met up along the way in South America were already together.
So I made the executive decision to stay in Medellin for the rest of my time in Colombia. It is just too nice and too relaxing to leave. I’ll be missing some of the smaller towns but something tells me I will be back to Colombia soon. Medellin has met and exceeded my expectations as a cool city to be in. It is so easy to get around in and the people are so nice. There is a lot to do no matter what you’re into. On my way to this little café with wi-fi I saw a trendy little delivery Sushi restaurant. Now, I’m not saying I like sushi but that has to be a sign that your city is pretty cool. It kind of has a Holland V feel from Singapore. Now, this is just the El Problado/Parque Lleras region. There is still a lot more going on outside of this upscale area that I’m currently in.
Tonight looks to be pretty fun. A bunch of us from the hostel are doing the Medellin micro-brewery tour. 15 mil pesos ($7) for samples of their wheat, pale, and amber ales. It is supposed to be really nice. I had planned to do the Pablo Escobar tour today with Guy and Julian but that never panned out. I’m getting kicked out of my private room on Saturday and will be moving into a dorm. I’m actually looking forward to saving money by doing this. The dorm is $10 per night with a locker under the bed for my personal stuff. I’ve made friends with a few people so it won’t be as awkward. I’m not usually a dorm person but in this case it’ll be fine.
Bienvenido a Medellín
As I sit here on the terrace of my hotel with my small bottle of Ron Medellin Anejo, over looking the the sprawling metropolis of Medellin, I think of only a few places that can match the anticipation of arrival than here. Chiang Mai, Thailand and Hong Kong are two that come to mind. I had heard so much about Medellin before arriving. Whether it was how wonderful it is by Colombian-Americans or how bad it is by mainstream media. I remember in 2005 reading an article in National Geographic about how utterly hopeless the city was and how crime was rampant and the era of Pablo Escobar’s drug cartels were still having it’s toll. Now, I’m not saying Medellin is Pleasantville, but sometimes it takes a little effort to see the good in a place that for a long time earned its image.
The trip from Bogota was about 10 hours. We stopped once for a break and a couple times to let people on and off, but for the most part it was a pretty straight forward journey. It was a gorgeous drive passing through some really stunning scenery. At some points we were eye level with clouds.
I arrived in Medellin at sunset. I never like arriving in a new city at night but it tends to happen more often than not because I prefer taking long bus rides during the day. You see the outskirts of Medellin for about 30 minutes upon arriving because you’re winding down the mountain side. I was completely grin faced the entire time because I felt Bogota was a bit of a let down and the way Medellin is situated in between the mountains is exactly the type of city I liked. Bogota is higher in elevation but Medellin is tucked away more so the mountains envelop the city. Again, coming from Florida, mountains are such eye candy.
I’m staying at Tiger Paw Hostel which is located in El Poblado. Within El Poblado is Parque Lleras which is more specific to my location. The guide book wasn’t lying when it said this was an upscale trendy spot with nightclubs and bars spread throughout a 3×3 block. I think since the time of the writing in Lonely Planet there have been about 3 or 4 more blocks added. Tiger Paw is owned by an American ex-pat and there are a few home comforts here that I’m excited to be able to use. He has a sports bar with about 5 flat screen high definition tv’s with NFL Sunday Ticket and College Gameday. Before I even showed up I had a hunch that this guy was a Clemson alum because of the name “Tiger Paw,” and hilariously enough the place is painted in orange and purple, the school colors of the Clemson Tigers. I know some of you reading this might be thinking, why travel to a new continent to get so comfortable? I have no answer to that, it’s just how I do things.
Parque Lleras… what can I say. It’s not exactly “Colombia” as you might imagine it but it is part of the scene here in Medellin. It’s where the youth come in droves to party late into the night. There are a ton of restaurants and clubs. You can get all kinds of food, Thai, Lebonese, Mexican… and wait for it. There is a Hooters. There are also a bunch of other American themed restaurants, but I can assure you I will not be going to any of them.
The Search for El Museo
I had a slow start to my morning but after breakfast and photo uploading I headed to centro Medellin. The metro station (yes METRO station) is about a 15 minute walk and a 1800 peso trip to Parque Berrios. I’m loving the money in Colombia, it has gotten very easy to use and my ability to count in Spanish now is helping A LOT. I wandered around a bit and was met with a more authentic Medellin. Much like any city it is busy and full of shops, restaurants and street stalls. I sat down to lunch and had Trucha a La Milanes (trout) and then headed off in search of El Museo de Antioquia. (museum of antiques)
My search for the museum was quite interesting. As I was crossing Parque Berrios a Colombian woman in her 40’s or 50’s approached me and said, “De donde eres?” (where are you from?) to which I replied, “Estados Unidos.” (You can figure that one out) She started to tell me in Spanish about how she had a husband in California, she asked me what part of the U.S. and if I was single. I started getting a little sketched out by her so I grabbed my bag and pulled it to the front of me and held the opening closed. I have read about scams where one person distracts you and another lifts your possessions. Maybe she was just being friendly but a little extra procaution on my first day in Medellin couldn’t hurt.
I politely said goodbye to the lady and headed off in the direction that I thought the museum was. Unfortunately, I read the map wrong and thought I was looking for Calle 57 for awhile but the museum was actually on Calle 52.. I headed north along the rail tracks and started noticing the business district was giving way to a more, how should I say… unappealing neighborhood. I thought to myself, this can’t be right and like the good traveler I am I stopped to make sure I was heading in the right direction. Unfortunately, my bad decision was reinforced when a shop owner said I was going the right way and that I had to continue a few more blocks. I eventually made it to Calle 57 where I was met with local seedy bars and beer kiosks under the rail tracks. I figured I should probably take a break from walking and sat down at one of the bars and had a beer. I asked the girl working if I was close to it and where I had to go and she directed me back to the way I came… that was when I looked at my map and realized my mistake.
I noticed the activity of the area I was in became less active and a bit more sketchy. I can’t believe it took only 4 blocks to go from one extreme to the other. As beautiful as Medellin had been so far, it’s dark side emerged pretty quickly. There were a couple of cracked out homeless people, which I expect anywhere I go but sadly I also saw two very provocatively dressed young girls huffing glue and twitching as they walk aimlessly around.. I don’t even want to think about how the young girls get their money to support the addiction. They couldn’t have been over 16 years old. Every city has a dark side though, so I was not completely surprised and I had heard of the problem well before arrival. It was just a bit surprising to hit me so fast.
I finally made it to the art museum that houses a ton of Fernando Botero paintings and sculptures. He is Colombia’s most famous artist and if you GIS him you will see some of his work and probably recognize it. It is downright ridiculous and pretty entertaining for a late afternoon. I headed back to my hostel where I am writing now. Not sure what’s going on tonight.
I’m back in the hostel getting ready for an early sleep. I have to catch a bus to Medellin in the morning. I just wanted to run through a few quick notes.
I’m really enjoying having access to wifi like this in the hostels. I was talking to a couple of other people who have been traveling South America over the last 3 months and said it’s pretty standard now. It makes staying connected and sharing travels really easy.
I love arepos. Arepos are these small pancake like snacks that you can get just about anywhere. With cheese or ham or just plain. I have been doing a lot of snacking and not so much eating big meals.
I ate meat on a stick tonight. It was delicious.
I have only seen one western fast food restaurant and that was a McDonalds in downtown Bogota.
I’m leaving Bogota tomorrow but I feel like I was just about to get settled in and comfortable here. It has been nothing special though.
I realize that it takes me a few days to adjust to traveling alone. I am never comfortable until the 3rd or 4th day. I even thought to myself in bed last night, why do I do this to myself, what am I gaining? And then eventually a day comes along and you get smacked in the face with a reminder… I haven’t quite had that night yet but I’m gradually getting there.
This hostel is ridiculous with the noise at night. However, it is what it is and I learned tonight that I need to let it happen. I can’t complain. People are just having a good time, even if those people are the employees.
Colombia LOVES Guns ‘n Roses. I have heard more GnR in the last 3 days than I have heard in a long time. Use Your Illusion 1&2 are practically on repeat in the hostel and street performers and easy listening stations love to play “Patience.”
I am surprised at the music choice of Colombians in Bogota. I expected to hear a lot more hip-hop and reggaeton. Instead, I find that rock music is far more widespread.
Christmas is huge here.
I’m tempted to sit down to some video poker at a casino if I can work up the nerve to walk in.
I accidentally ordered a hot dog as my first meal. I asked for empanadas and they didn’t have any so I panicked and pointed to “perro caliente,” After taking a second to read what I just ordered I realized it was just a hot dog. It was interesting though, it had salsa and cheese on it with fried plantain chips underneath it. At least it was something different.
Tinto and aromatica are good. I’ll have to talk more about that again.
Colombians are incredibly diverse. Everywhere I look I see someone that doesn’t look like the next person. It’s crazy.
I think because it is so diverse I haven’t really felt out of place yet.
And yes, the women are beautiful.
I arrived in Bogota yesterday afternoon around 2pm. I didn’t shift time zones so that was very nice and the flight was rather quick. 3.5 hours from Miami. Customs and money exchange were smooth and since I didn’t check any baggage I was out of the airport and on my way to the hotel very fast.
I want to start off by saying. I LOVE MOUNTAIN. Having lived in Florida for almost two decades the only scenery I get if i haven’t been to the beach in awhile, is concrete and billboards. It was so nice to be immediately hit with mountain landscape behind the city. The first thing that I noticed hovering over the entire city was a statue of Jesus with his arms held out on top of the mountain much like the Christ Redeemer in Rio De Janeiro.
The importance of Christ in Colombia doesn’t end with the statue. It seems the entire country is in a mood of celebration for Christmas coming up. You will not hear the phrase “Happy Holidays” from anyone’s mouth this month. Whether it is getting out of the taxi or exchanging money for food at the stalls, it has been “Feliz Navidad!” from everyone.
I went out last night in search of a club called Casa 33 where a drum and bass show was happening that I had heard about online. I had sent a message to one of the performers and used the Facebook event page to communicate with some locals that would be attending. Unfortunately, I was not able to meet up before hand with anyone so i went out and committed the cardinal sin of traveling in a new city… I wandered aimlessly in a two block radius looking for it. Luckily, there was a festival happening right there so instead of walking around for too long I decided to check out what was happening. I was on Calle 32 and the streets were decorated with Christmas lights and families were walking around singing, dancing and in a general state of excitement. Party buses and flatbeds full of people dancing and honking horns with Santa hats and neon sticks banging the sides of the vehicles.
I had decided to make one last attempt at finding this club that was supposed to start at 9:30. I asked a couple walking up towards where I thought it was and they had confirmed it was just a block up. I realized that it was just a plain building with graffiti that said “Casa 33” and I had walked by it several times earlier. I sat outside and noticed a few people coming up but no one was being let in. The crowd started building outside and I realized this wasn’t really the place for me. I decided to do the much more wholesome and simple thing and headed back to the festival. There were so many Christmas lights. I had heard during the weeks leading up to Christmas, Colombian cities tend to compete over displays. I look forward to Medellin, I hear they win every year.
I hung out till about 11pm and then took a taxi back to the hotel. I haven’t slept well over the last few days since I’ve had a cold that started on Wednesday. I thought it would be a good idea to retire early, take some Sudafed pm and sleep till my body wakes up. I got up around 11am this morning and took a walk around La Candelaria which is the old colonial area of Bogota. The temperature here is trying to defeat me by going from 40’s to 70’s in a matter of hours. You’d think I’d be used to this living in Florida during the winter where it fluctuates daily. Being the high altitude from the mountains (Bogota is the 3rd highest capital in South America behind Quito and La Paz) the temperature can get very warm during the afternoon and downright cold at night. I slept well though.
I’m at my hostel right now in the courtyard listening to music and drinking Poker, Colombia’s most popular beer. I’m attempting to follow the Bucs game on NFL Gamecast but it is looking pretty brutal for them right now so I decided to write. Pics will come soon and more updates of course.
Oh by the way, lunch today… 2 empanadas, 1 coke and a beer was $3.50.
Until then, hasta luego!
Ok, It’s just before 5am on Saturday morning. I’m on my way to the airport now to catch my flight to Bogota. I’ll be connecting in Miami then 3.5 hours to Bogota.
So here it goes! A new continent.