Bogota Travel Blog› entry 22 of 27 › view all entries
In the slightly more dodgy area of town are many little "malls" where each store is basically a tiny cubicle and everything is stored behind the counter. The aisles are sometimes only about a metre wide and you wander endlessly through the labyrinth created by the narrow passages and copious quantities of shops, many of which sell the same thing. The dodgy part comes in that you never know whether what you are buying is of good quality, or authentic, or reasonably priced. Cash only. You can get a receipt if you ask for one and supposedly everything is cheaper than it would be if it was sold legitimately but caveat emptor definitely applies here. Janneth often told us not to say anything until she had finished negotiating with the store owner as the mere presence of foreigners pushed the price up beyond what was a bargain.
When leaving San Andresito, caution is required. A quick trot to a taxi is recommended, bags held tightly in hand, as anyone with white skin carrying large quantities of purchases is an easy mark for professional thieves. That said, even if we were being charged exhorbitant prices as foreigners, everything was still incredibly cheap in comparison with New Zealand. Try five pairs of good-quality (Sol assures me) super-stretch jeans for $145NZD. A new-release model IPod with 80GB memory for $500 NZD. DVD-quality movies that have not been released at the cinema yet selling for 3000 pesos - that´s $2.00 NZD each.
I did go a little bit crazy the day we visited San Andresito for dedicated shopping. We were actually looking to pick up a wedding dress for Janneth´s mother but by the time we got round to that it was mid-afternoon! In fact we had three or four things planned for the day but only shopped. Oops.
Warning: delicate subject
I have become far more knowledgeable about toilets in Colombia than I ever wanted to be. Most toilets do not have a lid to put down. You can´t flush toilet paper as the sewage systems are too old to handle the tons of toilet paper that would be flushed with a city the size of Bogota (or, it would seem, anywhere in the country). Everywhere you go there are little rubbish bins beside the toilets for you to place your used toilet paper in. Pity the poor person whose job it is to empty these little bins every day. And yes, they have rubbish collection here but the night before each respective neighbourhood´s rubbish collection the city stinks as everybody puts out their little bags of used toilet paper with the rubbish!
As far as public toilets go, they´re reasonably dodgy and you never know what state you´ll find them in. There is no requirement for a restaurant or any place that serves food to provide bathrooms for customers to use. Everywhere you go you need to take your own toilet paper as, if you ask to use the bathroom in a shop or restaurant, they often do not provide paper - and sometimes the water may not be working so it may not flush ... and you will not be the first person to have used it (Murphys Law).
If they DO provide toilet paper with the toilet, you will often have to pay - about 500 or 600 pesos which entitles you to use the toilet and receive a smidgeon of toilet paper: pray you don´t have an upset stomach and need more than what you received! So lesson whatever-i´m-up-to about Colombia: ALWAYS carry your own toilet paper.