Colombia - I Want To Stay!!!

Bogota Travel Blog

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Colombia, South America’s tourism slogan is, “The Only Risk Is Wanting to Stay”.  This turned out to be prophetic for this small town Mississippi guy.  I remain a U.S. citizen, but now also have a Colombian Resident Visa.  Colombia consists of Caribbean & Pacific coastlines as well as the Andes Mountains including the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and Cordillera Occidental mountain ranges as a part of its beautiful landscape.  Large cities, historical towns and fascinating people should make Colombia a top travel destination for many reasons; culture, shopping, parties, food and climate are just a few.

Many Colombian people were excited to ask an American what my impression of Colombia was before coming to visit.  I see sadness in their eyes when I reported there were two things I knew about Colombia before coming and that was cocaine and coffee.  The two people I knew were Pablo Escobar and Juan Valdez. I also thought it was a possibly dangerous destination.   Colombians are a proud people and they do not like that so few people know of the beauty and treasures of their country.  Now that I have been exposed to Colombia for more than a year now, I feel ashamed of my narrow and misinformed impression of Colombia.

Bogota is the capital city with a population over 7,000,000.  It offers all of the conveniences of any major U.S. city.  Modern hotels, apartment and office buildings form a skyline framed by the Andes mountains as a backdrop.  Museums, theatres, casinos, restaurants, malls, night clubs, concerts and even amusement parks offer to entertain whatever any visitor’s desire could be.  Bogota is home of the El Museo del Oro (The Gold Museum) containing world’s largest pre-Hispanic goldwork collection.  Museums featuring the art of Colombia’s now world famous native son Fernando Botero are also a joy to visit in both Bogota as well as his home city Medellin which also has a plaza displaying some of his most famous sculptures.  Close to Santa Marta are Tayrona National Park and the ancient city of Ciudad Perdida (Lost City) that predates Machu Picchu.  Cruise lines are increasingly stopping at ports in Cartagena and Santa Marta.  So whether the destination is Bogota, Medellin, Cartagena or Santa Marta there is a wide variety of ways to keep tourist busy and wanting to experience more of what Colombia has to offer.

I mentioned malls but the shopping should be highlighted.  The shopping in Colombia is ridiculously fabulous.  Fashion is a very important part of their culture.  Shops containing the same international designers we are accustomed to in the U.S. plus locally famous and budding want to be designers to satisfy any taste are widely available.  It is said that Colombia is the fashion capital of South America.  Fashion week in Bogota and Medellin draw thousands of visitors.  Several top international designers have their product manufactured in Colombia, making fashion not only a part of the culture, but also a big part of the economy. The Colombian Peso also exchanges great from the U.S. dollar giving more purchasing power.  This is also a great country for what I call “flea market” shopping.  Homemade crafts, souvenirs, even food are sold at these markets and street-side vendors at bargain prices.

One thing Colombia has no shortage of is holidays.  This is a country of people that like to have a party and to accommodate this; they have a lot of holidays to justify having all of these parties.  Okay that might be a slight exaggeration, but they do enjoy a party whether it is just to visit with family and friends on the patio or if it is a night out on the town.  One stereotype of Latin people I have found that is accurate is �" Latino and Latinas love to dance.  The clubs do have last call at 2:30am in Bogota, but the clubs stay open usually well past that time because the dancing is not over!

Along with the love of coffee and fashion comes a love for food and what wonderful food they have.  Colombian food has little in common with what we as Americans know as “Mexican” food.   Paisa food is a regional favorite in Colombia that I equate to “Southern Food” in the U.S.  Bandeja Paisa is a typical Paisa dish that is meat- carne molida (whole or shredded steak), meat- Sausage and meat- chicharrón (bacon) with a fried egg, sweet fried plantains, beans, rice, an avocado slice, and a white corn arepa (corn tortilla) .   The beans are simple red beans not refried beans and the rice is plain white rice.  The bacon is a baked slab about 4”x4”x2” with the pork rind still remaining and would make Paula Dean proud.  The portions tend to be rather large too, so it makes for a great lunch because they tend to eat supper rather late.  Going to bed after Bandeja Paisa could be very heart unfriendly for the inexperienced!! lol

The city of Medellin is known as “The City of Eternal Spring”.  With an elevation equal closely to that of Denver, Colorado, and with its proximity to the equator, the weather stays pretty much “spring like” all year round.  For Bogota, it is more like “early spring” all year because it is a little cooler there, but still very comfortable.  Even modern luxury apartments in Bogota and Medellin usually do not have heating or air conditioners because they are not needed.  Open widows and wall vents keep the air fresh circulating and the temperature comfortable.   Coastal towns and cities remain tropical all year long with only the amount of rain received to indicate the change in seasons.

In my travels to Medellin and Bogota, I have never felt unsafe or the slightest bit scared.  The only times I have felt uncomfortable have been because of my limited knowledge of the Spanish language.  There are a lot of Colombians that do speak English and most hotels, restaurants and tourist spots have a working knowledge of English also.  As far as cocaine �" I never saw any cocaine there and was never offered any either.  Like in the U.S., I am sure you can find it if you look for it, but that is not a part of my life at home much less when I am a guest in another country.

More favorable individuals like Fernando Botero, Shakira, John Leguizamo, García Márquez and President Alvaro Uribe are replacing the negative images of Colombia’s past influenced by the likes of Pablo Escobar.  Pablo Escobar sadly is a part of Colombia’s past, but no longer do the drug lords control the cities or country.  Juan Valdez does remain relevant in the culture because instead of Starbucks, Colombia has Juan Valdez Cafes and coffee does play an important role in today’s culture and economy as it does in the U.S. culture.

I am proud to now tell inquiring Colombian minds that I do know SOME of the beauty and treasures of their country but I know there is so much more for me to explore and I look forward to that adventure.  I love seeing the smiles when they know an American has fallen in love with their country.

puddles90 says:
Great blog. I can't wait to live in Medellin for 3 months and to travel the rest of the country after! :)
Posted on: Jul 05, 2012
deadiaz1 says:
Nice blog you make me proud of my city!
Posted on: Jul 19, 2011
Africancrab says:
Great blog, you are quite the writer too :)
Posted on: Aug 31, 2009
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