Friday, August 25, 2017

RTW #5 Colombia

Uber Trouble and the friendly Cabbie
Soon as I reach Bogota airport I immediately bought my simcard, Claro. Everything here is hypo-inflationary meaning you spend thousands of pesos but it's just tens of dollars really. Then I booked my uber. Knowing that fury between uber and airport cabs, I reckon I need to walk a bit further down the road and book my uber ride from there. I was waiting forever and my tolerance is just 30 minutes. But the car I booked is not really moving. Seems to be stuck in the entrance of the airport. So naturally, I did have to go to his location. Leaving one or two messages in Spanish telling him to wait for me where he is currently at. I did go to his location only to find that he doesn't exist. I can't really cancel because of the hefty cancellation charge. So I just keep on looking. Until my tolerance was reached. I was an hour in the airport carrying my heavy baggage for crying out loud. I decided just to get the nearest cab.

The cab driver I got is really friendly and he seems not hungry for money. His name is Tony. He made sure I trusted him telling me I can either pay fixed price or he can open the meter so I know that the price I pay is reasonable. Apparently, the meter is measured by taxi units multiplied by the rate. Because I would have a heart attack if I have to pay what's on the meter. Anyway, I showed him my address. The trouble is that I was so engaged with the conversation about Colombian culture that I did not double check where we are heading. Tony inadvertently mixed up the unit number to the Town. It was supposed to be unit 201, calle 71 but he thought iwas calle 201. So we went super up north and realised when we are almost there. Poor Tony, he was so stressed and he was worried about how I would react with disappointment. Eventually, I said he wouldn't have to worry much cause I already told my Airbnb host what happened so they don't worry why it took me more than an hour to reach the place. Cut long story short, we reached the place after more than an hour. Compounded by city traffic. Tony got me coke (not the narcotics) for refreshment and we bonded more about my travels and what Colombia can offer. He was surprised I only stay in Bogota for a day. There are heaps to see in Colombia including other cities like Cartagena. Anyway, I felt for him that he was so exhausted so I paid whatever is on the meter and few more for his kindness.

Walking around Bogota
First day, I wanted a free spirited wanderlust experience.So I just want to the Park and wandered around the many shops. I was enamored by wealth of flora and how distinct they are. I walked through to something like a food festival only to find they were already closing. So I just got myself some local empanadas to fill my stomach. I walked so much that later I decided I need to go to a spa just to freshen me up. My feet aches and I was totally exhausted. I met this friendly guy and offered to have pizza with me. Its always good to get know a local. He paid for my pizza and I paid for coffee afterwards. His name is Daniel. In just a matter of minutes we were talking about our families and life away from them. He tells me his problems and his goals and ideals. Later, we went our separate ways but he did offer to go with me the next day to La Candelaria. I took his offer knowing it is better to go with someone local and a friend who can be my translator too. Not that he knows good english but at least he can explain the sights.

La Candelaria with Daniel
This was perhaps the highlight of my one day stay in Bogota. Luckily, Daniel was there when local police starts to question me. Apparently all I have to say is 'si' and show them my ID. Then off we go. I have to admit I was bit scared. I can't imagine being detained especially if I am foreign to their language and rules. I don't even know where is our consul here in Bogota. La Candelaria took my breath away, it was so authentic and so ancient that reminded me so much of 'Narcos'. Thanks to Netflix for bringing a sense of Colombia prior to my visit and I got to appreciate it more. It was massive area and every walk is picturesque. I got so many pictures together with my good friend. He was even nice to gypsies. But sometimes being too nice can be exploited. He ended up giving his watch and 10,000 pesos, I do have to lent him. Poor Daniel but I thought I had to help a friend. And for what's it worth the money is nothing compared to all the help and guidance he gave me while I am here in Bogota.

Last chance to try local food
It was really frustrating that I never ate anything local that identifies as Colombian. I did have my last chance to try it in the airport. So I did. Its called 'Bandeja Paisa', which is a mixture of everything really weird. Beans, Pork Crackles, Sausage, Banana, Egg, etc. I liked it because I like weird. I spent my last Colombian pesos just to have it together with a massive strawberry milkshake. People are looking at my food. It is so huge and expensive. I overheard someone saying that it costs a fortune and they were constantly looking at me when I was eating it. I didn't care and I devoured every bit of it and they can stare all they want but it was a treat to myself.

Avianca and another new Colombian friend
I bid goodbye to Bogota. I was seated on a window seat next to a young professional handsomely dressed. I never attempted to talk to him because my Spanish is really bad. But when he helped me in getting the drink from the flight attendant I said thanks and he started small talk ... and its in English. So apparently, he is on his way to Cancun to go to Acapulco to meet his friends who invited him for a long weekend escape. He was so friendly and there is something about Colombian that makes the conversation easy even with the language barrier. It sounds ironic really. I talk to him in broken Spanish most of the time but he tries his best to talk in English but eventually have to use translator to express what he meant. But it was pleasant conversation. We talked a lot about travelling. Working in Bogota. He also currently taking university. His name is Mauricio and later after my arrival in Mexico he would help me in making sure I get the best currency exchange.

I find that all Colombians are genuinely friendly and that friendship can last for a long time. I do communicate with them even after I left Bogota. They go an extra mile to get to know you as a person. Share differences in culture and appreciate similarities. They are honest and warm. Often I look for places to see, the food the country has to offer, the differences in culture. But the hospitality of a country goes a long way. I would definitely visit Colombia again and I have a reason to meet my new found friends. It something I never expected but gives a lot of smile in my heart.

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