My trip to Bogota, the capital of Colombia, on Thursday afternoon did not start as smoothly as I would have wanted. I was boarding the plane at Cartagena airport, we were already walking from the gate to the plane, when suddenly everyone turned around and started walking back to the airport building. Déjà Vu, that was almost like what happened to me and J in New York although back then it was only us two who were kicked out from the plane and also we had already traveled for quite a while so we were tired and angry. This time I was only curious to know what was happening and soon enough I got a new reason to add on my list “Flights are delayed because...”: They had closed one of the runways in Bogota so there was nowhere we could land and thus, we could not take off. Some 5 hours later, when we were finally ready to go I was getting tired and angry and feeling sick after a free hamburger I had eaten. I had finished the book I was reading, discovered every corner of each shop there was (it is a very small airport I can tell you) and spent my money on a perfume. Vive Viva Colombia! Not the best first experience with this airline company.
When I arrived to Bogota airport it was almost midnight and I just wanted to get to my hostel. There were two taxi lines, one with at least 50 people queuing and another one with, well no one. An officer from then non-existing line spotted me immediately and asked if I wanted to take a taxi. I asked what the difference was in letting him take me to a taxi or standing in the line as everyone else. He told me that his taxi was a “special service taxi” and that I would not have to wait, and that the price would of course be the same. I didn’t believe that for a second but I was so eager to get out from there that I decided to pay rather than wait and hopped in the car with him. We arrived to the city and soon after I realized that we were driving in a very scary-looking neighborhood, with narrow streets, run-down houses and no people to be seen. For a moment a panicked a bit, I had heard various persons telling me how dangerous Bogota is and suddenly I was sure that this guy was not taking me to my hostel but somewhere else where he would rob me or rape me or god knows what. Of course this was not the case, a moment later we came to my hostel and he let me go. However, I didn’t feel much better when he asked me why I had chosen that hostel in Chapinero instead of a nicer place in the historical old town, Candelaria. Looking around, I was wondering exactly the same thing...
So the neighborhood was not the prettiest but my hostel turned out to be very nice and clean, and the staff was friendly. I had chosen to stay in the Chapinero area because my Bogotan friend T said it was a central location, closer to other places than what Candelaria would be. Tired of everything I had experienced so far I went directly to bed and yesterday morning T came to pick me up for a tourist tour around the city. It was an absolutely perfect day and I’m so happy to have a friend/personal guide in Bogota. So much less trouble when you can just follow a local instead of trying to find your way around on your own. I met T some weeks ago when she visited Fundacion La Vecina here in Cartagena, because she is planning to volunteer with us for a while. If she decides to do that, she will be moving here soon and I had to visit her in Bogota before she does.
We started our day as real locals and took a Transmilenio bus to the center. It was more crowded than metros in Paris during rush hour but I survived! We then strolled around Candelaria, the historical old town with colonial houses and cobblestone streets. We admired beautiful buildings, churches and plazas and went in to a couple of museums (even if both of us are a bit allergic to museums). It looked a little bit like the old town in Cartagena, just bigger and not as pretty.
For lunch T made me try a speciality from Bogota, an Ajiaco. It is a chicken soup served with rice, avocado, capers and cream cheese. Very delicious. For dessert we bought Obleas, they are like very thin waffles and T still laughs at me because I added Oreos in mine when people usually eat it with arequipe (caramel dressing) only. Well there were Oreos to choose from and I like Oreos so what's the big deal?
After lunch we kept walking in Candelaria, saw lots of Universities and run into a friend of T’s. He joined us and we strolled around for hours, in different areas in central Bogota.
Even if I saw a lot I know it was only a very small part of a very big city. There are 8 million people living here but I didn’t realize how big this city really is until we took a teleferico up to Cerro de Montserrate, a view spot on a hill. The view from there was amazing! Bogota with millions of city lights looked breathtakingly beautiful and we felt so small, like it was impossible to comprehend how big the world is and how little our actions really matter. The feeling was in a same way overwhelming than when I climbed up to Ku De Ta, a rooftop terrace bar in Singapore. There, with a panoramic view over the city and the sea on the other side I remember it felt like I was on the top of the world and there were more and more life and lights in all the directions. Not even climbing to the Eiffel tower by the night gives me the same feeling that what I experienced at Ku De Ta or Montserrate, it was spectacular.
After Montserrate we took a taxi back to my hostel and then went out again, for tapas and drinks, at Zona-T, a trendy area close to my hostel (Friday night and people going out, it’s not that scary here after all). There was a boulevard full of small restaurants and bars, music and people, a very lively but at the same time sophisticated ambiance. We chose one of the bars, had some heavenly good appetizers and later T’s sister joined us with a friend of hers. I had great time talking with them and I liked the fact that we were in Bogota and in a quartier where locals go out, a nice change after Cartagena where wherever you go in the central area you are always surrounded by tourists in flip flops and cameras in their hands. Sipping my wine, I felt very much like being in Paris on a Friday night. Got to love the big city vibes.
One of T’s friends was celebrating his birthday so we joined his group at a nighclub nearby but we didn’t stay for long because it was not really our thing. Even Bogota didn’t change my opinion about discotecas, I still think clubbing is boring.
Today T had a class in the morning and then plans with her family so I spent the day alone. I had been warned about the dangers in Bogota and told that I should for example not use my phone on the street. Maybe it is my “always lived in the capital” – nature but I got used to Bogota very fast and it didn’t feel like I only just arrived. It was easy to orientate, the traffic seemed less chaotic than in Cartagena and overall I felt very safe. I walked long distances and used Uber instead of taxis because it’s very popular here, and not once did I feel threatened in any way. I don’t know if people exaggerate or if I was just very lucky but I’m happy I didn’t get into any trouble. In the morning I went back to Zona-T because T had recommended a good food court place where I could go for lunch, as I did. Before that, no surprise for anyone, I couldn’t help doing a little tour in the shopping centers and various stores that were around (a 3-floor Zara for example!). I only bought some swimwear from Oysho and then just enjoyed looking into shops, it was so weird to see European brands everywhere.
I also bumped into a Starbucks! I hadn’t been in one since Miami, it must have been the longest break I’ve ever had. I didn’t stay for long though, only took a chai tea latte take away and went to a nearby park, Parque 93. What is great in Bogota is that unlike in Cartagena, there are lots of parks and green areas here! That is because it rains quite a lot, but yesterday or today it hasn’t really been raining. I was actually looking forward to some rain but I only managed to catch a few drops while walking today. Bogota is a lot higher up than Cartagena so it is colder here but I overestimated the climate change when I packed all the warmest clothes I have. Actually it is not that cold, during daytime it gets to some 20 degrees and in the evening it is maybe 15. It is cooler and the air is fresh but at the same time it is hard to breath because of the altitude, we are some 2600m above the sea level! I also think it is because of the lack of oxygen why I have a constant head-ache since yesterday morning.
After my Chai Tea Latte pause I kept walking, passed some business districts and came to a district called Usaquen, that used to be a village apart but that now is a part of Bogota. There was a central plaza with a church, some old building and vendors on the streets, it felt a lot like being in a small village.
In the afternoon I was desperately looking for a Sephora because I thought there was one in Bogota (but after a second check I found out that yes there is a shop called Sephora but no that is not a Sephora I was looking for). I didn’t succeed but instead I had a nice tour Ubering around from one place to another. Bogota is big and the distances are long. There are neighborhoods of different styles but (in my opinion) in the day time it is not pretty or charming like Paris or New York for example, just a busy city. After a while of driving around I gave up with Sephora shopping and went to the central park, Parque Simon Bolivar, to enjoy the afternoon sun.
Tonight I was walking around looking for a place to have dinner but spontaneously decided to go to movies (benefits of a big city, there is always something to do). I saw La suite Francaise, it was an interesting movie, I recommend.
Tomorrow we are going with T to a nearby town called Zipaquira, I’ll tell you about that when I get back to Cartagena.
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I'm Emilia, Finnish-Parisian, a recent Master's graduate. I'm currently traveling around the Caribbean and on a volunteering mission in Colombia. I'm passionate about writing, music and different kinds of sports. I can't wait to discover new places and cultures - and share my adventures with you!