Day 17: Stepping into S. America – Bogota

Today is the start of the journey down south, and the first stop is a 8 hour layover in Bogota, Columbia.

Taking the car service at 5 in the morning and seeing the dawn of New York City on the way to the airport, the nervousness started to creep up on me. Wait, why am I doing this? Is there no turning back?

Got there, found the plane is an hour delayed and it added to my nervousness, and I even felt slightly home sick. All the comfort I am leaving behind. Will it be a rocky year? uncomfortable beds, unknown lands? Well I guess the only way forward was forward.

Boarded. Seeing the the planes neatly lined up in traffic was pretty cute.

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Good Bye New York!

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Hello Bogota!

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In case you don’t know, Colombia is in the norther part of South America.

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Apparently it is the 4th biggest city in Latin American after Sao Paulo (Brazil), Mexico City, Lima.
I had no idea about Columbia except for the drug/ cocaine movies and their desert mansions where they kill anyone in a heartbeat but had heard from people that the country has been cleaning up crimes, and corruption and is actually quite safe and nice to go visit. It wasn’t on my top destinations but the layover would be a great opportunity to take a look.

So here I land and wow, its really modern, not what I expected at all. The airport is big, well equipped, well designed and clean. The city has highways, modern buildings, hotels, malls, companies like any other city. I guess I expected less.

Took the cab to the city with a pre-agreed $12 fare. With my broken Spanish and the driver’s broken English I was able to get a few recommendations of food and that the city is cleaner now. I think he said no pollution? – well not sure, but yes, the air seemed pretty clean for a city that size.

My destination for the 5 hours was La Candelaria, where a lot of historical sites and buildings reside. Due to the plane delay and long lines in immigration I couldn’t make it for the bike tour around the city I was planning to but decided to rent a bike anyway and went around with a map in my hand.
Here are some highlights – since I had no background/ history of the city or the culture, only from a perspective of what caught my eye.

La Candelaria: The city has over 500 years of history and you feel it in the path and the buildings. Beautifully built museums, government buildings and churches. Wish I heard the history and had time to explore more!

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Colourful buildings

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City Graffiti : This is all over the city and in an amazing scale! I wouldn’t even call it graffiti, its art in a city scale. Many are painted on whole building walls and decorated the city its an art gallery. Amazing variations in styles.

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Playful Art: Spotted these people around town. Would be fun to see how many there are!

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Those shapes are made of steel, not real people.

Bandeja Paisa: One of the recommendations from the taxi driver for Columbian food.
Beans, Meat, Plantains, Avocado, all in one plate.

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The curve on the bottom is a whole plantain – fried. The avocado on the top, then rice under the eggs in the middle, on the left is ground beef, under the thing that looks like mango – which is fried port is red beans and under it is chorizo, then to the right is some kind of smashed corn bread. Lot’s going on here.
I wasn’t sure if I was to mix them all together or eat them one by one so I ate them one by one then tried making combinations with them, mashing them together. To be honest, I don’t think I got it. There was a lot going on, a lot of flavours and textures and I think I was pretty full with everything that was going on. Would have been good if I had shared with someone, but by myself, it was a bit too much. Well, the waiter did warn me.

And here is my first Latin American beer – actually pretty standard in taste and weight.

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Policia: As a security measure, there were tons and tons of police and security everywhere! Even ones with guns around the governmental buildings which freaked me out a bit. Its rare for me to see that coming from Japan, the most Japanese police would have is a long stick. But I guess that is what’s needed to keep the piece.

Only 4 hours in the city and couldn’t see /do much but it was a good entry point to S. America. And a big realisation that I really need to pick up Spanish PRONTO! – thought my next destination is Brasil with Portuguese.

Now off to Rio in a red eye!

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