Blogs :: This is Bogotá
For the past 6 months I experienced the joys and nots of living in Bogotá. A tribute to what this trip has become, Bogotá was an expected series of changes, coincidences: life.
Bogotá is modern life meets yesterday. A horse-drawn wagon waits in traffic behind a bright yellow cab. A steam train moves slowly down the tracks parallel to a freshly paved autobahn. A street vendor flips arepas for a quarter each out front a fine dining establishment pouring wine at $25 a glass. The presidential palace, combing with elites and politicians, is surrounded by a barrio full of beggars and thieves. A human phone booth wears 5 mobiles off his jacket while businessmen stroll by on Blackberries.
I prefer modern. The "center of economics and politics" in el gran país of Colombia, Bogotá at over 8 million inhabitants is a genuine metropolis on the edge of a few booms:
Hundreds of vendors selling every piece of computer hardware, made in China, Taiwan, Japan, and the United States, fill stories of edificios on Calle 15 between Carrera 75 a 80. The street corners in front are lined with too-many-to-count independent software salesmen, pirated and not, I typically crossed the street before being bombarded with offers. It gets annoying after the zeroth time.
Cellular phone and data services are as common here as everywhere else in the developed world as does banda-ancha internet. While internet cafes exist, not in the numbers they do in less developed cities, a sign of in-home, always-on access. WIFI is catching on just about every upscale establishment, over 25 open signals can be found sitting on a bench in Parque 93. I had a $20, likely stolen 10-year old Nokia, but then again, I only ever called 1 of 5 people in the book.
Walk along Calle 100 east of the TransMilenio stop and you will find brand new environmentally efficient, technologically loaded office buildings and condominiums rising every few blocks within the chic neighborhood of Chicó. Someone please buy me one.
Parque 93, a green pasture of nappers, ballers, and doggers, is surrounded by European-American styled, but Colombian influenced cervesarias, restaurants, bars, and nightclubs cluster to garner the patronage of Rolos and a small handful of "first worlders". I love food and people watching, there may not be a better place in Bogotá if you do too.
Just 10 blocks south resides Zona T, part of the larger Zona Rosa. A beautifully-lit during Christmas, pedestrian-only 3 blocks of even more pubs and eateries. Whether its Irish, English, Mexican, French, Spanish, or Colombian you desire, it all exists here, however there was no way I had ever enough money to try every place recommended. Pick one, then pick another, until you find your favorite (or her's).
When I arrived in Colombia I was not a daily-cup-of-joe type of a person, but when I left, I nearly was. Ridiculously famous around the world, Colombian coffee is everything it's hyped. Bring in 21st-century marketing and you have a chain of cafes to rival Starbucks. Bogotá has one on every corner.
Around Zona Rosa you will find within 3 blocks of each other, 3 modern shopping malls, all bustling with activity found in only in world class cities. While I am not a traveler-shopper, I did find myself taking long walks through the air-conditioned goodness of these centro comercials (8 out of the 20+) or catching Avatar 3D at one of the many theaters inside, all a few steps above any cinema I've wasted money on in The States with coffee shops, affordable candies, free refills on soda, and premium Lazy-Boy-Seating.
Situated in the middle of the country, we expected to explore other parts of Colombia on the weekends. Until those weekends turned into outing-on-the-town (see above), but we did manage to visit the Catedral de Sal and Villa de Leyva a mere hour-to-hours outside.
So why isn't Colombia over-ridden with tourists already? Someones tell me its "bad publicity". It's no lie, there is a ton of cocaine in Colombia, a tourist industry in-and-of itself. It's cheap, easily accessible, and overlooked. The para-politics-military culture also contributes and yes, it is still a struggle for the locals and their culture, but improvements are being seen and rarely does a turista ever feel the impact. And Bogotá, unbeknownst to many, is the numero uno destino en Colombia.
So how did I get to Colombia? And why did I stay so long? Jason and I first arrived months late in January 2009 after blowing off gobs of time and braincells in Central America, with just enough time to get our visas for Brasil before Carnaval started. After a week in the city, we were sad to leave and pledged to return. While Jason disappeared to start a new life, I found myself still desiring to visit the off-FARC-mentioned country of Colombia and figured why not Bogotá as a starting point?
An initial idea of working diligently for 2 months turned into a guestimated 4 finding no short terms leases. An early December departure turned into a late January forced departure when visas expired after 6. An unexpected reunion with Tom turned into an unexpected relationship with Andrea. A diminishing grasp of the Spanish language turned into a moderately conversational speaker.
And so while I travel the rest of the Spanish-speaking continent of South America, I will look back to my days, months in Bogotá with fond memories of all, despite the boredoms, the bads, and the bettys, but if I am to remeninse about anything, it will be the culture itself, the passion of the people, something I have not explained, nor feel like I ever am able. Cultura must be experienced for one's self. But what I can tell you, is that this es Bogotá, and Colombia, es pasión...
drinks, tours, culture, Bogota, drugs, tourists, blogsherpa, food, Colombia, cities