Monday, November 24, 2014

And So It Begins….

Exactly one week ago, I was rummaging through the mountains and hills of Bogota, Colombia. Never did I imagine doing so, but I certainly did and all I can say is, WOW. It was magical, enchanting, charming, and pleasantly perfect in its own little way. To say I was grateful for the experience is an understatement; I WAS HYPNOTIZED! When I turned 27 last November, I decided that I wanted to accomplish many things before my 30th birthday. Amongst them, complete my masters degree, go on a hot air balloon ride, and travel to a total of 5 continents outside of my native home. Considering that I had already been to Europe on a graduation trip in 2007, I could safely cross that off my list. With years  to focus on other incredible continents, my first choice was South America!

Ever since I was a junior in college, I wanted to go to South America. My first choice was Buenos Aires, Argentina (which is still in the works). Unfortunately, even a cheap ticket to Buenos Aires is $1,200 from Phoenix.  And when you're a teacher with a shoe obsession, money is not used in vain. One must be a savvy traveler. Never one to give up on my desires, I found an alternative. I thought about all the other countries I wished to visit in South America and then I thought, BOGOTA, COLOMBIA! I have heard it was gorgeous and very modern with a "city edge" because of the drug trade.  Colombia, albeit supposedly more dangerous, was a much cheaper option that could still fulfill my desire to see South America. I researched the tickets and found an extremely reasonable one at $480.00 roundtrip. I saw, I bought, I planned. This would be the best trip of my life!

My good friend Efrem was the only friend would could accompany me on the trip as he too is an avid traveler and lover of life. Thankfully, he arranged for us to be on the same flight to and from the country. This I was most grateful for because I absolutely hate flying. As the trip arrived, I got nervous. Every single person in my life constantly said to, "Why Colombia? It's so dangerous. You're crazy!" Boy were they wrong. As I saw the sign "Bienvenido's a Colombia" all the those thoughts suddenly dissipated. I was happy and ready for what awaited me. On day one, I toured the fabulously chic and historically profound "Gold Museum" known for its indigenous gold, platinum, and bronze from all over Colombia. The museum was 5 floors and full of beauty. I took as many pictures as I could and never cared that I appeared the total American tourist,  I WAS IN COLOMBIA!

After hours of pictures and discoveries, my friend and I happened upon the fabulous museum restaurant that boasted some of the finest Colombian food. I had possibly the greatest minestrone soap (soup) I have ever had. I also found my new favorite snack; plantain chips and dip. It was a beautiful experiences. Note, Colombian hotels are extremely tiny. Our first hotel, albeit quite chic, was a shoebox full of charm. We stayed in a hip neighborhood Parque 93. If you're ever in Bogota, I highly recommend residing there for your stay. As much as I expected to see shady people and feel bad vibes, the whole entire city was abound with almost everything that America offers except everyone spoke Spanish. I felt right at home.

* Side note

Bogotanos are not drug dealers. They are regular city inhabitants like any American living in New York or San 

Upon our museum experience, we happened upon the fabulous bar "The Pub" at Hotel Continental. This is where I eyed the cutest, most intelligent Colombian throughout my entire experience there. His name was Pedro, he was part owner of the bar, an avid entrepreneur, well spoken gentlemen, and he was quite handsome. We flirted over several cocktails and beer nuts before we tired and had to depart to our hotel. It was a wonderful first night.

*Side note 

 Bogotanos firmly believe in;

  • Coffee (cafe)
  • Fresh juices (mostly papaya) 
  • Lots of taxis (be careful; they drive like Europeans)
  • Manners 
  • Looking well put together is a must
  • Adventure 
  • Excitement 
  • Culture 
Our second day, we felt a bit more comfortable with the city so we ventured out and did some local sight seeing. We met up with a recent acquaintance from our plane ride there. His name was Jason and he was a doll. He owes a hip boutique in Bogota which is reminiscent of Melrose boutiques; very cute and pretty reasonable. I bought two items and created a new friend. Bogota nights were filled with lots of walking, laughing, drinks, and dancing. We had a blast and spent most nights jamming out in Zona T, Zona Rosa, or Zona G. (all gorgeous areas of Bogota with amazing eateries and fantastic night life). 

*Side note

The best places to shop in Bogota are; 

ZONA T. Everything and anything is there for the taking. 

As the days flew by, I found myself drifting further away from the stress of my overwhelming job back home. I needed this vacation on many personal levels and thankfully, it exceeded all of my expectations. It was the best money I ever spent. The highlights of my trip included; The Botero Museum (a must see), downtown Bogota "La Candeleria"(because its hipper than hip), The Sunday flea market in Usaquen (my favorite neighborhood), and of course Monserrate Mountain.

How could anyone forget Mount Monserrate. It practically surrounds you throughout the city. It is as enchanting as it is haunting. The city is grateful to have this beautiful landmark that is not only original, but priceless in sight. One week ago, we made the trek up the mountain and absorbed all its full beauty. We took picture after picture and still couldn't completely capture its true essence. It is a mountain more stunning than ever. I would venture to say, it is a world treasure that should definitely be embraced and seen by all.

*Side note

Reggaeton is the music of the country, but the main musical dances are Salsa and Meringue. Make sure you bring your dancing shoes! 

My last official day in Bogota was perfect because of the people in my life. A family friend who is a Bogotano herself, connected me to her family still living there and they truly showed me "the best of Bogota." We to "Callore"up the mountain hills where I had my first Colombian beer; it was surprisingly delicious. They also took me to the outskirts of Bogota (Chia) where I danced and ate the night away at Audres. It was the most fun I had ever had and from people I barely knew. As I watched all the people dancing on the floor, I just stood paralyzed. Tears started to stream down my face. Efrem said, "It's beautiful isn't it." And I just nodded. It truly was. I was at complete peace. Bogota was the best trip I have taken in a long time. It was my first birthday trip and my first step into my journey of 5 continents.

Though I am already planning my next birthday trip to Thailand, I have left a special part of my heart in Bogota. From the food, the dancing, the people, the Spanish, and the mountains, I breathlessly in awe and love of this terribly misunderstood city. I have realized that one should never listen to others. Believe no one and always form your own opinion based on facts and logic. Bogota is no different than any other major city. Of course, there is crime, but there is crime everywhere. If you are an astute and safe traveler, you will have the time of your life just like I did!