Bogota: "2600 meters closer to the stars"

Trip Start Aug 22, 2010
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Trip End Dec 23, 2010


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Flag of Colombia  ,
Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ufff I don't even know where to start when it comes to telling you about this city! Bogota is big metropolitan area very hard to imitate, with its 482 years of history, its 8 millions inhabitants, its unique location on a plane 2600 meters above sea level, and host to the clashing of all levels of Colombian society!

In the 10 short days I was here, I was able to notice the big change the city is going through. After living in Miami for nearly three years, one starts to notice those details that the average citizen is usually unaware of when they are close. It is like that saying: "you don't miss something until it is already gone". I took the time to explore the city with a magnifying glass, and really observe those things most locals pass unnoticed! As the Colombian economy globalizes itself, you can start seeing more foreign influence in the city, with different companies establishing themselves as well as more foreign investment on local infrastructure! Every 2 blocks one can find something being built or repaired!  This is one city that never sleeps either, full of hardworking people that sometimes withstand 2 hour traffic in order to make that everyday hustle! Because yesss, Bogota is amazing, but it is definitely not perfect, and two words unfortunately taint the city's prestige: Traffic and Pollution!

Nonetheless, Bogota is full of wonders, and with an open mind, this city can be as entertaining and fascinating as Las Vegas! (...maybe?) The cheap prices are definitely a plus (2.5 dollars can be enough for some beans, rice, plantains, and a good steak accompanied by fresh squeezed Lulo or blackberry juice), and nowhere else in the world will you find open-air buses (known as Chivas) roaming the streets with live bands, bunch of joyful Colombians, and gallons of Rum and Aguardiente onboard! If I bring my friends from abroad here, the Chica shalld fintiely be the first thing we will do! Also, with its hundreds of years of history, Bogota is host to a lot art, jewelry, and architecture that goes back to pre-Colonial times. If you are more about local culture, Bogota will still not disappoint you!

Despite all these amazing qualities, the reason why I detoured south of the USA before heading to Europe was because of my family. Their absence in my daily life has opened my eyes and made me strongly aware of their importance in my life. Let's face it: I would not be pursuing a degree in Miami nor adventuring in Europe if it wasn't for their efforts! They will always have my love for that, and the least I could do is visit them and show them my gratitude personally for what they have helped me achieve!

But in any case! Back to Bogota yeh? In these short 10 days I was there, besides running a bunch of errands and lounging with the family, I decided to get in a tourist's shoes for a day, and for the sake of this blog, show some of the wonders Bogota has. With my aunt and cousin, we headed to Monserrate, a 400 year old church that ever since the beginning days of Santafe de Bogota, it decorated the mountain range trailing the city, even until today!

We took the Transmilenio from the North all the way downtown. Transmilenio has become the trademark of Bogota, being the cool-looking red buses that reach all important areas of the city. Bogota's downtown area is one that never sleeps. People crowd its streets with many mom and pops businesses as well as with street vendors, that offer from bracelets to remote controls! So hey, if you ever happen to lose yours, you know where to find it! Along with all this, downtown Bogota is also host to many corporate headquarters as well as classic government buildings such as the President's palace known as the la Casa de Nariņo, and museums such as El Museo del Oro. Despite all these, our destination was at the feet of a 500 mt high mountain, where a little train station represented the start to a trip uphill to the highest point of the Colombian capital. It was pleasing to have been accompanied by a group of tourists coming from Germany, India, and France. I admire and appreciate all the foreigners that come to this beautiful country, despite the fear that many in the international community have towards it, just to find out that it is more precious than what they heard!

The summit of the mountain was spectacular! Bogota being the jungle of cement it is (just like any metropolitan city), it was captivating to see both sides of the mountain: one where the city lies, and the other where endless hills, mountains, and forests continue their trail to eventually join the Los Andes mountain range.

From the train stop, we all had to walk trail that went through two famous restaurants (San Isidro and Santa Clara), as well as various statues of Catholic figures and the marvelous view. At the end was the church, where a local mass was taking place. In Colombia, Roman Catholicism is the dominant religion, and one can find very devout people here.  A good example is my grandmother, who goes to church every Sunday, and is always praying for my cousins and I to do the best we can (although I really believe she prays more so that we stay outta trouble!)

Monserrate was a unique experience, and I say it because as a citizen of Bogota, we easily forget its treasures. Going to Monserrate was like "renewing my vows" to the city. The next step was now to consume it! That's where my cousin and I had the brilliant idea of enjoying a little more of the nightlife.

You can't leave Bogota without enjoying la Zona Rosa, where the best clubs and bars of the city are congregated for people to enjoy. From enjoying some good brew at a bar like the Bogota Beer Company, to dance it off at a classy club like Penthouse. You can also find cocktail bars if you want to get fancy, or liquor stores if you are on a budget and just wanna have some fun period. We decided to go there and try everything! We headed to Vaqueros, a small bar where most college students use as a meeting spot as well as a good night starter with cheap shots of their trademark drink ($1 each!). Other destinations that night where Topical Cocktail bar located at the top of Atlantis Mall and Simona, a club with crossover music and a very entertaining crowd!

Something particular about nightlife here is how people can just hang out on the streets and parks without the coziness of being inside an establishment. The places we went to were pretty full, but the streets were even more crowded! And that's interesting considering that at night it gets quite chilly (50 F)! People in Bogota as well as in Colombia just know how to have a good time, and for the people here, the location is the least of issues!

The night was great, met a lot of very interesting people, and got back home at like 4am. That leads to another insider tip which is: don't worry about driving! Taxis in the city are very cheap and reliable, and can get you anywhere for under $10. Just make sure to have a number to call a taxi company directly. In any case, I can't complain, this was the best way to have said farewell to Bogota!
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