Rendezvous In Bogota

This blog entry about the events of Tuesday, December 18, 2007 was originally posted on December 28, 2007.

DAYS 28-32 (PART 1): This trip has been dubbed “The Central American Eviction Tour,” but there really should be a starburst icon next to it saying, “NOW WITH JAUNT TO BOGOTA, COLOMBIA!” for that’s where my travels took me next.  Originally I was to rendezvous with my Colombian-born friend/co-worker Monica, as she had planned to bring her new daughter Valentina home for the holidays so that her father, who couldn’t be there for the birth in the New York, could bask in the glory of grandfatherhood.  We had been planning a Christmas rendezvous since the summer, and it was all set — I even booked my ticket before her.  However, at the last minute, Monica regretfully backed out for financial reasons (but not without extending her family’s hospitality, which would come in time).

“That’s typical Monica,” her friend Claudia said in a later conversation.  Monica’s college friend spoke of other examples of this predicament happening, like the time Monica had invited all her Colombian friends to come to New York — only to have to go away the week everyone planned to visit.

No matter, I wasn’t alone; another person had also fallen into Monica’s fickle nature: Stephanie, finally free after a semester of grad school.  She too had a ticket to Colombia before Monica’s withdrawal, and at least we had each other.  However our time in Colombia would be somewhat testing, as we attempted a transition from a dating couple to just being great travel companions and friends, like Jerry and Elaine on Seinfeld (or the sitcom characters of your liking).

Steph had arrived the evening before me, on a connecting night flight from Houston where she sat next to Camillo, a Colombian film producer living in Vancouver, on his way for his first time back home in nine years.  The two of them hit it off and became friends — and suddenly, in place of Monica, we had a new local to show us around the nightlife of Bogota.

BOGOTA, COLOMBIA has gone through strides in history.  As capital city of Colombia, it has come a long way since its origins as a village of twelve huts and a chapel.  Spanish colonialism, industrialization, political strife, military movements, crime, drug trafficking and earthquakes have all shaped this elevated city at about 2600m ASL, nestled in the valley of two mountain ranges.  Nowadays, forget the image of drug dealers and rifle-toting henchmen from 80s propaganda movies (although that’s not to say they still don’t exist); for the most part, Bogota is a city in revival: importantly historical yet surprisingly cosmopolitan, and above all, progressively modern — a prime example of the latter being the four-year-old TransMileno mass transit system, an above-ground multiple bus system using dedicated, barricaded roads so that it is impervious to traffic congestion, like an above-ground train system on rubber wheels.

The modern part of the city was to the north, but Steph and I began our rendezvous in the south, in the historic neighborhood of La Candelaria, where many tourists go to see the Spanish colonial architecture and cobblestone streets.  Despite this rustic scene, La Candelaria isn’t exactly the safest neighborhood in the city, and straying even one block away from the “Guarded Zone” wasn’t recommended.  And by “Guarded Zone,” I mean the area of a few streets near the main plaza and handful of hotels, where armed soldiers were stationed with big rifles to keep thieves away from foreigners.

Steph’s first night alone in La Candelaria was an interesting one; although we had a reservation in the fancy colonial Hotel de la Opera in the Guarded Zone (we heeded the advice, “When in Colombia, for your personal safety, don’t skimp on accommodations”), she decided to save cash on her first night in a cheaper hostel, before I arrived and we started splitting costs.  Unbeknownst to her when she made the reservation, her hostel was a little bit off the Guarded Zone.  While it seemed nice at first — an “Israeli hostel serving kosher food” — it was a bit dumpy at night, scary even, since she was the only one there in the whole building of dimly lit hallways, alone with a sketchy hotel keeper.  “Don’t you know Israelis come here to score coke?” Camillo had scolded her after the fact.

Steph spent the night there, locked in her room, thinking I can’t wait for Erik to be here… I can’t wait for Erik to be here… like I’d just emanate with the clicking heels of ruby red shoes.  Sure enough, I touched down from Costa Rica the next morning and took a cab to the Hotel del La Opera in La Candelaria, where she had walked over to and checked in at noon.  I found her lying in bed waiting for me, and she jumped to greet me with hugs and kisses.

“Welcome to Colombia!” she exclaimed.

“Welcome to South America!” I retorted, congratulating her on the landing of her sixth continent.

The two of us went back to her sketchy hostel to get her bags and she showed me the additional problems with it.  “Sit on the bed,” she told me.

“What is that, a hard rubber mattress?”  Beneath it was wood.

“But look at this,” she said, pulling away the covers.  In the sheets were hairs, many of them, like a sasquatch with hairloss had taken a nap there.  “I slept in my jeans last night,” Steph told me.

“At least you had cable TV,” I said, seeing the cable run down the wall.

DESPITE THE RAIN (Colombia’s rainy season was unusually longer this year with the effects of global warming), Steph and I began our tour of the historical La Candelaria, from the cathedral (picture above) to the busier commerical district.  We had a lunch at a local luncheonette where, after a confused conversation in broken Spanish (mostly mine), we managed to get the almuerzo especiale — soup and big platters of chicken.  Afterwards, we went off searching for the must-see Gold Museum, only to learn — after confused dialogue in broken Spanish (also mostly mine) — that it was under renovation, but with a temporary exhibition only a couple of blocks from our hotel.

“French.  What a useless language,” the former, short-lived Parisienne Steph said, realizing that Spanish would have been a more practical language to have studied.  She tried to get a hang of Spanish on this first day, but mostly French came out instead. 

“You know there are still islands that are French colonies,” I mocked her, having to explain that this was opposed to the fact that almost an entire continent spoke not French, but Spanish.  “Don’t worry, you’ll be fluent by the end of this trip!” I assured my companion.

It was English that was the spoken language of the tour at the temporary Gold Museum exhibition, which displayed the highlights of the collection, from gold masks, little jaguar figures, and recently-discovered gold foil conch shells, all from different tribes and regions of Colombia.  There was also the iconic, right-angled image of a gold figure squating and holding its arms up, which I had posed like on numerous ocassion.  “Are you mocking our guide?” Steph asked.

“No,” I said, before taking in Steph’s glaring eye. “Yes, I am,” I continued, retracting my first statement.

The collection was housed in the Museo de la Banca de la Republica, which also had an interesting contemporary installation and photography exhibit upstairs, showcasing an artist creating images out of pieces of money.  Also, there were pictures of naked amputees.

The Juan Valdez Cafe is the Starbucks of Colombia, with locations almost everywhere in the city, proudly displaying the iconic logo of the moustached muchacho and his coffee-sack-carrying pack mule.  It was there, at one of the many locations, where we took a breather over cafes americanos before going across the way to the Botero Museum, housing the famously-styled paintings and sculpture of world-renowned Colombian artist Fernando Botero — whose chunky, roundish renditions of people and animals showed that he might have a fetish for fat chicks

THAT NIGHT, after a session in the spa and a swim in the hotel pool, Steph and I went out to paint the Guarded Zone of La Candelaria red.  There weren’t many places open in the secured area that late at night (only about 9:30), but managed to stumble upon Piano’s, a jazz club/restaurant that our hotel desk person was apprehensive to recommend to us.  We went anyway — it was the only place open — and sat on the mezzanine level of the rustic, candlelit establishment, the kind of place where local Colombian characters came to be greeted by everyone who knew their name.  From what I gathered, there had been a jazz set earlier that evening, and only a few people were still around after it, like one inebriated couple at the table next to us.  “[Let’s dance!]” the drunk guy said, on his way out. 

“Uh, no,” I declined.  Instead, Steph and I sat down over a carafe of sangria and plates of meat and fried plaintains.  But the barkeeps of Piano’s demanded we chill out and have a good time.  Since there was no music to dance to, a pianist got up, went to the keyboard, and serenaded us with a Spanish torch song.  “They want us to dance,” I told Steph, understanding their Spanish encouragements.  We took to the floor for a quick slow dance to appease them, despite our exhaustion.  The curious barflies were curious of my dance partner.  “[Are you Colombian?]” they asked her in easy-to-figure-out Spanish.

“Uh, no.  American.”  The conversation went on, mostly one-sidely in Spanish, and to my surprise, Steph got more inquisitions to being Colombian than I did.  “I’m the generic, pale-skinned, dark-haired girl,” she told me, having been mistaken for Italian, Greek, and other nationalities.  Monica had told me that Steph would probably blend in as a Colombian easily.

At the end of the day, it was a fine start to a five-day rendezvous with Steph, under any of our circumstances.  Monica might not have been with us, but it looked like we were going to be just fine, as long as at least one of us could get by in Spanish.

Next entry: Classic Colombia

Previous entry: It’s Business Time

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

Comments for “Rendezvous In Bogota”

  • I want to make a clarification about what it is being said about me in this entry. First of all, I did not invite all of my friends to NYC and then went to Mexico. My good friend Ximena happened to come over the weekend that I had planned my trip to Mexico but her main purpose to come to NYC was to see her boyfriend…not me!!! So even though it is typical of me to change my mind and change plans it is not as bad as it really is described here. Anyway, with bad rep and everything they love me!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/28  at  02:49 PM

  • Hi erik - I´m glad you appeared to have recovered from being shot!  I´m in Guatemala and am loving it!!  I might go to Nicaragua after the New year, to the corn islands.  I hope the rest of your trip goes well.  Steph, I know spanish isn´t easy to pick up instantaneously!  I speak a little - but I still get the distinct feeling that my hotel lady is making fun of me… haha.

    Posted by sara  on  12/28  at  06:15 PM

  • Happy new year to you all when it comes!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/30  at  10:55 AM

  • Happy New Year, Erik! (and everyone)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/30  at  01:25 PM

  • I hadn’t been following the comments much, so just hadn’t realised you’d been shot until today.

    So, here’s some get well wishes from one (usually) SBR.

    Posted by Neil  on  01/02  at  03:15 AM

  • Hey 50! When are we getting the “shot” entry?! And it better be a pun for an inoculation.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/02  at  07:48 PM

  • The “shot” entry is four away… stay tuned. 

    FYI, the four entries until then may be subpar since I’m just rushing through them now…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/03  at  11:48 AM

  • I’ve been spacing on keeping up, but hopefully I’ll be there to read “the shot” entry!! It sounds like Bogota is a fascinating place!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/03  at  05:41 PM

  • Erik, your back. Did not even realize you were on another trip until accidentally clicked on your bookmark.  I need to catch up and start on day 1.  You got shot??  I guess i gotta read from day one.  Anyway thanks for blogging. Be safe and have fun…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/03  at  11:24 PM

back to top of page


Follow The Global Trip on Twitter
Follow The Global Trip in Instagram
Become a TGT Fan on Facebook
Subscribe to the RSS Feed

This blog post is one of thirty-nine travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip: The Central American Eviction Tour* (*with jaunt to Colombia)," which chronicled a six-week journey through Central America, with a jaunt to Bogota, Colombia.

Next entry:
Classic Colombia

Previous entry:
It’s Business Time


Confused at some of the jargon that's developed with this blog and its readers over the years? Here's what they mean:

BFFN: acronym for "Best Friend For Now"; a friend made on the road, who will share travel experiences for the time being, only to part ways and lose touch with

The Big Trip: the original sixteen month around-the-world trip that started it all, spanning 37 countries in 5 continents over 503 days (October 2003–March 2005)

NIZ: acronym for "No Internet Zone"; a place where there is little to no Internet access, thus preventing dispatches from being posted.

SBR: acronym for "Silent Blog Reader"; a person who has regularly followed The Global Trip blog for years without ever commenting or making his/her presence known to the rest of the reading community. (Breaking this silence by commenting is encouraged.)

Stupid o'clock: any time of the early morning that you have to wake up to catch a train, bus, plane, or tour. Usually any time before 6 a.m. is automatically “stupid o’clock.”

The Trinidad Show: a nickname of The Global Trip blog, used particularly by travelers that have been written about, who are self-aware that they have become "characters" in a long-running story — like characters in the Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show.

WHMMR: acronym for "Western Hemisphere Monday Morning Rush"; an unofficial deadline to get new content up by a Monday morning, in time for readers in the western hemisphere (i.e. the majority North American audience) heading back to their computers.

1981ers: people born after 1981. Originally, this was to designate groups of young backpackers fresh out of school, many of which were loud, boorish and/or annoying. However, time has passed and 1981ers have matured and have been quite pleasant to travel with. The term still refers to young annoying backpackers, regardless of year — I guess you could call them "1991ers" in 2013 — young, entitled millennials on the road these days, essentially.

Spelling or grammar error? A picture not loading properly? Help keep this blog as good as it can be by reporting bugs.

The views and opinions written on The Global Trip blog are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the official views and opinions of the any affiliated publications.
All written and photographic content is copyright 2002-2014 by Erik R. Trinidad (unless otherwise noted). "The Global Trip" and "swirl ball" logos are service marks of Erik R. Trinidad. v.3.7 is powered by Expression Engine v3.5.5.