THE KAERU KID: Bogota, Colombia: More than coffee

Editor’s Note: This is the second of a two-part series.

When one hears the word Colombia, thoughts of coffee, cocaine, and emeralds might come to mind, and not necessarily in that order. On my recent visit to the capital of Colombia, none of these entered the picture.

In November, I came from the beautiful city of Medellin to Bogota, located at an uncomfortable altitude of 8,612 feet above sea level, a huge population of almost 8 million people with its attendant pollution, its constant overcast skies with frequent drizzles during my visit, all combined to give me a poor first impression.

The Zona Rosa was touted to be a very upscale neighborhood. An apartment rented via the Internet for around $50 sounded like a bargain, but it turned out to have three bedrooms, each rented by different people. For a supposedly nice neighborhood, however, it required three different keys to open the front door locks.

To access the free Internet, one had to go to the living room; and there were other annoyances that led to cancellation after one night.

I made a visit to an upscale mall in Zona Rosa. The money exchange there gave poor rates. A few casinos located in this area were typical of most countries, with no comparison to Las Vegas in terms of amenities and gaming odds. Restaurants catering to local workers served a bargain tasty meal consisting of soup, salad, beef or chicken and rice for 5,000 pesos (around $3).

One of the items on display at the Gold Museum. photo by The Kaeru Kid

An acquaintance had recommended Abadia Colonial Hotel for its colonial charm, with wooden architecture and indoor courtyard located in the interesting La Candelaria neighborhood. La Candelaria is considered the Old Town, and has many sights, such as the Botero and the Gold Museum close by. The hotel was indeed charming, but the room was too cold, even when they provided me with a plug-in heater. The area was filled with students from universities in the area. Restaurants seemed to be mostly fast food types or more fancy with high prices. Most museums in the area are free on Sunday, but are closed on Monday. The Gold Museum was quite interesting and worthy of a visit. A van housing a tourist information booth on the main plaza had an attendant who could not speak English. I saw homeless drunk men were sleeping on benches.

BEAUTY IN BOGOTA — A young artist was making copper wire ornaments. photo by The Kaeru Kid

Many vendors had their cheap wares spread on blankets. One young man was creating motorcycles, ships, guitars and many other pieces by skillfully and rapidly twisting copper wire into these shapes. He could make a fortune here in the United States. The prices were dirt-cheap, but due to limited luggage space, I was only able to purchase a few pieces.

My third hotel selection was the Ibis Bogota Museo Hotel, where a clean warm room with a reasonable rate under $70 a night. This was my home for the remainder of my remaining Bogota visit.

A delicious and inexpensive seafood restaurant, Sabores del Pacifico, was discovered on my wanderings. The lunch comida corriente (set menu) included a hearty sancocho (fish soup), whole fish cooked in coconut milk, rice, salad, plantain and a cup of sugar cane drink called aguapanela, all for around $5. A tasty inexpensive meal of cazuela con frijoles (a bowl of stew like chorizo with beans) was eaten at a different café.

Cerro de Monserrate is a religious site located on a peak towering over 10,700 feet. Some hardy souls make a pilgrimage by climbing to visit, but the trail is also reputed to be a favorite place for nefarious denizens to commit robberies.

A cable car is the easiest, safest, and most popular transportation. The church at the top wasn’t particularly unique, but from this height, all of Bogota can be seen. Señor Caldo (the statue of the Fallen Christ in a glass case) is reputed to perform miracles for those praying here, and is one of the reasons for the huge crowds, especially on Sundays when the tram is half-price.

A new and efficient Transmilenio bus system occupies a dedicated lane and should be investigated by other large cities to incorporate a similar plan in their mass transit solution. It was a comfortable rapid ride to the Portal del Norte Station for less than a dollar, and then onto another smaller bus (less than $2) to the town of Zipaquira and then a taxi (for more than $2) to the Salt Cathedral in a total of less than two hours to visit the underground Cathedral of Salt located in a former salt mine. It is interesting, but the one located in Krakow, Poland is more impressive.

On my return trip, a stop was made at the town of Chia, and this stop was the most fun I had in the Bogota region. Chia is named for their moon goddess. A chia pet is named for the type of grass used. When told what Chia pets were in the United States, the people in Chia all laughed at the concept.

Dinner at Andrés Carnes de Res Restaurant in this town is worthy of a detour. Visualize a combination Knott’s Berry Farm, Hard Rock Café and Rainforest Cafe and any other fun eatery rolled into one. Bright lights, loud music and sometimes people dancing on the tables overwhelm your senses. Every inch of the walls and ceiling is covered with all sorts of kitsch. An antique metal box is presented at the table and requires turning a handle to view the menu inside as it scrolls. One might conclude the food would be secondary but fortunately, the ordered steak and its accompaniments were delicious.

Some idioms I noticed in Bogota: People say “buenas,” instead of “hola” as a greeting; when bumping into someone, the apology is “fresco, fresco;” goodbye is “ciao” like in so many other places.

I said ciao to Bogota with no regrets.

 

Las Vegas Tidbits

Between the large population of people from Hawai‘i living in Las Vegas, and the huge number of visitors from the 50th state, Las Vegas is often called the “Ninth Island.”

The Henderson Libraries sponsors various cultural activities. The last one, Ho‘oipoipo‘o Hawaii: The Romance of Hawaii, was held on Feb. 11.

The next one is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 25, from noon to 4 p.m. at the Galleria Library, located at the Galleria at Sunset, 1300 West Sunset Rd., Suite 1121 in Henderson; (702) 207-4259. It is titled Spirit of Hawaii: Hawai‘i‘s Religion and Gods and Goddesses. The event will feature interactive cultural displays, history lectures, stories by traditional Hawaiian practitioners, and a showcase of ancient and contemporary hula.

The last event in the series is “Hawaii is Home,” and it will take place Saturday, March 24, from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Paseo Verde Library, located at 280 South Green Valley Parkway, in Henderson; (702) 492-6560). The event will celebrate Hawai‘i as a blend of cultures and people. Participants will be able to see the impact of the various cultures and customs through simple displays, songs and dance by a variety of performers.

Admission is free and Trader Joe’s will provide free snacks.

Aloha.

 

Las Vegas Tidbits

Between the large population of people from Hawai‘i living in Las Vegas, and the huge number of visitors from the 50th state, Las Vegas is often called the “Ninth Island.”

The Henderson Libraries sponsors various cultural activities. The last one, Ho‘oipoipo‘o Hawaii: The Romance of Hawaii, was held on Feb. 11.

The next one is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 25, from noon to 4 p.m. at the Galleria Library, located at the Galleria at Sunset, 1300 West Sunset Rd., Suite 1121 in Henderson; (702) 207-4259. It is titled Spirit of Hawaii: Hawai‘i‘s Religion and Gods and Goddesses. The event will feature interactive cultural displays, history lectures, stories by traditional Hawaiian practitioners, and a showcase of ancient and contemporary hula.

The last event in the series is “Hawaii is Home,” and it will take place Saturday, March 24, from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Paseo Verde Library, located at 280 South Green Valley Parkway, in Henderson; (702) 492-6560). The event will celebrate Hawai‘i as a blend of cultures and people. Participants will be able to see the impact of the various cultures and customs through simple displays, songs and dance by a variety of performers.

Admission is free and Trader Joe’s will provide free snacks.

 

 

The Kaeru Kid lives in Las Vegas and hopes readers will send him comments at KaeruKid@yahoo.com. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

Comments

  1. I am would like to know exactly what the icmone requiremetns are to live in Bogota, Columbia if there is a requirement? What are all the requirements to retire to Bogota, Columbia.

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

  2. Best to check with Colombian Embassy for correct latest information. You can also google any question, e.g. http://www.cheapest-places-to-retire.com/planning-to-retire-in-colombia. Good luck.

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