If you ask, many people will tell you that Medellin is nicer than Bogota. It is warmer, more organized, and cleaner. I liked it. To get a good view, I’d recommend taking the cable cars over the city.
Much of Medellin was built by Pablo Escobar. There are tours relating to his life and death. But there is much else to see in Medellin. And, the food was pretty good. I had a halfway decent Pad See Ew at a Thai restaurant near the Hotel Charlee (which also has decent Asian fusion food at its rooftop poolside bar).
When I tell people that I’m moving to Colombia, I usually get one of two reactions. Excitement. Or excitement. Excitement about how lovely Colombia and Colombians are. Or, usually, excitement about the possible dangers. Here are the ten most common assumptions I hear about Colombia.
1. Aren’t you worried about getting kidnapped? (I wouldn’t go to Colombia if kidnapping was a guarantee. Duh!)
2. It’s dangerous. You will get mugged. Or worse. (Bogota, with seven million inhabitants, has all the usual dangers of a large city so I think my chances are equal those if I lived in New York or Bangkok)
3. Will you become a drug dealer? Or an emerald smuggler? (Why would you ask me that? Is it a conversation starter?)
4. I hear that plastic surgery is really cheap and of high quality there. Are you going to get plastic surgery? (Thanks for the suggestion?)
5. Colombian women are the hottest in the world. You will get divorced there. (Colombia ranks first in bird bio-diversity…)
6. You will get married there. (If I go to a wedding, I’ll blog about it for sure!)
7. Oh, you’ll be having a lot of romantic assignations (Okay, they put it more crassly.)
8. You will enjoy the steamy hot weather (Not in Bogota. The daily average temperature is 48-68 F, or 9-20 C)
9. Hope you like salsa because there will be lots of it. Any opportunity and Colombians start dancing! (Yup, bring on the vallenato, cumbia, hard salsa, salsa romantica, porro, and so on. More later.)
10. You will never want to leave. (The Colombian public relations slogan says, “the only danger is wanting to stay” so maybe they are right?)
Colombians and Colombia have been through violent times, but according to recent articles, times are changing in Colombia. Medellin, previously infamous, is cited as a model success story of urbanization; Cartagena is a popular tourist destination; most of the world’s cut flowers are grown in Colombia; and the culinary scene is growing. Even with all of this, people still equate Colombia with cocaine, kidnapping, and coffee.
Speaking of coffee, apparently most Colombians drink instant coffee, like Nescafe. With Starbucks’s launch, this week, of their first cafe in Colombia, it will be interesting to see how they change the cafe culture. Will Juan Valdez match the mighty marketing machine that is Starbucks? I will try them both in between my forays into new fruits.