Thanks to Paloquemao market, I’m able to find “Asian vegetables” to make Asian food. This includes kimchi.
In Dhaka, I organized Korean cooking lessons and it was possible to buy Korean goods at the Korean mart in Dhaka (and I had my special Korean place in Dhaka to supply me). In Bogota there is no Korean supermarket with ready-to-eat small dishes (other than Maki Roll restaurant which has a few items for sale). Also, I haven’t found my kimchi source (Casa de Coreana‘s is the best in Bogota, in my opinion), so I decided that I would have to make it myself.
The recipe is easy to find on the Internet (Maangchi is one of favorite) and I used her easy recipe involving fish sauce. I made it and it was delicious!
I’ve had quite a few visitors recently and I’m expecting quite a few more, so I thought I’d try to get my “tour of Bogota” blog posting done before someone else asks me where they should take their visitors.
If you visit Bogota (for work perhaps) and only have one week here, this is my suggestion of what to do.
Try to visit most of the centrally located attractions after work. The old town of Bogota is called La Candelaria and in it are located the Gold Museum, the Botero Museum, Bolivar plaza, the president’s residence, and mount Montserrate (eat up there if you want). For dinner on the other nights, eat in Parque 93 (Mercado does Colombian food) and the Zona rosa (or Zona G, etc.). The part of the street around Cevicheria Central has several good restaurants including Di Luca and Agadon though they do not specialize in Colombian cuisine. A must try is Andres carne de res (or include the Chia location on Saturday’s outing if you want the loud and raucous experience), and cevicheria La Mar. Harry Sasson has interesting architecture (don’t be deceived by the dark exterior). Also, it’s hard to find but usually there’s a car parked in the jungle that constitutes their lawn. You may catch a glimpse of the politically powerful dining there. If you want to try the other Colombian chains, eat at Crepes and Waffles for lunch, Bogota Beer Company, and sip coffee (or “tinto” as it’s called here) at the coffee chains, Oma and Juan Valdez. Colombian food to try are arepas, empanadas, ajiaco, sancocho, criolla potatoes, obleas, and fresh lulo juice.
Then on Saturday, hire a car and driver (some are about $12/hour . Or you can use tour companies) and go out of Bogota to the Zipaquira town (salt cathedral fame) and go up to Guatavita Lagoon (source of the El Dorado legend). Be prepared that you can only hike to the lagoon with a tour and it takes two hours. Or visit the little town of San Francisco as you enjoy the back country lanes and the beauty of Colombia’s landscape.
On Sunday, get up early (like at 6 or 7) and go see Paloquemao market. Do breakfast/brunch (from 8-12) at Club Colombia, Avenida 82, No. 9-11 (unless you want the real deal at the market), then do Ciclovia (when the streets are closed so that people can exercise). You can include a view of Bogota from the Colpatria Tower, Avenida Carrera 7, No. 24-89, (for the view from the 48th floor, and you only have to walk up two flights of stairs), the Calle 26 flea market, the San Alejo pulgas (stalls), Carrera 7, No. 24-70, (link in Spanish), the Macarena area (includes quirky cafes like the dog café, Azimus, Carrera 5, No. 26A-64, and La Juqueteria – the playhouse, Carrera 4), the old bull fighting ring, and National Museum (Museo Nacional), Carrera 7, No. 28-66. Then take a cab up to Usaquen to walk around the adorable streets and the Sunday market (some flea but mostly artisan). Eat at La Mar for dinner.
If you have a second weekend, then I’d suggest going to Cartagena (even if just for one day — or add a few days just to go there). If you have more time, then visit Medellin, Cali, Santa Marta, Letitia (for an Amazon tour).
Notes: Never let your credit card out of your sight. They will be swipe it at the table with a mobile unit. If asked “cuantas cuotas?” the answer is one (unless you want to do a layaway plan for your two dollar coffee). Use an app like Tappsi to get cabs. No cab ride should be more than 35,000 ($17). Ask to use “el metro” which is the meter. It doesn’t always count in currency, instead, it’s a code with a corresponding amount on the taxi fare chart or on the meter. Lock the doors when you are in the cab. Also, remember that the altitude may take your breath away. Heed the need for oxygen and take it slow (like sitting in meetings) for the first day or so.
One last thing about visiting Bogota. It’s always 65 F and the sun will come out almost every day. So every day is a good day to visit. All year round (okay, it rained at 2:30 p.m. every day in October and November, but the sun came out in the morning!).
Where to find the world’s products in Bogota? Recently, I went to Codabas, a market in the northern part of Bogota. It’s up on Carrera 7 # 180. Codabas has a central building with fruit stalls surrounded by a parking lot of shops.
Inside the central building is a spice shop with every spice you didn’t know that you couldn’t find in Bogota. Cardamom. Chili mix. Fresh honey. Salt from the moon. Okay, I jest.
Some of the shops around the parking area include an Italian shop (they sell wine for less than 15,000 COP = $8 which is fairly cheap for Bogota) and other Italian items.
I was thrilled by the “Arabic” sandwich shop where I bought pita bread. (All of it. I also bought hummus. But, mostly, I was excited to find flat bread like I’ve found in the middle east.)
Across from there is a Peruvian store but it was a bit pricey.
There were several fish shops which sold lots of frozen Asian seafood, like clams from Vietnam, and Asian foods (like frozen shumai dumplings). Plus, they sold a good brand (from Canada) of pickled herring. And squid ink. Just in case you were making squid ink pasta.
I will go back to explore some more but personally for vegetables (and especially for chiles and napa cabbage) I like the less sterile feel of Paloquemao a little bit better. Also, the Carulla on Calle 84 actually caters to the expats and carries many imported products.
Paloquemao is possibly the most famous market in Bogota. Paloquemao is located in the west of Bogota. As people often refer to it as the “flower market,” I had expected rows and rows of flower stalls under and open roof.
Instead, Paloquemao was a warren of narrow stalls all bunched together like a souk. There were separate sections for fruit, meat, house plants, and food stalls. The prices were better than at the supermarkets.
The fruit lady was very friendly and kept making me try new fruits, once I told her that I only wanted to try fruits I’d never tried before. I left with a backpack full of produce for 30,000 Colombian pesos ($15). It didn’t even occur to me to bargain. Should I have?
There is an even bigger market, Abastos (also called Corabastos or Central de Abastos), which is the wholesale market and apparently the second largest in South America. I’ll visit it one of these Sundays.