December 17, 2016
We started out our much awaited vacation quite unexpectedly with a missed flight and potentially being stranded for 2 whole days. Due to Sanchit’s persistence and some helpful United employees we were were able to get on a flight from LAX at 10pm. Given as both of us hadn’t packed and finished work late, making this flight seemed next to impossible. We made a run for the airport after having piled clothes into our suitcases and drove through pouring rain. We make it to the airport rental return in record time giving us false hope that we would make it through the madhouse that is LAX airport and make our flight. Sadly, we miss international check in by about 10 minutes. After spending another hour on the phone with United, Sanchit’s able to get us on a flight the following day with connections in Houston and Bogota to Medellin. We quickly book a hotel near LAX and get some rest. The following day, we make it to the airport with no issues and finally get on our flight to Houston. Once in Houston we finally arrive to our gate and see signs for Bogota and instantly our long travel worries are forgotten and we became excited to join our family already in Medellin.
We landed in Bogota slightly early and try to get on an earlier flight to Medellin. Luck is on our side and the lady puts us on the earlier flight giving us enough time to make it to our walking tour that starts at 10am. Quickly that luck runs short and our flight becomes delayed. After a quick hour long flight, we finally make it to Medellin and through the window in the plane, I can already see the beautiful and expansive city scape that appear in the credits of Narcos. I can already tell we are going to love this city and any annoyance that we had with our exhaustive travel disappears instantaneously.
We grab our bags and head out to find an Uber to take us to the hotel. Our Uber driver seems stressed and has Sanchit sit in the front seat and pulls down all of the window shades. We tell him the location of our hotel and he seems to understand although he speaks not a single word of English. I can tell that this country is going to test my Spanish skills from high school over 10 years ago. About 5 minutes into our drive, the uber drivers stops in the middle of the highway on a roundabout and starts yelling “policia, susto, susto” which translates to police, I’m scared, I’m scared. We look around and don’t see any police. Our driver then opens a translator app and repeats these phrases into the app. With my broken Spanish, I am able to figure out that the driver is saying that uber is illegal in Medellin and that he is scared of the police. Somehow we are able to convince the driver to keep going in the direction of the hotel. About 5 minutes later we drive past what looks like a police check point after which the driver physically relaxes and starts talking to us normally and even jokes around with us. After this we are able to enjoy the truly scenic 45 minute drive to Medellin and our driver even stops a couple times to let us enjoy the view. The city looks absolutely majestical with its hills laden with red brick roofed houses. The streets are impeccably clean without any trash in site, I definitely was not expecting Colombia to be so clean, almost cleaner that the US. We arrive at our hotel, quickly ditch our bags and head over to join the rest of the family that is already on our walking tour.
We find our family in Plaza Botero along with a huge tour group. Plaza Botero contains sculptures and statues from Fernando Botero, a Colombian figurative artist and sculptor. Fernando’s signature style depicts people and figures in large, exaggerated volume. The tour guide is this tall energetic lady with a enthusiasm and passion for her country and a flare for drama. She gathers the group in a tight circle and begins to tell stories of Colombia’s violent past even acting parts out. She shows us sites where bombings occurred in the past. She tells us of how despite all people have gone through in Colombia, they are proud of their country. We walk through bustling roadside markets from vendors selling clothes, electronics, perfume and basically anything you could think of. While walking around on the tour, we stop to buy fresh mangoes and watermelon which taste amazing. We arrive in Parque de Bolivar and take a seat at the steps under the statue of Bolivar. Across we notice a bench which looks like a scene from narcos where Escobar and his cousin Gustavo are sitting and talking. Needless to say we were both very excited to have noticed this. With the tour we make our way over to a nearby church and briefly explore. Then we make our way over to Plaza de San Antonio which is this large expansive plaza. We end the tour near two destroyed statues which were kept in their current state to remind the people about what Medellin has been through. After enjoying our walking tour and learning about Colombia’s history we have worked up quite the appetite. We stop an a small shop and try cheese balls which are slightly sweet, cheesy bread balls which are delicious. As our family had explored a little the night before, they had found an Indian restaurant named Govinda that we decided to try for lunch. Needless to say this was definitely not Indian food and we weren’t very impressed.
After lunch we headed over to the metro to take cable cars up to see higher views of Medellin. The cable car network is actually a part of the Metro and is included in a Metro ticket price which was pretty neat. We soon realize that many people live up the hill and understand why such an extensive metro system is necessary. The cable car provides us with amazing views of the city and we can’t resist taking a stop on the Metro to take some pictures.
After reaching back down to San Juan Metro stop we decide to visit the District 13 that was once the most dangerous area in Medellin but now a series of escalators were installed to aid the inhabitants in getting up and down the hill. We head to the escalaras on foot and stop to get some snacks along the way. We try arepas con queso which is a corncake with cheese and dulce de leche poured on top. This was quite the treat and was definitely a different taste. We have to take many staircases to get to where the escalators start. Along the way we see two little kiddos on their bikes that are super excited to see us and want to take selfies with us. We notice that all of the walls surrounding the escalaras are covered in the most beautiful Graffiti aka wall art that we have ever seen. When we get to the top of the escalaras, we are greeted with a beautiful city scape of Medellin and snap a couple of pictures.
We head back down and quickly Uber it back to our hotel to rest a bit before dinner. On our tour we were told to try Bandeja Paisa which is a dish very popular in Medellin and unfortunately for me, completely meat based. Baneja Paisa is basically a platter of beans, pork, rice, ground meat, fried egg, chorizo, arepa (corncake), avocado. The Bandeja has influences of the many countries that influence Colombia including the indigenous people, spaniards, and Africa. Although Bandeja Paisa is not the national dish, it is known as the single most Colombian dish. Sanchit, Rishabh and Suhail were able to enjoy the Bandeja Paisa while myself, Mummy and Daddy ate at Taco house which is a Colombia version of Chipotle however more fresh and tastier.
After a filling dinner, we head back to the hotel and learn how to play the card game Euchre. Our first day in Colombia was a success and we look forward to the rest of our trip.