Set the mood and play this song as you're reading this blog post.
Last year I celebrated New Year's in Bali. This year, Colombia. Leading up to the departure of my flight, I couldn't hold the excitement that was stirring between my bones. My mind wandered and started to think about trading cold evenings for hot summer days. Swapping rain boots for flip flops and coats for tank tops. But there was more than the climate to be excited about.
I landed in Medellin, powered my phone, and received this message from my friend Scott.
"The beauty of Colombia is that the majority of Americans are too scared to go. As such, its much more authentic, less commercial, and welcoming to foreigners. And, since the media of the U.S. is so one sided, the Colombians will be curious about you in positive ways since Asian Americans don't really exist in the dialogue of mainstream U.S. media abroad. I'm a little vague with my explanation, but to be short, enjoy the opportunity."
And enjoy the opportunity I did.
Guatape. A quaint town located on the outskirts of Medellin has become a destination highlighting two landmarks: the vibrant colorful town itself and El Penon de Guatape, the 2,100 meter (740 steps) tall rock with amazing 360 degree views.
You can't talk about the history of Medellin without mentioning Pablo Escobar, the Colombian drug lord. My knowledge of Pablo was absorbed through the ESPN short film "The Two Escobars" and the recent Netflix original series "Narcos". As part of the tour, I walked the grounds of the jail he built for himself, visited the house where he was murdered, and stood above his grave. What I found fascinating wasn't the actual locations itself, rather, gaining a better understanding of the positive and negative influence he left with Medellin.
Off to Cartagena...
Cartagena is a modern port city on Colombia's Caribbean coast. At its core is the walled Old Town, with 16th-century plazas, cobblestone streets and colonial buildings full of color and character. With its tropical climate, the city is a popular beach destination. Reachable by boat are the nearby shores of Isla Baru and Isla del Rosario.
Colombia, you'll be remembered for your sticky nights, reggaeton music, inexpensive food, dance parties, plazas, and 10 minute Uber rides for less than $2 USD. The beach massages, fresh fruit, and warm ocean water. Your Medellin rum, Julia Styles, slow unexplainable service, unorganized tour guides. The random Daddy Yankee concert and ringing in the New Year in the streets of Old Town. Muchisimas gracias!