Bogotá

The citizens of Medellin love to rag on Bogota. It’s cold as hell, it’s so crowded, the people are disagreeable, terrible traffic jams, pollution like you wouldn’t believe, it’s always raining, the people are ugly as hell etc, the list goes on. I was of the opinion that, as passionate members of a rival community, they were heavily exaggerating. But no, it’s seriously that bad. The weather is significantly colder, especially at night, and as a result people exercise less and grow their guts more. The impossibility of the traffic combined with the size of the city forces citizens of Bogota to spend hours a day in traffic, souring their moods and generally giving them a poorer outlook on life. Don’t expect the warmth and tangible friendliness of the paisas from Medellin.

If you’re considering taking the public transportation bus system, the transmilenio, expect to be entirely confused by how the hell to get anywhere. The map of routes is the most outrageously confusing chart I have ever seen, and even if you know the correct bus and have been told where to get off, it’s very easy to end up missing your stop anyway. This is because the only place the name of the stop is visible is on a set of doors that open when (or before) the bus arrives. Even staring at the doors as we approached I still ended up six stops where I was supposed to get off and had to backtrack. God help the poor soul that tries to decipher the map and correctly find their stop, better to just ask someone EXACTLY how to get to your destination. Even that can present you with a variety of bus options, of which you will not understand the difference will probably end up simply choosing the line that uses your favorite color.

Those less interested in conserving cash will find it easy to take a taxi, but should be observant of the fact that there are additional costs on weekends, nights, and holidays, as well as that traffic (as previously mentioned) can be a bitch any time of day. Unlike Medellin, where I personally have had no issues with nefarious cab drivers, Bogota seems to let them thrive. Within three days of being in the city I saw my friend, who had been living in Bogota for eight months, get ripped off by a quick work of slight-of-hand trickery. A rapid exchange of “Give me 20 then I’ll give you 10 then you hand me back 5 and I’ll pay you 7.50 then you pay me back 500 pesos and we’re straight” plus being in a rush made his wallet $10 dollars lighter.

Plus one of my students (Colombian) was administered scopolamine and taken for everything he had, so yeah that’s actually a thing. If you’re not familiar with scopolamine, look it up. Essentially it’s a potent plant-derived powder that even in tiny doses can put a person into a dreamlike state where they basically hand their valuables to their assailant, all with a willing smile on their face. Then you sleep, for a long time. Also, since the dosages are so tiny, giving someone too much is common and can cause death. Here is the excerpt from Wikipedia:

One common and particularly dangerous method that criminals use in order to rob a victim is through the use of drugs. The most common has been scopolamine. Unofficial estimates put the number of annual scopolamine incidents in Colombia at approximately 50,000. Scopolamine can render a victim unconscious for 24 hours or more. In large doses, it can cause respiratory failure and death. It is most often administered in liquid or powder form in foods and beverages. The majority of these incidents occur in night clubs and bars, and usually men, perceived to be wealthy, are targeted by young, attractive women.

For that reason I avoid strip clubs.

Maybe I’m being a bit harsh, I enjoyed the cooler weather for a change (frankly 55 degrees F isn’t that bad, Colombians just think it is) and fortunately didn’t have to spend TOO much time in traffic. The nightlife is definitely more metropolitan and the food choices are veritably more international. Plus views from the top of Montserrate are nice, but if you’re claustrophobic or afraid of heights you’re setting yourself up for your literal worst nightmare while riding the funicular to the top.

But yeah, I saw my friend get robbed, saw another friend get entirely ignored while asking for directions, got charged extra in a taxi due to arbitrary rules, and had a sketchy guy try to convince us to follow him to a “cool” bar where he and his buddies were obviously going to jump us.

All of this in 3 days? Nah, I’ll stick to Medellin.

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