Colombia - Life in Colombia



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I was going to write this article since long time but I just had time my free time for this trip report. I know myself I'm not really an expert on how to write. But I know that writing can really help me to express what I cannot verbalize.

I know not only me who had bad experiences living or traveling abroad. but I might be the most unluckiest asian guy in Colombia or maybe not only me who have met these unexpected experiences while living in Colombia.

However I have traveled the earth extensivly but these experiences I will never ever find anywhere else.
Let me tell you first, I was there not just for travel but to live, learn culture and people of the country.
I was going to stay there for 1 year or if I liked it, I would stay longer. But I really coundn't make it.
Just to tell you that I had also studied costoms and culture for many months before traveling to Colombia. Not just headed there without preparation.

I know very well about the high rates of crime and violence in Latin America are undermining growth, threatening human welfare, and impeding social development, according to World Bank and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).I'm not exactly sure it's because of the high unemployment rates that cause all these problems or not.

Travel through South America It's not just like In many Asian countries where you go backpacking your way through a country and you will never have to worry about robbery.

In this article, I just want to show what I have experienced in here, some pictures and what you should be aware of when traveling In Colombia.

This article is very useful for asian people as I'm one of asians. I did not travel all over the country but I know there are some parts that I will fall in love with.

Warning : This article is not for those who love Colombia and those who are Colombians and can't really admit this really happens in the country and this problem should be fixed for the sake of the country and tourism.

Let's start the now..

The capital city (BOGOTA)




Let's start ...


Sometimes I will make the first move, by asking someone a question and pretend like I don't know anything. I did this a lot
while living in Colombia. Of coures!! my degree taught me how to deal with people especially when it comes to negotiation.
So I found a lot of ideas by this and it hepled me to learn better culture and people that I will actually interact with.

I randomly asked people on the street and I found that a few colombians know the real statistics of the population In Bogota.
Some said 12 million (That's more than in Bangkok, Thailand) but doesn't look crowded.

Some said 8.6 which is correct according to current statistics (2011). but In some areas of Bogota you can find crowded situations in transmilenio or the shopping areas.

Somewhere in Fontibon area (picture)


I remember my first day arriving in Bogota. Taxi took me around the city for an hour to find my place. 2 months later I realized that Fontibon is extremely close to The airport (El dorado). So I got cheated my first day.
but it was not a big deal because I can find this in many countries too.

Even though got cheated by a taxi driver my firs day but I was still like the country and extremely excited to explore Colombia.

A month ago I decided to move my place to the safer area in Chapinero. This area was great for me
because It close to a party zone and I love the nightlife as I'm a city guy.


Chapinero (where it's surrounded by night clubs and bars )

Colombians do love parties as much as I do. So you won't be disappointed partying with local people.


It's safter going out at night with friends instead of walking alone at night. I get used with this when I was in my country and I
always think nothing can hurt me. But I suggest you not to do the same especially if you are a woman.
Wherever colombians tell you not to go, just don't go. If you don't want to be a victim of a robbery.
Something funny happened to me when I went out home just to buy food at Exito mall. The shopping mall is just 2 kilometers
far way from home but wanted to take a taxi after buying foods to stock at house. Then I took a cab and leaded the taxi the way

to home, The cab driver pretended like he didn't know the way but I pointed the correct way whereas he drove me another way.
Finally I got home with an upset face and was so pissed off. Thought thing could get better but not yet, He asked me for 10,000 pesos which cost a lot for 2 kilometers. I had quarrel for 10 mins and gave up continuing this fight.
You should be very careful with all their tricks and don't let them overcharge you.
I know that Cab drivers are known to work with others to rob you. So it's safe just to walk back home if it's not far from you.

Plaza de Bolívar in Bogota


Bogota is not touristy at all, Some Colombian friends told me,
most tourists flow in the coast instead of artistic towns just to get away from the cold climate. 
I did Bogota tour almost 10 times to the same place. So I think I'm an expert already lol.
In Bogota, It always seems to rain everyday except the sunny Sunday.
There are no seasons in the city. only dry seasons and rainy seasons and I felt that I was about to die with the cold every day.

Temperature in Bogota is always around 7-15 everyday. I hated when people say "Hace calorr hace calorr"
when I was wearing a very thick jacket with some cloth inside.
If you are from a tropical country like me. You will understand that
"Hot in Colombia is Cold in our country"  Just like "Spicy in Colombia is NOTHING FOR US"



Getting around "el centro" you should be double careful. If someone approaches you from in front and reaches for your pocket,
you can avoid them.  Pickpocketing is pretty common in Bogota.  And I'm also one of those victims who lost a lot of money to pickpockets.

In "el centro"  having police doesn't make you feel safer.  I got robbed here and lost all my documents which are not really useful.
I remember very well that the thief followed me on the way to the shop somewhere in the center,
while I was walking. He took my bag and quickly ran so fast inside the small street.
So I didn't report my first time of this crime.  but this was just the beginning of my story here.




I loved to try the typical street foods but my friend from switzerland always denied eating them.
Actually It was not that bad as you think plus you couldn't find it anywhere too.

Arepa and Empanada were my favorite foods in Colombia. Don't miss them when you come!

From the picture above :You'll find them almost everywhere in Colombia along with this phrase "A la orden"
They will keep saying "A la orden" which means " At your service" until you get annoyed.
I didn't find this word using In Ecuador but I had seen a lot only In Colombia.
Seriously, I didn't like it when they repeat the same phrase again and again.
It's not really attracting me to buy their product but I always feel like "go away" when they repeat it again and again.


Chicha : This can make you drunk



Let's talk about being friendly and helpful.

I agree with one blogger who have been to Latin America " What you see is what you get" cr. Thomas (Article ; Thailand vs Latin America)
It's absolutely true for me and some asian friends here. I used to ask someone for help, 85% of helps are from young people.
Then I realized "never ask for help from old people"
Young people were nicer or maybe they thought I am an innocent asian who needed some help. But Old people they will walk away or try to avoid me with no reason. or sometimes they just gave me bad emotional reactions which made me feel so bad

I captured this picture of temperature on December.

How to understand Colombian people...

Many colombians are not very good at geography. Apart from South America and North America,
they only know a few of Europe and hardly know about Asia.
I'm trying to say that local people and even students are not good at that. Yes, there are exceptions ...
If you found some people who have been abroad, you will find that they are bettter at geography. I guess, It's beacause the media
on TV shows only China,Japan and Korea.

So don't expect that they will know your country even though I'm from one of the famous countries in ASIA.
(According to the tourism statistics 22 millons in Thailand 2012)

For that reason, I'm not sure whether what's going on is discrimination or not,
but it was something that's been bothered me for many times.

I can say that I HATE when they call me "Chino" instead of "Asiatico" . I know there's another word for white people which is
"Gringo" but they don't use with us (asians). Also I don't feel like they treat asians better than westerners.

But just because I’m an Asian doesn’t mean I deserve any less respect than anyone else!!!

There are a few ways to take revenge on person who yells you. Intentionally misspelling words can drive them crazy. For example ;
Colombia Is not Columbia !! or Are you mexican? (this really works when meet colombians abroad)

Something you should know too is that Colombians believe that the country has never been invaded
by a foreign nation( The Spanish did not invade, they just came to a savage country and colonized it, bringing civilization)


The normal biggest meal of the day is in the evening. but my biggest meal is in the morning.


There's a story of our german friend. We lost our german friend and it has been almost 24 hours.
So we went to report a missing person and the answer was so "unbelievable" to us.

"How long do we have to wait to report a missing person?" one of our german friend asked the police
"3 days..." the police said.

This is damn shit!! In 3 days we could find a rotting corpse instead of alive

We were really worried that he could get kidnapped or killed by someone but at the same time
we also thought that he might went out with girls and forgot to inform people behind him.
It was kinda sad and funny at the same time but we tried not to laugh.

The next day, he came back home and told us that his boss took him out of the town.
He didn't know that he would be away longer than expected.


In Asia, I think 10 mins considered to be late. In Colombia, you wouldn't believe this,
It's like an hour or maybe 2 hours If you have an appoinment with someone.
I have encountered this problem many times and the worst appoinment was about for 24 hours LOL
I slept , I woke up , I went to the meeting place, went back home , slept , waited for a call .
Finally called me another day to meet up.

And still asked me "how long have I been waiting for????

The first and most important thing you need learn before traveling to South America is to learn basic Spanish.
There is no need to use English when the whole continet speak Spanish except Brazil.

I had problems with the immigration when my spanish was still not fluent. I had a visa that did in Malaysia
and It was going to be expired very soon. Then I went again to do it and they issued me another one for one year.
I asked them about doing Cedula de Extrajeria but the one who issued me the visa said in Spanish that I don't need to do.
So I was so confused and asked myself did she really understand my spanish ? Did i make it clear enough ?
but I was very sure I did speak right.

15 days later, I came back again and asked for this cedula as checked again through the immigraton website about this law.
The result turned into negative. I had to pay a big fine and I was upset for this. Why???
I told the officer that I remember the one who issued me the visa and she told me this.
You think they will help me? Not at all. It was all my fault and I admitted it.
(actually there's more but I cound't write it here)
NO ONE TO BLAME ! because nobody explained me when I asked.
You never know what's coming next .... just like when traveling by plane to another city in Colombia.
When you arrive you also need to pay for a tourist card or something.
How crazy is this ! I always felt like they were eating my money all the time while living there.

Chiva party bus, It is an exciting party on the bus In Colombia.
This traditional bus is an open-air bus , has a dance floor, disco lights, bar and sound system.
The driver will drive you around the city and you while you partying on the bus.

This is a great experience you should do it.



Choosing between El Corral and McDonald's , I'm sure Colombians would choose El Corral than McDonald's

Are there many 24 hours shops in Colombia? I would say NO.

The Idea of 24 hours shops is now planning (I guess) I saw many places In Bogota
with big letters written "24 hours" but when I went there to buy it at 11pm
They were closed. Same as other services like gym.
I asked my friends "Why they say that when they are not really 24 hours?"
The answer was " Who would go to gym at 12 am? or buy food at that time?"
yeah I thought they were right. BUT in many Asian countries. 24 hours is 24 hours.
People go to gym or shopping at that time(for real)
I really wish to see something like 7/11 in Colombia or more international companies just like in Thailand where you can find
everything ( I mean EVERTHING)



This dog is so cute!!!


After I had been here for awhile, I had encountered a lot of the dark sides of a country. Iike I told you eariler,
Crime and Violence In South America are so high. I met many good and bad people.

Drug problem is a serious problem In Bogota, It commonly used by teens and young adults
at clubs ,bars and parties. Street dealers can easily be found on street coners especially at night.
This problem is something that should be solved very soon.

Some people liked and didn't like Colombia. Some thought it was really a welcoming country and They enjoyed their travels.
I noticed one common trait among them and I found that.
Most of them are westerners or white who lived and spent their time in luxury places!!!!


From the picture : A student who came to make money on the bus by showing his talent. It's very common in Colombia. and can be easily found on the street.

There's no place that is safe for you even the parking. I wondered, is camera not enough to watch over cars?

Houses, Shops or even Banks have the same iron bar to protect from street theifs



and finally that day happened to me again. I had one month holiday after my hard work here started on December, 21 2012.
my friend and I were planning for this South America trip. and I was so exited to travel this Beautiful South America.
We booked the bus tickets 2 weeks ago to Ipiales and we planned to travel through South America by bus.
On the way to the bus terminal, I did not careful enough to the pickpocket.
An old woman standed behind me when I got off the bus, suddenly she grabbed my wallet and I knew immediately someone
stole my money. I turned back to bus in a second but the bus was closed and drove away so fast
like they worked together with the pickpocket.
I tried to run as fast as I can to catch that bus and I reached it, when the bus stuck at the taffic light.
I shouted at the people inside and asked the bus driver to open the door.
but I realized a few minutes after, both of them worked together.
I heard their conversation and talked while I was getting off the bus.

This was the worst experience ever !!!! I have never ever had this in anywhere else and this ruined my whole trip.

It seemed like everyone around me got robbed at least one.

from the picture : the same bus I took while I was on the way to the bus terminal (the black one)

This is the bus terminal where I got robbed but the crime happened in the night time.


and this is what I got !! I did not have time to find who did that to me and
we had only a half an hour to cacth the bus we booked.


This what I lost in my wallelt included cards and many important documents.

I don't know should I say lucky or not, because I hanged my passport on my neck.
Imagine loosing a passport in the country where there's no Thai embassy, It would be really worse and can't imagine
what's gonna happen to me after. I traveled to South America through USA. So if i loose USA visa
I will have to stuck In Colombia for a year or maybe forever.

It was already difficult for me to come to Colombia, I had to do visa in Malaysia and USA visa in order to travel to Colombia.

It's just only a few countries In Latim america where I need visa to enter. For example ; Colombia and Venezuela,
apart from that, I can travel freely with only my passport.

My friend offered me some money to travel with him and I have to pay back later. So I did accept this offer
because I wanted to travel so much. Actually , I kept some money at home to live for a month when coming back for the trip
and some money to travel to Amazon. but like I said, I didn't have time. The show must go on.... So i continued the trip after
I did the crime report.


In Colombia, there are strip clubs ,pubs, bars and etc.

Police in here are very corrupt and nothing will be done about it.
another bad story happened to me on The Halloween day.
my friend wanted to smoke marijuana but me. Then we both went out near the house just to smoke that shit!
We saw police headed to us and I told my friend to run! I did not know he got high or not but the answer was
"Tranquilo" or calm down but I was sweating and so scared. If we had run to the corner, we could have escaped the police.
my friend threw that shit away 1 minute before they reached us and asked If we were smoke or not.
They did check us everything, my friend didn't carry anything but I had all my camera,cellphone,wallet,ipod and a lot of money.
They told my friend to go away but left me with them, I was like WTF!!! those police asked me 5,000 pesos
but I had 50,000 pesos. Then he took my money and ran quickly to his motercycle.

I was sure they were real police.

This experience taught me to carry just small notes to give to them. Because whether you do good or bad.
If they want your money, They will get your money somehow.

I was pissed off that night but still wanted to go to party

my picture with people wearing halloween costume on the street. Well, the police robbed the police (does it make sense? lol?)

funny picture with my friends

Strip club in Chapinero.


You can choose to go to an expensive area like Andino to party.

Ok enough with that bad experiences,

now i will show you some beautiful places
before continuing another story.

with this sunglasses, I do look Colombian !!!

Chinese friends who I met at the event. (not my co-workers)

Caminata de la solidaridad 2012






Monserate is one of the beautiful attractions in Bogota. I came here like 4 times.

There are 2 ways to get to the top, take a cable car or by foot
I always walked up to the mountain and it took me 1 hour everytime I came.

I traveled to many places In Colombia but I will only show some cities that I like so far.

This city is called " Fusagasuga"

picture of fruits selling in fusagasuga

Ibague city!!!!

real nature

Cooking thai food with a colombian friend

Cooking for the whole village (lol)

Somewhere at supermarket

National sport of Colombia is Football. You will see crazy football fans everywhere



For me ,I don't like to travel in a country that is pretty much like where I grew up on the other hand
I prefer to live in a place that is pretty much like my country.

These are some of my experiences that I can share to you here, Some more secret stories about my life, I didn't put it here.
I know there are good and bad people everywhere. I know I got false impression of what Colombia is like.
But I still want to travel to the rest of South America to find another experience that is exciting and new but not like what I've encountered In Colombia. No more bad experiences.
I don't know what to say but I just didn't like Bogota (Doesn't mean I don't like Colombia),
If I have to come back to this country again,
Promise I will never go back to Bogota. I prefer to be at the coast instead of this capital city.

Overall I would like to say , Just don't take my jugdement to be an obstacle to your trip.
People in general have different tastes, and each traveler is specifically looking for a different kind of thing in the place they visit!

Just  wish you good luck on your trip!



Enjoy with my videos below!


















What Should You Prepare Before Travel in Colombia?

icon.gif (941 bytes)  1. If you don't speak Spanish, Learn some basic Spanish to communicate with local people.

icon.gif (941 bytes)  2. It's not a good idea to have a problem with Colombian. So better just keep quite if you come alone.

icon.gif (941 bytes)  3. Try to study places and ways where you want to go. These are places I suggest that you should go ; Santa Marta, Barranquilla, Cartagena,Bogota,Medllin,Cali and Ipiales

icon.gif (941 bytes)  4. Don't walk alone at night or go to the place where people tell you not to go.





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