Day 5: Day Trip to Guatape

We had an early morning since we were going on a day trip to Guatape, which was 2 hours away on a bus. We made sandwiches in the morning, ate that, hopped on an uber to the bus station.

I was knocked out the entire bus ride to Gutatape. Once we arrived, we were at the bottom of the staircases that led to the base of La Piedra Del Penol. We put on some sunscreen and hiked up. It was nothing but incline up which was tough. We did get some decent views as we hiked up.

What was crazy was that we didn’t know that most people just took the bus up to the base of La Piedra Del Penol which was the main attraction and hike. It’s this big rock below:

It took a little over 700 steps and buckets of sweat and pain to get to the top. Incline is just not my friend. The view from the top was nice and we chilled at the top, getting the nice cool breeze.

Hiking back down was easy. There was a separate flight of stairs for people going down so there wasn’t much foot traffic.

Once we got down, we took a tuk-tuk to the main town.

I fell in love with the town as it was reminded me of Salento a little bit with the colorful architecture and small town vibes. There’s something about being in a small town in the middle of nowhere that gives me the feeling that I’m truly on vacation.

We walked around the town, got lunch and snacks. It pretty much took a hour to see most of the town. The plaza was very much like Salento’s plaza where there were a bunch of tuk-tuks instead of jeeps. After we got coffee, we got our bus tickets back to Medellin. There was half a hour to kill so we stopped by a place with billiards and played some pool.

Exhausted from the hike, we all took naps on the way back to Medellin. For the rest of the day, we were going to take it easy.

We freshened up a bit at our Airbnb and rested until it was time for dinner. We originally wanted to go to Cafe Zorba to try some Medellin Pizza, but the line was huge and there was no way we were going to spend a hour or more waiting. Instead, we walked around and found an area that was pretty lively at night. It was right by a city park Parque Lleras, the restaurant was called Basilica. Basilica had a pretty diverse menu of Colombian, Peruvian food and even Sushi. I got steak with mushrooms and limonada de coco. It was the first time our steak was cooked medium rare which was great. The limonada de coco was one of my favorites. After our long dinner, we called it an early night as the next day, Thursday was going to be the day we explore Medellin’s night life.

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Day 4: First Day in Medellin

We arrived in Medellin early in the morning and took an Uber to our Airbnb. As we were driving into the city, Medellin was not at all how I expected. Medellin was a huge city, it looked bigger than Bogota and was much more city-like than I imagined. I hate to say it but Narcos (the Netflix show) had a lot to do with how I imagined Medellin.

Our Airbnb was in El Poblado, which was the area where most backpackers and tourist stay in and often don’t really venture out unless it’s for touristy things. On our block, there were cafes, restaurants and bars which made it pretty lively. It didn’t really feel like we were in Medellin at all.

After showering and freshening up, we went to get breakfast at Cafe Macanas Medellin.

We had a couple of hours to kill after breakfast since we wanted to go on a free walking tour. We decided to walk from our Airbnb all the way up to the city center which took over a hour and allowed us to see different neighbors.

Once we got to the main area of Medellin, it was pretty hard to explore the area since there was a bike race, Tour Colombia that was happening and it was impossible to cross over to certain streets. Finding a spot to relax was almost impossible since majority of the coffee shops were on the other side of street.

A long walk later we were able to find a nice spot with a couple of restaurants and a cafe.

When the time came, we met at the meeting point for Real City Tours. We didn’t make reservations but fortunately we were able to do the tour with Pablo.

Pablo was an amazing tour guide. I thought Juan from our Bogota tour was good, Pablo was in a whole other level. He was knowledgeable about the history of Medellin and great at presenting. He was funny, charismatic and would answer any question we had.

In our tour we went to the following places:

  • Medellin city center
  • Old railway station
  • Alpujarra administrative center
  • Square of lights
  • Vasquez and Carre buildings
  • Palacio Nacional
  • Veracruz Church
  • Botero Square
  • Murals and Berrio Park
  • Shopping arcades/labyrinth
  • Coltejer Building
  • San Antonio Park

The tour itself took 3ish hours and the most interesting part was when we went to the city center. It was definitely an area where we wouldn’t have wandered in ourselves. We had to be very cautious and aware of our surroundings even in a big group.

We ended the tour in San Antonio park and got some good recommendations from Pablo on where to go out at night. We stopped by one of the oldest bars in the city called Salon Malaga before we went back. The bar had a good ambiance and antique decorations. We only had a beer each before we left.

For dinner we went to Mondongo’s which was a popular restaurant. We got their signature dish the Mondongo and two other dishes to share.

We wanted to see the local night life after dinner and Pablo, our tour guide recommended an underground salsa bar that only opens on Tuesdays. It was called La Papayera – Eslabon Prendido. Pablo gave us the heads up that the area is going to look very sketchy but safe. When we went got off the uber, it was very sketchy. There were a of shady things going on but once we found the venue it was pretty safe inside.

It seemed like everyone knew how to salsa even the tourists who went. For us, we just grabbed beers and watched. It amazes me how good at salsa some people are.

Day 3: Cocora Valley & Las Acacias Coffee Farm

I had a great sleep despite waking up in the middle of the night a couple of times because I kept hearing bugs and mosquitoes flying around me. For majority of the night I submerged myself into my blanket but I had to come up for air and the breeze.

Aside from getting a misquote bite, I had a great sleep. I liked waking up to the sounds of nature. The sound of leaves, birds and bugs. It was perfectly tranquil.

We had free breakfast at the hostel and decided to walk to Salento instead of taking the Jeep since it was early.

Once we got to the plaza, there was a huge line of people queuing for the Jeep service to Cocora Valley. We were packed in the back of the Jeep and had three people standing at the rear of the vehicle holding onto the roof.

The ride from Salento to Cocora Valley took around 30 mins. We got dropped off in an area with restaurants, basically where everyone who wants to hike Cocora Valley would start off and end.

We took the counter clock wise hike, which was recommended because there was less steep decline. I believe that was the main reason why it was recommended. The hike was going to be 5 hours, and we ended up finishing it in 3.

The beginning of the hike wasn’t too bad. It was mostly flat and we were surrounded by good views. It wasn’t until we got deeper in, scenery started to change.

Eventually the hike was mostly incline and I am so out of shape that it was honestly one of the hardest hikes I have done. It didn’t look hard, it physically was hard because I haven’t exercised in so long. The views were definitely worth it though.

I love the gigantic wax palm trees. I’d imagine it was the same feeling as being towered by dinosaurs.

We were exhausted and hungry but proud that we finished the hike 2 hours early. We got some refreshing cold drinks before we took the Jeep back into Salento.

We got lunch at some restaurant below Fika Cafe Salento and I ordered the Bandeja Piasa.

Bandeja Piasa is a big plate of rice, beans, shredded meat, chicharron, chorizo, fried egg, avocado and plantain. It’s A LOT of food but its delicious. I couldn’t finish it myself if I tried to. It’s an insane amount of food. Would definitely recommend this dish if you’re in Medellin.

After a good meal, we had time to kill before we took the bus to Pereira to spend the night before our flight to Medellin. Salento was known for coffee farms and we decided to go to Las Acacias Coffee Farm to do a tour.

I enjoyed learning about coffee, how it’s grown and all because I LOVE drinking coffee. The tour was very informative and I wish we had the time to do multiple coffee farm tours. If you’re in Salento, you have to do at least one coffee tour.

After the tour, we took a Jeep back to our hostel to pick up our bags and head to the bus terminal to Pereire. We caught the 5:50 bus out of Salento and the ride itself was around a hour long.

Pereire was way different from what we saw of the city when we were in the car heading to Salento. It didn’t feel exactly the safest, especially when the hotel we got was in a really bad neighborhood. We were lucky that our hotel was safe at least.

We only had to stay in Pereire for the night as we were flying out 6-7am in the morning. We only went out for dinner because we were starving and uber was the safest option. We got pasta at an Italian restaurant across the city which was actually pretty good.

There wasn’t really much for us to do in Pereira at night, so we went back to our hotel and just relaxed. We’re flying to Medellin the next day!

Day 2: Exploring the Gorgeous Town, Salento!

We checked out of our hostel around 7am and got breakfast at El Secreto del Amor. We just had to try ajicaco (chicken potato soup, top right on the pic below) popular dish in Bogota.

Ajicaco was good, but the Changua (Colombian egg and milk soup) was my favorite. It was creamy and hearty but the cilantro gives it a fresh taste.

We went straight to the airport after breakfast and flew to Pereira. We ended up Ubering to our hostel in Salento which took us about a hour.

Salento is a small town known for the coffee estates and the scenery. Our hostel was 20 minutes away from the city area, accessible by a Jeep service or a 30-40 minute walk.

We stayed at the La Serrana Eco and Hostel, which had a beautiful view.

It felt like we were at some paradise getaway because the hostel was surrounded by nature and amazing scenery. The hostel had a main lounging area where reception and majority of the rooms were. They also had “glamping” tents which was a 5 minute walking distance from the lodge.

I’m putting “glamping” in quotations because they weren’t luxurious at all. Just two beds, a closet and a couple of chairs.

There was no wifi either which explains the lag time between each of my blog posts. Uploading pictures takes forever and most of the time, it would fail. I don’t blame anyone, it makes sense since we were in some “remote” area and a really small town.

After checking in, we decided to walk from our hostel to Salento. The Jeep would’ve taken us to the main plaza within 10 minutes but we wanted to get the best experience and walk.

It took us around 45 minutes probably and you can see the transition as we got closer to the city.

The city was pretty small and since we walked from our hostel, we actually explored a good amount of the town before we got to the main plaza.

For lunch, we want to a local spot called Saber Casero, where we had a hard time communicating with our waiter since none of us spoke Spanish. One bystander helped us get the rice dish, which was really good. It was tomato-ey and reminded me of another dish but I just can’t put my tongue on it.

The other two dishes we got was the porcion chicharron + patacon (fried pork + fried plantains) and the trucha con champinoes (trout with mushrooms in milk sauce).

The trucha dish was very creamy and reminded me of the changua. It seemed like trout was a popular dish in Salento because we kept seeing it everywhere.

Definitely recommend getting lunch at Saber Casero. It was really cheap for all the food we had and it seems like only locals eat there. One thing to keep in mind is that it takes a while for the food to come out because the kitchen is REALLY small and there’s only one cook.

After lunch, we walked around the main plaza of Salento. The town was alive and colorful. You can hear the music and smell the food. There was so much going on that it felt like we arrived in Salento at the right time.

I got a limonada de coco which is a drink with lemonade and coconut. The one I got from the fruit stand above, wasn’t exactly what I wanted. It was not limonada de coco at all, the vendor probably put his own spin on it.

After walking around the plaza, we decided to take a coffee break at Fika Cafe Salento. We got a nice seat on the second floor by the window, relaxed and people watched.

Right after our quick break, we walked on Carrera 6 where all of the stores and much of the people of Salento were. We stopped by a couple of stores, listened to street artists sing and hiked up the stairs to Mirador Alto De La Cruz.

We got a great view of the town at the viewpoint. It’s just crazy how small the town is. The other view was the view of the surrounding mountains.

From Mirador Alto De La Cruz, we hiked to Mirador de Salento and stopped by Frutal de Salento for some snacks. In the order of the pictures, we got cholao, obleas and limonada de coco.

Cholao is a beverage made with fresh fruit and condensed milk. Obleas was a thin wafer sandwich with jam filling in between. This time, the limonada de coco that we ordered was the right one and it is now my favorite drink in Colombia! There’s a good balance of flavors – the richness of the coconut and the acidity of the lime makes this a refreshing drink.

Right when we got our order, it started to pour. We got lucky that we had seats inside the small icecream stall. We sat in there until the rain passed.

We walked back to the main street with all the vendors. I tried really good cold brew at Cafe Jesus Martin Calle Real. Then we noticed people sitting on the patio and we were able to find that same restaurant (El Patio) to take pictures from the patio.

At this time, we were exhausted. Instead of walking back we decided to take the Jeep service back to our hostel and settle in. It was getting dark and I was able to get some nice snaps of the clouds before the sun was down.

We were physically exhausted at this point and decided to relax in the main building of the hostel. We watched half of Juno and made a friend.

It was around late 8ish, when we decided to get dinner before we called it an early night. We took the Jeep service back into Salento and at this time, most restaurants were closing. The only place we wanted to try that was open was all the way back near the stairs where you head up to the Mirador.

Dinner at Camino Real Parilla Bar was okay. We tried a sampling platter and steak and overall it was just too dry for us. The bacon chorizo however was delicious.

Once we were done, it was past 10pm and there was literally no Jeep service. We thought about calling a taxi but ultimately decided to walk all the way back to our hostel. It felt kinda sketchy at first because we were literally the only 3 tourist walking in the city at night. Then once we were out of the city it was just pitch black and we used our phones as flashlights. Good thing we walked to the city from our hostel in the morning or else we wouldn’t have been familiar with the path at all.

We got back to our hostel safe and sound. We’re hiking Cocora Valley early next morning!

Day 1: Bogota

We landed in Bogota around ~5am-ish and got to our hostel around 6am. It was too early for us to check in and get our rooms so we just freshen up and left our backpacks at the hostel’s storage room. The first thing we needed was coffee but there wasn’t one open at 7am so we decided to get breakfast first at La Puerto False.

We got tamales, huevos con jamon, chocolate completa and almojabana. We definitely over ordered as we didn’t know that the tamales was going to be THAT big and that almost every dish came with a bread.

The chocolate completa is a traditional drink that Colombians love and they get it for breakfast, lunch and even as a snack. It’s hot chocolate with cheese. You’re suppose to cut up the cheese into tiny bits and drop it into the hot chocolate, let it melt and eat it when it’s melted onto the bottom of your cup. Maybe we didn’t do it or it could’ve been better elsewhere, but we didn’t like it. Our cheese didn’t melt well and the chocolate was a bit bland. The star of our meal was the tamales – it was flavorful and I loved the texture of it.

After fueling up, we explored Bogota with no real plan in mind. We went to the Bolivar Square, saw the National Capitol building and the Cathedral of Colombia.

The square was pretty empty since it was fairly early so it was a perfect time for pictures. It almost felt like a wasteland if it wasn’t for all the pigeons walking around.

We walked around the city for half a hour, just admiring the architecture and the colorful walls with graffiti art. Since no one was really out yet, it gave us a different experience of the city that what we had later on the day.

We couldn’t believe it was only 9am after all that. Our 3 hours in Bogota already felt like it would be noon. With some time to kill before our free walking tour, we want to get our first cup of coffee at Azahar Cafe.

Azahar Cafe looked like a hipster cafe you would find in Williamsburg. We chilled with our cup of coffee for almost a hour before we went to meet our walking tour guide in front of the Gold Museum.

The free walking tour was with Beyond Colombia and here’s our tour guide Juan!

Our group was largest walking tour group I ever been on. There was probably more than 30 people and it was 3 hours long. It was a great way to see most of the city and learn about the history of Bogota.

  • Parque de Santander
  • Gaitan’s corner
  • Casa Galeria
  • Miguel Urrutia Art Museum
  • Bolivar Square
  • Teatro Colon Bogota

When we were on the walking tour, we started to notice the city getting more alive and robust. The streets were fill with people, music, and aromas of food.

We got to try chicha (fermented drink) which tasted like kombucha… probably because the one we tried had was only 4-5%. At the same cafe, we also got chucula which is a drink you can only find in Colombia. Chucula contains coco, cinnamon and a couple of other spices. It reminds me of chai but a little more unique.

Fun fact: did you know that Justin Bieber was the reason why Bogota legalized graffiti? (That’s what the tour guide told us and I’m taking his word for it.)

Juan was a great tour guide and we learned a lot about Bogota from him. I highly recommend it if you visit: Beyond Colombia

It was 1pm-ish when we were done with the tour. We had a lunch reservation at Mesa Franca which was half a hour away from the city. We were starving and there was so much traffic that we ended up being late for a couple of minutes but it was fine. The food was AMAZING, we got 3 entrees, 2 appetizers, drinks and 2 deserts to share.

Honestly one of the best meals I ever had and it didn’t break the wallet. It was around ~$60 total. HIGHLY recommend Mesa Franca.

The last activity we had before settling in back in our hostel was taking the tram up to Mount Monserrate and get the view of Bogota. Unfortunately the cable car was closed but the tram still worked so we took that up.

It whole ride up took around 5 minutes. You get a pretty nice view of Bogota on the first half of the ride up and the rest was mostly just the tram in the tunnel.

There’s a church at the top and a pretty damn good view. It would’ve been nice if it was less cloudy so you could see more of the city but it was breathtaking nonetheless. The only thing to keep in mind is that walking around takes a lot of energy because of the attitude.

We were on the top of Mount Monserrate for a good amount of time just taking in our environment and the view. We went back to the hostel to check in and shower afterwards.

We were going to go to a popular night life restaurant for dinner but we were exhausted from being active for 14 hours. We opted in to make a food run at McDonalds for dinner because we all love to try country exclusive menu items.

We went to bed around 10pm. I was the last one to pass out as I was trying to finish this post, but couldn’t. We had to wake up at 6:45am in the morning so we can checkout, get breakfast and fly to Pereira.

(P.S. uploading this post without WiFi and it’s taking forever… even with WiFi it’s pretty slow. It’s just the slow upload of pictures that’s taking forever so I need to come back and caption them :(. )

The adventure continues… in Colombia!

Hey all! It’s been awhile since I was active.

After my Malaysia/Singapore trip, I got a new job and things have been pretty crazy as it was a big change for me.

I didn’t get the chance to blog about my short getaways to Maryland, Austin and Portland, Oregon – but expect to see some posts about Portland in the near future.

Right this moment, I’m typing this post on some uncomfortable chair at an airport lounge. If you’re still reading this – follow me on my adventure to Colombia!

First stop – Bogota!

Day 13 – Last day in Singapore & End of Trip

Check out was at 1pm, normally 11am but we were able to score late check out since we got our room late! We basically spent our whole morning in the hotel room, taking our time and slowly packing. We weren’t flying out until 11pm so we had plenty of time to kill.

We checked out exactly at 1pm and stored our luggage at Marina Bay Sands’ luggage storage. The best part about MBS’s storage was that you can use your luggage ticket to take one last shower in their gym facility before we pick up your luggage and fly to the airport. Pretty much a game changer so you don’t have to worry about sweating in the Singapore heat as we explore.

Surprisingly, the first thing we did was walk around the mall instead of food since we had plans for afternoon tea at 3pm. I wanted to buy last minute souvenirs or shop a little but the mall was just full of luxury brands, ones that weren’t meant for the average consumer. It was perfect that we had to walk through the mall to get to the ArtScience Museum. Basically killing two birds with one stone since it aligns with our schedule.

The ArtScience Museum is definitely on my list of favorite museums. I didn’t get any pictures of the museum itself but it was beautifully shaped like a flower. There were two exhibits we wanted to check out – Future World: Where Art Meets Science and Marvel Studios’ Ten Years of Heroes.

We started with the Marvel Studios exhibit. I am a huge marvel fan so much most the information wasn’t new to me. It was more of a exhibit to celebrate all the movies in the past 10 years leading up to Infinity Wars which we already seen. I would only recommend it, if you’re a big marvel fan!

I would say the main attraction would be Future World. The exhibit itself explains a lot, art created with technology.

We sped through the exhibit pretty quickly since we had an afternoon tea reservation at Pollen. Future World is perfect for kids since there were so many areas with interactive art created just for them. If I had kids this is the perfect spot to bring them in Singapore. Next stop was Garden by the Bay for afternoon tea and because we haven’t had the chance to visit the Flower Dome or Cloud Forest yet.

We walked to the mall from the museum to get to back to MBS where we took a shuttle to Flower Dome. The restaurant we were having afternoon tea was inside the Flower Dome at Gardens by the Bay. I was surprised that we were able to get last minute reservations since we weren’t able to the day before. Pollen was right by the Mediterranean Gardens in the Flower Dome. It was the perfect setting for tea and it basically felt like we were somewhere in the country side.

Our amazing spread at the Pollen

Our afternoon tea spread was beautiful. Absolutely made for pictures. They taste even better than they look! I highly recommend afternoon tea at Pollen, if you get the chance to visit Gardens by the Bay. If you eat at Pollen, you get free admission to the Flower Dome so it’s definitely worth it!!

After our lovely tea session, we took a stroll around the Flower Dome. It’s insane how many different species of plants they have from all of the world. It’s one of the biggest green houses in the world and you don’t really notice it when you’re inside the Flower Dome because of all the beautiful plants

After Flower Dome, we went to Cloud Forest. Cloud Forest is more of an educational dome, letting visitors learn about forests located high in the mountains. You wouldn’t believe that this is a man-made mountain when you see it in person.

Cloud Forest was more of a short hike compared to Flower Dome. You just follow the path that brings you up and eventually loops back down to the exit.

We only had a couple of hours left in Singapore before we catch our flight back to Kuala Lumpur to head back home to New York. Since Jacqueline didn’t get the chance to see the Merlion, we decided to take a short Grab ride to Merlion Park for one last activity.

I personally think it looks nicer at night when everything is lit up, but you just can’t capture the overall beauty of the Merlion and MBS at night.

Before we head to the airport, we took a nice refreshing shower at the Marina Bay Sands gym. Nothing feels better than a cold shower after a long day of activities in the Singapore heat.

The flight back to New York was rough, mainly due to our long layover in Malaysia. It was one of those airports where you wouldn’t be able to get through security until the gate for your flight is open. We spent 8 hours+ on uncomfortable airport chairs – which makes my lists of things I would never want to experience ever again.

I can’t believe it took 44 days to wrap up the last post of my Malaysia & Singapore post. Better late than never I guess! (It has been a busy month with a lot of big changes). I definitely need to visit Singapore again someday. 3 days was just not enough to get the most out of it.

P.S. I’ll be heading to Rhode Island for 3 days, so the blog will continue! I promise I’ll try to share my adventures with y’all ASAP!