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!

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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 :(. )

Day 11 – Exploring Singapore in the Day & Partying at Night

The first spot we explored was Chinatown and I was so excited to try Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken & Rice that I didn’t bother to check the times. A rookie mistake – it was not open on Wednesday’s.

Chinatown

I wasn’t completely disappointed since we wanted to explore Chinatown, but I was starving! Should’ve went to get dim sum instead. Instead of just leaving Chinatown for food, we decided to pick up a light snack from Old Chang Kee. Old Chang Kee sells a bunch of fried snacks like fried squid, chicken, etc. I got the chicken chunky pops with curry sauce and it was so goood. It’s like popcorn chicken from KFC but better!

Like every other Chinatown, there was an abundance of shops and food stalls. SO much food everywhere, it was great.

Funny enough, my favorite store was The Tintin Shop. I didn’t grow up with the Adventures of Tintin, but I wish I did. I just love the concept and the art of the series.

Haji Ln

Haji Lane was next and my favorite part about this area was all the cafes and street art. It was a much more narrow street, with a lot of wonderful stores. We couldn’t help but to stop by a couple stores to get souvenirs.

My favorite art in the area.

Loving these displays outside stores

We ended up getting a late breakfast at a cafe called Stateland Cafe. The food was a fusion between Japanese/South East Asian and western which was pretty interesting.

Soy & Sesame Potato Fries

Roasted Pork Belly

Herbal Duck Confit with Risotto

There was surprisingly a lot of food and we couldn’t finish half of it. The food was delicious which made it feel even more of a waste. We had to adjust from sharing between 5 people to just the 2 of us.

Muscat Street

After we left the cafe, it was the time in the day where it was scorching hot. We finally felt the heat and it was in Singapore. My sister was right, it’s WAY hotter than Malaysia. I didn’t mind it – I’m not a big fan of rain and good hot weather like this makes it feel like a real summer vacation.

Muscat Street was a few blocks over and it was where the Masjid Sultan and the Malay Heritage Centre was. In this part of Singapore, it was known for being a trading hub for the early Arab merchants and you definitely feel like you’re in another country when you’re walking down the street. It’s beautiful and definitely a surprise seeing how diverse Singapore can be.

Masjid Sultan

Malay Heritage Centre

Right around Muscat Street was a famous bakery called Rich and Good Cake Shop known for their Swiss roll cakes. Don’t be deceived by the name and how it’s a hole in the wall bakery. These Swiss roll cakes are amazing. We tried got a Kaya roll for around 8 Singapore dollars and we were expecting one slice but it was a WHOLE roll.

Definitely worth it as it was some good Swiss roll.

Bugis Street

From Muscat Street, we took a Grab to Bugis Street which I only found out because our Grab passed by it as we were going to our hotel the night before.

Bugis food street reminds me of Japan night markets. Kinda like street food but more modern than what we have been to in Malaysia. The food was interesting but the shops weren’t really the stores I would buy stuff from.

Next to the food street was Bugis+ and Bugis Junction which we’re two big malls connected. Bugis+ was the bigger and more modern mall with brand names and Bugis Junction was smaller with more mom and pop sort of shops. We also saw a Koi bubble tea shop that my sister took us to in Malaysia so we HAD to get it when we saw it. I messed up because I forgot to order the boba – it was still the best bubble tea I had.

We shopped a little and I did a lot of window shopping. It was one of my favorite malls since there were all these hobby specific shops. Collectible toys, board games, etc. It’s really fun to just look at these things. There were also a lot of arcades which reminded me of Japan.

After being exhausted from all the walking, we took a quick break at Mellower Coffee, which was a block away from the mall. I got one of the special drinks called Ondeh x Latte and it was so gooood. It was refreshing and so smooth it tasted like a milk shake.

The rim was coated with coconut shavings and after you drink half of it, you add the shot of espresso in.

After our short break, we took a Grab back to the hotel to drop our stuff off before heading to the S.E.A Aquarium in Sentosa. We got a surprise from the hotel and they sent a cake up because Jacqueline turned 26 the other day!

Sentosa

Okay, so I had no idea Sentosa was like a resort area. I knew that there was a casino and Universal Studios there, but wow it place is absolutely huge and there’s so much things to see and do. If we had more time in Singapore, I would prob stay two nights here.

We only had a hour to walk through the aquarium before closing. It worked for us as it wasn’t too crowded and that it was smaller than we anticipated. We love the whole idea of how the aquarium providing information about sustainability and teaching kids to treat the environment with respect.

Wouldn’t be a trip to an aquarium without a picture of jellyfish.

It was pretty hard getting a Grab from Sentosa especially when we were at the casino lobby area. Our next stop was Orchard Road.

Orchard Road

Tired and hungry from waiting since we had a couple of cancellations on Grab, we settled for a light dim sum snack at Tim Ho Wan at Far East Plaza. It was okay, not the best… at least I can say I tried it but I wouldn’t have it again unless I’m in Hong Kong.

We walked around a couple of shopping malls – Pacific Plaza, Shaw Centre, Scott’s Square, Tangs, ION Orchard Mall and Wisma Atria until we were out of time.

Ion Orchard Mall

We had plans to meet Jacqueline’s friends at Clarke Quay for a night out. One of them was Jess who she met when she was visiting New Zealand. The other guy was Ken who she met when he visited NYC with Jess. They grew up in Singapore so we got locals to take us out for the night.

Clarke Quay

Apparently on Wednesday’s it’s ladies night and they get to drink for free. It felt like a Friday night in NYC. Clarke Quay was a night life spot full of bars and clubs. We started the night with drinks at Red Tail Bar by Zouk. Then one of Jackie’s friends, Kevin, who was also visiting Singapore joined us as well. We went a club called Zouk, which was also connected to another club called Phuture.

It was still pretty early around 11-midnight-ish but the music was good and there was a constantly flow of people coming in. We took a couple of Jagerbombs and to my surprise they actually give you the left over Red Bull. They would never do that in NY.

We hopped to another bar after called Level Up which had arcade games, beer pong, etc. We played a round of beer pong, finished a beer tower and played the basketball hoops game before heading back to Zouk. When we got back it was pretty lit.

I thought it was going to be a slow night of just drinking at a bar and grabbing dinner afterward but it ended up with us getting back around 3am. We were originally planning to get dimsum afterwards too but Jacqueline was a little too done for that. Singapore’s night life is great.

This night pretty much set my blog posts back by two days!

Day 5: A Hot & Slow Day in Penang

We were finally blessed with a beautiful day. It was sunny and hot, a perfect vacation weather. Our plan was to spend the day at the beach a hour north from George Town at the very top of Penang. Up north was known for the beautiful beaches and resorts.

We were heading to Batu Ferringhi and during the drive up we passed by a bunch of big resorts and their private beaches. We should’ve stayed a stayed a night at a resort and do some R&R since we our itinerary was light since Penang Hills was closed.

We were driving around the area only to find out that majority of the beaches are now either private for resort use only or just too dirty to actual go on. We were too hungry to continue searching so we had to get food and eat while we decide what to do next.

We got Indian food at a restaurant along the main road called Enca Cafe. It’s funny since I was craving naan when I woke up. I finally got to try Teh Tarik which literally translates to pulled tea. I realize that all the coffee and tea here is just too sweet for me, but it’s refreshing especially when you’re dripping in sweat from the heat and humidity.

Butter Chicken, chicken tikka masala, noodles and naan (cheesy garlic naan, and we tried onion and lamb naan as well)

After lunch we just stopped by a small beach off the main road to check it out. It sucks that all the nice parts are now owned by resorts. We decided not to go with our two back up plans which was monkey beach and the snake temple. Instead we drove back to George Town to explore the area a bit more since it was the perfect weather to do so.

George Town

The city was so alive, full of people walking around. Our first stop was walking through the Art Lane. It was like an indoors alleyway full of art, mostly graffiti and then some sculptures. I think artists all over the world come here to leave their mark and you can see a variety of different styles on the walls. We even got to see an artist at work!

Right next door to Art Lane, was a hipster lifestyle clothing style that had really nice decor. I ended up getting a jacket/cardigan and two solid colognes – something I never seen before. Unintentional shopping is the most dangerous kind.

I was able to get some more shots of Georgetown as we explored as well!

Afterwards, we walked towards the Jetties to see the how different it was during the day time. In the day time, there were a ton of people, both tourists and locals. All the shops were opened too. We walked through the narrow pier surround by shops and you can feel the wooden planks squeak. It feels like you’re walking along the boardwalk on the beach but with way less space to move. I definite enjoyed Chew Jetty way more during the day than the night.

We decided to head back to the Airbnb early and have a more relaxing night. My sister and parents went to the pool while Jacqueline and I relaxed in the AC.

For dinner, we decided to eat around Park Fortune since there was so many restaurants around us. We ended up getting Korean BBQ which was literally 5 minutes from our Airbnb. The banchan (Korean appetizers/side dishes) and tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes) were really good but the meat for the BBQ smelled better than it tasted. It was too bland and I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised. I mean Korean food in Malaysia… I was pretty disappointed with dinner, I really wanted to get some more street food in Penang before we head back to Kuala Lumpur tomorrow.

We walked by the water for a bit before heading back and do some light packing since we were checking out at 11am.

Day 4: Disappointments, Exploring George Town and a Pasar Malam (night market)

The weather hasn’t been on our side on this trip. We woke up to a light drizzle and it didn’t stop when we were heading out. We were lucky that it didn’t end up pouring.

We got breakfast at a place a couple of minutes away called Borneo Kopitiam. I ordered the Malaysian 3 layered tea (from bottom to top: palm sugar syrup, evaporated milk and black tea) and Charsu Wan Thun Mee. Of course I took pictures of everyone else’s food too.

Charsu Wan Tun Mee
3 Layered Tea
Nasi Lemak
Kuey Teow

Penang Hill and Sky Walk was going to be the highlight of Penang. One of the top tourist destinations that I was excited for. It was just our luck that it was closed for renovations and it wasn’t going to be opened to the public until July.

Kek Lok Si Temple

Disappointed, our backup plan was the Kek Lok Si Temple which was only 10 minutes away. The temple itself was pretty big and we ended up spending a good amount of time there. I love the vibrant colors of the buildings and the view from the temple was amazing.

Didn’t forget the view from the temple!

Fort Cornwallis

After trekking down the temple, Fort Cornwallis was next on our list. It was built by the British East India Company and is the largest standing fort in Malaysia.

Only half of the fort was open for tourists since they were working on the other half. It was still drizzling at this point so we ate lunch at the restaurant located inside the fort.

Kota was a modern restaurant that specialized in Malaysian Fusion food. Inside the restaurant there was a rustic feel to it and if you were randomly dropped inside the restaurant, you would think it was located in New York or LA.

Nyonya Redang Chicken

Tandoori Chicken

Samosas

Sesame Noodles

Spring rolls, don’t remember the full name.

The Sunset drink

The food was amazing, a great mix of Nyonya and western flavors. If this restaurant was in NYC, the bill would’ve probably came out to be in the mid-$100 range. The bill ended up being 130 Rmb (roughly around $30) and that was after we got a 50 Rmb discount from the tickets we got for Fort Cornwallis.

It only took us 20 mins or so to see everything since half of the fort was being worked on and there was no show in the amphitheater.

It started to drizzle a little harder, so we decided to walk towards George Town and find a cafe to escape the rain and plan our walking route.

George Town

It stopped raining when we got to the coffee shop so we decided to take advantage of the weather and start exploring George Town. There were tons of shops, cafes and colorful buildings. I love the architecture of Penang – it was a mix of British, Chinese, Indian, Islamic influence. These buildings will catch your eye as you’re walking down the streets. It’s great that Penang was able to preserve so many heritage buildings. Apparently it has the largest collection of pre-war buildings in Southeast Asia. I wasn’t able to take good pictures that capture how beautiful these buildings were.

We walked around Little India and then hunted for Penang Street Art and were able to find most of them thanks to Google Maps. There was so much street art, it kind of reminded me of Williamsburg. One thing I love about George Town is how hipster it was. It was a good mix of historic and modern.

Penang Street Art

Beastly Street Art

Boy on Motorcycle

Boy with Pet Monster

Susu Soya Asli & Segar

Brother & Sister on a Swing

Children Playing Basketball

Architecture shots

We took a quick rest a cafe called Coffee On The Table, which specialized in 3D latte art.

Afterwards we decided to check out the malls in the area. The first mall we went to was Penang Times Square and it was kind of underwhelming. It felt more of a mall for the locals, so we decided to walk to the 1st Avenue Shopping Mall afterwards. 1st Avenue was much more modern and western. I didn’t get anything aside from necessities to bring back to the Airbnb.

By the time we got back to the car from the mall, it was already dark. It was interesting seeing the locals close up their shops and get a sense of how their day ends.

Farlim Pasar Malam

For dinner, we decided to stop by the Farlim Pasar Malam (night market) to get food.

Pasar Malam is an Indonesian and Malay word for night market. These night markets consist of different types of vendors from food to clothes to all kinds of accessories. These markets happen in a certain location and at a set day of the week.

These markets are full of vendors and people. You can buy and eat food there or take it to go. We tried a few things there and it explains all the bad pictures that I have of the food since it was so dark.

Char Keoy Kak

Cendol – creamy dessert made of coconut milk, green jelly noodles and pale sugar.

Fried cuttlefish

My favorite was the Char Koey Kak, which is fried rice cake. I got the one with duck egg and it was fucking amazing. Probably the best food I ate so far on this trip. So good that we got seconds to bring back. One thing I didn’t mention in my earlier post is that anything you take to go (food) comes in a plastic bag even drinks! It’s not the best for the environment but it’s probably cheaper than cups and containers here.

We ended up hauling a bunch of food back to our Airbnb to eat while we plan the last half our trip.

I don’t recommend planning during your trip since it’s even more tiring than you think, but my dad wanted to be super flexible. My flight to Singapore ended up being more expensive than it would’ve been if I booked everything earlier.

Nothing feels better than sleeping after a long day of walking.