I still haven’t decided exactly how I feel about Bogotá. I started out stumbling out of the gates as I spent the majority of my first day wrangling with a worthless volunteer coordinator from Spainand fuming in frustrating afterwards. After I got a grip on my emotions, I began exploring the Candelaria neighborhood, but perhaps was still feeling bitter because I can’t say I looked upon it favorably. I felt the same way about other neighborhoods and it wasn’t until I actually did specific activities like go to the National Museum or to Theatron, the lively gay club, that I started developing a soft spot for Bogotá.
After one day of walking through the Candelaria and Zona T barrios in Bogotá I texted my friend in Baltimore, a fan of the city, to tell him how woefully disappointed I was in his preferred city. He offered no condolences, instead suggesting I go find myself a hooker to make it a better experience. I asked if his mom was available on short notice and after a few witty back and forths, went back to wikitravel to see if there was any museum or interesting site that could spark my interest. A few other backpackers tried to lure me up to Montserrat for yet another sweeping view of a city in a valley, but I tried my best to politely decline. I’ve really had my fill of breathtaking vistas upon mountaintops during this trip and I can no longer summon up the motivation to want to see another.
I settled on going to the National Museum for a day of culture and by myself for that matter. I was also getting the nervous tic to have “alone time”, a concept that is really lost on a lot travelers. I was greeted with a nice surprise when I entered the museum – their 181st or 180-something birthday celebration. This meant big crowds but it also meant free treats and balloons, something this budget weary traveler and adult-child appreciated very much.
Once inside the museum, I glazed over the history part and lingered a little longer in the art section. As I turned from the staircase on the second floor, straight ahead of me was a beautiful grandiose mural of painted and textured tiles. It struck me and before I knew it, I was having forbidden thoughts as a committed nomad – I wanted to buy a house. I thought back to the time when I considered switching my major to architecture in my sophomore year of college. I abandoned the idea because I wasn’t that sure and it would have required a 5thyear of overpriced tuition that I couldn’t afford. I’m glad I didn’t make the switch now, but I still wonder sometimes what my life would be like if I had studied architecture from the beginning. I always loved the idea of designing and furnishing houses and this mural in front of me was bringing me back to the days where I’d spend hours flipping through Architectural Digest and similar magazines conjuring up my dream house. It’s not so much that I wanted one because I wanted to settle down, but rather I wanted my own personal piece of evolving artwork. I sat and thought about how attaining this was one of the things I gave up living the life that I do. The thought left as quickly as it entered though as I realized that all of these beautiful homes I dreamt about were scattered across the world and I could just as easily go traveling to see them all.
Life Gets a Little More Fabulous
On the tail of my metaphysical time travel back to my college years and my previous yearning to dive into the world of architecture and interior design, I was invited to join a few of the other hostel people to Theatron, Bogotá’s largest gay club, which also turned out to be one of the must-see sites for me. When you first enter, the club is about as cliché as it gets for a dance club, large underground space with a huge bar in the center. Nothing special going on here. The real treat though is in the maze-like structure on the second level that takes you from a rainbow (of course) patterned courtyard to several smaller dance rooms, one catering to beer drinkers and providing a more toned down atmosphere and the next one being a baby blue hued cross between a 50’s diner and a trippy space café, complete with fog. I enjoyed this room the best, probably in no small part due to the excitement in the air as “It’s Raining Men” was played loud and proudly for all to dance to. I mean, how can anybody not have fun with that song?
The Police Museum
My last memorable stop in Bogotá was a trip to The National Police Museum, a recommendation from a fellow backpacker at the hostel. I was told there was a very interesting space dedicated to the manhunt for Pablo Escobar that was worth seeing.
When I entered the museum, it hit me all of a sudden that I really could care less about Pablo Escobar. This was a police museum and all of the attendants and tour guides were police officers decked in all kinds of formal uniforms it seemed that these ones were all handpicked from a GQ photo spread. I was starting to wonder if I had perhaps unwittingly stepped into a male dance revue. The first tour guide came up to me and smiled the most charming of smiles while flashing iridescent green eyes my way. He merely made a brief introduction and inquired as to which language I would prefer to have my tour in. I should have said “English”, but wanting to not appear to be a standard Gringa, I opted for a challenge and said, “Español, por favor.” He then led me to another group. Damn, wrong choice! However, the tour guide in the Spanish group was equally charming.
I was intent on trying to understand every word the tour guide was saying for about 10 minutes and then language fatigue set in. I also didn’t exactly find the history of their police force to be all that titillating. I regained interest again once we got sent to a small theatre room where there appear to be a stage. I thought this was going to be the showstopper – dancing policemen and a Channing Tatum lookalike. I waited through several dioramas rotating through to get to the finale but alas, no Tatum whatsoever.
We continued on to the room of guns and handcuffs – a few interesting pieces, one being a gun that looked exactly like Will Smith’s noisy cricket in Men in Black and the old school handcuffs that I couldn’t figure out. I decided to pose this question to the tour guide as it seemed like the perfect opportunity to stare at him with purpose as well as to gain clever information that I could later use to impress one of my male friends. I’m the worst, I know, simply a one track mind.
And on that note it was time for me to leave Bogotá and head to the Amazon jungle for my next adventure – 1 week of traveling from the northeast corner of Perú to the southwest corner where I would begin my discovery of Chile.