Category Archives: Colombia

Asian adventures

Whew. The past year has been a whirlwind of travel craziness, even moreso if you stretch it a bit further and count summer 2014. I’ve headed from the US to Norway, to England, Poland, and the Czech Republic, and back to Norway before flying back to the US, whereupon I took a detour to Puerto Rico over the winter, returned to Miami for spring break, and went to New York for the first time. Then, after moving three times since returning from Europe to the US and finishing my Bachelor’s in Computer Science in spring 2015 – along with meeting a whole lot of fun and interesting new people along the way – I sold or gave away most of my possessions, said “Bye” to the country I’ve lived in for ~22 years, and purchased a one-way ticket to Norway, but not before popping over to Colombia to see South America at least once before leaving the western hemisphere.

After spending only a week in Norway, I hopped over to the Netherlands where I had an absolute blast with old and new friends for about a month before going for my first time to Belgium. From Belgium, I bought a ticket to South Korea and commenced my teaching job here, learning a lot of Korean and about the country’s culture from one of its very own, small cities.

And now, in approximately one-and-a-half months, I’ll be on the move again. Where to this time? Well, first I will go around Korea to the places I haven’t seen yet but want to before I leave, such as Jeju Island, Daejeon, more of Seoul, the Demilitarized Zone (between North and South Korea), Gangwon province, Daegu, and more of Busan. After that, I will close out my apartment here in Gochang, say “See ya later!” to the friends I’ve made here, and head to…

Japan!

And I can say I’m quite excited! The destination is not so much of a surprise if you’re somewhat familiar with Asia’s geography, but it will be the first time I’ve set foot in a place where so much of the media I’ve watched and played over the years originates from, and I have to say I’m pretty happy. Both to see Japan, and to leave Korea as Korea has been kind of a drag. More on that in another article, but to sum it up, the job and benefits are great, but the country, people, and largely the food do not suit me. But I’m satisfied: I’ve met plenty of great people here and learned a lot about myself. I’m just happy to be getting to the relative beauty and politeness of Japan, and see some friends that I’ve had there for awhile.

The rest of my plans thus far are pretty tentative, but the current plan goes somewhat like this: I’ll spend three or so months in Japan, going to at least Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo (if not more), then head to Taiwan, Hong Kong, maybe Vietnam (if I bother to get a visa for it, which is a somewhat annoying requirement), maybe Laos or Cambodia, but then definitely Thailand and down to Singapore.

After that, the current plan is to head back to the place where I’ve decided I want to get a residence permit and branch off from there in the future. I’ll espouse more on which country that is in another article! For now, I wonder: can you guess?

Taxis and paisas – my time in Colombia

When my friend and I arrived in Bogotá, one of the first things we noticed is the increase in elevation, and the resulting decrease in oxygen! Bogotá is high – a whopping 2640 meters above sea level and much higher than even Norway, the mountainous country I’m used to – and we knew our lungs would have a good bit of change to get used to as soon as we stepped off the plane and breathed in. But of course, my friend (no, not me, my friend!) underestimated the effect it’d have before we got there. ;P

We wandered through the airport toward the exit, and as soon as we withdrew Colombian pesos at the airport ATM, a man walked to us and asked if we needed a taxi. We said yes and followed him, thinking he was taking us to the government-condoned Servicio Publico taxis we had heard about from our online research. Instead, he directed us to a big-boned white taxi that wasn’t in the “Authorized Taxis” section of the airport outside and tried to charge us 60,000 COP (~$23 USD) to take us to La Candelaria, a trip that we ended up only spending 25,000 COP (~$10 USD) for with a yellow Servicio Publico taxi after we rid ourselves of the pushy white taxi guy. Be sure to get the yellow taxis, not the white! Of course, not all the white taxis are scammers or will overcharge, but I definitely recommend the public taxis to be on the safer side.

That said, the taxi culture in Bogotá (and in Medellín, too) is insane! The drivers are fast, reckless, impatient…and very inexpensive, at about $3-5 per your average ride. They’re also extremely easy to get a hold of via the TAPPSI app on your phone; we literally had to wait no more than five minutes for a taxi to arrive to pick us up in most cases. The app grabs the most recent government rate for taxis and lets you calculate what the fare should be based on the distance – you can then show this number to the driver, which is not a bad way to avoid getting scammed! The fare is always a bit higher if you’re being picked up from or dropped off at the airport, if you’re using the taxi at night, or if it’s Sunday.

Continue reading Taxis and paisas – my time in Colombia