We’d planned on getting a dumb cell phone when we arrived here, just for voice and text. Joe brought his iPhone at the last moment, which had been unlocked back home, but we were never sure if it would actually work if we bought a pre-paid SIM card abroad. It did work, but we were overly optimistic when the teenagers running the Movistar (service provider) booth told us we could buy a pre-paid SIM card with a data plan (in many places, it’s easy to get pre-paid voice/text, but not data.) It took a lot of sorting out on poor Carolina’s part to clarify this. It didn’t help when we charged $US 20 worth of minutes to the wrong cell-phone number. I hope that guy with lucked out with our windfall pays it forward.
So we are set, one dumb phone and one i-Phone (at least when we have free wifi we can connect), and we can get hold of each other if we get separated. In the worst case scenario, we would simply each get back to wherever we are staying.
10 years ago I pooh-poohed the idea of getting a Russian-English phrasebook before we left the US. We can get one when we get to China, I told Joe when he brought it up. Of course we couldn’t. We managed to survive without one for the one month we were in the former Soviet republics in Central Asia.
This time I bought a Latin-American Spanish phrasebook before we left home. Unfortunately, it got packed up with rest of my books into storage (along with the socks I had planned on bringing to South America.) Here in Bogota, we found a Panamericana bookstore in the largest mall in South America (Titan!) and bought a Spanish-English phrasebook. It’s intended for Spanish-speaking tourists visiting the US or UK, so we’re just have to reverse engineer it for us as English-speaking tourists in Spanish-speaking countries! Yes, I know you can download apps for the iPhone for translation, but I like my slim, hard-copy, battery independent tool. We’ll see how we manage.
The taxis in Bogota are yellow, but most don’t have a taxi sign on the top of the roof. I think people who own private car owners simply never paint them yellow, so that’s how people know it’s a taxi. They also don’t have a ‘for hire’ sign/light, so you have to look hard to see if there are any passengers in the taxi. And even if it’s ‘empty’, sometimes they won’t pick you up. There’s an app here to call for taxi that’s pretty useful. Most of the locals prefer to call for a taxi at night, instead of hailing one on the street, due to safety concerns.
Hanging out in an alfresco café in a mall/quaint old neighbourhood called Usaquen right now. There’s a heat lamp, because it is cool and overcast. Most people here are probably visitors, but still most are dressed in somber coloured fall clothing (leather jackets, coats, jeans). There’s a lot of leather products here. So many shoe/boot stores, it breaks my heart, because the styles look good, are reasonably priced, but I can’t buy anything, because I can’t add to the weight I’m carrying!
Today, we had lunch in a bakery that also had simple meals. I had a Columbian tamale, which has rice and beans, with chicken, pork, a hard boiled egg and a chunk of carrot. It is more similar to a Chinese joong than a Mexican tamale. It also came with the chocolate/cheese/bread triumvirate. Joe had a menu del dia (the day’s special) which was a chicken breast, rice, fried yucca, a side of papaya, a bottle of soda pop and a small pastry with guava paste filling. The total for both of us was $US 10.
The past two days we did most of the major sights. There aren’t that many in Bogota, but they are fairly interesting.
1) Monserrate: You take a funicular up to the top of the mountain (like going to the Peak in HK) where there is a little church. (Some people make pilgrimage by foot, or even on their knees, when they are asking for a favor or if one has been granted.) There’s also a couple of fancy restaurants up there, but they weren’t open for lunch. The view looking over the whole city is stunning; you can see the airport which is in the middle of the urban area (like San Jose). And because it’s fog, not smog, it’s pretty clear.
2) Museo de Oro: The Gold Museum has a lot of artifacts from pre-Columbian times that show the artistic and technological skills that people had. The displays and the legends are done really nicely. (I think the museum is administered by a bank, instead of the Ministry of Culture.)
We did something we usually don’t do, which was to get a hop-on, hop-off bike tour. It’s a new thing for Bogota, so it’s still got some kinks to work out. They didn’t have bus stop signs, so you didn’t know where exactly to get on/off the bus. There’s only 2 buses in the fleet, so the frequency is a bit limited. But they were both nice double-decker (open roof) tops in green. One bus was decorated in all Lipton green tea wraparound, and even the roof had artificial green vines and bottles of lipton tea hangng from the ceiling! The other bus was decorated with the bus company’s logo: TurisBog (it made me laugh because bog is Brit slang for toilet!) TurisBog is short for Turismo Bogota! The audio guide on the bus was really good (they give you headphones that plug into the seat back.) It also included a 2-hour walking tour of La Candelaria with a guide (which was where you got to go to the Museo de Oro and a couple of other museums). La Candelaria is cool old neighbourhood where near the main city/historic institutions are located.