Northern Colombia

It’s my last month in Colombia and I chose to go to Santa Marta for a week. First impression right when I got out of the airport? Lovely! The bus station is right in front of the ocean. As I am behind on my  blog. I can’t say much details so I’ll post photos instead to share my experience. These are all I got to do in a week in the northern part of Colombia.

Beautiful sunset in the city of Santa Marta


Couple nights in Tayrona National Park


Jungle day tour in Minca


A relaxing day in Taganga Beach


And my favorite part of this trip…Cabo de la Vela. 

Laguna de Tota

Just 3 days after my Cartagena trip https://iamryshel.com/2016/03/01/solo-travel-to-cartagena/, I traveled to Laguna de Tota in Boyaca with two of my students, Richard and Luis. 

It took us about 7 hours to get to our destination. We arrived late at night. 

 

The whole purpose was to camp so yes, we slept in the tent.  This place was so cold. It was around 7 degrees celcius that night! Brrrr! It was freezing that I didn’t sleep well. 

  

But this what we woke up to. Beautiful! Just beautiful! 

   
 
Before we headed back to Bogota, We visited the nearby towns and Playa Blanca. Went also went on a boat tour. 

   
   
It was such a short weekend trip but I’d say this is one of my favorite places in Colombia. 

   
 Coming back only took us 5 hours. Then back to reality…work! 😉
 

Solo travel to Cartagena

Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th is a holiday in Colombia so I decided to take an extra day off from work for a 4-day weekend. As usual, I impulsively bought a roundtrip ticket costing around USD 93 from Bogota to Cartagena through my favorite affordable airline VivaColombia. 

I heard so much about Cafe Del Mar so this is the first place I visited when I arrived. The place was crowded because it’s a perfect place for sunset. 

  
The next day, I explored Castillo San Felipe de Barajas. I opted for an audio tour since I wanted to know the history. I’d say it’s interesting and worth it. The weather was super hot to be doing this though. 

   
 
On my technically second day, I went on a day tour to Baru Island. 

 While on a boat tour, there was actually people selling fresh seafood in the middle of the ocean. I got this delicious lobster for about USD 3. 

 
I also met these people (Colombians and Spanish) who were nice enough to translate for me and invited me to join their group while on a tour. 🙂 
 
Baru Island was okay. I’ve been to a much nicer beach so I was not that impressed. It was worth visiting though.  

On my third day, I explored the walled city. 

   
 

I also visited Cafe del Mural. 

  
I discovered this little ceviche place called La Laguna Azul in Centro Comercial Getsemani. Their Ceviche Bomba was truly a bomb.

  
I had to go back and tried something else.I love this place! 

  
On my last day/night, I wanted to make the most out of Cartagena by choosing to spend time at Cafe del Mar. They don’t open until 5pm but I went there around 4pm, picked a perfect table, watched the water, the cars, the people, the birds and the sun. I relaxed until I they opened. 

Ordered their ceviche and piñacolada which cost around USD 15. Expensive? Yes! But hey, I was paying for the view! 

  
This is my favorite photo taken by my server. A perfect photo! 

 
So there, I got to visit Cartagena, Colombia. Traveled solo as usual and enjoyed it a lot! 😊

  

Cañon Chicamocha (San Gil, Colombia)

It took us 7 hours drive from Bogota to San Gil. Since we arrived around 10PM we just had dinner and went to bed. 

The next morning, we left to Cañon Chicamocha Park which was around 20 minutes drive from San Gil. 

We opted for the Teleferico for COP 44,000 (US $15) which includes the entrance to the park and the cable car. 

  
The view is just amazing left and right. 

     
 

   

  
    
   
We did the cablevuelo (zipline) for COP 22,000 (US $7) which was definitely worth it! 

   
I purchased the picture they took for only COP 10,000 (US $3). 

  

And here’s a video of mine enjoying the zipline! 🙂 

 
We did the cable car last. It was A-M-A-Z-Z-I-N-G! The view was breathtaking and it took at least 20 minutes for the one way trip which was quite a ride for what we paid. We literally crossed through the cañon. 

   

   

  
When we reached the other side, we didn’t expect that we had to get off the cable car. There’s another park and the line was long for the return so we decided to eat lunch here and of course the view is still astounding. 

  
This park is definitely worth a visit. 

Before we called it a day, we drove straight to Barichara, a little town near San Gil. There wasn’t much there so we didn’t stay long but this church is beautiful though.

  
And here’s some pics taken before we left San Gil. 

   
    
  

Heading back to Bogota only took 5 hours. Fun weekend indeed. An addition to my list of places I got to visit. 🙂 

The Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá

Catedral de Sal de Zipaquirá is a catholic church built within the tunnels of salt mine 200 meters underground. This is one of the most popular tourist destination in Colombia. 

My dear friend Nelson and I decided to visit this place one weekend. We took a bus to Zipa from portal norte trasmilenio station. The bus terminal is inside the transmilenio station so that made it convenient for us. The fare was COP 4,500 ($ 1.50) per person one way which was ridiculously cheap! According to my map it’s about 30km from portal norte and it took us about an hour to reach the town of Zipaquirá. 

We had to walk about 5 minutes from where the bus dropped us off then we saw a shuttle which takes tourists to the salt mine which is at about 5 minutes ride. It costs COP 29,000 including the entrance ticket and you can hop on and off  of this shuttle all day. It will also save you time getting in line at the ticket booth so I’d say it’s worth.

  
  
It was packed due to the long weekend. The good thing was there were only couple other people in line for English speaking tour guide. 

  

The tour started at 12nn. We had an amazing tour guide. The tour all over was astounding. It was breathtaking inside and out. The history was extremely compelling. 

   
    
   
There are stores inside mostly for souvenirs. There is a coffee shop as well and  a theater. I got myself a miner helmet keychain for COP 8,000. 

  
It was such an amazing experience. This place is definitely worth a visit.

Great finds at Centro Comercial Santafé

Today, I decided to go to Centro Comercial Santafé which is said to be the fourth largest mall in Colombia. 

  

I went there for “window shopping”. 

The first store that caught my attention is Jugar (specializes in sports and hobbies). I was hoping that they sell pepper spray which I’ve been looking to buy since I arrived in Colombia almost two months ago. I searched on google as to where I can buy it but I didn’t find any information.

I walked in even though I was afraid that the staff wouldn’t even know what pepper spray is but as the young male staff approached me, I asked him about it and he immediately knew what it was and showed me 3 different options. The cheapest they have is COP 25,000 but it’s a little too big for me. I wanted something I can easily put in my pocket so I bought this one for COP 45,000. 

 
I used to carry pepper spray all the time (thankfully, I never had to use it yet) but prior to coming to Colombia, I gave mine to my mother. I didn’t want to carry it with me since I didn’t know what kind of rules Colombia has when it comes to bringing stuff in the country. I feel more confident with this specially when in a taxi or walking alone. I’m glad I got one now! 

As I kept walking around, I saw Sally Beauty! 

  
Sally Beauty is one of my favorite store in the US. I used to get a lot of freebies from them for being a regular customer. Seeing Sally Beauty here in Bogota was totally a surprise. The saleslady said it’s the only one in Bogota opened 5 months ago. I like curling my hair but one thing I couldn’t find at Carulla, Jumbo or Exito is a heat protector for my hair. I knew Sally Beauty has it! I walked in and there were my options! I bought the same thing I used to buy in the US. Mira Curl and Argan Oil Dry Scalp Treatment made by BaBylissPRO. I also bought my favorite hair conditioner by Tigi Pro! I am a happy lady indeed! 😊

  
I spent around USD 40 at Sally Beauty but these are something I can use for a month or so. After stopping at this store, I decided to go home before I spend more money in this mall. LOL 

I hope this post will help people especially expats in Colombia. Should you need anything for your hair or want to have a pepper spray for self defense, Centro Comercial Santafé is a place to go. 😊

Mount Monserrate by foot…

According to Wikipedia, Monserrate rises to 3,152 metres (10,341 ft) above the sea level.

My friend Aletta agreed to join me to hike Mount Monserrate last Friday. We started walking from Las Aguas transmilenio station at exactly 9:50AM. 

  

Well what can I say? Bogotá is already lying 2,640 meters (8,660 ft) above sea level.  Going further up was a real challenge specially that I’ve only been here 6 weeks. 

  

Look at our faces here. We’re like…”what the heck are we thinking?” 😂

Aletta is one of the funniest people I know. She surely made our hike fun. Eventually, laughing while hiking was making us more tired so we had to prevent ourselves from laughing. 

We of course made a few stops. Banana, anyone? 😉 

  

Look at us…still happy despite the fact that we were exhausted. 

 
I think we were halfway when this picture was taken. This is my favorite picture of us. 

  
Look behind us! We’ve come a long way. We thought we were close here and boy we were so wrong. But hey, we still look happy. 😊

  
At this point, we thought we were about to reach the top but then again, we were wrong. We don’t look tired at all, do we? We were still happy while Aletta sings “The World’s Greatest” which was perfect for this journey.

  
Until we finally saw something white! Must be  part of the church! We were getting close!!!

  

Apparently here,  we were almost on top. Almost, but not quite.

  

   
We finally reached the top at 11:20AM. It took us 1 1/2 hours which was not bad at all. We did good.

   
 

We headed to Casa Santa Clara for lunch! Bandeja Paisa seemed to be perfect after that hike. An order costs COP 25,000 which I think was worth it considering we were on top of Mount Monserrate. 

  
We took the train on the way back down for COP 8,500 per ticket. Cable car would have neen nice but the waiting time was 40 minutes compare to the 5 minutes wait for the train. The train looks scary from afar but it wasn’t once you’re inside. 

  
When we took the transmilenio to head back north, it was almost empty. We decided to sit on the chairs dedicated for disable, elderly and pregnant women. We considered ourselves disabled after that hike. 😂  

 

 We  headed to the Nike Factory Store to get our reward and then we called it a day. 

  
It was such an achievement. I can’t believe we did it! We survived! We’re proud! 

Mount Monserrate is now ticked off our list. 😊


 

Downtown Bogotá was calling me…

I wanted to see more of downtown Bogotá. I think there’s a lot to see there. I met someone who lives there so he accompanied me to walk around and of course he took all my photos. 

  
   
 

 

  

For some reason, this graffiti below is my favorite. 

  

The Museo Botero is a must to see and entrance is free. 

   
    
    
 
We had Mexican food for lunch at Dos Gatos y Simone. 

  
Their food was sooooo delicious and for reasonable price. All these with drinks cost COP 40,000. Definitely, definitely worth it. This seemed to be the highlight of my day in La Candelaria. Highly recommended and I’m definitely going back for this restaurant.

   
   

I also bought a traditional handmade Colombian purse for COP 25,000. It’s cute, good quality and my colors. I love it! 😊😊😊
  

Downtown Bogota

My Colombian friend was kind enough to show me downtown Bogota on my second weekend in Colombia.

We first had a very good and huge meal at Mama Lupe’s. My favorite was the tamal! 

  
Then we just walked around and I got to see these beautiful architecture. 

   
    
    
 
There’s more to see but we had to head back for the Chile vs Colombia football game. 😦 

I will definitely go back to see more of the Southern part of Bogota though. 🙂 

1st weekend in Colombia

Julian is a Colombian guy I met in Kuala Lumpur when I was backpacking in Malaysia. I contacted him prior to coming here. He is nice enough to set up a weekend with his family to go out of town. We took a road trip to Villa De Leyva with his mom, brother, sister in law and his niece.

  

  

We had lunch on our way but I don’t remember the name of the resraurant. I think it is somewhere in Sopo. It was a huge and very good lunch!   
 
We then stopped in Boyaca to check out the place where Colombia achieved independence from Spain. 

   

   
We arrived in Villa De Leyva late in the afternoon so they decided to sleep in a hostel. It was unplanned and nobody had something for overnight stay! 

   
    
 
We went to the church for few minutes. 

  

Then we had dinner at Martina Franca and finally took our rest. 

It was a very long day but I definitely had fun. 

On our way home the next day, we stopped by at this Rock House. I didn’t enter though because I did not want to pay the entrance fee. 😕

  
And lastly, the pozos azules. 

   
 
Thanks to the Navia Family who gave me a great first weekeend in Colombia. ❤️❤️❤️

Getting Work Visa and Cedula in Bogota, Colombia

On my second day in Bogota, my company asked me to get my work visa. They provided me with all the documents I will need. 

I left my hotel to go to Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores around 6:30AM to be there when they first opened. I arrived before 7AM and they did not let us in until 7:30AM. Good thing, I was on the first batch. 

We were sent to the 3rd floor, the first window is to get your number then go to the next window to pay the processing fee. 

After just 5 minutes of waiting, my number was called. I faced the interviewer with a big smile. The only questions I remember him asking were my educational background and if I have been to South Africa which I told him not yet, but it’s next on my list. He seemed very nice. After he put my information on the computer and checked my documents, he asked me to go back to the waiting room. After about 30 minutes of waiting, my number was called again. I went back to the same guy, he told me my visa has been approved and he gave me a piece of paper to pay for my visa. I went back to him with the receipt, he stamped my visa to my passport in front of me. 

  
I was on a cloud 9. I wanted to hug him but of course I did not. I just told him how happy I was which was very obvious anyway. 

It took about 1 1/2 hours to get my visa. I then walked about 15 minutes to get to Migracion for my Cedula. 

I first went to Information area where you have to show the filled out form required, a copy of your passport, visa and a photo. Then, I was sent to second floor where I had to wait literally 1 1/2 hours before my name gets called. Then the lady put my information on the computer, gave me a piece of paper to pay the amount of 162,000 COP in the nearby Banco de Occidente. I went back to the same lady with the receipt, then my photo and finger prints were captured. That’s it! My cedula will be available for pick up after 4 business days. 

The visa and cedula cost no more than USD 350 and getting them only took 4 hours. 😴 😊

My Dream Travel to South America

After I backpacked in Asia for a total of 10 months, I wanted to travel South America next. I was volunteering to teach English in Thailand when I finished my online TEFL course. I immediately searched for job postings and I found one located in Peru. On April 17th, I hit the submit button to apply for a job as an Instructor in a language center. I got an email from the company on April 22nd inviting me for a Skype interview on April 29th. I was so happy and so excited. After the interview, I did not feel good about my performance. It was my first official interview for a teaching job and I thought I messed up. I went back to the Philippines on May 5th and as soon as I arrived home, I got an email from the company inviting me for a second interview that night. After the interview, I was told that I will get an online training schedule next week but I did not hear from them again until May 19th. I had the online training from May 25th to May 29th. While on training, I was discouraged because I found everything to be difficult. To my surprised, I passed the training. Next step? Fly to Colombia! OMG!

On June 9th, the HR sent a copy of my flight ticket from Singapore to Colombia for June 23rd. I was like, is this really going to happen?

I flew to Singapore on June 22nd. I stayed a night because I will have a long flight to Colombia. Here comes the 23rd, my flight was not until 10:45PM. I was going on a tourist visa even though I will be working. I was in Changi Airport by 5PM because I wanted to have time in case I get some problem with the immigration. I have a copy of my job contract and all other documents sent by the company for getting my visa. With the helpful and friendly British Airways staff, I got my boarding pass with no problem at all.


I was still not confident about the whole thing though because I was still unsure about the immigration in Colombia. I was not worried though because I know everything will go according to God’s plan. So for me, whatever happens, I know it’s for good.

After more than 30 hours of flight time, I landed in Bogotá, Colombia on June 24th. I got through  the immigration with no problem.


I got my bag and a taxi sent by my company was waiting outside holding my name.

It was only 8 degrees celcius when I landed which I found very nice. I am in South America! This is really for me. ☺️

Around 6PM, I arrived in the hotel which my company provided. Perfect, just perfect after the long flight.

South America is one of my dream continents to visit. By the end of March 2015, I told myself that South America is my next destination. I got to set my foot in South America on June 24, 2015. I did not expect it to happen that quick. I’m now about 11,000 miles away from home and in one of my dream destination. 😉

Dreams do come true if you pursue them. ☺️