Sunday, November 22, 2009
Colombia may not be the first place that springs to mind when you think vacation spot. I just returned from a wedding in Bogota: it was a fairytale do. In all the photos everyone is smiling. Bride and groom are obviously crazy about each other, besides being good friends and good-looking. Colombians are passionate about their country and welcome you with friendly smiles and fantastic service. Picture choreographed, white-gloved waiters swooping on your table, each bearing a wide platter of the best things Colombian cuisine has to offer--mouth-watering steaks, colourful salads, strange but sumptuous fruit. A forest of sparkling crystal on the white linen, choices of smooth wines, some of the world's best. Good friends, good families, two cultures blending in celebration.
It's easy to be a millionaire in Colombia: 1800 Colombian pesos equals one dollar U.S., but things aren't cheap in the tourist areas. Taxis are great value for money. We spent an hour in a comfortable van in the traffic of rush hour, leaving the city for the airport. It cost about $14 US, not counting the tip. No meter, just a number on the dial, corresponding to a fare on a card displayed in front of the passenger. No hassle, no argument, and cheap.
Not well organized for photography, though. Armed guards are universal; two-thirds of the country seems to be employed in security--as police, army or in the large and thriving private security forces. Photographing almost anything is "Prohibido", although the locals seem to be quite happy to have their picture taken, responding to a query with a smile and a thumbs-up. A large (SLR) camera is dangerous, peligroso, we were told several times, a caution reinforced with tales of muggings at knife-point. Some of our party had invested in little inconspicuous cameras to avoid attracting attention. I wore a very modest gold chain round my neck and was warned to take it off.
But it's muy simpatico, and I look forward to returning before too long.