MEDELLIN, COLOMBIA – MY HOME AWAY FROM HOME
November 7, 2019
Ok, I admit it. I fell in love during my travels. It is something that I always try to avoid as a traveler because I constantly move, so it is hard for me to establish anything long-term. But it is something inevitable, given that I have been to many interesting places and met a lot of interesting people. This time, however, it was love at first sight, and remembering the first day brings a smile on my lips.
I want to tell the world….I fell in love with Medellin, Colombia!
INFORMATION ABOUT MEDELLIN, COLOMBIA
Medellin is the capital of the Antioquia region and the second-largest city in Colombia. There are an estimated 2.5 million inhabitants living in the city, who are collectively known as Paisas.
MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT MEDELLIN, COLOMBIA
The city has an unfortunate reputation of being dangerous, due to its history of violence and gang wars. Years ago, it was dubbed as the “Most dangerous city on Earth” by TIME magazine due to the constant chaos proliferated by the Medellin Cartel led by the infamous drug kingpin, Pablo Escobar. His story became known worldwide after it was shown by the hit TV series Narcos, so people associated it with Pablo Escobar and drugs more than ever.
However, is it still the case today? We need to remember that this sad part of Medellin’s history happened years ago, and so many things have changed. The Medellin Cartel is now dissolved, and the city has experienced rapid growth these past years. It was even awarded the title of “Most Innovative City” in 2013.
REASONS WHY I LOVE IT
I initially planned on staying here for just a month but I decided to extend it after falling in love with the city. There are many aspects of Medellin that made it stand out from the rest of the cities I visited in Latin America:
- LOVELY PEOPLE
Paisas are among the loveliest people I encountered on my trip. They are extremely friendly and courteous, and since Filipinos and Colombians share similar values, it was not hard for me to relate and befriend them. They also have the coolest Spanish accent, and as a foreigner who speaks Spanish, I do not struggle to understand them when they speak.
I am not exaggerating; Medellin has the best weather in all the cities I’ve been to in Latin America. It is located in the tropics above the mountain so the weather here is just the right mixture of hot and cool. Locals told me that it is now hotter compared before, but for someone who used to live in scorching humid 43c temperature, the weather here is heaven!
- TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM
Public transportation is a daily life struggle when I was still in Manila, what with the daily horrible traffic I had to endure just to go home. So after arriving here, I was so surprised at how organized the transportation system is. They even have a metro, something that Bogotá, the capital city lacks. They also have a centralized ticketing system, wherein you only need to load one card to ride its numerous transportation system – be it by bus, metro, tram, and metro cable.
- COST OF LIVING
Medellin is a cheap city to live in. In some ways, it is as affordable as Manila, with food and transportation almost costing the same. According to my Colombian friends living in the Philippines now, the cost of lodging here is cheaper than back home, in which I agree. I shared an apartment with my German friend and we only paid $500 monthly for a fully furnished one good for 2 already. Partying is also affordable here. A bottle of beer just costs 2,500 COP per bottle and a bottle of the local liquor Aguardiente cost as low as 13,000 per bottle. Entrance to most clubs is just 10,000 COP, and 40,000 for barra libre.
WHAT I DON’T LIKE ABOUT IT
I actually struggled to think of something to put here. Nevertheless, there were still some things I struggled with when I was staying here.
- DIFFICULTY OF FINDING ASIAN INGREDIENTS
I always cook my food in my travels, not only to save money but to also have a taste of home every now and then. In Medellin however, Asian ingredients are hard to find. Typical ones such as soy sauce and vinegar for my adobo are available everywhere. As for the rest, it was nearly impossible. And also, the Asian food here sucks! I still remember the day when I ordered stir-fry noodles, and they gave me Italian pasta cooked Asian-style…OH, THE HORROR!
This is a culture shock for me. The usage of marijuana is so common that you can smell it in most places. I remembered when I was in Parque Ciudad del Rio, someone was selling chocolate covered weeds like it was nothing, and they even have an Instagram page!
THINGS TO BE MINDFUL OF WHEN YOU ARE HERE
These are some things that you need to be mindful of when you visit Medellin, or when you talk to Paisas. Do this and you will have many friends and a peaceful stay here.
- NEVER TALK ABOUT PABLO ESCOBAR OR NARCOS TO A PAISA
Paisas hate it when you open a conversation with anything Narcos related. Remember that there were many victims of the drug war during the city’s dark times, and you never know if someone you are talking to lose a family member at that time. I had this in mind before coming here so I never did it, but I saw some sour reaction when foreigners would open a conversation with this topic.
- NEVER COMPARE MEDELLIN TO BOGOTA IF YOU DON’T WANT TO END UP IN A LONG DEBATE
Colombians are regionalists. They are prouder of being part of a region than being a collective Colombians. There are certain rivalries here, and none more apparent than the rivalry between the Paisas and Rolos (people living in Bogotá). Don’t even think about comparing both cities, or else you will get on the wrong side of the Paisas and you will be drawn in a never-ending argument on who is better.
- WEAR GREEN WHEN YOU WATCH AN ATLETICO NACIONAL MATCH
We watched a football match between Atletico Nacional (Medellin) and Milionarios (Milionarios). I was about to wear blue, good thing my German friend told me that it is a stupid thing to do because blue is Milionario’s color. It was highly possible that Atletico Nacional might have ganged up on me had I worn blue during the match.
The rivalry between Paisas and Rolos extended to football too. So to be safe, wear green in the match to show your support to the local team.
Give Medellin a visit, and I am sure that you will fall in love with it too, just like I did. It is a city that I plan to stay long-term in the near future.