Back to Medellín

M and I head to Medellín Colombia today. It is the second time for me and the first for her. A couple weeks ago I spent some days leisurely around the city. I hope to see more this time around.

The flight to Medellín from Cartagena is only around an hour and ten minutes so our travel journey is not long. The flight is in the morning and I order a cheese and ham toasted sandwich to hold me over before my journey.

When we arrive we check into the same hotel I stayed in prior, Diez Hotel Categoria in El Poblado. It is a good choice. Our room has two beds and a hammock that overlooks the neighborhood.

I wasn’t sure how we would feel when we arrived so we didn’t have much booked on our first day in Medellín. Luckily we are early enough to take a free walking day tour with Real City Tours (pay guide by tips).

Fortunately I already navigated the metro during my prior visit so we took the metro to meet our tour.

We are a little early for our tour so we stop for a beer in a old charming bar called Salón Málaga. Most were not drinking, in fact we thought we were getting a sneer from the table next to us but we ended up chatting with the girl and her mother instead. They were Spanish speaking but actually live in the USA and were tourists in Medellin as well. We made plans to share a taxi with them to Guatapé the next day but plans fell through when they had to leave town early.

We meet up with our tour guide who then takes us around the city and points out different landmarks.

Plaza Cisneros
Parque de la Luz (Plaza Cisneros)

At one point we sit by an old train station (Edificio Antigua Estación del Ferrocarril de Antioquia) where our guide gives us a “real talk” about the history of Medellin – tells us the history of all the factions that caused turmoil: the government, the military, drug lords, right wing militia, left wing militia. The losers are the ordinary people who had to live through the war and terror.

We are taken to a shopping district where there are lots of pop up stands you can get cheap goods (Carabobo pedestrian street).

National Palace Mall

Sex workers hang out in front of this church.

Parroquia de la Veracruz
We are told where to go to get some great empanadas

We end up at the Botero park where we can see lots of Botero statues.

Our tour group

Our guide talks about the metro and the pride the locals have for their train.

We are told the area under the train is where people go to exchange goods. We don’t have time to watch but we go back later to see it in action. Mostly men take items to exchange (belt buckle, watch, coins or whatnot) and engage with conversations with others to see if a deal can be made. It is interesting to watch and seems to be a sport of its own in the city.

We walk by some musicians playing outside at Parque Berrío. People are dancing to the music.

Parque Berrío
Fun Jesus taxi
Church across the street from Berrio Park

Our guide talks about some local fruits. I finally get to try that weird looking fruit (guama) from my first visit to Medellín.

guama

Finally he takes us to the Parque San Antonio where he tells us the story of the bombed statue.

Parque San Antonio

At the end there is a question and answer session about the city. Some was asking about seeing a futbol (soccer) game while in town. The guide tells us about the upcoming El Clásico Paisa game. I don’t listen too carefully because at this point going to a soccer game in Medellín seems too intimidating to me. Plus I am not sure we’ll have time. M pays attention though and is able to talk me into attending the game. More on that later.

Cartagena: Rosario Islands

Our first cruise to the Rosario Islands got cancelled. Today is our rescheduled catamaran cruise. The weather is perfect for sailing today.

Our destination is the Rosario Islands off of Cartagena.

Once on the boat we find a comfortable and shaded spot to hang out for our departure. We don’t need lots of sun exposure so it is enough to just have a good view of the water.

Once everyone has boarded we slowly head out to open waters. Funky music plays at a very enjoyable level. The music is mostly island music. The cruise is relaxing so far.

Once we are further out the blue-green colors are more noticeable. I can even see the reef below.

There are two stops and both have snorkeling. I didn’t try the snorkeling because the gear costs extra and the reefs didn’t look too amazing (I snorkeled in Great Barrier Reef and this couldn’t compare). I am happy just swimming around the boat. I thought it was cool to swim under the boat, something I’ve never done before.

There are people in small boats selling food and drinks at the stops. One guy cuts open coconuts and mixes a myriad of liquids from bottles from the floor of his boat. I reluctantly order this Coco Loco thinking it could end badly but fortunately I only have a happy buzz and don’t get sick afterwards. It is a unique experience watching someone make the drinks on a small dinky boat. I only regret being cheap and not buying lobster from the lobster guy. I’ve read it is supposed to be amazing.

The second stop is close enough to swim to a small beach for those that have some sort of swimming fitness. I saw some getting picked up and dropped off there on jet skis so you may be able to pay someone for that if you are not a strong swimmer. It is challenging swimming back due to the current.

The next couple pictures are taken with M’s go pro.

Our boat out there.

We swim back to the boat and they are serving some great seafood paella for lunch.

Seafood Paella

Beverage purchases are credit only. Many people only brought cash on the boat. I like not having to deal with cash but I only wish we could have paid for it all at the end instead of having to take the card out each time we wanted to order something.

As we head back we enjoy cruising to island music. We feel good, always a sign of a good day at sea. Luckily we didn’t die from our boat booze.

While back in town we stop to have an early dinner at Marzola Parrilla Argentina, an Argentinian restaurant that has some fun décor.

We end up once again at Cuba 1940 where we catch live music.

We head back to our favorite La Cevichería to order the curry shrimp once more and a dessert.

Guava melt with cheese, mint and mandarin juice

There is great people watching from our outside table.

LOL

There are many street performers right near where we eat. We catch “Michael Jackson” for a little while. He is a good impersonator.

Michael Jackson hopping onto a carriage

One very fun thing to watch is the street rappers of Cartagena. A guy will target a sometimes unsuspecting tourist and start following them and rapping along with music (they expect tips for the performance). I spent time trying to avoid these guys but later on M and I teased each other that we would get one of these guys to rap for the other. It is fun to watch when you aren’t the target.

We end up outside a champeta music bar (champeta is a style of island music of Colombia – combination of Colombian chalupa and Afro-Cuban percussive music). The club looks like fun and we almost go in but instead listen outside for a little bit. It is late and we are tired.

We love our time in Cartagena but we are off to Medellin tomorrow.

Cartagena is not a long plane ride from Florida. I’ll probably head back here sometime for a long weekend with friends.

Melbourne Street Art

It is boxing day in Melbourne (what Aussies, Kiwis and British call the day after Christmas).

My Christmas Day yesterday was I spent mostly inside eating and watching movies. I like to celebrate my holidays the lazy way.

Today I decide to go for a tourist walk around town.

I start at the nearby park Fitzroy Gardens. I am obsessed with the beautiful purple flower trees – Jacaranda I believe.

Earlier I downloaded tourist walking tours. I use the maps to wander around town.

Princess Theatre: Now contains Harry Potter

Tattersalls Lane

It is the day after Christmas and shoppers are lined up around the block waiting for who knows what.

More artwork

Presgrave Place

Centre Place

Stopped for lunch at a cafe down a funky street (Eliana Lulu).

I could not resist these doughnuts. I picked up one for later.

Hosier Lane

AC/DC Lane

AC/DC Lane, named after the famous rock group, is one of the most popular tourist spots in town. Here you find street art mostly music related.

Strachan Lane

Finally I finish out the day at Strachan Lane where there is some more rock art as well as Alice in Wonderland themed art. I am heading back toward my apartment so I decide it is a good time to call it the day. Besides I have a very good looking doughnut just waiting to be eaten.

Another great day completed in Melbourne!

Yogyakarta Food Tour

Jogja fun after the food tour

Last night I was supposed to go on a food tour of Yogyakarta. Instead I set circle K on fire. Tonight I am trying to do the food tour again.

I am attending the Jogja Food Tour. Luckily the weather cooperates and I meet my tour guide at the a white monument in town. I am not the only one on the tour this time, two girls from the Netherlands are also on my tour. I am delighted because they stand out even more than I and they are the ones getting the picture requests while I am around them.

Tugu Pal Putih monument

Meat skewers are first on the menu. We pick out two to try.

To be honest I don’t remember which type I chose but one of them is probably the signature skewer of the region sate kere (made from beef or chicken intestines). It wasn’t terrible and I probably would try it again sometime.

We try some charcoal coffee. Yes, you read that correctly. We drink coffee with a large piece of charcoal inside. It tastes mostly like coffee with only a slight charcoal taste.

As we are walking to our next food location in the popular Malioboro street we make it just in time for a performance of a popular band. The main attraction is the wooden instrument called the Angklung. It produces a unique sound. The angklung plus drums and dancers makes for an entertaining performance. Luckily our guide secures us great viewing spots.

Wow! So much fun to watch.

Jajanan pasar and other sweets

After the music we are off to get some local sweets.

We take a Becak (motorbike rickshaw) to another part of town to try Java’s famous Gudeg.

Gudeg: jackfruit stewed with palm sugar and coconut milk.

Gudeg served with rice, tofu and I forget the other dish.

Jamu

We stop for Jamu drinks: Indonesia’s system of traditional herbal medicine used by many for the prevention and treatment of a variety of ailments. Each Jamu have their purpose.

Our last savory dish is at Soto Sampah restaurant where we try Soto Ayam (Indonesian style chicken soup). It is a great comfort food.

After our soup we walk to the square I visited earlier with the two large trees. The square is lively with games and fun cars you can rent to peddle around the square.

It is corny but everyone is doing it. It is a unique experience.

Here is video of the experience…..

After our little buggy ride we head to the area near the trees. Our guide tells us of a game where if you walk blindfolded and make it between the two trees then you will receive good fortune. It has rained too much recently so we skip that game in order to avoid getting trapped in mud. We did try walking on sticks. I was not good at it but a girl in my group was.

To finish off the evening we try a sweet ginger drink.

Hot ginger drink with pieces of bread.

I am so glad the weather held up. It is a great way to end my time in the great Yogyakarta. I hope to return to this special city one day.

Last hours in Hanoi

Get a late start to my final day of Hanoi Vietnam. I Want to visit the Ho chi Minh house and sights in the vicinity but I miss the opening hours since they are limited. I end up just wandering around town instead.

One thing I forgot to mention previously is the Hanoi pedestrian street crossing. It takes courage and special skills to cross the street in Hanoi. It seems so intimidating at first but once you do your first couple street crossings then you never want to go back to your old ways. Hanoi is busy. So many people, so many cars, so many motor bikes; plus bicycles and carts on the road. The traffic appears to stop for no one. There are some intersections with cross signals but in most cases you need to do the Hanoi cross. To cross the street you just walk out into the street and maintain a consistent speed. Vehicles and bikes will move around you. If you hesitate or stop mid-way that is when problems occur. It took me a while to get it but I eventually developed the skill.

Example of crossing in busy traffic. See the two men that walk across on the right.

Example of busy traffic. I am in my uber waiting forever in traffic.

More images from around Hanoi

Grand Opera House
I happen to come across a game of shuttlecock? while walking by a park.

Monsoon Music Festival

The walking streets are alive at night. The previous weekend I watched a boxing match from the street at a distance. Tonight I watch an act from the Monsoon Music Festival. I love finding free concerts when I travel.

Beer street

I try my hand at beer street. This is supposed to be the place to try local beers. I didn’t stay out long but I got to experience a little bit of local night life. As I sat outside a bar at a cafe table I watch the constant street vendors and shoe cleaners (will clean your shoes for a fee while you sip your beverages at the bar).

My visit to Hanoi has come to an end. I fly to Hue tomorrow. Even with all the time I spent here, I missed so much. I’ll be back someday.