Travel Photo: Panama – Colombia Coast – Cabo Tiburon

Colombia - Panama Border of Sapzurro

This is the untouched area of Sapzurro. This place is known as Cabo Tiburon. The tree-line and rock you see in this picture is the border between Colombia and Panama. The water here is clear (of sharks as well) and beautiful. Not many know of this place, not even Colombians.

Colombia - Panama Border of Sapzurro
Colombia – Panama Border of Sapzurro

Camera: Olympus OMD EM-5
Lens: Olympus M. Zuiko 17mm ƒ/1.8
ISO: 200
Aperture: ƒ/13
Shutter: 4″
Tripod: Yes
Filters: B+W ND x8 (Neutral Density Filter)
Post Processing: Lightroom 6

Photography Tip:

This photo was originally put in the throw away pile. Luckily I never throw away photos. Sometimes when we do a photoshoot or take some photos we are expecting certain looks. When we put things away for some time (2 years in this case) we see things with fresh eyes. It is always great to revisit old photos and see them in a different light.

What do you think? Have something to say about the photo or something to add to the tip?

Visiting Bogota Like a Local – Nightlife

Friend having a very phallic shot from Chupitos near Calle 85

Bogota is the place that I can call my second home. Having visiting Bogota more than 8 times and living there for months I have really gotten to know the city. The city has MANY things to offer, but to tell you the truth, most people only view the few things. There are somethings in Bogota that only some of the locals can tell you about. After basically becoming a local, here are some amazing places to visit.

The Nightlife

When it comes to the nightlife in Bogota, everyone will tell you to go to Andres Carne de Res in Chia. It is the tourist thing to do. The drinks are very expensive and it is filled with glam and posh environment. If you are into that kind of thing, then this place is for you. If not, instead check out some of the places below.

La villa Is probably one of the most popular places to dance, especially on tuesday nights. Why Tuesday nights? Because on Tuesday Nights is Gr!ngo Tuesday, a language exchange for locals and foreigners to practice Spanish, German, Portuguese, English, French and sometimes other languages as well. Afterwards enjoy the rumba all night like.

Gr¡ngo Tuesday in La Villa in Bogota, Colombia
Gr¡ngo Tuesday in La Villa in Bogota, Colombia

On Thursdays, La Villa offers free salsa lessons. A great way to meet people who need a partner to dance. Two for one drink specials and just people who want to have fun.

This area is known as the party central. Feel free to walk around and explore the things to do, I would suggest getting some quick shots from Shots Bar and trying the Kill Me… it killed me. Another great shot bar in the area is the crazy Chupitos.

Friend having a very phallic shot from Chupitos near Calle 85
Friend having a very phallic shot from Chupitos near Calle 85
If you want to drink all night and have a wild party check out THEATRON DE PELÍCULA, mostly a gay bar, but anyone and everyone goes. It is the largest club in Colombia with 10 dance floors and all you can drink “open bar”. More about my experience at El Theatron can be found here.

Perhaps you are more into an alternative scene? La Tora 4 brazos in Chapinero is a great tucked away scene. It plays mostly rock and alternative music but also mixes in some great dance music. Went with some expats who were English teachers and some locals. Had a great time.

Perhaps you want to see a live rock band? Check out Armando Records a great place to see live bands and open roof top area to do some dancing. It is a great place to just have fun and see local music (and big names as well.)

An area that mostly only locals go to is Galerias, where you can find places like Kandelaria Morena Bar, and a bunch more. Just walk around and pick and choose, or you can have the touts choose for you.

All of us enjoying sometime together after a meet up in Bogota Colombia
All of us enjoying sometime together after a meet up and ready to head to Galerias to dance – Bogota Colombia
If you want to avoid the crowds and hang out with the youth, head out to Universidad Santo Tomas Sede Norte, a hefty walk down the street from Galerias. This is where you can find amazing college nightlife. I myself enjoyed the local chain Colombian Pub while there, a craft brew and dance club.

Another University area that has a lot of bars and is a bit quieter is

I myself am a fan of beer and like most working Colombians, just like sitting and talking with friends. One of the most popular places for locals to go is to Bogotá Beer Company which are dotted all over Bogota. They can be found in most major malls and in Park 93 and other landmarks.

Felipe with Some New Friends and Beers - Bogota, Colombia
Felipe with Some New Friends and Beers – Bogota, Colombia
I also enjoy a more european style craft beer Tap House, a quiet environment to just enjoy your friends.

Did I leave out any amazing places? Perhaps you have some suggestions that I didn’t mention. Leave a comment below, send me a tweet on twitter, or post on my facebook. Heck even send us a message. Let me know so I can help. Subscribe to our newsletter to gain even more tips. Happy travels 🙂

Lost In Translation Colombian Style – My New Best Friend Claudia

Capture of Scene with Bill Murray and Scarlett Johanson in Lost in Translation © Focus Features

Ever seen that movie Lost In Translation? It won a Golden Globe in 2003 for best movie and Sofia Copella won an Academy Award for best Written Script for the film. If you do not know what the movie is then let me give a quick brief about it. It is about an actor, played by Bill Murray, who is doing work in Tokyo. He meets a newly married young woman, played by Scarlett Johanson, who is in Tokyo with her husband while he is working. The two are in a country where they do not speak the language and do not understand the culture. The two gain a strong bonding connection in a time and place where they both need it.

Relating to People

Why am I mentioning this movie? Well that is a good question. When people travel, we are put into an environment that we are not familiar with. We are around new people who think different, with different cultures than what we are used to and sometimes different languages than what you speak. That is why also when we travel we try to find someone who has something in common with ourselves; even only if it there is only something small in common. A perfect example would be if someone was on BART in San Francisco and notices a New Jersey accent, we would not care at all, the two are both Americans in America. But lets say you are on the Metro in Paris and that same person notices a New Jersey accent, we would recognized OHHH AMERICAN, a bond is made right away. But what happens when there is a very strong bond?

Capture of Scene with Bill Murray and Scarlett Johanson in Lost in Translation © Focus Features
Capture of Scene with Bill Murray and Scarlett Johanson in Lost in Translation © Focus Features

Meet Scarlett… err Claudia

For the past 3 months I had been staying in Colombia, a country familiar to me, but it seemed like I was out of place at times, with cultures I was not used to. Enter Scarlet Johanson… well not really. Her name was Claudia, a young Colombian born who has not lived in the country for many years. She is a bit of a stranger at times in Colombia as well.

In the movie the two main characters in the film saw each other in a elevator of a hotel where she smiled at him. Unfortunately for me there was no hotel or elevator. I saw Claudia for the first time in her cousin’s apartment where my host Felipe took me to pick up the luggage of his cousins. I couldn’t stop from smiling when I first saw her young face, amazing smile and dark hair. Oh… and her glasses, yeah I said glasses. The first thing I thought was, that would be awesome if she was joining us for our trip to my hosts family. Ironically that is what was going to happen.

Plaza In the Town of Tunja - Colombia
Plaza In the Town of Tunja – Colombia

A Trip

The next day my host Felipe and I speed our our way like nascar drivers to pick up his two cousins for a road trip to Tunja. Claudia and I got comfortable in the rear seats where the two of us could converse. A 4 hour long haul car was lost in time as the two of us discussed the beauty of art creation, the form and function of design, our amazing observations through photography, and the simplicity of zen. Time seemed to have warped in something that did not exist anymore. In my time in Bogotá, or actually through out the world, it was hard to find people who I could discuss such conversations with. Two people with a strong connection, it is rarity to find someone with so much in common. Or perhaps we were two strangers who needed each other in a time and place, like Bill and Scarlett.

Statue in Villa De Leyva - Colombia
Statue in Villa De Leyva – Colombia – A place during our Tunja Trip
Now the difference between Scarlett Johanson and Bill Murray is that they were unlikely people to become friends. One young, one older. One an actor, one who just graduated and had no clue what to do in their life. I can not say the same for Claudia and I. But the need for some connection was needed. We were in a country we knew, but did not really know. We were both in need for someone who can speak english, talk art, talk design and talk zen, something we were used to, something that was not so foreign to either of us.

An observation

In Tunja I got observe Claudia from a distance as she spent time with her family (the aunt of my host, Felipe, who was staying one house over). I observed the constant smile on her face. The way she got excited when someone had something to share with her. The persistent hugging that was happening with everyone around her. She was a genuine happy person.

Get to Know Bogota and Claudia

After Tunja Felipe and I made our way back to Bogotá. Less than a week later Claudia and her brother made their way back to Bogotá. This time I got to spend more time with Claudia, including an eventful paintball that caused a bruised and scarring incident (probably for life). An amazing time taking photos through out Bogotá’s sites. Shopping for nicknacks and finding wonderfully handmade items as gifts in Pasaje Rivas. Enjoying time eating some amazing vegan food and restaurants in Chapinero. As well as moving to the music of salsa all night long in the clubs in Galerias.

Doorway to a shop in Pasaje Rivas, Bogota, Colombia
Doorway to a shop in Pasaje Rivas, Bogota, Colombia
It was nice to have someone to explore Bogotá with. Someone who could explore it with me, with no knowledge and just having a fun time seeing where the day took us. I got to experience Claudia’s constant large smile that showed her grinning teeth and made me show my yellowish-white teeth to the world. And I got the enjoy the hugs that I got previously observe from afar. The hugs that filled me with warmth and made feel more alive. It made me realize how important hugs are in life.

It All Ends

The last day of Claudia and her brother came. It was time to see them off. I thank them both for the time spent with them. I wish I had whispered some sagely advice into Claudia’s ear the same way Bill Murray did to Scarlett Johanson. Instead a kiss on the top of the head (she liked that) and a thank you.

It was a great connection. A strong one, or was it just because we both needed someone to feel comfortable in a strange land to the both of us? Maybe that is all great bonds and connections are?

Have you ever had that strong of a connection? Have any questions? Leave a comment below, send me a tweet on twitter, or post on my facebook. Heck even send us a message. Let me know so I can help. Happy travels :)

Tip: How To Photograph A Parade – From a Travel Photographer

A mask during the Butter & Eggs Festival in Petaluma California

Summer is coming. As spring starts to end and summer starts to begin it means it is time to enjoy the  warm sun on your face as the cool breeze blows the beads of sweat that create that cooling feeling. It is time to enjoy time with your family and just sit and relax. Relax as it you enjoy the events that will occur during the coming months. Enjoy the march and parades that will bring the family together, in either boredom or just a closeness of the kid’s excitement. It would be great to capture those moments. Here are some tips to make those moments great to look at as well.

It is parade time taken during Butter & Eggs Parade in Petaluma California
It is parade time taken during Butter & Eggs Parade in Petaluma California

The equipment:

[one_third last=”no”]

Suggested

  • Camera Suggest a DSLR
  • A long lens a 70-200mm is the most common (as long as it zooms in the way you want)
  • A medium lens (50mm or 24-70mm zoom)
  • Strobe/Flash
  • Circular Polarizer
  • Neutral Density Filter (optional)[/one_third]

[one_third last=”yes”]

My Equipment

  • Olympus OMD E-M5 (wrong choice and I’ll explain below)
  • Panasonic 35-100mm ƒ/2.8(35mm equivalent of 70-200mm)
  • Olympus 12-40mm ƒ/2.8 (35mm equivalent of 24-80mm)
  • Olympus FL-600R Flash
  • Olympus FL-LM2 Flash/Remote
  • Circular Polarizer
  • Neutral Density NDx8 Filter
  • Extra Battery[/one_third]

Pack light. In a parade you will move a lot and you do not want to carry to much stuff with you. A friend of mine just carries her cameras only. I have a small bag I use after switching to mirror-less.

Camera Bag 2
Camera Bag 2
Bring a decent camera, if you don’t have one do not worry. You can do the same with a point and shoot. The drawback of point and shoots and most Mirrorless cameras is they have contrast auto focusing opposed to phase shift focusing. Phase shift basically focuses based on distance vs contrast focusing which focuses on color of pixels. With phase shift it can focus on objects that are moving towards you unlock contrast focusing. This is the reason that the OMD E-M5 is not a good camera for this. That is why I had ordered a new OMD E-M1 as a second body.

Speaking of second bodies, if you do not want to switch lenses all the time, have a second body. One for your long lens for zooming in and filling the frame and one for your medium/wide lens for faster switching.

A neutral density filter helps reduce the amount of light in case of too much sun in the sky, but a cheaper circular polarizer can cut glare and heighten the color of your shots.

 

4H girl during Butter & Eggs Parade in Petaluma, California
4H girl during Butter & Eggs Parade in Petaluma, California – This photo would be blown out with the whites w/o a ND filter
With all the sun around there are going to be a lot of shadows casted. It is best to take a flash to fill in those shadows with light. I know it seems weird to use a flash during a day shot, but trust me you will not regret it. I brought one that I can set up as a remote in case I need a flash other than in front of me.

Beautiful Cumbia Dancer of Carnaval Barranquilla - Colombia
Beautiful Cumbia Dancer of Carnaval Barranquilla – Colombia – Flash was used to reduce the shadow on the face.

The first tip Get There Early.

Getting there early is important for many reasons. No one likes getting there and realizing there is  crowd of people standing in front of your shot. One of the main reasons is to get a good spot. If you do not have the luxury of a press pass the spots will all be taken when you arrive as the parade is starting. If you get there early you an have a pick of the places to set up and shoot.

It would be great to take some shots of people setting up. The people who set up the event behind the scenes are just as important as the people who are in the parade. It is great to show homage to those who put the handwork in. Take photos of the people who helped make the parade happen.

One of the Cutest Little Chicks During Butter & Eggs parade in Petaluma California
One of the Cutest Little Chicks During Butter & Eggs parade in Petaluma California – This happens BEFORE the Parade
Getting there early also allows you to take more friendly shots of some of the parade. As people talk and pose for photos, it is a different feel than what happens during the actual parade.

Men In Dresses to Mourn during the Final Day of Barranquilla's Carnaval
Men In Dresses to Mourn during the Final Day of Barranquilla’s Carnaval – If I didn’t get there early I would have missed this shot

Techniques

Keep your back to the sun

One of the drawbacks about parades that is against my suggestion for shooting a city in a day, is that they are usually held when the sun is high in the sky. This will cause a lot of shadows in the sky. The best thing to do is to keep your back to the sun. This will reduce the amount of shadows that will be casted on the faces of the paraders. If you can not have the sun to your back, move or have the sun 3/4s of the subject. This will allow you to sculpt their face with the shadows a bit more, it is an artistic move. Use a fill flash if need be as well.

Petaluma High Marching Band during Butter & Eggs Festival in Petaluma California
Petaluma High Marching Band during Butter & Eggs Festival in Petaluma California – With back to sun little shadows appear

Use Auto Focus

I am usually a fan of manual focus, but for parades, the action happens too fast. This is where auto-focus comes in play. It is important to be using the correct auto-focus setting. If you are using a mirror-less or Point and shoot they usually have an AF-Tracking feature. This allows you to track a moving object. If you are using a DSLR w/o AF-Tracking use the AF-C Servo. This allows the lens to constantly focus on a moving object. A badly focused good picture is the worst thing to have.

 Canadian Storm Trooper - Canada
Canadian Storm Trooper – Canada Day Parade – Auto Focus allowed this shot to occur

Notice Rhythms

One of the thing about parades is that the people in the parade will do the same actions over and over again. Notice this rhythm, this will allow of anticipation of what will happen next so that a perfectly timed photo can occur.

Performer at Barranquilla's Carnaval - Colombia
Performer at Barranquilla’s Carnaval – Colombia – Noticing the timing allowed this shot to happen

Take a photo of the crowd

It is great to show the reaction of the crowd as they are having fun. Nothing shows how fun the parade is like a smiling or excited audience.

A mask during the Butter & Eggs Festival in Petaluma California
A mask during the Butter & Eggs Festival in Petaluma California – Take photos of texture to tell more of a story

Have any extra tips to give? I know there are some out there I did not mention. Have any questions about the tips given? Feel free to ask. Leave a comment below, send me a tweet on twitter, or post on my facebook. Heck even send us a message. Let me know so I can help. Happy travels :)

Why I Might Not Use CouchSurfing Again – Meet My New Brother Felipe

Plaza In the Town of Tunja - Colombia

“Couchsurfing? No, I don’t thnk I will use that” I hear that a lot. And for a good reason. It is hard to want to trust a stranger to your home, or a trust a stranger you have never meet and stay with them for a time. How do you know they won’t do something bad or steal your items? Couchsurfing can be very scary. I can tell you that after my first time using Couchsurfing I don’t want to use it again.

What is Couchsurfing?

What is Couchsurfing? Well, it is a website designed to meet people around the world. It has groups where you can discuss with people with similar interests online. It has events where you can meet up with people that share you desires and interests. But the most powerful part is that people can open up their house/room/couch to a stranger and show them their life and culture and in return learn more about someone else’s life and culture.

My First Experience

I have always feared using Couchsurfing, it just did not seem like the right thing for me. But I was running out of money while staying in Bogota. I needed a place to stay, but even more so I did not want to stay in a hostel as I would be around other travelers rather than a local. My friend mentioned how much fun she had meeting and hosting people through Couchsurfing and that I should give it a try. I also have another friend who happens to be ambassador for her region and I hear the great stories she has of people she has hosted. With all these positive things people had to say about Couchsurfing it was time for me to dive right on in, eyes closed, unaware what might happen.

Finding Someone

After scouring through mounds and mounds of profiles I submitted a request to 5 different people who seemed like they were interesting people. One really stood out, he did not have a lot of references, just one… the thing that is said about this person “He is always smiling”. That was the person I wanted to stay with and learn more about. His name Felipe.

Felipe with Some New Friends and Beers - Bogota, Colombia
Felipe with Some New Friends and Beers – Bogota, Colombia

The Rejection and Acceptance

One by one each person proceeded to tell me that they did not have space available, were out of town, and one by one my heart started to sink and feel heavy. The pound of my heart could be felt as my disappointment set. Four people had said they were not available for host me at the time for the three week period. Felipe was the last person on my list. His response finally came with and I started to read it, my heart started to sink a bit more. The words “I do not have a room available…” were the first set of words I saw. At that point I did not want to read on. I was glad that I did though. The email continued “…until Monday, where I have a guest who is already staying with me.” I had accepted his invitation and so I booked a place to stay for the 5 days wait after I landed in Bogotá, Colombia.

Day 1

After those eventful filled five days we meet in the region of Suba in Bogota, an area I was used to as I had stayed there 2 years before. In my email requesting a place to stay I had mentioned that I was an excellent cook and enjoyed cooking. For the first night, I wanted to prove what I had said. We headed to the store and picked up the ingredients needed to create an Indian curry and combined the ingredients to create a steaming hot turmeric stained food that is very common in Inida. As we ate, we had some beers and moved our mouths and tongues as we conversed all night long. I don’t remember what our conversation was about, but it must have been a good conversation as we did not get some sleep until almost 1 am. It was starting to become a good connection. The connection kept getting stronger and stronger over the next few days, especially when the weekend came. How so you ask?

Felipe and His Loving Sister in Villa De Leyva  - Colombia
Felipe and His Loving Sister in Villa De Leyva – Colombia

The Family

That next weekend we headed to Tunja where I was taken in as family. First we meet up with his cousins, two Colombians who lived in Brazil. The two were also on the same route, we shared a car ride with them. The car ride was a bonding experience with his family.

As I arrived to a square house on the corner of an intersection of Tunja I was given a room to stay. I got to meet his sisters and felt like I was starting of become part of the family. We had lunch, a vegan meal, which was fantastic since I am a vegetarian. I got to converse with his sisters as well as his father, who spoke very little English. I was shown around the town of Tunja personally by his father and I got take part of family activities. It was like I was having another family in a different land than my own. And from this I was learning what it meant to be in a Colombian family. We headed back to Bogotá and I thanked Felipe for the wonderful weekend.

Our Time

While in Bogotá I got introduce Felipe of what I know of Bogotá from the 6 times I have visited. We got to know the nightlife of Bogotá as it was now the week of my birthday. A week hard to remember and hard to forget. It was basically partying just about every night, not one night ending before 2 am. It made it hard for me to do my work, but the memories made (if I could remember them), were amazing. We both had a great time meeting new friends.

Felipe and I In the Plaza in Tunha
Felipe and I In the Plaza in Tunha

Why I Don’t Want To Use Couch Surfing Again

Felipe called me his brother, and I considered him to be my brother. And because of this experience, I may never want to do Couch Surfing again. It will be impossible to try to out do this experience. I can’t imagine a better host and a better connection than what I had for three weeks. It is hard to imagine that Couch Surfing can better than this experience. I fear that it can’t get any better than my time with Felipe. I meet a new a family member that I never knew I had and a strong connection to his family. I learned a lot from Felipe, and what it really means to be in a family. It is hard to forget what I learned in those three weeks (especially never to take a shot called Kill Me). I want to reach this article out to him and say thank you. I also want to thank Couch Surfing for making this happen.

Who knows, perhaps someday I will Couch Surf again, but that person has to be very special, or perhaps I will leap blindly like I did the first time using Couch Surfing. It is hard to get past that fear.

What do you think of CouchSurfing? Tell us Perhaps you have questions? We want to hear those stories. Leave a comment below, send me a tweet on twitter, or post on my facebook. Heck even send us a message. Let me know so I can help. Happy travels :)

Booze Drugs and Transvestites in Bogota & Theatron

Courtesty of Theatron De Pelicula

“Do you know of Theatron?” My young friend with a red long hair, short body and cute freckles asked me. “No I do not know it” was my responded back to her with a smile on face. “Let us go tonight…” she says with a grin on her face. “…Oh it is a gay bar.” Now being from Northern California, I am very used to gay bars, I have visited a few, but this place, Theatron, puts any bar, gay or not, to shame that I have been to. So how did the night go? Well it was a doozy, it is a story that is worth telling.

The Story Begins

So we go to my young friends place where she lives with 2 gay men. We prepare for the night as the everyone, except myself, make themselves pretty. We jump into the car and head out to Theatron. The cover into Theatron is 35.000 pesos ($17 USD). Kind of pricey I must admit, but there is a perk to this 35.000 peso cover, you get a cup. A cup you ask? Yes it is a nice green tumbler that is small and fits in the palm of your hand nicely. And this cup allows you to drink all night until 2 am at the open bars. Yes, all you can drink.

Courtesty of Theatron De Pelicula
Courtesty of Theatron De Pelicula

It’s Huge

As we enter the place we walk up some stairs, and then more stairs, and then some more, until we find a place that is a courtyard. This place is huge. This courtyard reminds me of high school or a college courtyard filled with many people socializing in their groups. Here is where we conversed, socialized, drank and smoked (I don’t smoke). I meet a group of Gay men that I would be hanging out with for the night. One of them asked if I have seen the view from the top. I responded with a no so we went up even more. The top bar is an open area with a gorgeous view of Bogotá where you can see the lights of Bogotá and spin to see the mountains on the other side of the open area.
The next step was to walk through the 10 different discos that Theatron has. Yes you heard me 10 different discos. If you don’t like a song… walk to a different room. This place is one of the largest clubs in Colombia, and now I know why. This here is the other perk to the 35.000 peso cover, the many choices of music to choose from. From Industrial, to pop, to House to Latin dance. The place has it all.
We finally found ourselves in the main disco hall. It is large room with rays of lights that a flare through out the room and large videos on play on the jumbo television screen on the wall. This is the area where they hold most of the events as well. Here we meet with some transvestite friends. We dance the night the way as we start making our way from room too room again.

Courtesty of Theatron De Pelicula
Courtesty of Theatron De Pelicula

The After Party

It gets late and my cute, short redheaded friend and I go back to her place to just chat the night away, this also includes a bottle of aguardiente. Aguardiente is a liquor that is exclusive to Colombia. It is strong. We drink a bottle as my young pretty friend’s room mates come back. With some friends with friends of course, most of which are the transvestites we meet earlier in the evening.
At this point the after party starts really happening. We dance, we sing we drink a second bottle of aguardiente. And then some one offers me some cocaine. I kindly decline as the party keeps going. My eyes are getting to feel like they have anvils attached to them. At this point I pass out on my friend’s bed. The sun is up and my friend’s room mates land my friend into her bed, she is really passed out. We sleep more until I realize it is almost 2pm. It is time for me leave. At this point I am wondering if my friend had as great of a night as I did. This was a night that will stick in my head for a long time.

Ever have a crazy party or night this? Ever have a crazy travel involving such things? Tell us Perhaps you have questions? We want to hear those stories. Leave a comment below, send me a tweet on twitter, or post on my facebook. Heck even send us a message. Let me know so I can help. Happy travels :)

To Meet Cali, Colombia, Meet Sandra

Ermita Church - Cali, Colombia

Cali, a center of dance, a whole lot of dance. When I say dance, it seems like everyone in Cali moves their hips as if they needed to survive. Cali also has it’s place of history and amazing sites to understand. An old city with a lot of stories to offer from the cartel to salsa musical stars. But to really get to know Cali you really need to get to know Sandra. Who is Sandra you ask?

Who is Sandra?

Sandra happens to be a girl I meet in Cali, a 28 yr old young lady who can salsa dance as if her Cali blood calls for it and also studied Industrial Engineering. Her experiences being in the areas of production, quality, logistics and management of interdisciplinary projects aimed at improving and redesigning processes, pharmaceutical companies, agrochemical, mechanical and computer metal. Why I am telling you this? Sounds boring doesn’t it? Well, after some time it did to Sandra as well, and started following her passion instead.

Sandra (In Blue Shirt) With A Group Of Tourists
Sandra (In Blue Shirt) With A Group Of Tourists

Her Story

In 2011 Sandra went to Europe, using the platform Couchsurfing she wandered place to place being hosted by locals who showed her their hometown with much gratitude. When Sandra returned to Cali a year later in December 2012 she felt inspired by the people who helped her in Europe. She wanted to pay back those who helped her and hosted people through Couchsurfing. In doing so she started to show off they city of Cali so that she can have the visitors understand more about her home city.

San Francisco Church - Cali Colombia
San Francisco Church – Cali Colombia
With the help of her cousin, Camila, she was able to get together a couple of statues, bridges, churches and buildings as well as intricate stories to go with them. Since she had no access to a car, the only way to make this tour of places of history possible was do it all on foot. With all the planning going on, both Sandra and Camila found that what they were doing could be benefit more than just tourists but also locals to recognize the public spaces of Cali.

Colombia Walking Tours is Born

The two noticed that this could become a business to benefit all and for 4 months a business plan was put together to create walking tours. In June 2013 the business Colombia Walking Tours was born. The tours are built to both accommodate English speaking tourists and Spanish speaking locals.

Boy Getting a Letter In Poetry Park - Cali Colombia
Boy Getting a Letter In Poetry Park – Cali Colombia

My Experience

I had the pleasure to enjoy some time with Sandra as she gave me and a group from around the world a free tour of her city. Every Monday and Friday is a free tour of Cali where a local shows off their city. It starts at 4:00pm and lasts for 2 1/2 hours where Sandra and her partners help you understand why they love their city so much. It all starts at Ermita Church, a grand church that is gorgeous to look at. And from there we explored the historical areas of the downtown.

After all the tour was done Sandra invited us all to Topa Tolondra, a small salsa bar where they had a language exchange where gringos could practice their Spanish and Colombians can practice their English (or other languages). After all was said and done, we got to dance some salsa, where I learned that Sandra is an excellent salsa dancer.

Interexchange of Languages at Topa Tolondra Salsa Club - Cali Colombia
Interexchange of Languages at Topa Tolondra Salsa Club – Cali Colombia
I had a lot of fun in Cali, thanks to the service and passion that Sandra and Colombia Walking tours had to offer. Colombia Walking offers different tours and more can be found on their website:

Monday and Friday, The free tour through the historic center of Cali : Includes La Ermita, the Poets Park , Teatro Jorge Isaacs, CAM , Caicedo Square , San Francisco , Municipal Theatre, among others.
Duration: 2.5 hrs.
 
Tuesday Tour ” The Sports Tour” ​​: Includes Alameda Park, San Fernando Rey Church , Apple of Knowledge, Dog Park , Park of Flags , Unit , among others.
Duration: 3 hrs.
Price : $ 15,000 COP per person – Includes ” Cholado ” .
 
Thursday Tour ” The Salsa Tour : Includes 5 clubs , salsa class, welcome drink two of them a beer and entrance to “Tin Tin Deo Disco ” .
Duration: 2.5 hrs.
Price : $ 40,000 COP per person.
 
Saturday and Wednesday Tour ” The Cultural Tour ” : Includes Monument Jovita , Loma de la Cruz, San Antonio, Sebastian Belalcazar , Museo La Tertulia , Cat Tejada , among others.
Duration: 3 hrs.
Price : $ 15,000 COP per person – Includes ” Champus ” .
 
Moreover, currently Colombia Walking Tours also offers services in vehicle to some companies, and private who prefer to tour.
 

Have some questions about Cali? Ever meet some amazing people with a great passion? Perhaps you have questions? Leave a comment below, send me a tweet on twitter, or post on my facebook. Heck even send us a message. Let me know so I can help. Happy travels :)

Welcome to Estereo Picnic Festival in Bogota

What the heck is an Estereo Picnic? Yeah that the is the same thing that I asked a few years ago when I was invited to go. A year ago my loved one and I had a birthday that we wanted to share with each other. Since my significant other was a huge fan of music she suggested the 3 day festival held in bogota known as Estereo Picnic. This festival is one of the largest modern day musical festivals held in Bogota after Rockn in the Park.

Like I mentioned in 2013 I had the privilege to enjoy entrancing music of Crystal Castles and Steve Aioki, as well as rocked out to Two Door Cinema Club and The Killers. In 2014 I get to cover the event with amazing bands like NIN, Red Hot Chili Peppers ,Tiesto and much much more. To find out more check out Estereo Picnic’s official site

How I Saved Money During Peak Travel – Carnaval Barranquilla

Beach and Cabanas of Puerto Colombia - Barranquilla, Colombia

$4000 for place to stay? Are you kidding me? One-way ticket for $400? But it’s only an hour flight. The costs while traveling during the peak period can be insane. That is why before I told you the best way to save on flights and hotels was to travel during non peak periods. But, sometimes you have to. Perhaps it’s for a Family reunion, an important occasion or you just want fun. For me, it is visiting Barranquilla during Carnaval. It is the busiest and craziest four days that Barranquilla will see for the whole entire year. It is a giant festival very similar to New Orlean’s Mardi Gras. It starts the Saturday before Ash Wednesday and goes on for 4 days. You guessed it, it is the biggest days for travel and tourism for Barranquilla, and you know what that means…. more expensive prices. Here are some ways I beat the peak travel period. I looked into alternative travel destinations and alternative places to stay.

Check Flights/Buses

I started checking out flights for a one way ticket from Bogota to Barranquilla, which were starting about $380. $380? To me that seems like a lot of money. Especially for place like Colombia. So the next up was to look for other modes of transportation. So I looked into traveling by bus. Buses were not a bad price range anywhere from $30 to $45. This was a much cheaper route. The biggest drawback was that bus ride was about 20 hours long. That was not the ideal way I want to spend my time.

Check Nearby Cities

With buses off the table it was time to look into a different thinking behind my transportation. So I look for nearby cities. I first look for Santa Marta, the city about two hours away from Barranquilla. Flights were looking a lot cheaper at about $180. So I figured maybe I can get it even cheaper. What I did was look for a flight that might A couple days or so earlier than start date of Carnaval. Low and behold a cheaper price, a flight was now about $130.

Cerveza, beach and sun - Santa Marta, Colombia
Cerveza, beach and sun – Santa Marta, Colombia
Santa Marta is not a very popular city. This does not make it and desired destination for discounts and promotions. Next up was to go look for more popular city. Where was my next place to look for cheap tickets? Probably one of the most popular places in Colombia and yet still close to Barranquilla. You’ve got it, Cartagena.

Cartagena‘s flight prices started about $130 for one-way trip. Now time to look for a flight a couple days earlier the price lowered down to about $90. Not bad for a one-way trip. So I booked it.

Vines and colors everywhere Cartagena
Vines and colors everywhere Cartagena

Finding a Place To Stay

The next expense as always the most expensive expense is always a place to stay. So that’s what I did, I looked for a place to stay. So where can I start first? As I mentioned before hotels are not the best way to go, but this time I did check. You see a lot of times hotels will offer promotional discounts during peak periods. But, because I was checking so late, 2 1/2 weeks before the event, most places were already booked up. At this point the only places that were available were high end 5 star hotels that had a starting price of $250 and up for tonight. That was going to put me at a lot of money to spend for a week. My price for a week of stay was putting me at $1800 minimum to stay. That was more than double of what I spent in one month living in Bogota. So next up was to check out AirBnB or Wimdu and others similar. What I was finding was the same issue. Most places were really booked up, And the only ones left the place is charging an extreme amount of money as much as $300 a night.

Check Nearby Cities

So, What did I do? I remember talking to somebody and Bogota, Someone I met at a conversation club. She mentioned that she was from Barranquilla, And gave me some interesting place to check out when visiting her hometown. One of the places she mentioned was a place called Puerto Colombia. Puerto Colombia is the city next to Barranquilla, a small “fishing village” and vacation home area. My next search was finding a place to stay in Puerto Colombia. Low and behold, cheaper prices. I was able to find a place to stay for as low as $35 a night right on a beautiful coast (found through Airbnb). This was a great contrast to most places being $90 a night and up. I booked the place.

Place In Puerto Colombia
Place In Puerto Colombia

Use Family and Friends

Another great way to save money is to stay with friends and family in the area. In the past I have done this many times. I have stayed with “family” in Kashmir, Philippines and other places of the world and this was not going to be an option this time, kind of. The friend meet at the Conversation club mentioned her family had a room open (her old room) and would be able to take me in. The biggest shame is that I had already booked my place in Puerto Colombia and the place was non refundable. Low and behold, a great option for saving money. I had to decline but let my friend know I would love to meet her family.

Beach and Cabanas of Puerto Colombia - Barranquilla, Colombia
Beach and Cabanas of Puerto Colombia – Barranquilla, Colombia

Drawbacks?

Yes there are some drawbacks. One of the largest drawbacks is that I had to spend more time traveling. The flight from Bogota to Cartagena was 1 1/2 hours, and then had to take a bus/van to Puerto Colombia, another 1 1/2 hour drive. Made the trip longer, but not as long as 20 hour bus ride.

Getting Home Late

The other drawback is that Puerto Colombia is 20 minute drive from Barranquilla. This means it takes awhile to get back and forth. That means late nights out are going to be harder. Taxis raise the price during the night and for the distance. I was paying 40.000 pesos ($20) a hefty fee to get back to my place. It made the price unbearable to come back home late night. The solution, get home earlier, just after the sunsets and take a bus. 2.100 pesos is a lot cheaper than 40.000 pesos.

Breakdown? Book earlier if you are going to a popular destination during peak travel. You can take advantage of special promotions. If you were late like I was, check out nearby cities to fly to and stay at. It is a great way to save money. And lean on your friends and family. They ware a great resource for helping you save money.

What do you think? Would you try the way I just did? Have you been to Carnaval and saved money? Do you have questions? Leave a comment below, send me a tweet on twitter, or post on my facebook. Heck even send us a message. Let me know so I can help. Happy travels 🙂

The Coffee Region of Colombia… Kind of

Termales in Santa Rosa de Cabal - Colombia - iPhone 5s

Coffee country. Yes, that was my plan when traveling to Colombia. Pereira was supposed to be my central hub for the coffee region of Colombia. After exploring Pereira and it’s food and night life it was time to explore the rest of the coffee region. That meant visiting coffee farms right? Well, that was the plan. But unfortunately it did not happen that way. Instead I got to meet some amazing people I enjoy some amazing views in some small villages.

One the amazing views was of Santa Rosa de Cabal. And now I understand why many people told me to visit this place in my previous visits to Colombia. Santa Rosa de Cabal is a small little village where you can just relax. The village has nice cobbled streets, places to just eat and small gift shops. That is not the real reason why everyone goes to Santa Rosa de Cabal. Everyone goes there for los termales. Los Termales is a hot springs and beautiful waterfall. Set amongst the mountains you can take a taxi or trip us to los termales just outside of Santa Rosa de cabal. It takes about 10 to 15 minutes by taxi from the main central hub of Santa Rosa de Cabal.

Termales in Santa Rosa de Cabal - Colombia - iPhone 5s
Termales in Santa Rosa de Cabal – Colombia – iPhone 5s

When you get to most los tamales, the entrance fee is 10,000 pesos for children and 20,000 pesos for adults. The termales is a cross between a nature park and a beautiful warm Springs where you can take a dip in. For anyone who just wants to relax, Santa Rosa de Cabal, and los termales are an amazing place to visit.

After returning from Santa Rosa de cabal it was time to check out of my hotel and to the next hotel which was going to be closer to all the nightlife in the city. The hotel was actually an apartment with the name of Monterosa Apartment Hotel. It was one block away from Circunvalar, which is the street where all the nightlife and food happens to be.

Monterosa has a beautiful has beautiful decour. It was very spacious provided me with the kitchen bathroom and a huge loft. The room I had was called a Penthouse room. It was not expensive as well. For the price of a four or five star Hotel in Colombia I was getting a full apartment but the service of a hotel.

Panoramic of my Apartement Loft  at Monterosa Hotel Apartments
Panoramic of my Apartement Loft at Monterosa Hotel Apartments

The Service here was good. On our way out they checked with us every time to see if we needed a taxi. I just wish they would remember which apartment I was staying in every time. Because they never remember which key was mine. The apartment could use some work, granted it was beautiful. The bathroom was small and the water heater worked for a small amount a time, just enough for a short shower. There were no hangers in the closet for me to hang my items. Lastly there was no clock at all anywhere inside the apartment. These are small problems but enough to make me think about.

Who what I recommend hotel Monterrosa to? Well since the location is perfect I would recommend it for anyone who happens to be single, Were looking for the night life in that area. Check out more information on their website.

That day I slept to prepare myself for the next day in Armenia. Where is Armenia? No it’s not the country. Many as a city an hour south of that area. I was going to Armenia to meet a friend. I have no expectations of what we would do. The first thing we did was grab something to eat in downtown. We have pasta, I later found out my friend could not have. That is fine I could not eat it either. The environment of the place was very nice. It was a very café looking place. Unfortunately I do not remember the name of the place we ate. After our meal, or lack of, we went walking through downtown. Downtown is filled with many stores that you can buy lots of different things. This is not uncommon for many downtown areas in Colombia. We shop for some shoes. The reason? Well my friend how amazingly beautiful looking is on, but they were tough for her to walk in. So we bought some new boots. After some shopping team is time for some coffee. We walked to Parque Bolivar where we drank some Juan Valdez Coffee. I proceeded to take some photos. My friend was camera shy.

My Shy Friend Didn't want me to take her photo -Armenia, Colombia
My Shy Friend Didn’t want me to take her photo -Armenia, Colombia
Beauty in Armenia, Colombia
Beauty in Armenia, Colombia – She allowed me to take her photo after my friend refused to allow me to take her’s

 

Afterwards what we did was wonder around the city, Just walking and walking and walking. That is one of my favorite activities. One of the places we wandered to was a park named Parque De La Vida (Park of the Life). Where we relaxed for most of the day. The place is like a botanical gardens with gorgeous views of nature and a man made lake. It is a great place to take family or a loved one.

Plant life in Parque De La Vida - Armenia, Colombia
Plant life in Parque De La Vida – Armenia, Colombia
Finally a picture of a my friend kind of - Parque de La Vida - Armenia
Finally a picture of a my friend kind of – Parque de La Vida – Armenia

After wandering around Armenia, hitting a mall and more coffee we said our goodbyes until the next day. The next day we headed to some small villages north of Armenia.

View of Cercasia from the tower  - Colombia
View of Cercasia from the tower – Colombia

The first village we hit was Circasia where we had brunch my small panderia (bakery) and downtown. I like this town it was small but not too small. Town had a lot of things for you to purchase and a nice square in the very center of town. We were here only an hour before we moved on to the next town name Salento.

Salento Church - Salento, Colombia
Salento Church – Salento, Colombia

Salento is a famous town in Colombia. More so than the coffee region. It’s a great place for people go to relax to get away from the city of area and Armenia. We wanted the town and took some pictures. We also ate lunch at a fantastic restaurant. Camino Real Parrilla and Bar was it’s name. It is also known for its nightlife. The view here was fantastic. The food here was good, not easy for a vegetarian to eat since it is a parrilla, but there are some options.

 

The View from Camino Real during lunch
The View from Camino Real during lunch

Out we walked and up we walked to EL Mirador, the view, which is a gorgeous view of the mountains in the area. It was gorgeous and very pleasant to look at. We took a quick nap here and relaxed after eating. We walked around town before leaving back to our homes.

Mirador in Salento, Colombia
Mirador in Salento, Colombia

The next few days spent in Monterosa Apartment was just work. And enjoying some good food nearby. And another trip to MELMAC for some music.

Although there were no visits to Coffee Farms, it was still fun and relaxing stay in the Coffee Region. Meeting friends and relaxing in some small villages makes a world of a difference a great vacation.

What do you think? Do you find this review helpful? Do you have anymore questions? Let me know and what you think. Leave a comment below, send me a tweet on twitter, or post on my facebook. Heck even send us a message. Let me know so I can help. Happy travels 🙂