Traveler Tidbits – First Impressions of Cali, Colombia

Cali, the salsa capital of the world and the third largest city in Colombia, is not as well-known as it’s more touristic cousins Cartagena and Bogota. While Cali may not have the sights of Bogota or the beautiful beaches of Cartagena, Cali does possess a certain energy that is colorful, gritty and full of life.   I’ve spent nearly a week in Cali already and have just begun to get a feel for what makes Cali tick. Here are my first impressions of Cali, Colombia.

Nightlife City

Nighttime is when the city of Cali comes to life. During the day, life seems to run at a slower pace in Cali, as the mostly hot sunny weather inspires people to stay inside or laze sleepily outdoors. When the cooler nighttime comes, the people of Cali come out to play. Nightlife in Cali is ruled by salsa and they don’t call Cali the salsa capital of the world for nothing. Salsa clubs and shows are abundant throughout Cali. Calenos are also social animals and during evening times you will find them gathered in the streets or out for a stroll. Cali is truly a nightlife and social city that comes to life once the sun goes down.

Cali is not the safest city….

Cali has a bit of an edge to it. Unlike Bogota, which I actually found safe, I find Cali to be a city where you do have to be extra vigilant of your surroundings and keep your valuables at home or stashed safely away. On my first day in Cali, I was in for a rude awakening when I was walking in the very trendy San Antonio neighborhood with my phone out. As I stopped to look at my phone, a man on a passing scooter reached out to try to grab it. Luckily, he was only able to tap the screen. He didn’t try to wrestle it away from me as he just continued to drive on. While the experience rattled me a bit, some Calenos saw what happened and reminded me, “Tiene cuidado!” they gently warned me (“Be careful!”). From then on I have either opted to leave my phone behind or if I do need to take it with me, I stash it away and only take it out when I am away from the street. Cali is also the first city where I do actually feel more comfortable traveling with other people. While it is perfectly safe to travel alone during the day, once the evening sets in, it’s advisable to either stick with a group or take a taxi to get where you’re going rather than walking.

Calenos are Friendly…

Despite the experience with the attempted scooter thief, I’ve found Calenos are outgoing with a friendly toughness about them. Calenos will warn you not to go down certain streets and will warn you to be careful and watch your things. When I got lost and couldn’t find my Airbnb, a street vendor witnessed my struggle as I put my key in the wrong door, and helped me find my place with no expectation of reward. Calenos exhibit the trademark Colombian warmth and will go out of their way to help you. Cali taxi drivers are also surprisingly friendly and less likely to scam you compared to the taxi drivers I dealt with in Bogota. Cali is also a very social city and it’s easy to find ways to mix and mingle with both locals and other tourists.

Cali is not a touristic city

If you are looking for world class museums and tons of tourist attractions, don’t come to Cali. Cali doesn’t have much in the way of actual tourist attractions, but what it lacks in the tourist attraction department, it makes up for in the way of experience. Come to Cali if you want to experience salsa, friendly people, and roaming different areas while taking in the colorful, lively and gritty energy of the city. Cali is a city you don’t come to sightsee, it’s a city you come to experience.

Traveler Tidbits – 7 Foods and Drinks You Must Try While in Bogota, Colombia

Colombian food may not be as well-known in the States as Mexican food, but Colombian food, which is a blend of Spanish, Caribbean and indigenous cultures is hearty and delicious. If you find yourself in Bogota, Colombia one of the best parts will be sampling all the different types of foods. Here are my top seven foods and drinks you need to try if you’re in Bogota, Colombia.


Empanadas are like the breakfast burrito of Colombia. Empanadas can be sweet or savory and have different types of fillings. Empanadas in Colombia tend to be on the savory side and are usually filled with meat and potatoes. They are ubiquitious, cheap, and easy to eat on the go. Empanadas were my go-to-snack. Street vendors and little cafes serve them with coffee and they make a great breakfast food.

Street Corn!

Street vendors selling grilled corn can also be found all over Bogota. Street corn is delicious, as its grilled over an open fire, brushed in butter, and seasoned with garlic/lime salt. Street corn is cheap and quite filling, and it’s fun to watch the street vendors preparing it.

Un Tinto (Coffee!)

You can’t come to Bogota without trying un tinto. Un tinto is just how Colombians like their coffee – its watery and sweet. You can request your tinto to be “fuerte” if you want it to have a stronger jolt. One of the best places that serves coffee in Bogota is El Azuhar café. They brew their tinto in French presses and give you a timer. Once the timer is finished you push down on the French press and are greeted with an excellent tinto.

Colombian Tamales

Colombian tamales are nothing like Mexican tamales. For one, Colombian tamales are wrapped in plantain leaves and filled with chicken and rice. Colombian tamales are filling and warming and are commonly eaten at breakfast or lunch.

Chocolate Santafereno

The Chocolate Santafereno (Colombian hot chocolate) is why Colombians are touted as the happiest people (in my opinion). The Chocolate Santafereno is a savory hot chocolate served with buttered breads and arepas and cheese. You dunk the bread/arepa as well as the cheese in the hot chocolate. One of the best Chocolate Santafereno’s can be found at La Puerta Falas, Bogota’s oldest restaurant located in La Candelaria district.


Ajicao is a specialty dish of Bogota and one you can’t miss. Ajicao is a stew with potatoes, corn, and chicken and a special herb called guasca. The stew is perfect for one of Bogota’s chilly days and its really filling. There are several places around the city to get Ajicao. I had excellent Ajicao at a restaurant called Club Colombia, which is located in the Northern part of Bogota.


Arepas are like the tortillas of Colombia and you can find them everywhere. Arepas are made of ground maize and can be eaten with anything. Many arepas have fillings such as cheese and eggs and have ample butter on top. Arepas can be found at many street vendors and they are a cheap and easy eat.

Traveler Tidbits – 5 Things to Do in Bogota, Colombia

Bogota has quickly won over my heart with its friendly people, natural beauty, and tons of cultural activities. Bogota is so much more than its troubled and violent past, today Bogota is a great tourist destination and is much safer than it was even a couple of years ago. Bogota is a modern city with tons of things to discover. Whether you have a couple days or more, here are my recommendations on what to see and do in Bogota, Colombia.

Spend a day roaming La Candelaria

La Candelaria is the historic district of Bogota and it’s full of things to see and do. You could easily spend an entire day here as some of the best restaurants and attractions are all located in La Candelaria. Simon Bolivar Plaza is also located within walking distance and it’s a great place to people watch and enjoy a snack or fruit juice from one of the many street vendors. There are a couple of things in La Candelaria that you shouldn’t miss. Check out Manzana Cultural Street, where you will find tons of museums, most with free entry! One of the highlights of Manzana Cultural is the Botero Museum. Fernando Botero is one of Colombia’s well known artists, and the Botero Museum highlights many of his works. You’ll also find pieces by Dali and Picasso here. While La Candelaria is perfectly safe to roam around during the day, once it starts turning into night, its best to return to your hotel as La Candelaria turns into a ghost town at night and becomes less safe.

Visit the Museo De Oro
The Museo De Oro is one of Colombia’s most well-renowned as well as visited museums. The Museo de Oro contains more than 55,000 pieces of gold from all the major pre-Hispanic cultures in Colombia. The Museum provides descriptions in both English and Spanish and provides excellent information on metalworking and how different methods of gold casting were discovered. The Museum also provides meaning into the most common symbols used in gold works and what they signified for the tribes. The Museum also has temporary exhibits unrelated to gold that change quite often.

Take in Some Views at Cerro De Monserrate

Cerro De Monserrate offers some of the best views of Bogota and you get a chance to see just how big the city really is. The contrast between the lush green Andes and the city are a beautiful juxtaposition. To get to the top of Cerro De Monserrate you can either take a cable car (a round trip fare is 19,000 COP) or a train which will get you there sooner. You can also try hiking up to the top, but I recommend you do this in the morning. My Airbnb hosts as well as members of a Facebook Travel Group I am a part of warned not to hike up in the afternoon as there are less people and an increased chance of getting robbed. I took the cable car to the top and was greeted with beautiful views of Bogota. From the top of Cerro De Monserrate you really get to see all of Bogota. If you look to the left you are greeted with a contrasting view of beautiful, green mountains. There is also a church at the top of the Cerro De Monserrate that is also worth checking out, or ducking into if it’s raining. There’s also a couple of high end restaurants that serve mostly Colombian fare. Most dishes start out at 20,000 COP so it’s a bit more on the expensive side.

Take a Day Trip to the Catedral De Sal

If you are looking to take a day trip outside of Bogota, check out the Catedral De Sal – which is a cathedral located in a cavernous salt mine. To get to Catedral de Sal, just take a bus to Portal Norte. Once you get out you should see several coach size buses that say “Zipa” on them. The “Zipa” buses will take you to the town of Zipaquira, which is a town located 40 minutes outside Bogota. The Zipa buses make stops beyond Zipa, so either let the driver know that you want to get off to see the Catedral de Sal, or do what I did and use google maps to follow the bus drivers journey and get off when it looks like you are in Zipaquira. Take a left and you will end up in the main plaza. From here you will take a right and keep walking until you see a sign that says Catedral De Sal. From here you will have to go up some stairs and it will feel like you’re hiking, but once you get to the top you will see a big plaza where the Catedral de Sal. If you are a foreigner you will have to pay 50,000 COP compared to the 20,000 COP Colombians pay. The ticket price includes an obligatory tour. The tour guides will take you through the cavernous Catedral de Sal which is truly unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. There is a stations of the cross in the Catedral de Sal as well as a steep staircase with 47 stairs – if you make the upward climb it is reputed that your sins will be forgiven and you will come out purified. The Catedral de Sal is lit up with lights that illuminate the dark cave. Some might find the disco changing lights tacky, but I thought it looked really cool. Overall, the Catedral de Sal is absolutely worth the trip outside Bogota.

Enjoy the Mercado de Las Pulgas en Usaquen

If you happen to be in Bogota on a Sunday, you can enjoy two things – Bogota’s Sunday Ciclovia, where bikes and pedestrians take over the streets and you can enjoy the Mercado de La Pulgas en Usaquen. Usaquen is a colonial town that became swallowed up by sprawling Bogota and now it is the host of one of the city’s most popular flea markets. The Usaquen Flea Market does not really feel like a flea market, it feels more like a tourist market with tons of handicrafts for sale. You can find everything from colorful weaved tote bags to beaded jewelry. There are also tons of cafes and restaurants, many catered towards tourists, to check out. Spending a day in Usaquen is definitely a great way to pass a lazy Sunday.

Traveler Tidbits – First Impressions of Bogota, Colombia

When I first told people I was going to Colombia for a couple of months they usually told me some variation of, “Be safe!” as if my life depended on it. A recent terrorist attack in Bogota also raised dangerous concerns, especially for my parents. Nonetheless, I think Colombia’s reputation as a dangerous place is not entirely deserved. Yes, it has a violent history and it was once the kidnapping and murder capital of the world however things have changed drastically in the past decade and Colombia no longer holds those titles (its neighbor Venezuela is far more dangerous). Today, my first impression of Bogota is one of pleasant surprise and dare I say I think I’m already in love. Here are some of my first impressions of Bogota, Colombia.

Graffiti everywhere

My first visual impression of Bogota was graffiti, its everywhere! Some of it is artistically done and adds a colorful edge to the city’s colorless walls. Other graffiti is simply just tagging. On the taxi ride to my Air BnB colorful graffiti greeted my eyes the entire ride and it seems it doesn’t matter where you travel in the city, you can find it almost everywhere. The place I am staying at is located in Northern Bogota, which is one of the nicer suburbs of the city (it’s in Estrato 4 – Bogota has 5 estratos with 5 being the highest) and artistically done graffiti was still prominent on buildings.

The Transmillenio bus system is modern and easy to use

Unlike most major cities, Bogota does not have a metro, but it does have a very modern bus system called the Transmillenio. The Transmillenio is easy to use and even resembles a metro system with the way its set up. You enter the stations by way of a turn stall with ticket agents available to purchase tickets and provide assistance. The routes are a little complicated to understand at first, at least for me, and on my first venture I ended up taking the wrong bus and ending up in the western part of Bogota. Luckily, I asked for help and took the right bus, but still ended up getting off one stop too early. Now the next stop was nearly a 30 minute walk away. While part of me loves walking and would gladly do it in other cities, I still exercised caution and just went back and waited at the bus station to get to the correct stop. Another interesting thing about riding the bus in Bogota are the bus performers. Now, that happens in a lot of cities, but what I found interesting is how the passengers actually engage with the bus orator/performer and willingly provide money with no pressure needed. In one instance, a man came on the bus and started preaching about equality in Colombia, and then he started making individual raps about the passengers on the bus. The bus gladly engaged with him and didn’t try to avert their stares like I’ve seen happen in China, Belgium and Italy.

Colombian coffee is plentiful and cheap

Colombians do love their coffee and it is plentiful and cheap! And Colombia is also one place that Starbucks has mostly left untouched. There are a few Starbucks here, but nowhere near as prolific as other countries I’ve traveled to. When I lived in Shanghai, coffee was actually harder to come by (unless you lived near the main tourist areas) and it was overpriced and usually not the best quality. Here, I had un tinto (black coffee) for under a dollar at a café located in the Candelaria district that had a hipster vibe/tourist vibe. The quality of the coffee was excellent and as a coffee lover it’s a dream come true to always have access to quality coffee at inexpensive prices.

Bogota is chillier than I expected…

When you think of Colombia you probably think of tropical temperatures and I surely felt that way when I arrived in Barranquilla for my layover, it was hot! But Colombia is full of micro-climates and Bogota is known for being quite chilly. They say Bogota has fall year-round and I found this to be true after wearing a skirt and seeing that most of the Bogota women had wisely chose to wear pants (a lot of skin-tight pants, but still a wise choice nonetheless).  It also rains often in Bogota so bring an umbrella just in case.

Bogota is safer than I thought it would be…
I admit, everyone’s concerns did raise some worries in my mind but if we’re being honest, is there anywhere in the world that is 100% safe? No matter where you go, you do have to use some common sense and that applies here in Bogota. While I have adjusted some ways I conduct life, I am not fearful at all, even as a solo woman traveler. I don’t listen to music or podcasts while strolling or on the bus. I make sure to follow my gut and avoid going down streets with men who appear drunk. I keep my purse in front of me at all times and have it zipped. And I do my best to avoid looking like a tourist (which is easy for me since I’m of Latina descent). As the Colombians like to say, don’t “dar un papaya,” literal translation means to give a papaya, but the figurative meaning is don’t give people an opportunity to take advantage of you. I have actually felt safer here than I thought and I am planning to just keep being mindful of my surroundings so I don’t “dar un papaya.” There are also a lot of police officers stationed in the city, in the popular Candelaria district there were tons of police posted at every block. While I won’t go roaming around at night by myself, I do feel safer than I thought.

Traveler Tidbits – Staying Healthy While Traveling

Travel can be stressful whether you’re trying to make it through airport security or trying to make it to your hotel in one piece. Lets not forget all the germs you’re exposed to while traveling, whether on a plane, train, or bus. As a traveler I’ve my fair share of run-in’s with getting sick. In Belgium I was knocked out with a fever and sinus infection for two days. In China I was hit with bronchitis and pink eye at the same time. In Amsterdam I was sucker punched with a fever and the norovirus. While getting sick sometimes can’t be avoided while traveling since you’re being exposed to new places, foods, and germs, there are some ways you can prevent yourself from getting sick. Here are some tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way.

Take Zinc 

EZ Melts Zinc, 30 mg, Fast Melting Tablets, All Natural Blueberry Flavor, Immune Health Chewable Vitamin Supplement

Zinc has been an absolute life-saver for me. I probably would have gotten sick a lot more often on my travels if I hadn’t taken zinc. I take zinc at the first sign of a sore throat or runny nose and 98% of the time it has stopped whatever nasty germs have been germinating in their tracks. When I was a teacher in China and exposed to kid germs on a regular basis, I would always take zinc if I was around a kid who was really sick and it honestly protected me from catching whatever cold/flu bug they were carrying.

Use Essential Oils

Best Blends Set of 6 100% Pure, Best Therapeutic Grade Essential Oil – 6/10mL (Breathe, Good Night, Head Ease, Muscle Relief, Stress Relief, and Health Shield)

Essential oils are a must have for any traveler. They are portable and potent, packing quite a punch to keep you safe from germs. They also serve as gentle and effective remedies if you do find yourself sick or dealing with any cuts or scrapes. In Belgium, I used lavender oil and warm compresses to help treat a stye on my eye. I have also used tea tree oil to help disinfect small cuts and scrapes. Eucalyptus and peppermint are also effective decongestants. You can also use them for their relaxing properties, which reduce stress and keep your immune system ready for battle. There are so many uses for essential oils and they are portable and natural. Be sure to read the safety labels on essential oils as some are not safe for pregnant women, and always dilute essential oils in a carrier oil like almond or grape seed oil.

Eat or Take Garlic Supplements

Sundown Naturals Garlic 1000 mg, 250 Odorless Softgels

Garlic does more than protect you from vampires, it also protects you from potent germs. I love garlic so I don’t mind eating foods with garlic, or buying fresh cloves of garlic to eat (yes I actually like garlic enough to eat it raw). If you don’t care for garlic, then I highly recommend taking a garlic supplement. Garlic can help prevent you from getting sick and can also help reduce the time you are sick if you do get struck down by germs. Whenever I have felt sick, I have eaten tons of garlic and found that I was better in a day.

Drink Loads of Green Tea

Twinnings Green Tea, 1.48 Ounce Box 20 individual tea bags with 1 sample tea bag

Green tea is full of antioxidants and is great for your overall  health. Green tea boosts immune system function and its so easy to take with you on your travels. It’s also good to drink when you find yourself feeling sick, as its a warm and comforting beverage. Like garlic, it can also reduce the time you’re sick if you drink a lot of it. One of my other tips when I find myself getting sick is to drink tons of green tea and go to sleep. The next day I usually feel much better.

Take Peppermint Oil for Stomach Upsets 

Heather’s Tummy Tamers Peppermint Oil Capsules (90 per bottle) for IBS

Stomach troubles are bound to happen when you’re traveling, especially if you’re traveling to exotic locales with rich foods. Whenever I’ve felt my stomach start to feel upset I’ve taken peppermint, either peppermint tea, mints, or peppermint flavored gum. Peppermint oil capsules are also a great choice because they are portable and travel friendly. Peppermint usually offers stomach relief almost immediately. So whether you take it by capsule, tea, or mint, keep peppermint handy at all times.

Traveler Tidbits – Five Things to Do in San Diego, California

San Diego is without question my favorite city in California. San Diego has it all – beautiful scenery, friendly people, and a laidback attitude. With all the amazing things to see and do it’s the perfect city to visit for a get-away. In fact there’s so much to do it can be tough to pack it all in if you’re planning on visiting for a couple days. Nonetheless, here are my top five recommendations on what to see and do if you have a couple of days to spare in San Diego.

Visit Sea World

I know there was a lot of backlash against Sea World with the release of the documentary “Black Fin,” however Sea World has done a lot to revamp its image and its efforts do support conservancy efforts. Sea World has tons to see and do, and it’s just as fun for adults as it is for kids. One of my favorite parts of visiting Sea World were the interactive exhibits where you can pet sting rays and bamboo sharks (don’t worry they’re harmless!). The dolphin show is also worth a viewing as it showcases the intelligence of these beautiful creatures. Sea World definitely was a highlight of my most recent visit and I highly recommend it for adults and kids alike.

Balboa Park

Balboa Park is often referred to as the “Smithsonian of the West” for its impressive collection of museums. Balboa Park is home to 17 museums including art, science and aviation museums. Balboa Park also houses beautiful gardens including an enclosed botanical conservatory which has been around since 1915. You can spend an entire day in Balboa Park and not even scratch the surface, there’s so much to see in this beautiful park.

 San Diego Wildlife Safari Park

I actually haven’t been to San Diego Zoo, which is a renowned zoo in the United States, but I have been to San Diego’s Wildlife Safari Park and I highly recommend it. San Diego Wildlife Safari Park has tons of space to walk around in, and there are tons of animal exhibits, both enclosed and non-enclosed. You can also take a “safari” tour where you get to see animals like giraffes, rhinos, and zebras roaming around freely.

 Del Mar Beach

San Diego has tons of great beaches with Silver Strand and La Jolla being among my favorites. Del Mar Beach is another favorite for its two miles of beautiful coastline which offer beautiful views, sandy beaches, and plenty of shopping and dining opportunities. Del Mar has an upscale charm to go along with its beautiful beaches and I highly recommend it.

 Visit Old Town San Diego

Old Town is an awesome place to visit to get a taste of San Diego’s past. There are tons of historic buildings from San Diego’s past on display and there is no charge to enter most of them. There are also tons of restaurants and shops. If you are into the paranormal the Whaley House is also worth a visit. The Whaley House was actually designated as an official haunted house by the United States Commerce Department. I can also attest to the fact that this is one haunted house. You can see the curtains on windows blowing even when it’s not windy. My brother and I actually had a real scare at the Whaley House when we were playfully knocking on the door of the old outhouse (which is locked and not open to visitors) and the doorknob turned from the inside. We also went on a ghost tour of Old Town and the guide informed us that Old Town is full of ghosts and said there’s a street where car alarms will go off by themselves. So if you’re brave and interested in visiting the ghosts of San Diego’s past visit Old Town.

Travel Snapshots – San Luis, Colorado


Traveling through San Luis, Colorado is a bit like traveling back in time. San Luis is the oldest town in Colorado and today it remains a small and quiet town with a slower and quieter pace of life. San Luis is located on the cusp of the Colorado/New Mexico border and its Spanish/Mexican roots remain evident in its traditions and focus on religion. San Luis has one of the oldest churches in Colorado and is also home to the Shrine of the Stations of the Cross.

The Stations of the Cross is located on a mesa which offers beautiful views of the San Luis Valley. As you make the climb up the mesa there are bronze statues which each represent a moment during the crucifixion of Christ.

When you reach the top of the mesa there’s a beautiful Spanish colonial-style church. While the church looks like it hails from colonial times, it was actually built during the 1960’s.

If you find yourself driving through Colorado, I highly recommend you give San Luis a visit rather than just passing through. Visiting the Stations of the Cross is definitely worth the time for the beautiful views it offers.

Travel Snapshots – Maokong Gondola and Tea Plantations – Taipei, Taiwan

Taipei is a bustling metropolis known for its love of scooters, 7-11 convenience stores, and bubble tea (read more about my favorite things about Taiwan here). Taipei is also surrounded by natural beauty. You don’t have to venture too far outside the city to enjoy beautiful scenery. One place that is worth a visit for great hiking opportunities, temples, and tea is Maokong, a quaint village located in the Wenshan District of Taipei.

Maokong, which literally translates to “cat sky,” can be accessed by riding the Maokong Gondola. The 25- minute gondola ride offers magnificent views of the Taipei cityscape and the surrounding green hills. You also have the option of taking a gondola with a glass-bottom floor, which makes it seem like you’re floating above the mountains. Once you get to the top there are tea houses, little shops and food vendors.

Maokong is known mainly for its tea plantations and tea houses and there are tons of options to choose from for tea houses. You really can’t go wrong with the teahouses at Maokong and some are even open 24 hours. There are tons of varieties of tea to choose from. The tea I chose to enjoy was called, “Oriental Beauty,” which is an oolong tea with a sweet and fruity flavor.

Aside from tea, Maokong is also known for Xiangong Temple, which pays homage to the Daoist immortal Lu Tung-Pin. The temple is a beautiful site amidst the green hills of Taipei. The temple also offers fortune telling services and a dream interpretation room.

Maokong also has tons of hiking trails. You can spend a whole day here just walking around and exploring. One frequent visitor I ran into while hiking were banana spiders. These large spiders are everywhere! They can be found hanging from powerlines, signs, and I even saw one at the tea house hanging precariously from the window. Despite their constant presence during my hike, I didn’t mind, as I was able to get some beautiful views of Taipei, including an awesome view of Taipei 101.

Overall, if you want to escape the hustle of Taipei, I highly recommend you escape to Maokong where you can enjoy temples and a spot of tea. Just mind the spiders.

The Adventuress Diaries – Blossom

This post was inspired by the Daily Post prompt “Blossom.” I was inspired to share a collection of pictures of blossoming flowers that I have taken during my adventures around the world. 

Flowers have always been a source of joy and inspiration for me, and a reminder of my mortality and the inevitability of change. Flowers bloom so briefly, but the memory of their beauty lives on in photos. 

Petunia – Denver, Colorado

Rose – Chimayo, New Mexico

California Poppies – Ukiah, California

Nasturtiums beginning to grow – Ridgewood Ranch – Willits, California

Daffodils – Ridgewood Ranch – Willits, California

Dahlias – Paris, France

Sunflowers – Yokayo Ranch – Ukiah, California

Orchids – Shanghai, China