Bogota is a city of complexities. I can’t say I loved it, but I can’t say I hated it either. It was simply a place that I passed through, and admittedly had a lot of fun while doing so.
One thing that struck me was the mall mania. Colombian’s love their shopping malls, it seemed almost like a national pride.
Upon driving into the mall armed officials with Alsatians check your car for explosions. Apparently back in the day the guerilla groups targeted shopping malls for terrorist attacks. This stringent safety precaution made made me feel safer. I think.
I was shown around countless malls. I dined in many malls. I was even surprised to discover that they had clubs on top of their malls! Night clubs! It was such a surreal feeling to get all prettied up, park and then walk through a deserted mall to go to a club.
To be fair it was one of the funnest clubs I’ve ever been to. Four floors of eclectic mayhem. The staff come around and decorate you. I was given a hat and a sash that translates roughly to “your life will be beautiful.” One can only hope.
And I was lucky enough to suffer my first Aguardiente hangover, or Guaro as the locals so fondly call it. Guaro is a fun drink, kind of like Tequila but with an Aniseed twang. When you’re drinking it the world is a wonderful place. That could be because you order it by the bottle, and drink it in shots. Vomiting Guardo I can assure you, is something you never want to repeat ever again.
My most vivid memory of Bogota is Colombia’s first game in the Football World Cup. We piled into a foot traffic area called Zona-T and the ambience was unreal. Here in New Zealand we’re not the most passionate folk, even over our beloved Rugby. Colombian’s passion for football was something else. The facials were incredible. The streets were alive. It was like one big giant dress up party. After the victory we had to escape before we were completely caked in foam and flour (though to be honest I wouldn’t have really minded)
As locals became drunk the festivities quickly spiralled out of control. Drunken fights broke out, flour throwing become aggressive, and next thing there was a topless girl crying on a police mans shoulder. 8 people died that night from fights or incidental victory gun shots going awol. As we all know, passion and drinking don’t always very well together. But that things escalated so badly is a little bit frightening, and perhaps a reflection of Colombia’s sadly violet past.
That game sparked a liquor ban in Bogota for the rest of World Cup. Luckily I was soon long gone, in parts of the country were folk tolerated their liquor more cheerfully.