I’m on my second week in Colombia, and the bright, bustling and hot city of Medellín. I wasn’t sure what to make of this country at first, it’s so alien and confusing in its architecture, design and casual atmosphere. But now I’ve got to know it better, I think that I’m adjusting to this new way of life. The houses, more in the outlying towns than the city, are a mismatch of shacks and nice, newly built homes paved with tiles. Most are brightly coloured and the shops gape open onto the busy and narrow pavements as if time does not exist.
Medellín was once famous for Pablo Escobar and his drug cartel, a city of murder, sieges and private armies. The houses are still caged up with bars over the doors and windows, a relic from a recent past when people didn’t feel safe. Nowadays Medellín is recovering its reputation piece by piece. I know it as a clean city with an efficient and easy to use metro system at its heart and street vendors selling colourful wares and tasty fried food. No one has bothered me, though at a flower festival last week one girl did have her phone stolen by a pickpocket. But we were warned about that in crowded places; no murderers, just watch your bag in busy areas.
I suppose that’s the way with fast developing countries; the new stands alongside the old, creating a strange dichotomy that I couldn’t work out at first and it’s the closest I’ve come to culture shock. Nevertheless, I’d recommend it as an adventurer’s destination, strange enough to be a completely new experience and relatively safe . Colombia has a lot more to offer than drugs and illegal pets, and I can personally recommend my hostel as a place to stay. Black Sheep hostel provides involved tours of the local sights that immersed me into the Colombian culture for a day; hot, delicious food and colourful music as well as open friendliness.
The tourist industry will replace those darker days that came before it, so we should flood to Colombia and help it out into the light. Not just for its economy, but also to help local wildlife rescues with their work battling poachers and the illegal pet trade. Much like Thailand, the local fauna here is under threat from demand for exotic pets, and sloths, armadillos and anteaters deserve more than such a miserable life. Either way, an eco-warrior, traveller or tourist, Medellín is a fantastic destination for you to explore and experience an entirely new world.