Travel, Food & Books

Santiago de Cali

Cali is the largest city in southwestern Colombia, nearly the size of Medellin. The daily lowest temperature is about 22°C and the highest is around 32°C, it’s hot and humid, just like Malaysia. However, it isn’t as safe as in Malaysia as some of the neighbourhoods is dangerous.

You may avoid travelling to Aguablanca district on the east and Siloe on the west, and as for the safe zone, Granada, San Antonio and El Penon are alright. However, it doesn’t mean that crime doesn’t happen there. It’s the same as everywhere else in the world, even in the safest country, there’s always a bad seed. But as long as you stick to the ‘Dar Papaya’ rule as the Colombian often say, you should be fine.

Bogota to Cali

It’s my first time travelling to Cali, and also my first public bus experience in Bogota. Two days before travel, I went down to the Calle 63 Transmilenio station Chapinero and bought myself a Tullave card, the public transport card in Bogota. It cost 5,000COP and loaded 15,000COP in it. On Saturday once Mike finished his work, he took a taxi home, and only then he packed his clothes!

At about 3:30 pm we walked down to Septima and waited for the M86 bus. It didn’t take a long time before one arrived. At the beginning of the journey, the bus barely had a place to stand, let alone sit, but halfway to the airport, it started to clear off. The bus journey was about an hour, and it only cost 2,400COP per person compared to a taxi which will cost around 19,000COP.

From where the bus stopped, it’s another 200 metres walk to the domestic flight terminal. Once we printed out our boarding pass from the Latam kiosk machine, we still had plenty of time to kill, so we stopped for a drink in Kokoriko’s bar.

The Colon Rubia Draught beer costs 11,900 COP per glass and 6,900 COP for a bottle of 400ml Coke. Due to the issue of the carry-on baggage which the flight’s cabin was full, our flight was slightly delayed. While queuing to get on the plane, the flight attendant looked at passengers with large suitcases and offered to store their luggage for FOC at the storage for check-in luggage.

The flight wasn’t completely full, there was still an empty seat next to me and a few others, but with our compartment space taken up by the other passenger, I had to place my backpack under the seat.

It’s a short flight with only thirty-four minutes spent on the air, and due to the bad weather, we didn’t get any refreshments. We flew at a lower altitude passing through Soacha, Girardot and the Parque Nacional Natural Las Hermosas before landing at Cali airport near Palmira at 7:34 pm.

Hoteles Suites House Juanambú

Plenty of taxis queuing outside the airport, and before getting one, we took the coupon and noted the price from the office counter. The company was called Asotaba, and it cost 54,000COP to Granada. Though the weather in Cali was warm, the taxi here didn’t bother to put on air-conditioning, and on the way towards the city, about 10 minutes or so, our noses were assaulted with chemical/ sewer smell.

During our 3D2N visit in Cali, we stayed at Hoteles Suites House Juanambú booked with Airbnb. When we arrived at the place, we didn’t meet up with Emanual, the owner, but checked in at the reception.

The woman who registered us was quite bubbly, and it made us feel welcome. She recommended quite a few places to tour in Cali and also told us that they have a breakfast service delivered directly to the apartment at the cost of 12,000COP per person.

The bedroom had a large built-in closet with a safety box inside, and a king-size bed that’s very comfy and with plenty of pillows. A large TV hanging on the corner, and the air-conditioning unit fixed at the other corner side of the room, sharing the air with the living room as there’s no door separating the two.

The only downside was that the fan malfunctioned, and we had to put the air-conditioning on the coldest temperature or otherwise, the other side of the bed would feel warm. There was a balcony in the room, but the view was blocked by a wall and a little bee nest on it.

A modern-looking bathroom with a bathtub was in between the bedroom and the living room. A sofa bed on the corner facing a TV but without any channel, and a stereo unit that’s working with a few Vallenatos CDs. The fridge and washing machine were in their own space behind a wooden door. The kitchen was equipped with a microwave, blender, coffee maker and cooking utensils that were good enough for us to cook breakfast.

Parrilla Bar Los Cerros

We went out to explore the area looking for food and drinks around 9 pm. About a few blocks away from the apartment, the streets lined up with fancy bars and restaurants. However, Mike wanted to have some Parilla, so we walked further down. It’s quite hard to find one because most of the restaurants were already closed. Thankfully we managed to find one that’s still open, located about 1.1km away from the apartment.

The owner of Parrilla Bar Los Cerros was quite friendly, and he speaks a little bit of English. We chose the small plate that cost 12,000COP each, but the portion wasn’t small at all. The meat was well seasoned and cooked perfectly. It wasn’t tough, and it tasted lovely. The beers cost 4,000COP each for Club Colombia and Redd’s.

While having our meal, we saw a Chiva bus drive past, and it looked like they were having good fun, singing at the top of their lung and dancing in the middle of the bus. Reminded me of the fun we had back in Cartagena!

Walking back home after 10:30 pm here in Cali, some of the roads were empty of traffic and quiet with most of the shops closed, and it gave me an eerie feeling. We got back to the apartment just before 11 pm after stopping by to get some Dorada, Redd’s and also a small bottle of Cali’s Aguardiente – Blanco Del Valle. It contains 29% alcohol with a little hint of Star Anise, but a strong taste of alcohol. In my opinion, it was the same as the Aguardiente antioqueño Azul that I usually had.

Cali Aguardiente

Cerro de Las Tres Cruces

The next morning after the homemade breakfast – bread, bacon, chorizo sausages and scrambled eggs, we went for a hike at Cerro de Las Tres Cruces. I didn’t really want to go to this place because I was more interested in going to Cristo Rey – 26 26-meter open-armed statue of Jesus Christ, set on a hilltop with scenic views. However, this place was closer, so I gave it a go.

We walked towards Avenida 10b Norte but weren’t so sure about the exact entrance. We asked some of the locals, but they also didn’t have a clue about it. Thankfully we stumbled into a friendly family of three, they were also heading to the place, and we walked with them.

The path was easy at first, but once we got to the clearing where we could see the city, the strenuous hike began. Some of the terrains were difficult to walk as our trainers didn’t have the grip, making it quite slippery while walking up or down this steep hill. There wasn’t much shade on the way up, and it was already scorching hot around 11 am. In the end, we stopped halfway and decided not to finish the hike.

P/S: This grass in Sabah we called Rumput Malaysia, and I saw this grass during the hike to Cerro de Las Tres Cruces. It was actually native to the Americas, and its scientific name is Chromolaena Odorata.

Rumput Malaysia in Colombia

We followed the crowd back, and the trail led us to Avenida 2 Oeste. The condition of the path wasn’t as ‘pretty’ as the one we took earlier. Overall, it’s a great exercise, and I could say that it was quite challenging compared to the Monseratte hike in Bogota where the path was well maintained.

Before heading back to the apartment, we stopped for drinks at Medium Cafe in Centenario Mall. Mike had his Cappuccino, and I had Granizados which was very filling. The price of these two beverages was 18,000COP.

Places Around Cali

In the afternoon, we crossed over the Cali River and went for a walk in the old colonial centre San Antonio and also the area around San Nicholas.

La Merced Church / Iglesia de la Merced

This Spanish colonial-style church has been around since 1545. It’s the city’s oldest church and was declared a National monument in 1975.

La Merced Church / Iglesia de la Merced

Torre Mudejar

This unique brick bell tower is attached to the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, and it’s one of only a few buildings in Colombia with Mudejar architecture.

Torre Mudejar

Otero Building

The construction of this building began in 1922 and ended in 1926. During the assault on the Diners Club offices in December 1984, nine people were murdered there. The BBVA occupied the building had rescued the building from being demolished by restoring it in 2009.

Otero Building

Cat Park / Parque El Gato De Tejada

Three-ton bronze cat sculpture by the late Colombian artist Hernando Tejada can be found in this park along with 15 other smaller ones that had been painted by different Colombian artists. It’s a part of the municipal initiative in embellishing the banks of the Cali River.

After the walk, we stopped by at Ancestral Saberes Y Conocimientos located next to the Cali River near the cat park. This shop also sells Empanadas and a variety of sauces. I had Lulada, a typical drink of the Valle del Cauca, especially in Cali.

The Lulo fruit mixed with lemon, sugar and blended ice is such a refreshing drink, especially after walking in the hot sun. Usually, when I had one in Bogota, it often came without the texture and consistency of a smoothie unlike what I had here.


La Ermita Church / Iglesia de la Ermita

This Gothic-style church was constructed between 1930 and 1948 with a design similar to the Cologne Cathedral in Germany. It houses the 18th-century painting of the lord of the sugarcane – El Senor de la Cana which survived the strong earthquake that happened in 1787.

La Ermita Church / Iglesia de la Ermita

Ortiz Bridge / Puente Ortiz

It’s the first bridge built on the Cali River, but it wasn’t the original bridge as it had been restored many times.

National Palace view from Puente Ortiz.

Plazoleta Jairo Varela

The monument in this public square is dedicated to the sounds of Salsa. It has 76 luminescent buttons placed alongside its structure, from the valves or pistons to the pavilion.

The sculpture was made by the architect of the Universidad del Valle, Freddy Pantoja, and it was decorated in honour of the founder of Cali’s famous salsa band – Niche Group, Jairo Varela.

In this 8000sq space, there were restaurants, cafes, and cinemas and it had 243 parking spaces in the basement. This square was a perfect place to do public shows, outdoor concerts, social gatherings or recreation.

Cafe Bar Viejo Barril

In the late afternoon, we went to Cafe Bar Viejo Barril. Last night when we walked past this place, it was quite happening. However, because we went there early, there weren’t many people yet. It’s an excellent place to hang out or watch football, and the music was great too.

The cafe didn’t sell any food, but they offered to get it from the opposite restaurant. We waited more than an hour and almost gave up before it finally arrived. The mixed grill tasted very lovely, and cost 76,000COP including a few drinks.

We went to another place called Discoteca Tropicali Restaurante for a scenery change located 57 meters away from Cafe Bar Viejo Barril. But we didn’t plan to stay long here and thought of going back to Cafe Bar Viejo Barril to watch the football match between Deportivo Cali and América De Cali.

However, we’re too tired to wait for the game, and we’re back to the apartment just before 7 pm. We managed to watch the match half half-time before the whole apartment blackout for 5 hours.

The next morning, we went out for breakfast at Autoservicio Yaco located about 300 metres from the apartment. Breakfast was simple – Patacone, scrambled eggs with rice and hot drinks, and it’s cheap at 5,000 COP each.

We met the owner at the reception just before leaving the apartment. Emanual told us that he has a few other units in a different city and if we needed one, we could WhatsApp him. After the short conversation, we walked down to the main road and hailed a taxi.

It was about 3.4km to the Cali bus terminal, and the fare was 6,000 COP. The ticket counter for the buses was located on the second floor, and we got on the bus to Armenia before getting on another one to Salento.

Travel Date: 13th ~ 15th April 2019

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