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Columbia. Land of Emeralds

When you think of Colombia what is the first thing that comes to mind? Emeralds! Right, Colombia is in fact one of the worlds largest produces of Emeralds, among other things…

It is one of those countries that has had a bum rap for a long time, with due reason I suppose. However, it is a beautiful country that deserves some consideration if you are planning on taking a trip to South America. Colombia, which is approximately twice the size of France, has some of the world’s most diverse and beautiful vistas.

It has the benefit of offering the visitor access to both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and stunning beaches on the Caribbean side. If you’re not inclined to beaches you can visit the Amazon forest and its steamy jungles, while it lasts. But if milder temperatures are more your thing then I would suggest the highlands of Colombia and cities such as the capital Bogota or you can go take in the snow capped Andes, one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world.

Then there are the people of Colombia, it is one of South America’s most multiracial countries. With people hailing from Africa, Europe, and the indigenous people of the region all mixed up. And what a mix! It makes for some of the most beautiful people in the world. Now there are a couple of things to keep in mind, when you are there and you get blown away by the good looking people. If you’re a dude, and you want to impress the ladies, be a good dancer, because like most South Americans, Colombians love to dance and are good at it.

So if you can cut some serious rug, from salsa to reggaeton you will do very well. If you’re a lady, don’t forget you’re in a very machismo country. You will get whistled at and the guys will be aggressive in their advances, and you won’t need to know how to salsa all that well, ‘cause the guys lead in the dance. Less stress for you! Now the other thing to remember when you party in Colombia is that people there can drink and they drink hard. If not more so than in Australia. The drink of choice being Aguardiente, which is made from sugarcane and anis and people prefer drinking it in shots, straight!

It would seem that Bogota is the party spot, the different nightclubs offering a variety of music. The most popular being salsa, merengue and Colombian vallenato, but there is a huge electronic music scene too with huge raves being held at haciendas or farmsteads, which is hosted by international DJs. The other must place to go too is Cartagena, on the Caribbean coast, it is Colombia’s most touristy city and a UNESCO World Heritage town, a stamp earned due to beautiful colonial architecture and beautiful beaches.

Which brings us to Colombian food, Cartegena is known for having some of the best seafood in South America. One of the other must try dishes, is Ajicao a chicken soup made of three kinds of potato, local herbs and chicken. For the veggie eaters, you have various dishes such as empanadas, aborrajados which is made up of plantain and cheese, pandebonos and almojabans which are cheese based pastries. This can all be washed down with natural fruit juices and apparently after you have tried them you won’t even be thinking of soda pop.

Now that you have your fill, there are a few things to keep in mind, the negative side. If you get drunk don’t leave the club or bar and go stumbling down the road to your hotel. Also remember it is a country that is at war. So there are places that you should not go to, listen to the locals and don’t be an arrogant know it all or you will get into trouble. The best thing to do is to play safe not stupid.

The other thing to keep in mind is that Colombians are a friendly bunch and very easy to get along with. But they dislike first world arrogance, so be respectful and you will be respected back. If you do get there, enjoy it and take it all in. You will be a lucky individual and it will be an experience of a lifetime.

By Ben Narayanen