This post is part of a series called Colombia July 2017
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A little bit about Colombia: Colombia was conquered & colonized by the Spanish in mid 1500’s, and gained independence in 1819 as the Republic of New Granda (that included Colombia and Panama); and after various changes, including the secession of Panama in 1903 (thanks to the US, for its interest in the Panama Canal), became the Republic of Colombia. Since the 1960’s, Colombia was engulfed in internal strife and armed conflict between the Govt, left wing guerrilla groups (incl FARC) and right wing paramilitary groups; and more recently (1975-1993), the Drug cartels (including Pablo Escobar) armed fights between themselves and with the Govt to protect their lucrative cocaine trade made Colombia the murder capital of the world. The USA was heavily involved in both the left-wing guerilla and drug cartel wars; to wipe out communism before it reached the US, and to eradicate the cocaine trade. Since 2010 onwards, peace deals were made with FARC and the country had become safe, stable and is economically thriving.

To get to Cali, we had to fly from Dallas to Miami and then onto Cali. Colombia is in the same time zone as Dallas, and it took us from 8AM to 8PM to get to Cali; which included two ~4hr flights and transit wait time.

We arrived in Cali after dark, and after clearing immigration, we went through customs which included declaring the value of our good we were carrying (including our suitcases and the names of our suitcases). Once outside, the first thing we saw was a fruit stand where the lady was selling huge mangos and tree tomato fruit.

Fruit stand at the airport
Fruit stand at the airport

Since I had free cellular data, I got an Uber to take us to the hotel in downtown Cali. The Uber driver spoke no English, so not much conversation with we could understand, Just as we left the airport outskirts, we saw a brightly lit hotel; called the “Love and Sex Motel”. Hmmmm, interesting, language we can all understand.

The ride into the town took about ~25 mins and the Uber cost was about $12; very reasonable, and good start to our Colombia trip. At the hotel, we inquired about nearby places to go eat at, but we were told that since this was a Sunday, everything around was closed. So we settled for some room service and hit the sack.

Next day, after breakfast (included) at the hotel, we got some idea from the concierge of where to go and what to sightsee. The hotel was in the La Merced and San Antonio areas, both of which were the original settlements of Cali, so historical. We walked over the La Merced cathedral, thru some nice park areas, which were well preserved and had cat (gata) statues from various artists along the pathways, see pics below

Gata (cat) statues along the parkways
Gata (cat) statues along the parkways
Artwork was everywhere and encouraged
Artwork was everywhere and encouraged
Lots of parkland and people everywhere
Lots of parkland and people everywhere
Fruit stands were everywhere; had to try the local fruits that we had no seen before
Fruit stands were everywhere; had to try the local fruits that we had no seen before. This fruit is one that is dry, and eaten with salt and honey. Cant remember the name; would appreciate it if anyone can name this for me
Group dance practice in the park
Group dance practice in the park; note the drummers on back right that used large plastic containers for drums
La Merced Cathedral that was unfortunately closed when we went there
La Merced Cathedral that was unfortunately closed when we went there
Dilshad had to find her favorite custard apple fruit to try out
Dilshad had to find her favorite custard apple fruit to try out

We walked into the old area of La Merced and below are some pictures from the old City.

We came across the “Poet’s square” where there were multiple people that had set up typewriter stands and were typing out documents for customers; not a sight you see very often.

In the company of some famous poets in Poet square
In the company of some famous poets in Poet square
Typing business in Poets square
Typing business in Poets square

There were several pedestrian only areas here which had all kinds of small business set up and of course, the fruit stands

Pedestrian only streets
Pedestrian only streets
Justice law courts
Justice law courts
Park areas are always interesting people watching places
Park areas are always interesting people watching places
Traffic (cars, motorbikes, scooters and bicycles) and people everywhere.
Traffic (cars, motorbikes, scooters and bicycles) and people everywhere.
Beautiful churches were everywhere,
Beautiful churches were everywhere,
This guy replaced the (broken) glass protector on my phone for less than $2
This guy replaced the (broken) glass protector on my phone for less than $2
More park squares; well used by all
More park squares; well used by all
Street commerce everywhere
Street commerce everywhere
Convento de La Mercedes church, built in 1541
Convento de La Mercedes church, built in 1541

We then walked over to the National Theatre which was a well preserved old theatre both outside and inside

Teatro Municipal, opposite the Cultural Center
Teatro Municipal, opposite the Cultural Center
Inside the Teatro where performances are held regularly
Inside the Teatro where performances are held regularly
We stopped for lunch at a small café courtyard, for their Almuerzo Menu Del Dia
We stopped for lunch at a small café courtyard, for their Almuerzo Menu Del Dia
The Menu Del Dia included bean soup, a plate or chicken, rice, plantain, salad
The Menu Del Dia included bean soup, a plate or chicken, rice, plantain, salad, and a drink of canela con limon (cane sugar, water and lemon juice). Cost was 7,500 pesos; just over $2, and enough for 2 people. Fresh juices of all kinds were available also like the OJ above.

Next, we wandered over the Cali Cultural Center, opposite the Thearto Municipal; to check out what was happening there. We saw a lot of people there and a lot of offices; and walked into a large conference room where it was air conditioned and therefore cool. (Up to now, only the hotel had been cool with AC). We sat and watched as we thought some kind of a show was going on, but it turned out that this was a prep session for a Pacific coast (Cali is only 60miles for the Pacific coast) culinary festival; and was being attended by mostly local women. So after a few minutes of this; we left to go back to the hotel. Some scenes below are of what we saw on the walk back to the hotel.

Local shared rides (colectivo’s (matatu’s)) were abundant and well used
Local shared rides (colectivo’s (matatu’s)) were abundant and well used
Interesting graffiti everywhere
Interesting graffiti everywhere

Painting

Traffic was quite busy, but mostly, the traffic rules were obeyed
Traffic was quite busy, but mostly, the traffic rules were obeyed

At evening time, we decided to visit the Cristo Rey statue on the hilltop overlooking the city of Cali. This statue is similar to the one in Rio, but much smaller (only 26m). So we called an Uber to take us there, and the ride there was all uphill through some interesting neighborhoods. Once we got to the top, we saw that there was no public transport back, so we agreed with the driver that he would visit the Christo Rey statue with us, and then take us back into the City. Below are some images at Christo Rey

Christo Rey statue

Christo Rey statue

City view
City view
Nice 360 degree views of Cali
Nice 360 degree views of Cali

We then went back to Cali, and asked to get dropped off at San Antonio neighborhood, which was part of the old City with good food paces as it was dinner time. The whole Uber ride cost is $10

Once in San Antonio, we walked around and asked at a coffee shop where we could get some good food, and were directed 2 blocks away to Azul. So we walked over to Azul, and to get in, the doorman had to pull a string to a bell, that then got someone to come let us in. Once inside, we realized that this was a small restaurant that specialized in very good food, and was reasonable full with patrons. Of course, nobody spoke any English, so had to get by on broken Spanish and sign language. Ordered a beer and wine, and then ordered a couple of dishes. It took some time for the food to come, and in the meantime, the owner came and talked to a couple sitting at the table next to us at length. The gentleman at that table got up and spoke to us in perfect English, explaining that our dishes had not turned out to the chef’s quality standards, and were being remade, hence the delay; the establishment wanted to convey their apologies, and give us a dish as complementary. So we asked for free desert instead. In the meantime, our food arrived shortly thereafter, and both dished were delicious and tasty. We then got desert on the house which was a passion fruit desert. These were the first people we met outside the hotel that spoke English.

We got talking to the couple next to us that spoke good English; Ronny and Martha. Ronny teaches English to local company executives, and Martha owns and runs a bakery near where they lived. We learnt a lot about Colombia, Cali, culture, where to go and what to eat etc from Ronny and Martha, who were at this restaurant for Ronny’s birthday 🙂

With Ronny and Martha at Azul restaurant
With Ronny and Martha at Azul restaurant

After dinner, we decided to walk to the hotel, but the restaurant owner advised us to take a taxi instead. So we called an Uber and left after saying our goodbye’s. The dinner plus drinks etc at this boutique place cost us $30 altogether. Uber rides were also cheap, costing us about $1-$3 within the City, where we were staying.

Next day, we decided to go visit the Galleria Alameda, which was the local market for fresh fruits, vegetables, and more; based on Ronny’s recommendations. Took an Uber there, and the driver told us that the Sancocho was the best thing to have at the market. Below are some scenes from this market

Local bus
Local bus

At this market, we saw lots of fruits and vegetables, some that we did not recognize; if anyone can help us name some of the fruits and vegetables, that would help a lot

Fruit market

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and Vegetables

Mangoes

Guess the fruit

Local medicinal herbs
Local medicinal herbs

Lot of fruits

Fruits

Yuca and Yuco I was told
Yuca and Yuco I was told
Tree tomato
Tree tomato?
Chilling
Chilling
This fruit tasted like Passion fruit; anyone know the name?
This fruit tasted like Passion fruit; anyone know the name?
Flower & meat market was also in Galleria Alameda
Flower & meat market was also in Galleria Alameda
Interesting flowers, any idea what this flower is called?
Interesting flowers, any idea what this flower is called?

We then went into an area where there were multiple stalls selling cooked meals; and as we were checking out the menu’s; a lady approached us and told us that she had seen us the day before at the Cali Cultural Center when we had stopped at the Culinary festival meeting! What a nice & pleasant coincidence. She showed us her Basilica restaurant menu from the Valle Pacifico, and seeing Sancocho de Pescado on the menu, we were sold. We sat down with her and had the local Sancocho; she showed us her operation and the various herbs she uses in her cooking; we did not recognize any of these herbs she was using. New culinary experience in the market 🙂

At the Basilica restaurant
At the Basilica restaurant with the lady owner who had seen us the day before
Sancocho de Pescado and lemon, hot sauce, and Aguacate (avocado)
Sancocho de Pescado and lemon, hot sauce, and Aguacate (avocado)

The Sancocho was indeed excellent soup with fish, Yuca, Plantain and vegetables inside. After saying our goodbye’s, we went outside to do some more touring

Dried legumes, rice, grains
Dried legumes, rice, grains
Pineapple bicycle stand
Pineapple bicycle stand
Iglesia de San Antonio; closed unfortunately
Iglesia de San Antonio; closed unfortunately
Anyone know the name of this sweet fruit? It was sweet, but stringy, and had several large seeds inside
Anyone know the name of this sweet fruit? It was sweet, but stringy, and had several large seeds inside

So far, the daytime temperatures were in the high 80’s to low 90’s during the day, and in the mid 70’s at night. A little warm but not uncomfortable. Cali is also about 1-1.5hrs from the Pacific ocean, and there may be options for beach type getaways there.

We found that Cali was in general; reasonably safe; thought I had been warned by hotel staff and at least 1 person on the street, to be careful with my camera. However, we did not experience any issues or hassles, and never felt unsafe in the places we visited in Cali. The presence of a decent number of policemen on every block almost must have helped. And we did not see any evidence of drugs anywhere; in fact, we noted later that we hardly saw anyone smoking cigarettes anywhere; so I believe that education on staying off drugs is paying off. Also, we noted with a very pleasant surprise that all the streets, sidewalks, and market areas were all spotlessly clean; thanks to the many city employees who were constantly cleaning up. This was a very pleasant experience, and people were very helpful when we needed help; no issue. We also partook of street and market foods, and never had any issues because cleanliness appears to be very important to the Calenos.

Later that day, after completing our tour of Cali, we took the hotel shuttle to Cali airport, and took the local Avianca flight to Medellin; the base of Pablo Escobar’s operation.

Medellin next

This entry was posted in Cali & Medellin July 2017, Colombia, South America

42 thoughts on “Cali, Colombia

  • ALAMARA GIWANI August 2, 2017 at 10:11 pm Reply

    enjoyed the fusion of color and the street art. cheers for sharing!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Ali Karim August 2, 2017 at 10:19 pm Reply

      Thanks Alamara, for the feedback; really glad that you are enjoying our trips

  • Shiraz August 6, 2017 at 12:00 am Reply

    Very good Ali

    • Ali Karim August 6, 2017 at 7:56 pm Reply

      Thanks Shiraz, for the nice words. So glad that you are enjoying my blogs.

  • ig August 6, 2017 at 5:16 am Reply

    Hello to every one, the contents present at this web site are truly remarkable for
    people experience, well, keep up the good work fellows.

    • Ali Karim August 6, 2017 at 7:57 pm Reply

      Thanks very much for the encouragement; I really appreciate it.

  • Zul Walji August 6, 2017 at 10:46 pm Reply

    Makes me feel like taking a trip there myself.

    • Ali Karim August 7, 2017 at 6:00 am Reply

      Zul, I agree; I hope my blog inspires everyone to travel to these places; they are safe and very interesting.

  • Jaime August 7, 2017 at 5:28 pm Reply

    I am really impressed with your writing skills as well as with the layout on your weblog. Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself? Either way keep up the excellent quality writing, it’s rare to see a great blog like this one these days..

    • Ali Karim August 10, 2017 at 11:18 am Reply

      Thanks Jamie, for the encouragement; really appreciate that.
      This is a paid theme.

      • Karim August 22, 2017 at 4:38 pm Reply

        Hi Ali,

        I also like the theme. Can you please provide a link to purchase it?

        Thanks

        • Ali Karim August 24, 2017 at 10:46 pm Reply

          THanks Karim. My theme is “WPVoyager – Travel Blog WordPress Theme by purethemes ”
          Hope this helps.

  • Diciano August 13, 2017 at 12:51 am Reply

    There are awesome modifications on the design of this blog, and blog content is excellent; I really like this! Thanks for sharing!

    • Ali Karim August 13, 2017 at 9:18 pm Reply

      Glad you enjoyed the travelog about Cali, Colombia. I have another blog on Medellin coming soon; keep an eye out for it.

  • Zool and Farida Chatur August 13, 2017 at 10:47 am Reply

    Very interesting and enjoyed reading your blog. Well written and good photography. Thanks for sharing and enjoy – you both look great.

    • Ali Karim August 13, 2017 at 9:18 pm Reply

      Thanks Farida and Zool, always appreciate your positiveness and for reading my blog posts

  • Azeem Asaria August 16, 2017 at 9:06 am Reply

    Why Colombia?

    • Ali Karim August 16, 2017 at 9:12 am Reply

      Why not? I had been watching Narcos series on Netflix, and was fascinated with Colombia. Well worth going and visiting

  • mahamud jinnah August 16, 2017 at 9:07 am Reply

    Hi Ali
    amazing as usual. Great pictures of churches and the colorful street and fruits and graffiti.As usual enjoyed the history lesson on the formation of Columbia and the secession of Panama-had no idea of this.

    Interesting how that lady remembered you from the previous day and meeting Rionnie who spoke English.

    Thanks for sharing

    Mahamud

    • Ali Karim August 16, 2017 at 9:13 am Reply

      THanks Mahamud

  • Iqbal Dewji August 16, 2017 at 9:07 am Reply

    Ali:

    flying high as usual!!! Bravo

    Best Iqbal

    • Ali Karim August 16, 2017 at 9:14 am Reply

      THanks Iqbal; glad you are enjoying my travels

  • Nasir Jivraj August 16, 2017 at 9:08 am Reply

    So did you try all the fruits and decide which is the best?

    • Ali Karim August 16, 2017 at 9:15 am Reply

      Yes, we did try most of them. The guava type fruits were the best for me as I like sour fruit

  • Mumtaz Rahemtulla August 16, 2017 at 9:08 am Reply

    Thank you, very interesting photos!!

    • Ali Karim August 16, 2017 at 9:16 am Reply

      Thanks Mumtaz; so glad you enjoyed my travels in Cali; check out Medellin which is next

  • zul ramji August 16, 2017 at 9:08 am Reply

    Thank you Ali for sharing your travel experiences. It’s just awesome
    Regards
    Z

    • Ali Karim August 16, 2017 at 9:17 am Reply

      THanks Zul, for the kind words

  • Shemin Thobani August 16, 2017 at 9:08 am Reply

    Thanks Ali!

    Shemin Thobani

    • Ali Karim August 16, 2017 at 9:18 am Reply

      Glad you are still with me on my travels 🙂

  • shahin paroo August 16, 2017 at 9:09 am Reply

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Ali Karim August 16, 2017 at 9:19 am Reply

      THanks Shahin

  • Alina Mark August 18, 2017 at 6:30 pm Reply

    I frequently read your site content closely. Great content. I’ll be back!

    • Ali Karim August 18, 2017 at 8:35 pm Reply

      Thanks Alina

  • Lionel August 24, 2017 at 3:51 pm Reply

    very good publish, i certainly love this website, keep on it

    • Ali Karim August 24, 2017 at 10:43 pm Reply

      Thanks Lionel; remember to check out my Medellin blogs also for Colombia

  • Mariano August 24, 2017 at 8:22 pm Reply

    Good day! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my previous room mate! He always kept chatting about Cali. I will forward this page to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read. Many thanks for sharing!

    • Ali Karim August 24, 2017 at 10:42 pm Reply

      Thanks Mariano; glad you enjoyed my Cali and Colombia travelog

  • Silvia Odete Morani Massad August 26, 2017 at 9:54 pm Reply

    Hey there, I think your blog might be having browser
    compatibility issues. When I look at your blog in Chrome, it looks fine but
    when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping.

    I just wanted to give you a quick heads up!
    Other then that, awesome blog!

    • Ali Karim August 27, 2017 at 11:26 pm Reply

      Silvia, Glad you are enjoying my travelogs; and thanks for letting me know about Internet Explorer issues. It seems IE does not have some advanced features needed by the theme I am using for my WordPress blog. Hopefully IE will add them soon. IN the meantime, please continue using Chrome or Firexox

  • Shiraz August 28, 2017 at 3:05 pm Reply

    Excellent pictures, Ali. Good composition and very sharp.

    What camera do you use ?

    • Ali Karim August 28, 2017 at 10:46 pm Reply

      Thanks Shiraz; I am glad you enjoyed my blog post and my pictures.
      I use a Sony RX III camera. It has a 1″ sensor, and a 24-600mm zoom, f2.4-4.0. It is a little heavy to travel with, but takes great pictures and gives me the zoom depth I need for candid travel photography. Let me know if you need anything else.

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