The accidental Paisa in Medellin

The accidental Paisa in Medellin

As we meet interesting and inspiring travelers along the way, we decided today to share an article of one of our fellow travelers and friend Joe Le. The most friendly guy from Sydney traveling the world. Find out this post and more on his Tumblr page. Enjoy! 🙂

Entourage got it wrong. Having heard for years Vinnie, E, Turtle and Drama pronounce it ‘medi-een’, I was strangely taken aback to discover it’s actually pronounced ‘medi-gene’. This, of course, would prove to be the first of my many misconceptions.

As they say, mud sticks. I’ll confess that when I first embarked on my trip I had severe reservations about visiting Colombia, a country whose infamous reputation was engrained in urban folklore, stories filled with violence, drugs, fear and intimidation. Colombia, so to speak, was my Latin American travel frontier. The no-go-zone that, if, I made it out alive would be the cornerstone of many elaborate bar conversations.

Medellin, as it turned out, was not only far from its fearsome reputation but the complete opposite. Since the death of Pablo Escobar and the dismantling of the Medellin Cartel, this city has been transformed in the one the world’s most cosmopolitan cities, so much so that in 2013 it was awarded ‘Innovative City of the Year’ by the Wall St Journal, outclassing both New York and Tel Aviv.

Years of careful urban planning, combined with an emphasis on education and community development has seen the meteoric rise of Medellin to become a must-visit destination on all South American travel itineraries. Gone are the days of 5pm curfews and gunfire interrupted sleep. Instead replaced with hope and renewal, with generations of ‘paisa’ keen to move on from their past.

The result is a city oozing with new found optimism, where progression is only limited by the imagination of the up and coming generation. A cultural explosion that has permeated all corners of Medellin life from democratic architecture to a bustling culinary scene, fine art complementing their proud Latin heritage and a dynamic nightlife to match.

Nestled in a valley 1500m above sea level, Medellin is also called ‘The City of Everlasting Spring’ thanks to its high altitude. Days are a comfortably warm and nights pleasantly cool.

There isn’t much to dislike about Medellin. As far as backpacking goes this may well be my favourite destination to date. The city is safer than most I’ve been to. The people are welcoming, warm, friendly and helpful. Happy, proud but not arrogant. There’s an efficient and affordable transport system, abundance of quality hostels; with the standard of living high and the cost of living comparatively very low. The empanadas are the best I’ve had anywhere. Beers cost less than a dollar, a bag of marijuana two and a gram of cocaine under three (not that I would know about it). Where in the world can you party with such intent for less than a few dollars?

Popular items on the backpacking agenda include the free walking tour, distinguishable from all other walking tours by the passion presented by the guides, Real City Tours takes you through downtown Medellin including Plaza Botero, Parque Berrio, Parque Bolivar & central San Antonio. You can also organize a DIY trip to Parque Arvi with scenic views of Medellin from the cable car rides, stopping off at Santo Domingo on your way back for a quick tour of the town. For those wanting a little respite from metropolis there’s also the nearby tourist town of Guatape. There you can indulge on some Colombian cuisine from the many various restaurants, zip line across the lake; and of course climb all 740 steps to the top of Piedro Penon for the breathtaking view of Guatape.

The secret’s out and Medellin is in.

By Joe Le.