At 2am, we are woken up by muffled noises, which come back every 5 to 10 minutes. For an hour. Even if a careful analysis of the noise makes us conclude that it isn’t shooting but rather a firecracker or fireworks… it makes us startle every time. Confirmed by locals during the day who tell us that birthday parties are often accompanied by fireworks or firecrackers… especially at 2am.
Unfortunately, this is only the beginning of a day that will end badly.
Part 1: Travel Diary Part
2: Practical Tips
Part 1: Travel Diary
We start the day with the Escobar Tour. Meeting at 9am in front of one of Pablo Escobar’s many old houses (he had more than 400 in Medellín!), which now belongs to his own nephew, Nicolas. We had to show our passports, but we should have come only with our identity cards, as they are only used to declare us to the insurance.
We opted for a visit to the museum + an outdoor tour in English, aboard an armoured car which, from the outside, looks quite ordinary. But the doors are very heavy and the windows are at least 3cm thick.
Escobar’s nephew still travels in these armored cars because the risk of reprisals 30 years later, although minimal, isn’t non-existent. Aboard this car, we can go to the old Monaco building, a kind of huge bunker that Escobar’s family used to live in (the building was destroyed in February 2019, only the ruins remain, which aren’t worth visiting) and see the tombs of his family.
At the cemetery, the tombs are on the ground. Behind each life, only a small plaque remains on the well mowed and green lawn.
The visit isn’thing extraordinary, and the locals have a bad opinion of this rather morbid tourist visit, but for us it is more a question of knowing more about the history of the country, and it is absolutely not out of admiration of this famous criminal that we come here.
We then return to the house where we discover photos and objects that belonged to Pablo Escobar. To be honest, we aren’t far from the tourist catch, the interest is very limited
Cab in Medellín
We then go downtown by cab (JB wanted to call a VTC on Cabify but got the wrong button). When we call a cab via the app, the driver himself puts the corresponding amount on the meter and the payment is made via the app. Result: the fare is about 2x more expensive, but the ride is legal (VTCs are forbidden in Colombia, although they do not cause too many problems).
Our driver is especially nice and articulate so that I understand everything he says. He says that there are 40,000 cabs in Medellín, because the locals use a lot of them. Since we have been in Colombia, we have never had any problem with cab drivers, the meter always starts automatically, it’s nice.
Here again, it is necessary to buy a license to become a cab, and he strongly encourages us to use cabs instead of VTCs for insurance purposes in case of accidents.
It is the first Saturday of the month and a monthly market is supposed to take place here. Unfortunately, because of the works, we can’t see anything at all and can only enter the huge brick church (the biggest brick church in the world, it seems). The interior is made of brick too, it’s beautiful!
We walk randomly through the black streets of the world.
After a very consistent menu del dia at 7000COP (1,75€), we go to the Botero square, where we can see 23 sculptures by the Colombian artist of the same name.
In the small perpendicular streets, we see men equipped with typewriters, providing a very useful service to illiterate people. A little further on, a sign indicates 100COP/mn of communication. This is the equivalent of a phone booth, except that it is a smartphone chained to a table, and the salesman himself monitors the communication time.
Philippe is too happy to see all these stands of jewelry and semi-precious stones, it is quite his style. While he is
being scammed shopping, we have a quiet drink at the museum café: Museo de Antioquia. Admission to the museum costs 18,000COP but you can get in just to get to the café without paying. What a haven of peace a few meters away from the bustle of the square!
Palace of Culture
Right next door is the cultural center: Palace of Culture Rafael Uribe. Free access, just give your name and surname. There is a library, works of art and if you go up to the top, you will have a beautiful view of the Botero square.
How we got our phone stolen
It is while entering the subway that JB notices a suspicious individual who seems to be interested in my bag. JB pushes me but he is himself distracted and apparently the accomplice of this pickpocket took advantage of the situation to steal his phone which was in his pocket. Everything happened in 2 seconds.
We are very upset and a little traumatized by the experience. The feeling of insecurity is the most unpleasant of all. But after a good night (the night is good advice), we put things into perspective. We only lost a phone and some SIM cards (which were in the shell of the phone), fortunately the passports we had on us were not stolen.
It can happen anywhere in the world. And we already have basic protections and automatic backups in place, so we haven’t lost anything and haven’t had our accounts hacked.
Part 2: Practical Tips
To prepare yourself for a possible loss of phone without too many hassles, think about
:- using Authy now on another device (another phone, a tablet, …), which allows a resynchronization in 30 seconds if you lose a device.
– keep the emergency codes (printed) in a safe place: in case you lose absolutely all devices and SIM cards (plus d’infos)
– put a password for your SIM card (other than 0000, 1234)
– put a password for your smartphone (+ unlocking via fingerprint)-
synchronize your photos and documents automatically with Google Photos or Dropbox.
- Escobar Tour: 150,000COP/person for half a day
- Lunch: 7000COP/person