But whether you’re a dancer or not, we feel that Cali, Colombia is a fantastic city to visit in South America. Without further ado, here are our 5 reasons why...
1) The Laid Back, Warm & Friendly Vibe
I think the weather may have an impact on this but in general, Caleños are a real warm and friendly folk. They are pretty quiet during the day but when the cool air of the evening starts to settle in, they can be found getting together at the nearest park, flying kites, enjoying drinks and food and then heading out to dance. We were lucky enough to bond with a few different Caleños…and what we gather is that having a good time is top priority…and they’ll be sure to make sure that you get in on the fun too! Plus it seems that in Cali, every second week there is a fiesta or festival of some sort that scores you a 4 day work week and a good time to check out.
Every time I got in a cab or walked by a home or popped into a store, I just wanted to dance. The salsa music, the Pacifico (Caribbean-African music) and “folk” music is contagious. It has energy, it’s upbeat and it just seems to keep the pace of life moving with a relaxed and happy vibe that we need more of back home. Here’s is an example:
3) The Dancing
Same as us, most people will fall in love with Cali for the dancing. For those of us from America or Europe, if you think about it, when was the last time you really danced with a partner? We just don’t do that anymore. From what I remember of dancing in the bars or highschool dances, we just bob a little and awkwardly try to get our arms to do something interesting instead of hanging stiff by our sides. But salsa is about a true, seamless partnership between a man who knows how to lead and a woman who looks amazing following that lead and shaking her booty to the beat. Once you see a few locals move so smoothly with the rhythm it’s hard not to want to learn to do the same. There are many schools to choose from as well as dozens of private teachers who are former pros teaching out of their homes. Take your pick and then be sure to get yourself to “Tin Tin Deo’s” on a Thursday night and dance your way through the weekend until the finale at Las Breezas on Monday night (shared taxi…it’s a LONG trip).
4) The Food
Personally, a city must have it going on in the cuisine department in order to really steal my heart. At first glance I didn’t think I was too fond of Colombian food. It was similar to Panamanian fare in the sense that it’s monotonous…tons of rice served with either fried chicken or beef and a miniscule salad topped with mayo. But dig a little deeper and there are great eats to be found. My favourite Colombian dinner (though definitely not healthy…but after a night of dancing it doesn’t matter) were the “arepas con queso” which are fried sweet corn patties with cheese in the middle…and they go hand in hand with chorizo (sausage). For dessert, I loved the “obleas” a tasty dessert found on the hill of San Antonio. A lady at an obleas booth will skillfully spread arequipa (a butterscotch flavoured spread) and crema de leche (they love all sweet-milky flavoured desserts in the this part of the world) on extremely thin rice wafers stamped with smiley faces. They then decorate the inside with peanuts, coconut, sprinkles and queso and stick the two sides together into a delicious dessert sandwich. AMAZING!!! Other items not to be missed are their locally made ice creams in coconut or maracuya (passion fruit), a visit to the local pan (bread) maker for queso croissants and any variety of their jugos con leche (juice milkshakes). Simple but delicious!!
Skott and I initially intended to stay for one week in Cali but between the challenge of learning salsa and the awesome environment we found at our hostel, Cafe Tostaky’s, one week turned into two and finally we left only to catch our flight back to North America. Cafe Tostaky’s has the perfect blend of a laid back feel, extremely friendly & local staff, and a vibe that makes you feel at home. The owner, Vince’s slogan is “everything is possible here”…they will do everything they can to make you feel at home. You can bring your own drinks in and sit right up at the bar in the cafe, you can practice your salsa in the lounge room and there’s always something to do because there are a few locals that hang out there everyday and make sure you’re in the know of what’s going on.
I am 100% confident that if you put these 5 items together…book a room at Cafe Tostaky’s, take salsa lessons (at Swing Latino!!!), enjoy a dinner of arepas con queso and chorizos at San Antonio’s on the San Antonio hill followed by obleas, and hit up Tin Tin Deo’s…you will be unable to disagree with us and quite likely to find yourself unable to tear yourself away from this endearing city. In this case…ENJOY and soak it all up because after 15 months on the road, we vote this one of our top cities in the world!