Friday, October 1, 2010

The Wandering Paisa

Since February, Brent and I have been focusing our efforts towards establishing a backpacker’s hostel here in Medellín. It’s not that Medellín is lacking in hostels, it’s that all of them are concentrated in one area. From my previous posts, you can probably gauge that I don’t hold Poblado in high regard as a tourist area. I’ve stayed in almost half the hostels in Medellín and most of those in Poblado are like every other business there: expensive, touristy and without a deep connection to any of the cultural aspects of the city. Throw in the excessive drug use (by tourists) and prostitutionand you can see why it’s  not the most pleasant place to stay in Medellín. Granted, these were things that drew tourists to Medellín during the period of violence that plagued the country not too long ago, but now there are a plethora of amazing tourist activities that tourists may be missing out on by staying in the Poblado party zone.

I first noticed the difference during my month+ stay at Hostel Casa del Sol, one of the bigger hostels outside of El Poblado. Just off the Floresta Metro stop, I noticed a huge drop (read: half of everything) in the prices of food, drinks and other services compared to Poblado. More importantly, I wasn’t pestered by chicle vendors selling drugs and the people I encountered treated me more like a human being, rather than a source of tourist dollars. My eyes were permanently opened to all of the safe, spectacular sights that were closer to my residence, not to mention not having to walk up and down a hill all day. (Spanish speakers can about how petty crime and drug use is much greater in areas like El Poblado here).

After months of planning, business plan writing, bank shuffling and searching, Brent, Federico and I came across our dream location: right in Laureles off la 70. Not too far from Hostel Casa del Sol, La 70 is the local “zona rosa,” meaning cheap drinks, affordable restaurants and great live music, not to mention getting to rub elbows with real Colombians on their nights off. Our choice of location was confirmed by a “Rough Guides” travel book editor during our stay at a hostel in Poblado. A woman updating their guide book chapter on Medellín happened to run into my brother and I during our stay in an El Poblado hostel. “I hate it here,” she proclaimed, “everyone in the clubs is on drugs, they play American music and the prices here are outrageous.” She then asked if we had any other suggestions for more cultural activities in the city. We were more than happy to point out our favorite Medellín tourist destinations: Cerros Nutibara and Volador, Parque Arvi, La 33 and of course, La 70. If she did in fact, head to any of those places, it will aid us in establishing a fun, safe, professional and comfortable tourist destination in a new part of the city.


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