The Colombian Diaries (5/5): Barranquilla
Day 1, Thursday: I came by bus from El Rodadero and when entering the city I had the impression that Barranquilla was much bigger than I had imagined. I arrived in El Prado, an old (built with drug’s money) but amazing hotel which I had booked for 37€/night. After the series of disappointments in the north coast and because there were no solid reports about Barranquilla, I had no expectations whatsoever in terms of what would I find here. Since I was totally alone, I decided to do a thing I despise by nature: to use Tinder. But contrary to what had happened in Cali, where I had a match in every 50 swipes, here the number of matches was insane, of around 40% of my swipes. I quickly found a nice girl who gave me nice tips and advice of where to go that night and around 8:30 pm I left home to go to Park Washington, the fanciest area in town in terms of restaurants and bars and where the middle/high class meets up either before going to a club or just for a couple of drinks. When I arrived, the perception was the same I had already had dozens of times in Colombia: everyone was sitting either in male or mixed groups (I remember missing Spain or Ukraine, countries in which big groups of women go out on their own to have fun). I had my great steak at Henry’s Cafe but it was indeed the only great thing, since not only the prices, which were way above the Colombian average (all the north is much more expensive than the center/south), but also the IOIs I got there were, let us say, nonexistent. I wandered around, drank two Smirnoff Ice in a small shop and got back to the park and sat down at an outside bar, which was filled with young “suspicious” girls and old “thirsty” men but which, at least, had some places to sit down and was not overcrowded. I finished my two caipirinhas and until then I had gotten no IOIs from the average girls who were there but when I stood up to go to Frogg, supposedly the best club on that night, three girls looked at me and commented on my looks. I simply went there, chatted with the hottest one, and inserted my number on her phone (since I had left mine at home). I went to the club totally alone and when I arrived there it was still a little bit empty, a scenario which is always awkward when you are on your own. But then, in about one hour, the place got packed and I can tell you that I had never seen such talent in Colombia. The quality of women was insane but, more important than that, there were two or three groups just with girls. I thought I had finally reached my harem, the Colombian city which I had been looking for but, as I have been preaching many times, in a globalized world that does not happen anymore. The quality was high, but the closeness and attitude of these women were even higher, and the four or five girls I tried to open gave me no chance at all to start up any conversation. I went outside seeking for more opportunities and while I was sitting outside smoking a cigarette (hate to do that but the truth is that the act of smoking is the best way to meet girls when going out), I spotted another guy who was alone and asked him why he looked so bored. Actually, he was an invited DJ from Bogotá, who would play at 1:00 am, and we ended up having a nice conversation, a guy who had a deep love for music and was looking to explore and revitalize the different and rich Colombian genres, by mixing them up in his sets. While he was offering me drinks, we talked about different topics, including of course how shallow most of the people who go out are, especially in such upscale clubs as this Frogg, whose audience’s ears have the tendency to only “accept” the mainstream. His set was indeed very good, but naturally not so enthusiastically received by the crowd. After looking around and seeing all these thirsty guys hitting on girls who were acting like the queens of the world, I decided to go home with this feeling of frustration so familiar to me.
Day 2, Friday: I woke up with this bitter taste in my mouth and with a strong headache, after the “great” night I had had. It was a day to fully relax on the swimming pool and to enjoy the Colombian sun since this would be the last weekend in many months that I would feel temperatures which make you neither feel depressed nor ultra white. During that day, I arranged with my new Tinder friend Sali a night out with her and three girl friends of her, a fact which gave me some enthusiasm since I would be going out with locals and with a high chance of scoring. Meanwhile, I was speaking to other matches on Tinder, and in 24 hours I had already made the transition to my Whatsapp of about five of them, a very solid number unarguably. Since I could not schedule anything with any for the afternoon, I went for a power nap to prepare for the supposedly good night which was about to come. And with more or less one hour of delay (not bad, according to the Colombian standards), there was Sali picking me up in her black Ford. And when I opened the door, oh god, what a bad surprise: in the (perhaps old) photos she looked more than ok but the lady sitting in that car was simply a fatty! I tried to hide, at all cost, any sign of disappointment and on the next hour we drove around to pick up her three friends, in totally opposite ends of the city. Among them, only one was bangable – and not coincidentally, the most conceited one – but the truth was that all were quite fun, so at least I knew that I would be having a good time. We first stopped at La Troja, heritage and icon of the city, a bar which plays salsa and is open to everyone, turning it into a salad of social classes and different types of people. On one hand, due to the amazing music that was playing and the great warm night (two things that will never lack in Colombia), I was almost having a mental orgasm; on the other hand, not only because the bar had a terrible logistics – music too loud and too many chairs, making that almost everyone was sitting down without any possibility to talk to one another – but also because the girls I was with did not know really how to dance salsa, I felt that I was inside a Ferrari with no engine, so in the end I was thinking more about leaving than staying. Fortunately, “my group” had the same idea, as they wanted to move to a cooler place, which in this case was a vallenato bar owned by an acquaintance of one of Sali’s friends. We entered there and were immediately treated as real VIP: we moved to a big table, where the owner and other people started to offer us every kind of drink for free. And among those people, there was a real hot brunette, who in addition was giving me all the possible IOIs. Maybe it was because she liked my style and looks or perhaps, most likely scenario, because I had entered the bar accompanied by four girls (oh this female nature which is so equal worldwide), but the truth was that I was in a very compromising situation, as on one hand I had a perfect chance of interacting with a quality girl but on the other one I was with my hands tied, since I had come with a girl who was being truly nice to me (and totally into me, in addition). Usually I am a guy who does not care about dumping a girl, but when a person makes herself available in such an altruistic way, I simply can not be that mean. And due to the stupid situation I saw myself into, I just wanted to get the hell out of there, so I started to pretend I was tired, until Sali finally asked me whether I wanted to go home, to which I answered a sincere “honestly, yes, I am tired already” (my intention was that she would leave me at my hotel and then I would eventually return to that bar again), so at around 1:00 am we left the place. But because the Karma usually shows up in these moments, I was the last one to be left home, at 2:00 am, a time in which that bar was closed already. In a desperate move, I started looking in the internet about some good clubs to go (aside from Frogg, which I did not want to repeat for obvious reasons) and I eventually decided for Discolo. And because the situation never gets better in theses cases, one hour later there I was coming back to my hotel, about 20€ poorer, after two expensive taxi rides and a club in which the second oldest person after me was perhaps 22 years old. A night which promised so much but which was (again) a huge disappointment in the end, simply because I did not follow one of the nightlife’s (and life’s, by the way) most important rules: it is all about seizing the moment and grabbing the opportunity.
Day 3, Saturday: The last (complete) day of my trip, the all or nothing, literally the final judgment. I began it with an invigorating breakfast, to give me all the possible forces I could get to face the “battle” I had in front of me. But before all that, I went to the pool to get that amazing Colombian sun for the last time, a natural booster whose magic pills and supplements will never be able to match, no matter what exists now or in the next 50 years. What the sun provides to a human being is so powerful, that I (and every normal human being should too) will make sure never to spend another winter in Europe, as this real source of energy cures all the physical discomforts, depressions and diseases. So basically I had the whole afternoon to plan what I would do in the evening and after sorting out and filtering all the possibilities and contacts I had in my phone, two final plans came out: either I would go alone to Lectura del Bando, a big event which symbolizes the beginning of the carnival, or I would have a tranquil dinner with another girl I had met in Tinder, who was indeed quite unique and out of the norm, as she did not fit at all the pattern of the typical Latin, shallow girl who likes reggaeton and to go out partying. Since the latter program looked quite boring to me in the first place (as this girl wanted to go to one of these cultural, meeting point of artists which in theory are one of the most annoying things I can think of), I almost decided to buy the ticket to the main event. But then, in one of these rare moments in which your inner voice, based on the experience of many years, talks to you, I went for the plan which was totally a shot in the dark, with a great probability of turning my last day in Colombia into the most boring, frustrating one. But let me tell you that my superficial thoughts were totally wrong, so I must thank my gut for guiding me when nothing else makes sense. So at around 8:00 pm I arrived at the restaurant/bar La Cueva, a place which hosted the intellectual, creative “group of Barranquilla” in 1950s, which included among others Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Even if this girl was totally different from the herd, there is a trait common to all the Colombian women: to arrive late. So half an hour later the agreed time, there was this girl who had style and a nice face but not such a great body (all summed up, she was a 6.5, let us say). We then entered the bar, went to the main room and seated down, and it was only then that I realized the amazing place I was at: one with a cozy atmosphere and a large stage in front of us, where a live band would be playing just some minutes afterwards. And when the food came and the group started to play, I had the feeling that I was in paradise and that there was nowhere else I would like to be on that exact moment. The food was delicious, with a tailor-made combination of flavors and spices rarely seen nowadays, and the live band was simply fantastic, playing with such a precision and joy that not even a deaf would be indifferent to what was basically a masterpiece, a celebration and a reminder of why music is indeed an art. The atmosphere was great and the company too, a complete package in the sense that Margarita and I could talk, laugh and dance together. On the other hand, there was something strange about this girl, as anytime I tried to be closer to her (and eventually kiss her), she would move her head or arms away. I even teased and joked a little with her by saying that she had some kind of trauma with foreigners, towards which she laughed timidly. So when La Cuerva closed at 1:00 am, I was about to say that I would go home, when she suggested to go to a rock bar to have a couple of beers. Without too much excitation due to the way things had unfolded until then, I accepted her suggestion and fifteen minutes later there we were in this lousy bar, which was playing music from the 80s. I was already totally fed up of being there – basically I felt stuck and that our interaction would lead nowhere – when suddenly there was a twist on the plot: after I had tried two times to kiss her with no success, Margarita moved her head towards mine and kissed me. But then, she got back to her original “strange behavior”. It was then time to say that I would go home, meaning that we would take totally different paths by taxi. But due to a “curious” situation – she tried to pay the drinks with her card but it did not work (maybe it was just a trick for me to pay for them), so we had to leave together in the same cab, as I was the only one having money. During the ride, I told her (honestly in a total detached way, as I had already lost all the hopes of sealing the deal with this rare being) whether she would want to stay at my place and then take the first public transportation in the morning, towards which she answered a surprising “ok”. I arrived at the hotel, told absolutely nothing to her and guided her to my room, a situation which she silently agreed. The rest was just a nice history: to screw her really hard in my bed, a totally unexpected outcome coming already on the last minute of the match, proving that the mountain is never climbed until you reach the last centimeter of the top.
+ Food: Have you noticed a common positive indicator in almost all of the cities in Colombia? Yes, in terms of food, Barranquilla is no exception, as you can choose from a varied range of options – based on seafood, fish or meat – with the certainty that they will come to your table fully flavored and absolutely tasty;
+ Music: Comparable to Cali in terms of salsa, naturally in a smaller scale because the city is also smaller, Barranquilla has a great vibe and you can listen to this music everywhere, since it is completely rooted in people’s soul (it is not a coincidence that Joe Arroyo, one of the biggest names ever of the Colombian Salsa, sang “En Barranquilla me quedo”, meaning in Barranquilla I stay). In addition, this coastal city not only is one of epicenters of Cumbia, one of the most important rhythms in Colombia, but also has a great variety in terms of other sub-genres, many of them totally related to the Carnival – which is, by the way, the second largest in South America after Rio de Janeiro.
o Quality of women: If I would base my score on what I saw when I went to the club Frogg, I would not put this city with a “+”, rather with a “++”! But, since that sample is not representative of the whole, Barranquilla offers in the end between an average and a good quality, being in any case on the 2nd place of what I have seen in Colombia (I would need more days to draw a better conclusion);
o Accessibility of women: I had very different reactions: again, if I considered the club Frogg, I would give a “-“ or even “- -“. But then, the two or three girls I met (and also their friends and acquaintances) were so helpful and kind, that I would say that the average and above the average girl is generally nice and only the hottie and or super hottie is almost inaccessible. Since Barranquilla is not as big as, for instance, Medellin, I suppose it is because this latter group does not want to be seen among foreigners, as they are already “reserved” for the high tier men who live here;
o Logistics/Atmosphere/Attitude of people: The only part of the town which matters is Prado and Alto Prado, so this already brings a good logistics to your side. Even so, you always need to move around with a taxi, as the distances are bigger than they look. Regarding the atmosphere of Barranquilla, it has a general good Caribbean vibe, whereas the people are in general nice, but I noticed also some bad or conceited attitudes (obviously this happened because I was only on the richest parts of the town, but these are also the only ones you want to wander around);
o Nightlife: Indeed, Barranquilla almost deserves a “+” in terms of its nightlife offer, as it has different bars and clubs to go to. But then, as the behavior of women is similar to Cali – meaning too closed in groups and not open to meet foreigners – I would say that you should not rely so much on it to have fun, especially if you are a single guy;
o Security: Some people say that outside the fanciest area of the city and also during the Carnival, Barranquilla can actually become quite dangerous and I probably do not doubt it, as this is still Latin America. Even so, I felt very safe in all moments of the day, neither having anyone approaching me or “asking” for stuff nor having seen any fight, theft or confusion scene;
o Prices: After Cartagena, this was the second most expensive city I was at, a very strange phenomenon if we take in consideration the fact that, aside from Carnival, there is no tourism at all and also that Barranquilla is far from being a financial center in Colombia. But, on the other hand, as I paid 35€/night to stay in a 5-star hotel or 20€ to have dinner and to assist to a great live band, I can not say that the city is expensive either.
– Points of interests: Write “Things to do in Barranquilla” in your internet browser and you will have as top suggestions going to Museo del Caribe, to the zoo, to Park Washington or to La Troja (these latter two are already nightlife options), which basically explains why Barranquilla gets almost no visitors outside of the carnival period.
The verdict: Barranquilla is a very interesting case: on one hand, it is basically a city which offers almost nothing to do, which is not that cheap and whose logistics are far from being great. But then it has an inherent hidden good spirit which, combined with its tremendous music, turns the city into a very desirable place to be. In addition, it offers some talent in terms of women and its nightlife is also ok, two facts which make me believe that if you stay here for a reasonable period of time, you will get quite lucky. Therefore, because of these latter arguments and also because you have sun and delicious food the entire year, I recommend you to come to Barranquilla for a season. Eventually one month is enough, so my suggestion is the following: because being in a non-touristic city is not a bad thing (at all), come here three weeks before the carnival and meet as many places and people (mostly girls I suppose) as you can, in order that you get to know the real deal, without any tourists around. Then, let them all come (most of them are from Colombia, which is clearly an advantage) and experience this huge carnival party, which will make you having lots of fun and spending an incredible time.