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Are you a big fan of Yo soy Betty, La Fea, a popular Colombian television drama series, which was also famously known as Betty, La Fea? For me, yes! I am and I have followed through all the 169 episodes. It is a story about Betty, a sweet, kind-hearted young lady who falls deeply in love with her superior, Don Armando. I remembered there is a scene that Armando frantically searched for the runaway Betty, who was on a job assignment to Cartagena.
Being a loyal fan of Betty, La Fea, the talented crews, the beautiful scenes, and the plots have captured my heart. There and then, inside my heart, I have a wish that “How nice if one day I can visit Cartagena”. Indeed, years later I was blessed with an opportunity to attend an international academic congress and guessed what, the hosting venue was at Hilton Cartagena Hotel, Colombia.
At first, I was delighted upon receiving the news but also at the same time there was a fear in me because it means that I have to travel all alone for the first time for a long-haul flight from my home country to Colombia. Suddenly, all unpleasant thoughts and doubts arise inside my head. I need to think about my safety when I am alone in a foreign land, especially when I have to stay alone in an unfamiliar hotel room at night. Among others are that I have to manage my travel arrangements at foreign busy and chaotic airports when language might be the main potential barrier, I have to always be on guard of my valuable belongings even when I have to use the washroom and not to mention rumors that travel luggage went missing when it involved multiple transit points.
To ease my concern, I have done some homework to search for more information on the selection of a more safe and suitable itinerary plan. I can recall that was the first time that I have learned how to apply for an entry visa, learned about the requirement of Yellow fever vaccination, currency exchange, and learned how to search for more traveling information/tips through Trip-Advisor website/Booking.Com.
My journey to Cartagena started from Changi Airport Singapore, onboard Air France Flight to Paris. After a short transit at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, I continued my journey to Bogota, the capital of Colombia. Even though I can be considered as a frequent flyer but the whole Cartagena trip was the first time that I have ever experienced flying with an internationally renowned airline like Air France. I was glad that I had the first-time experience of enjoying such a big and spacious 3-4-3-seater aircraft, an onboard self-service on food and beverage, a self-service cabinet offer soft drink and liquor.
Finally, after another 1 hour and 30 minutes flight from Bogota, The Colombian-owned Avianca plane landed at Cartagena at 1915 hours that evening. I took a taxi and reached my destination at Hilton Cartagena Hotel after a 15 minutes taxi ride. Upon arriving at the hotel check-in counter, I had met up with several international delegates who have arrived much earlier before me.
I later checked myself in for a room at the hotel. After short scouting around inside my hotel room, I am satisfied with the facilities provided by the hotel. Facilities include a flat-screen TV, Free WIFI, air conditioning, minibar, ironing service, hairdryer, a safety deposit box, and a coffeemaker facility. What caught my attention was when I noticed there were packets of male contraceptives placed on top of the minibar cabinet, a scene which I have not seen before during my previous hotel stay so far.
Standing from my hotel room’s balcony, witnessing the beautiful late evening view and looking at a part of the beautiful city of Cartagena. I thanked God for the safe journey and HIS blessing that finally, I managed to put a foot on Colombian soil. Colombia, a wonderful and vibrant country that it never crossed my mind that I have the chance to visit in my lifetime. I called it for the night after dinner and after a long 2-day journey.
So, stay tuned I will share more on my experience visiting Plaza San Pedro Claver in Cartagena, Colombia - Part 2