Emma Reynolds was a naive 23-year-old when she travelled to Colombia ... and she loved it.
The reggae music was pumping, crowds of young people chattered in jeans and stylish tops and our group of Aussies and Europeans were sat at a bar table drinking rum and cokes.
But this wasn't quite like a night out anywhere else: someone was openly rolling and smoking a joint right next to us.
I was a naive 23-year-old in Bogota back in 2008, just a year older than South Australian accused drug mule Cassie Sainsbury, who is now locked up in a jail in the Colombian capital.
While some were flabbergasted at her cheerful smiles as she peered through the bars of El Buen Pastor women's prison, I was less surprised.
Your preconceptions fall away fast over there.
I had been in South America for several months, and while I'd vowed I wouldn't go to Colombia or travel alone, all that changed once you were in the rhythm. After my initial travel partner went home, I joined some English girls we'd met to hike through cloud forest to Peru's Machu Picchu, hung out in Lima on my own and signed up to "help" a tribe with their planting and building work in the Amazon for a few weeks.
So when another friend arrived to join me in Quito, Ecuador, to her concern, my first words were: "We're going to Colombia."
Travellers at almost every hostel had made it clear it was one of the best parts of the so-called "gringo trail" — the typical tourist route through South America. The people were charming, the landscape (particularly the Caribbean coast, where we slept in hammocks and picked mangoes from trees) devastatingly beautiful and the culture unspoilt by too many visitors.
It was all true.
Colombians hate that their nation is known mainly for its cocaine industry, and are eager to show how much more there is to their rich history and way of life. In fact, there's such a conservative streak, we found ourselves dragged into a road and sprayed with foam by a giant cigarette when we stumbled on an anti-smoking march while innocently puffing away.
But there's a reason for this militancy, hidden beneath a cornucopia of colourful parades, pastel-painted houses and funky graffiti.
Cocaine is everywhere, and incredibly cheap. Even a street cleaner offered to sell us some at a cheap price.
You become increasingly blase. We didn't deviate from the approved "safe" tourist route. After our initial trepidation at stop-offs in Ipiales and shady Cali, Bogota felt glitzy and sophisticated.
Sure, the streets were narrow and cobbled, the bars and clubs run down and our hostel filled with ancient furniture, but there was the wide, grand Bolivar square, well-dressed groups of people hanging out at restaurants and a fascinating police museum with a Pablo Escobar exhibit.
I still remember gleefully running behind the bars of the fake jail for photos.
While my friend spent time with an English guy she'd met, I brunched with Aussies and a German girl from the hostel and joined a sociable local guy called Miguel for lunch at a trendy restaurant with his flatmates.
Ms Sainsbury's story of being unwittingly duped into carrying 5.8 kilograms of cocaine into Bogota airport by the mysterious Angelo sounds absurd, but Miguel became our group's great friend, taking us on nights out, acting as translator and showing us around.
Cassie is smiling because the cliche is true: people there are nice.
It was easy to overlook that darker, seedier side when you feel so invincible, as though nothing can touch you in this laid-back, permissive capital.
Only later did I look back at some of our riskier behaviour and shiver. Drinking ladles full of mystery booze from a huge bucket. Accidentally wandering into a brothel with a huge gallery of beds upstairs.
Many young travellers were taking cocaine and other drugs. One pair with coke in their pockets even accepted a lift from police officers riding a golf buggy through the colonial city of Cartegena further north.
But Colombia was too seemingly casual to be anywhere near my scariest moment of travelling in South America.
That would have been when we were dragged off one of the typical two-storey coaches and made to line up, hearts pounding, with our hands against the bus while police searched us for drugs.
Or when cycling Bolivia's Death Road and thinking I was about to skid off the path and plunge thousands of metres to meet my end like so many before me.
Or on the border of Ecuador and Peru, when a dodgy taxi driver tried to ferry me to a fake checkpoint and demand money, and I wound up dumped on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.
I can see why Cassie is smiling. Colombia is lovely and Bogota is a blast. I just hope she didn't get too comfortable.