Monday, August 27, 2012

The Amazing Paraguay!

Sorry for the long break. We went on vacation to the lake. (Which is ironic, because we live on a lake...but it's always nice to see other lakes I suppose.) I went fishing, and boating, and shopping and generally ate my way one step closer to an early grave, but it was a blast and a huge blessing to get to hang out with my family and just enjoy their company for a few days.

Anyway, back to my travel diary!

The last thing I posted about was Machu Picchu, right? Well, from there I took the train back to Cusco, and three flights from Cusco to Lima to Sao Paolo to Asuncion.

My impressions of the airports of...
Peru - they have the slowest airports in the world with the worst customer service. Lima's international airport is where hope goes to die. Otherwise the country seemed really great.

Brazil - they like cheesy bread (which is unfortunate because I don't). Also, the Sao Paolo airport was well organized. Way to go Brazil. Everything seemed so much shinier and newer in Brazil, and it was beautiful and hot - even for the few hours of my layover - so I liked it a lot.

Paraguay - their airport is exactly the right size and they have free wifi. Why don't richer countries have free wifi? Brazil, for instance, or the US? Go figure.

So, the official guide:

We mostly ate at Brazilian steakhouses and food courts. They have good hamburgers and the steakhouses were always nice, but this is not a vegetarian friendly place. Meat is a very important part of the diet. I would recommend the Lido Bar downtown as a great place to hang out with regular Paraguayans (rather than tourists) and their fish soup was amazing.

We saw a museum of religious artifacts, a history museum -in the old congress building I think- and a museum about the city itself. They were all well put together. The only problem is that the sights in Asuncion take about 2 days to see in their entirety. After that? I guess it's time to take up a hobby.

I have two comments about money. First - even though Bolivia is officially the poorest country in South America, Paraguay seems like the poorest. At almost every intersection there are people (often kids) wanting to wash your windows, sell you trinkets, or just beg. I saw about 5 beggars in my 10 weeks in La Paz. I saw more than that on the ride home from the airport in Asuncion.
Second - Paraguayan currency is good for your ego. I was a millionaire in Asuncion for a week. (Actually, a multi-millionaire come to think of it!) Have you ever held a bill for 100,000 anything? The exchange rate is about 4000 guaranies to the dollar, so it takes a little getting used to.

The elusive 100,000 dollar guarani bill

Iguazu Falls
The view of the falls from Ciudad del Este airport. Can you see them? Yeah, neither could I.

I made my brother very solemnly swear to take me to the falls, only to discover once I got to the border that my Paraguayan visa was a single entry only - meaning that if I left I couldn't come back without trekking to the nearest consulate, waiting for Monday morning to roll around, applying (and paying) for a second visa to Paraguay, changing my flights and hotels and missing out on 3 of the 7 days I was planning to see the family. So, tail between my legs, I got all the way to Ciudad del Este and then turned around without seeing the falls. Major fail. It's a testament to how tired of traveling I was that I was not even slightly disappointed. There's always next time, right?

The Embassy
Yes, I arranged to tour the embassy while visiting my brother. I am that much of a nerd. But I figured, future job research, right? I found the embassy really laid back and comfortable. I probably shouldn't say too much, but the people were friendly, the amenities at the embassy itself seemed great, and they have peacocks and deer that live there. Need I say more? It's like working at the zoo!

So thanks big brother (and inlaws) for hosting me! You have a beautiful country, full of beautiful and kind people. My only regret is that Paraguay is so far from home.

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