Finishing off the last full day, dinner at what’s currently rated the top of the creative cooking spots in Asunción. So, it was off to Mburicao for another pig-out….
Last day had plans to go out with Rodrigo and a couple of friends of his who were in town visiting, we were going to go out to some of the surrounding areas, see a little countryside, some of the artesan crafts and such. Unfortunately, he got called in to work at the airline at last minute and had to cancel. So, I took a relaxing morning, continuing to rest my foot a bit, though it actually seemed to be fine at this point (which turned around completely yesterday when I woke up and it looked like a red baseball – hit the local ER and the determination seems to be that I likely got bit by some insect and the bite got infected, so fun with antibiotics, ice, and hobbling about preparing tonight’s dinner), so I just did a little souvenir shopping and then had lunch at a neighborhood café, La Antigua Estación, that has a train station sort of theme to it – the waiters are “conductors”, the cooks are “engineers”, the cash register is a “ticket office”, etc. [Closed]
Headed back to the hotel, packed, checked out, went to the airport where Rodrigo apologized profusely and made sure that again I had a great seat. Flew home, ordered sushi, life is good.
So, the final wrap-up and thoughts on Asunción, with a bit of contrast to other spots I’ve been down here and BA.
Physically, the city is much more spread out – at 45 square miles (BA is 77), but with a population that’s 1/6 of BA’s (speaking only of the two cities proper, without their surrounding metropolitan areas) – mostly that’s evidenced by it being almost completely single family dwellings of one or two stories, even the apartment buildings are smaller in general, often just three or four stories high with maybe 8-10 apartments.
It’s a much more rundown city, it reminded me a lot of visiting Henry’s hometown of Trujillo, though, it’s one of the cleanest cities I’ve been in South America, maybe second to Santiago. No dog poop (though I also noticed very few dogs), very little litter, recycling setups, etc.
It’s got an antiquated and dilapidated bus transit system that I don’t even remotely have a sense of how it works, nor did I make the effort to figure it out – most of the buses seem to just run back and forth on the few main avenues and people hail them and jump on and off at seemingly random points and for random fares. Hmm, again reminds me of Trujillo.
The people are young – in fact, I just looked up the demographics and a solid 65% of the city’s population is under the age of 30. And, while there’s clear and rampant poverty, people seem to be quite friendly. I have to admit, the general look of the place, and the fact that people are constantly eyeing you up and down if you’re a tourist and if you’re carrying anything that might be valuable, had me feeling uneasy for the trip, but, at the same time, no one ever approached and asked for anything, no one ever made any threatening moves, and I was again and again assured by people I knew and met that crime against tourists is simply not a problem. It may just be curiosity on their parts, after all, tourism is not a big thing in Paraguay. Contrast that with my having been back in BA for a mere 36 hours and have already seen two moto chorro robberies in broad daylight, both within five blocks of my home, and been accosted by one or another person begging for money at least a dozen times.
The food – heavy and starchy for the most part if you’re talking about the traditional fare. Beef and surubí (Brazilian tigerfish) are the kings of the meat world, and numerous preparations of each are generally available at everything from casual eateries to fancy spots – but almost always accompanied by heavy side dishes like yuca and potatoes. Very little in the way of fresh vegetables seems to hit the tables, and I was told by more than one person that they’re just not eaten by the majority of the population – maybe the occasional piece of fruit, but for the most part, it’s too expensive for them. Good local food blog (in Spanish), Asunción Gourmet for latest tips on what’s new and happening in town.
Costs – a very economical vacation, even with three fancy places to dine at. You could easily dine out for far less than I did and spend under $15 per dinner, and under $10 at lunch. My hotel, La Maison Suisse, clean, well kept, nice rooms, all the amenities (wi-fi, pool, small gym, garden, air conditioning, breakfast included) ran $55 a night, putting it in the mid-range of hotels in town. The current airfare from BA via Sol del Paraguay of a flat $207 roundtrip is a bargain for South America – keep in mind that that doesn’t just include the flight and tax, but also the airport departure taxes at both ends ($60 combined right now) and a free shuttle bus from BA to Ezeiza and back (there’s a near 300 peso, or $70 savings) – surprising that there’s no shuttle available at the Asunción end, but then, it’s a much cheaper taxi ride (which, going back to my original post where the taxista charged me 90,000pgy for the trip in, on the way out it was only 60,000pgy, which the driver assured me was the correct flat price).
Would I go back? Probably just to pass through on my way to explore some of the countryside stuff in Paraguay. It was an interesting city, but there’s just not a lot to do there beyond walking around and eating. Do I recommend it? Yes, though perhaps not for four and a half days unless you’re going to get some time outside the city. I think 2, maybe 3 days in town would be plenty – a nice weekend getaway (though keeping in mind that the city is pretty much closed up on Sundays).