Hotel San Rafael

Ciudad del Este Travel Blog

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The market

Paraguay is one of the least visited countries in South America, worthy of only a passing mention in The Lonely Planet. The country is the second poorest in the continent, “famous” for corruption, cheap electronics, the world’s second largest dam, some Jesuit ruins (an incredible 300 years old!) and being where the infamous Rio Chaco used to be. The road still exists, but is now paved so not so much of a death-defying adventure any longer - just a long drive.

The journey from Igassu didn’t take that long. The bus stopped at the border for exit stamps and even waited for everyone to get back on. Woot! Then it was over the bridge to Paraguay.

If the Lonely Planet had included the sentence ‘ once over the bridge jump off at the first stop and go into the big white building for your entrance stamp.

An expansive framework or stand in or on which to hold, hang, or display various articles. Here the articles in question are sunglasses.
’, which it didn’t, then we wouldn’t have ended up stood in the bus terminal asking ‘donde esta…?’ whilst making ineffectual passport-stamping mimes, or back on the bus to town, or walking six blocks through crowded streets with big rucksacks. Thanks TLP!

Inside immigration was the turismo office. The smiley lady there told us of the world of amazing things that were at our fingertips in Ciudad del Este:

Visiting the dam.

A ‘technical tour’ - inside the dam.

Visiting the hydroelectric plant - kind of the dam, really.

Watching the firework display on Friday, at the dam.

Watching old episodes of Fry and Laurie. ‘Dam, double-dam and dammit to hell and back, Maustin. Daaaaaaaaam!’

There is one hostel in Paraguay and it’s not in City of the East, so we found ourselves in a fairly cheap and pleasant hotel not far from the border - the San Rafael.

Sizeable devices for the containment of liquids - in this case mate.

Big Racks

The streets of the border town are hard to navigate if you have a load of crap tied to your back. The streets (and even the central reservation) are crammed with people selling everything, from Disney based garden ornaments to inflatable paddling pools, the most popular being watches and sunglasses, with big racks of them displayed on every other store.

Massive Jugs

Paraguayan food seems to be a mix of both Argentina and Bolivia. Everywhere you go people are sat sucking on metal tubes in little flasks, or strolling along with massive jugs tied to their sides. This is mate - a kind of tea; in Argentina they like it, in Paraguay they fookin’ love it.

Juicy Melons

I’d found a distinct lack of decent fruit and veg on menus in Argentina, beef being the order of the day, but Paraguay saw the return to freshly squeezed fruit juice and roadside vendors with bright red tomatoes, succulent oranges and juicy melons for sale.

Fruits of the Citrullus vulgaris - these ones have a high water content.

After checking in we went for a quick wander around the town to check out the electrical goods. A guy in the street with various flyers suggested that we follow him, what could possibly go wrong?

We went into what looked like a shopping centre entrance, but with a guy toting a shotgun stood outside. Nothing too strange there - all the banks and casinos had armed rent-a-cops outside.

As we walked in there were noticeably more weapons - and an un-nerving lack of shops - only people scurrying around with anonymous looking boxes. Just as the shotgun saturation was getting high enough to consider turning around, the space opened out into what looked very much like an ordinary indoor shopping centre, though most of the goods were presumably smuggled.

A Cracking Pair

The good news was that I managed to get a cracking pair of sun-glasses and a new battery charger for ten pounds or so - good news as I would need it tomorrow to take awesome pictures of the world’s second biggest dam!! Oh yeah. 

PS: See what I did there?

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The market
The market
An expansive framework or stand in…
An expansive framework or stand i…
Sizeable devices for the containme…
Sizeable devices for the containm…
Fruits of the Citrullus vulgaris -…
Fruits of the Citrullus vulgaris …
Ciudad del Este
photo by: pacovera