I low-key feel like I should start referring to September as “Solo Travel September”. Funny enough, last September I was in Bonn, Germany and this year my very first time to South America visiting Asunción, Paraguay. Even though both these trips were for work I’m still very appreciative of the opportunity. Otherwise, who knew when I’d ever end up in a city like Bonn or Asunción?
Ahh South America. Strangely it is not a continent I’ve ever had much interest in. I actually had to google Paraguay to see exactly where it was located. However, contrary to popular beliefs as well my previous “thoughts”, my short time there wasn’t too bad. My review of this trip will be in two parts; Part 1 – Overall review aka this post and Part 2 – A photo diary of snippets captured.
What I hated the most, was the time it took to get to and from Paraguay. I left Antigua Saturday afternoon and didn’t arrive in Paraguay until Sunday afternoon, almost 24 hours (not only flying time, but layovers as well). My route of travel was Antigua, Miami, Brazil, Paraguay. I thought I got over my motion sickness, but this trip showed me I didn’t. Thankful I didn’t need the barf bag!
Things went a little downhill by the time I landed in Miami. First off, I realized my next flight was delayed until 1 a.m. which would also cause me to miss my following connecting flight. If I missed that flight I wouldn’t have made it in time for the first day of the workshop. Thankfully I got placed on an earlier flight which was leaving in 15 minutes (sprints to gate). However, that also meant I won’t receive my bag when I landed in Paraguay. Fine, I’ll probably just get it the next morning as they have several flights but NOPE turned out it was “lost“. I didn’t receive my bag until Thursday (two days before I had to return). I guess these new age airports prepare you for situations like these, as I was able to pick up a few stuff while waiting on my next flight.
ARRIVAL ( Travel, Language & First Thoughts)
Arriving in Asunción – it was cloudy AF and raining a.k.a TURBULENCE. It was not the best and lasted for about ten minutes. At that point I really just wanted to get to the hotel and jump into bed.
Due to whatever restrictions I needed a VISA to enter Paraguay. Luckily the organizers arranged this and we were offered one on arrival, free of cost. There’s an office where you can receive VISAs on arrival if you don’t have an embassy in your home country. FYI They don’t take credit/debit cards and only $100 bills with a particular sequence/serial number.
After receiving my VISA and heading through immigration I was free to go. Next stop, taxi to the airport. On exiting the airport I didn’t see the usual taxi stall with yellow cabs so these guys were looking kind of shady but I made it in one piece!
The next thing which was interesting was the language barrier. Not many folks actually knew English, but my little beginner’s spanish was pretty helpful. My famous line was “poquito espanol” to let them know I knew a little Spanish. I definitely need to make a move on becoming bilingual. Another interesting thing to note is how the language differs amongst people. I used Google translator for a few things I didn’t know and they still weren’t sure of what I was saying.
On arrival to the hotel I noticed a few developed buildings, a lot of land space and trees, then we turned onto this cobblestone road with brick houses and I was confused for a split second. However, the next day as we went to the bank I realized this is how most of their side (secondary) roads are. It made sense, because after a night of consistent rainfall outside was pretty dry the next day. I guess it’s easier for run off or for the ground to soak in the water.
Full review on hotel coming soon, for anyone who’s interested.
P.S. It was raining continuously on Sunday. I ended up walking in the rain to find necessities for the next day. Unfortunately all the nearby stores were closed, thus I ended up going to the first day of the workshop in a hoodie and sneakers. After I realized I wasn’t going to get my bag anytime soon we went to the mall, Paseo La Galeria. I was actually shocked at how developed it was and also at the variety of brand name stores. There’s also another mall about a five-minute walk away, Shopping del Sol (didn’t check out this one). Farmacenter is definitely their equivalent to Walgreens, there was one on almost every other street.
There’s a wide range of food options available outside the mall as well as in the food court area. I noticed even on the way and outside the mall there were a lot of Pizza Hut restaurants located in this city. There’s a supermarket located in the mall as well as a money exchange. The exchange rate at the mall is actually higher than the one at the airport, so I got more money than previously. Understanding their money was a little difficult at first. They use Guarani and the physical money actually says 2/5/10/20 Mil but when they tell you a price it’s in thousands. Isn’t “mil” a million? FYI Most places don’t take U.S Dollars unless it’s in the mall or airport, but they take credit cards.
The hotel I was staying at only served breakfast, and thankfully lunch was provided at the workshop. Therefore, most nights for dinner consisted of whatever they had at this pizza place next door, Telepizza. There were also a variety of ice-cream shops nearby, but sadly I didn’t try any.
On the lunch menu was potato, rice, chicken and beef. It actually had flavor unlike yt people food, but no matter how differently you prepare it I really hate eating the same things for more than two days in a row.
Call me privileged I guess. Most of the food items were also prepared in a cheesy cream sauce and my stomach doesn’t usually always agree to this. I had some form of what tasted like cheesy rice on Day 1 and it was surprisingly good. The chicken and beef were always prepared well, nothing was dry or anything.
There are main highways which are paved, but also smaller roads which are made from cobblestone type material. The organizers of the workshop hired a bus to take us to the bank on the first day. The bus was extremely large (picture a tour bus) and I was really surprised at how the driver maneuvered the small streets (with cars parked on the side).
Taxi’s always seem to be readily available, it never took more than five minutes for one to arrive and as you’re driving you see taxi huts set up on various streets. There was also a lot of traffic when we decided to go into the city center, both going and coming was ridiculous. A wide variety of cars, vans, trucks were on the road including public transportation (buses) which also looked extremely packed. I suppose with a population of almost 600,000 that’s the result.
Thankfully we finished early on Thursday, so we got a chance to roam the “city center“. Before I travelled I actually googled things to do in Asunción and saw a few stuff listed, however when it came time I actually forgot about these things. I also wasn’t about to go anywhere solo because of all the thoughts I had previously (poorest country, muggers, pickpocketing etc) especially with the language barrier. Just so happens I met a group of Caribbean people who wanted to explore so I tagged along.
Overall it’s rather quiet town with various old buildings in need of remodeling or a new coat of paint. There was a sprinkle of a few modern places in between and a lot of supermarkets. It wasn’t much to see or we probably didn’t walk around enough. The area with the local crafts were basically locals selling the same things, which is similar to our town. Some of the people were actually friendly and would help you in translating messages.
Think I’ve rambled enough, if you made it this far kudos to you!
I stayed in bed the entire Friday until it was time to go. Thankfully it was all sunshine on that day!
Photo diary coming soon!