Sightseeing in Asuncion
Oct 27, 2009
|We have today done some sight seeing in Asuncion. It turned out to be a fairly quick exercise as there isn’t that much to see here. This probably explains why there are so few tourists here…
We got up fairly late this morning - probably at around 8.45. After showering and having some chocolate milk for breakfast we headed out on the town. Sadly breakfast isn’t included in the hotel and we didn’t find a supermarket yesterday to buy bread or something to eat. In all honesty, we didn’t search too hard either…
Our first task for today was finding somewhere that could do our laundry. We have been doing a lot of hand washing while traveling and thought our clothes might benefit from a proper machine wash with stronger detergents etc. After walked about 10-15 blocks we managed to find a same-day service. They agreed to do all our clothes for about three pounds - some things are so cheap in these countries.
We then walked the streets of Asuncion. It’s a pretty old colonial city. The buildings are often richly decorated with stucco and art-work. They have also painted the buildings in fairly strong colors - turquoise, pink, etc. This makes the city fairly colorful and interesting to walk through. Most houses are only one or two stories - but there are also a fair amount of 20 year-old high-rise apartment blocks with 10-20 stories.
Most houses, parks, plazas etc in Asuncion seem quite well planned and executed. However, the city feels a bit worn. Most things are a bit old, worn and could do with a bit of repair work and a lick of paint. It’s not desperate but it feels like that is should be done.
We’re also surprised by the amount of police officers standing around everywhere. There’s also loads of security guards. As a result the city feels very safe and secure - it doesn’t feel unsafe anywhere we‘ve been. You can obviously ask why there are so many policemen. We don’t know. Paraguay is probably a bit of a dictatorship (don’t know though!) and police state. But I like it - it feels safe walking around - but it may not be desirable…
We did manage to see the main sights in the city centre. We saw Palacio Gobierno - we originally thought it was a museum but we’re a bit surprised by the amount of uniformed guards and militaries surrounding it - the Palaza de Armas, the Pantheon, the main shopping centre, the cathedral etc. The city is really small, you walk from one end to the next in 30 minutes, so we feel that we probably have seen what’s worth seeing.
One thing that really sets this place apart from most other South American cities we have visited is that there are no souvenir vendors hassling us. It feels pretty nice. There are also almost no beggars or shoe-polishers. This feels quite nice! It was almost impossible walking around in Peru and Bolivia without constantly mumbling “no gracias” to everyone.
We had our lunch at the Lido Bar at the Plaza de Los Heroes. Lonely Planet recommended this place and stated that their Sopa Paraguya was excellent. They described the Sopa Paraguya as “cornbread with cheese and onion”. We thought this would be an interesting soup with some soaked bread on top of a cheese and onion soup. Once we got it we were very surprised - it was some sort of bread that didn’t taste too nice at all… We did however feast on a fairly nice chicken and some nice freshly squeezed juices.
After lunch we headed back to the hostel. We had decided that we had seen all we wanted to see in the city - it hadn’t taken longer than two hours. Instead we decided to try a nice local custom - the siesta. It was also getting very hot in the town - it was probably between 30 and 35 degrees. Back at the hostel we had a fairly nice long nap and didn’t leave the hostel until four in the afternoon. Siesta is definitely a good tradition!
After leaving the hotel we went to have our laundry picked up and for a brief walk around town. Iris really liked the smell of the freshly washed laundry - she has a thing for detergents and clean clothes! We managed to find an internet café where we spent 30 minutes reading emails and looking at Facebook. We also managed to book two nights at the Milhouse hostel in Buenos Aires. Hopefully it should be nice.
At around 7.30 in the evening we had our dinner at a place close to the hotel - at the junction of 25 de Mayo and Tacuary. Since Iris was so happy with her fish soup yesterday both of us decided to try the soup. It was very nice and tasty - but not as nice as yesterday.
Paraguay has/had a reputation for harboring and protecting various criminals, Nazis and the likes. My dad wrote an email telling me about Ulla Bielke. She is a countess who escaped from Sweden and is now living in Paraguay. She owes the Swedish state 75 million kronor (close to 6 million pounds) in taxes but refuses to pay. Apparently she is the person with Sweden’s biggest tax debt.
We have felt that Paraguay has been an interesting country to visit but we also understand why there are so few tourists coming here. There isn’t that much to see. But we would definitely prefer hiding from the Swedish tax authorities here, like Ulla, rather than spending time in jail. That being said, we have found the Paraguayans to be pretty nice people. The police officer who talked to us yesterday, the waiter making us talk to his son, etc have made an impression.