The capital of Paraguay is one of the oldest in South America, founded in 1537. Not much remains these days of early Spanish conquistadors time. Today, it is a city where rich and poor live side by side and the culture of Western style shopping malls is growing. The city does have few interesting spots to discover but first a word about timetables. The places have the most strange opening hours. While many restaurants don’t open for dinner before 7 pm in our hotel in Encarnación the dinner time was between 3-8 pm. As you can gather there is clearly not much consistency there. Many establishments have closures during the day anytime between 12-3pm and information about opening hours is not easily found. Why oh why don’t they just display them at the door?
Museo del Barro
This little gem of a museum is definitely worth a visit (strange opening times too, closed Mondays and Tuesdays but at least info on their website). The have a lot of contemporary and ceramic art from the region. We were surprised by the amount of erotic art in otherwise pretty Catholic country. Also, the women seem to have pretty classical style, round bodies. No body image issues in Paraguay – whoop whoop.
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Some of the great spots in Rio, continued.
Mosteiro de São Bento
This is one of the prettiest monasteries I have seen. Build in 1590 by Benedictine monks it is still operational today. The gold-leaf interiors decorate the walls from top to bottom in a majestic but not tacky way. The ceiling is made from jacaranda – one the most precious granite stones in the world. Most importantly, one gets a sense of total peace there. This is a beautiful spot to take a few minutes off from the bustling centre of Rio.
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We had two weeks in Rio so plenty of time to explore the city. Here are some of the spots I liked, without any order of preference.
Cactus garden in Botanical Garden
I can recommend a visit to Jardim Botânico to anyone who finds themselves in Rio. They cover a large area with different sections where one can see things like Atlantic Forest, orchids and water lilies. We even saw some capuchin monkeys lurking in the trees. And it costs only BRL10 to visit.
My favourite though was an extensive cactus garden they have. I haven’t seen so many different cacti anywhere before. I am really fond of these plants who survive in the minimalistic settings for long time (like years with me and Markus). And they just have this raw beauty and grace in them that pleases the eye.
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Our visit to this landmark of Rio happened rather spontaneously after a rainy morning turned into a sunny afternoon. One of the first advices we got after arriving to Rio: If you get few hours of sunshine, use them as they might not last. So we saw an opportunity on the move and grabbed it.
First, I want to say few words about the surrounding area. Next to the Sugarloaf Mountain is a smaller hill called “Morro da Urca” that one must reach before getting to the actual mountain. The classic way to reach the Sugarloaf Mountain (SLM) is to take two cable cars, first to the Morro da Urca and second one leading to the top of the SLM.
The alternative way is to hike to the top of the Morro da Urca and then take the cable car for the second leg of the journey. That is what we did.
We started our journey from the beach at the base of the hills. It is so beautiful there – we only regretted not having time to lie around and enjoy the sun.
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One disadvantage of being a white person here is becoming really clear. You are put into a white person box. White person has money and is source of tips from different kinds of weird services. Tricycle ride costs you triple because you have money. And you want to buy all sorts of things-from light-sticks to coral shells and Boracay magnets. Being put into this box is really sad since we wanted to make friends with local people and experience “real”, local life. We don’t mind contributing to the economy and helping people out but it would be nice if interaction would go beyond the point of selling us something. Also, I am afraid while English is an official language and many people possess a basic ability to communicate in it, the level is not good enough to have an actual conversation.
At the same time this all made me realise how vain some of our “Western” lifestyle is. People just lie on the beach, buy some useless crap, spend days having massage and drinking beer. Is it surprising that we are treated a bit like money bags since we clearly have all this money to “waste”? You cannot blame local people for making their ends meet the best way they can. I did some google research and discovered that average Philippine salary is about PHP11700 per month. While you can probably make your ends meet here things like travelling are not in question not to mention just hanging around, buying useless crap. Read More »
We have now been good two weeks in Australia and it is time to reflect on what we have gathered so far on Australian lifestyle, at least here in the East Coast. Read More »