Paraguay — Past the “No attractions past this point” sign (Day 532)

Paraguay and I got off on the wrong foot when they made me work really hard to get a visa.  I had to visit an embassy (twice), do lots of paperwork, get copies of everything, pay money (USD only), have a pre-booked onward ticket (the bane of all independent travellers), etc.  The embassy was crowded, hot, chaotic, with lines everywhere that go to nowhere.  Babies crying.  The works.

All this, and, to be honest, Paraguay doesn’t have too much going on.  No major tourist attractions.  An American writer, PJ O’Rourke once said, “Paraguay is in the middle of nowhere and famous for nothing.”  I have never met anyone who has been there.  They should be letting me slide right in and giving me a high-five as I do.  As a friend said, they should “roll out the red carpet.”

But, I think I am giving it more of a hard time than it deserves.  I believe if you travel into the north you can find some good adventure in this country.  Unfortunately, I didn’t make a lot of time for it and just passed through.  Here are a few observations I made during my short visit there:

– there are guys who sell sugarcane juice in the streets .  After you are done drinking, they rinse the glass out in murky brown water and leave it out for the next person to use.  The juice is very good; the hygiene… not so much.

– you can buy anything here for very cheap.  Especially electronics.  The prices are excellent; the quality is… suspect.

– damn it is hot!  The constant sweating really cleans out the pores.  If you don’t get a fan in your room, you might not survive the night.

– In the centre of Asuncion it seems like there are 8 million optical shops.  But, as somebody pointed out to me, nobody wears glasses!  It’s ridiculous.  Who is buying all these glasses, I have no idea.

There is one thing I did love about Paraguay:  the lack of other travelers.  If you go, you will find yourself to be one of the few.  Don’t go to Paraguay for the tourist attractions;  the lack of tourists is the attraction.

The Governor’s Palace.  This might be the first government building to ever make it into this blog.

These stores are always empty

The infamous Friendship Bridge spans the Parana River and connects Paraguay with Brazil.  It is a notorious smuggling route between the two countries.  This is what it looks like when you are stuck in a traffic jam on it.

PS:  I stole the excellent line in the title of this post from Mr.  Downie, one of my favourite people.

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