Last week, I spent three days in Ciudad del Este for work. CDE (a fitting nickname as both an abbreviation and for its similarity to the word “seedy”) is in the eastern-most part of the country, near Paraguay’s border with Argentina and Brazil. It certainly is a seedy place and has a reputation as a rough town, known for smuggling, counterfeit goods, and related crimes. It’s not really a vacation spot on its own but more like a place one would visit to do some shopping in CDE’s markets or on the way to nearby Iguazú Falls.
The drive from Asunción to CDE is about five hours long, almost entirely on a two-lane paved road with an occasional passing lane. The drive alternates between small, spread-out towns and vast, green open land.
In the towns, there are small roadside stands selling all sorts of things – fruits, honey, chipa (Paraguayan specialty bread), ceramics, and custom wooden furniture. In the fields, there were many animals – pheasants, goats, sheep, horses, dogs, cows, chickens. In many cases, there were no fences keeping the animals away from the road. Some animals were tethered to a stake and some were just wandering free. I’m surprised we didn’t pass more road kill!
Our hotel in CDE was on the banks of the Paraná River and the pool had a great view of Brazil, just across the river.
On Thursday evening after our work was done, we went to dinner at the home of a Paraguayan. We arrived at 9pm. Dinner was served at midnight, only after our hostess asked, “Should we eat?” The Americans responded with an enthusiastic and hungry, “Yes!” Dancing began at 1:30 and we finally left at 3:30am! The Paraguayans sure do things late here!
The next morning we were all dragging and not looking forward to our drive home. Before we hit the road, we hit the markets to do some shopping. The markets of CDE sell everything you could imagine. The strangest thing I was offered was a parrot. I didn’t buy it. More common items include watches, sunglasses, electronics, clothes, food, shoes, bedding, gym equipment, toys, and luggage.
On the ride home, I took at least two naps and was grateful for a chance to catch up on sleep!