Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Guayaquil Hostal, Final Days and Thoughts.

Guayaquil final days.

Guayaquil was a sultry place to be sure.  It was a city of over 3 million people. It was busy, sultry, dirty, and at the same time beautiful.  It is the gateway to the Galapagos Islands.  By far, my favorite place was the Parque de las Iguanas.  On the whole, I think that Guayaquil was well worth the visit, however I don't wish to ever return.  I never really felt safe in Guayaquil.  Perhaps I was pre-biased based the research I did before the trip.


Hostals are small non-traditional hotels.  They are not chains and frequently family owned, and sometimes are actually in peoples homes.  A hostal may consist of a room in a home or a house or small hotel converted to serve perhaps 20 guests or more.  Hostals frequently include a free breakfast and offer an "off the beaten path" way to experience the country and meet natives and ex-pats from all over the world.  If you ask around and do your homework, you can find very nice places to stay in nice and safe neighborhoods with ample opportunity to interact with very interesting people.  An added plus to staying hostals is that they are usually much less expensive than hotel chains.  I highly recommend them.


Hostal Macau business card

Hostal business card (back) with map


Hostal view from the front

Welcoming front door

Pleasant stairway to upstairs rooms                      

Bright and cheerful hall.  Murals painted by local talent

Hallway art

Small sitting area, and stairs to third floor.

Yet more hallway art.  A skylight above aids in lighting.

Spartan but clean room (twin beds)

Small table with small TV- My room was much larger with larger tv and more dressers, etc.  Still, safe and very comfortable, clean and quiet.

Very simple bathroom.

Simple shower.

A/C unit  next to window- quiet and very effective.  Very nice after being in the heat and humidity.

View of street and courtyard from second floor.

This hostal was very nice, and if you haven't ever tried one, I highly recommend it.  You have to be up for an adventure.  You won't find room service and all of the "extras", but it is fun, cozy, and gets you close to the "pulse" of the people.

Next up...Salinas Ecuador, and the coast.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

On the way to the mall in Guayaquil

Guaya Mall Shopping- A modern clean, busy, upscale, urban experience.


If you like cream or creamer for coffee, bring some in packets that will get through TSA because cream and creamer are hard to come by.  Same with mustard for some reason.  Ketchup here is not the same either- it is very sweet and not at all like we are accustomed to, so may want to put that on the list as well.
Pharmacies are great.  Have diarrhea?  No problem.  Walk in ask for Cipro 500mg.  1 week supply $9.00, no Rx needed.
They even have a no Rx Lunesta ( Zetix 7.5 mg, Dalay(medication for $10.00 in case you can’t sleep.  Just ask for medicina para dormir (my Spanish is so bad, I’m thinking I wasted both those years in high school?), but anyway, you can get a lot just by asking and it is cheap.
Thankfully I didn’t need any dental care.  I did want to visit a hospital to see how this “great” care really is, but that will be next trip.

Now a serious word.  A number of internet sites like “Internationaliving.com, and to a lesser extent, Liveandinvestoverseas.com” get a LOT of press these days as they pander to baby boomers on the precipice of retiring, but perhaps without the financial means.

I strongly urge everyone who is thinking about relocating to another country to look at these sites with about a million grains of salt.  Hear me now, hear me loud and hear me clearly.  Everyone has a motive.  I stated mine at the beginning of the blog (I want to have a central repository of things I have learned about Ecuador that I could refer to, and I wanted to educate anyone who also wanted to learn.  I wanted an excuse to use my camera, and to write.  My final “agenda” is to have an adventure to share. Those are my only agendas- period.

Now back to the “expat” sites.  Look at them carefully. You will notice that they have one agenda- to get your money.  I don’t begrudge anyone the right to make a fair wage for fair work, but when it comes to moving to a third world country, you are in the Wild Wild West, and you may see your money disappear before the ink dries on the page.  Worse yet, you may inherit liabilities that you never imagined.

Here are some stories that I heard, and I heard them regularly, so I believe them to be true.

*Land ownership issue- Builders build on land they don’t own.  They hope to be able to buy it with sales of the units they sell, but guess what??  Nope.
*Double Dippers, Rope-a-dopers- No MLS or real estate regulation.  The realtor may just charge commission to everyone (double dip).  Another classic move is to ask the seller what he wants- say $50K.  He meets buyer, sells for $70K + double dip, keeps the extra 20K- ouch.
*Rental properties- a good thing to do for 6 months to a year to see how things work and be sure you want to live in an area.  Be careful here too, as I have heard that many managers will refuse to service the units with problems, especially on weekends.  See gringotree.com and see recommendations section.
*If you go to a country, find a variety of expat sites.  If they have “Ambassadors” etc, (internations.com) , beware of these as they are usually somehow profiting from your move into the area.  I advise trolling the bbs’s or trying to meet people who have nothing to sell.  Strike up friendships.  Personally, I made a pen pal from Canada.  I went to Ecuador first and reported back to him.  When he goes, he will report back to me.  Best Intel ever
*My best advice is this.  Once you cross the border, you are on the road to adventure or highway to Hell.  The road is one in the same.  The only thing that makes it different is the attitude of the traveler.  Go to another country BECAUSE you want to experience something new to you and different to you.  Go to a 5 star resort in the USA if strange looking sights, sounds, and smells are going to offend you.

If you have read this far, I will risk assuming that you are a fellow adventurer.  On the road in South America, you will stand out as a white face.  Not to worry however, you will be welcomed.  The problem however is that not many people speak English, so learn as much as you can.  If you know no Spanish, that is the best reason to come- now.  What an adventure.

Here is the deal.  There are a few Ecuadorians who speak English and are glad to practice with you.  Gringos are around here and there and they are also usually, actually unusually friendly and helpful.  When all else fails, you will get by.

When you get to a new town, find out where all the gringos hang out, and go there to get the “skinny” on things.  They will set you straight, tell you who to avoid, whom to go to, etc. 

Remember, life is and adventure.  That highway doesn’t go straight, and sometimes, you just see a side road that beckons and you have to explore it.  Don’t resist it.

Street Scenes on the way to the mall:

Limon vendor in the busy street-$1.00/bag

  Street vendors selling balloons

Mall of the Sun entrance under renovation.  

  Ladies in a kiosk making fresh squeezed fruit juice- very sour.

Store with ladies cosmetics.  They advertise that they accept credit cards.  Also notice the modern, fashionable dress.

Not interested in cosmetics?  How about a new home in a gated community?

Pick your house style and payment plan.

Despite being a Catholic third world country that is supposed to be very “conservative”, there is a strong sexual undercurrent that is barely beneath the surface.  In any event, Ecuadorians have exploited the fact that sex sells.  This young lady is hawking prizes in exchange for signing up for something.

Also notice in the background is Cinemark Multiplex Movie Theater with current release movies-English with Spanish subtitles.

Food court like many in the U.S.A.

Burgers, Pizza, you name it, you can get it, and it is cheap.

With Dunkin’ Donuts, you know you will be safe- cops all over the place- right?

Currency is the U.S. dollar.  The brass coins are dollars, which they use in addition to our paper currency and our coins.  A dime is pictured bottom left.

This kiosk is a great idea, and one in which I had to partake in.  The Magnum Ice cream bar comes without any chocolate.   Tell the clerk how you want it personalized, and bingo, it’s all yours, and it is yummy.

Tomorrow, we will check out a hostal.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Fun Street Photography, more shopping, and Dinner in Quayaquil


Another life saver- in addition to taking cards with you, it is a great idea to take a pic of the outside of the hotel, the card, and even the street sign and intersection.  You cannot imagine how helpless you can feel not speaking the language.
When you go out, do NOT flash anything expensive
Wear a money belt, or something to keep valuables safe
Use safe in the hotel
I like to keep money in two places- one hidden so that if mugged, the mugger will be satisfied and I will still have enough money to get home.  I never go out with a lot of cash
I advise taking two credit cards or one card and one debit card in case one is lost or is compromised
I strongly advise everyone take along a safari vest.  I keep harping on this and I know it is dorky but, used it this trip.  Some smaller planes will not allow for even a small carry on bag.  Some will have restrictive carry on weight restrictions.  I was forced to part with my camera gear.  Fortunately, everything of value fit into my vest. 
I always advise going out using the buddy system to keep an eye on each other.  Also, it is helpful if someone has an excellent sense of direction.
Speak with phone company and turn off “data roaming” so you don’t get hit with a huge bill for internet.  You will still get text messages and phone calls however.

Guayaquil is a very modern city by many standards.  It has several modern-looking malls, that would look like home were it not for the “strange looking” brand names and foreign language.  In general, things are much less expensive here in Ecuador; however, there are some very notable exceptions.  Electronics such as computers, phones, large appliances and durable goods are VERY expensive.  That large screen TV that costs $700 at COSTCO may cost $4000 in Ecuador.  Want to import your car?  Forget it.  Groceries are inexpensive, but unless you go to local “markets”, you really won’t save a lot of money.  You also won’t really get a feel for the fun of being in a foreign country or dickering on a price (if that is your cup of tea).  With that in mind, here are some market pics, and some other street scenes around Guayaquil.

Covered market that sold mainly dry goods and sundries.  Jewelry, clothes, handbags, and whatever you can imagine.  I purchased my “Panama Hat” at this market for $14 USD.  At the hotel, same hat, $60.00.  Be prepared to dicker, it is their way of life.  They see gringo, and they think $$$.  Unless you absolutely MUST have that particular item, be prepared to walk if they don’t come down to a price you are willing to pay.  Don’t worry however; chances are that you will find it or a better one in a stall nearby.

Apology in advance- many of the pics were taken with my point and shoot camera, so quality isn't that great. Sorry.


Locking camera bag (thinktankphoto.com), with cable lock (see below).  Excellent “sense of security” for when leaving valuables in room when they don’t fit in a safe. The combination can be changed easily- but don’t forget it- write it down on and save on the inside while unlocked!


Wire-loop combination lock to secure bag.  Again, combination lock can be changed.  Nice!

Guayaquil Artesian Market.  It is hot, humid, cramped, but fun.  The power went out twice and stayed out the second time before I just gave up.  It is well worth a trip as it will save $$$, and it is a great place to find “stuff”.  Don’t forget to dicker for that best price.

Outside appearance of one of the entrances.

Indigent with child.

Mother and child.

  Camera shy chica, loves her food.

Artisan at work creating.

Casket makers.

El Guapo!  This young worker thought he was all that and more.  He saw I was shooting and demanded his pic be made.  So El Guapo, thumb’s up to you too- stay interesting my friend!

Ethical question solved, or “What would you have done if only…

So there are time when I am walking and I see something wrong that just begs to be righted.  This was one of those situations.  Notice this classic green beauty.  You too have likely noted that the headlights have been left on, and nobody is in the car.  The windows are up.  Of course, I don’t speak the language well, and so couldn’t explain that I wanted to just help by turning them off.  However, that wasn’t what solved the ethical dilemma (i.e., should I intervene or should I not).  See next pic.

What solved the issue was the state of the art security system.  No way was I going to mess with this Fort Knox on wheels!

A nice dinner after a long hot, hard day of seeing the sites of Guayaquil.

Fancy dinner after a long day.

Appetizers, and some good tasting stuff?    Colorful stuff too.

Crevice Soup.

Night view of fancy restaurant on my tripod- long exposure.

 Tomorrow we will go to the mall to do some shopping!


Friday, February 14, 2014

Guayaquil Street Scenes

Never leave your hotel without taking the hotel business card- simply hand it to the cabbie and sit back.
If you stay at the Hotel Galleria Ming, be warned that I had credit card information stolen without the actual card (CC) being stolen.
On the topic of CC’s, it is best to take two per person for just such a situation.  It may take a week or two to get a replacement, which is a long time to be with no money and few people who speak English.
Before leaving the country, go to your credit card on line account and set up alarms to notify you of transactions as you see fit.  For my Chase card, I set it up to contact both my email and my phone because sometimes one may work while the other may not.  I specifically have the fraud alerts activated, and I specifically am notified by phone and email of every charge that is made, regardless if the card is physically present for the transaction or not.
I mentioned this before, but worth repeating notify banks and cc companies of your travel plans.
For more mundane tips, you may find it handy to bring ketchup of your choice, as the type here is very different from what you are used to and may not be to your liking.  Other things to bring in small TSA approved containers would be mustard, coffee creamer, hair shampoo and conditioner.  You may also do well to bring a wall plug that will add electrical outlets and usb charging ports.  Ecuador uses standard electricity that is used in the USA. 

Impressions of Guayaquil.  This is a very large city (3+ million).    It is dirty and it is filthy.  By that I mean there is always dust, sand, and dirt around. On the other hand, there is also whole a lot of rubbish thanks to people littering, and perhaps to some extent, inadequate trash collection.  I witnessed a thug spry painting/tagging a bridge at a stoplight. 

Guayaquil was at the same time beautiful.  The malecon was very interesting but dangerous.  There was plenty to do in Guayaquil with clubs, dancing, drinking, walking, or just enjoying a nice parque or the malecon.  Regardless, I never quite felt safe, and this colored all impressions I had of the place and the people.  I don’t want to revisit this place again.

Next, photos of Guayaquil (phonetically: Y-ah-keel, as on a ship).  From the best I can tell, this is the pronunciation as the Guaya-killers call it.

View of the Las Peñas  (colonial) district.  The area is noted for the colorful homes on the hill (called Cerro Santa Ana, or I will refer to it as the hill), along with the lighthouse, and church at the very top.  In the foreground and to the right is the newly renovated malecon 2000.

Another view of the Las Peñas District with dramatic clouds.  Residents of Guayaquil refer to themselves as “Guayaquileños” Guayaquil residents are descended from Valdivia people who flourished there from before 2000 BC. Spaniards including Francisco de Orellana (who discovered the Amazon River and claimed Guayaquil), and others.

Up close and Personal With The Las Peñas district.  The district has (I believe) two ways to get in and out.  The usual tourist was is a stairway to the top lined on either side with shops, and restaurants.  Side streets are also present.  Each street is nicely numbered on the right side on a ceramic tile.

 The first pic I took was at # 15.  By the time I reached the top, I figured the numbers were useful to tell paramedics exactly where my cardiac arrest occurred.  Note the girl sitting on the cannon- more later.  

A house along the way to the top

Typical crowd of shoppers, tourists, and residents.

Family residence

Restaurant along the way 

View at sunset from around midway up

The final tile, and a welcome sight indeed.  Carrying 35lbs of camera gear, this was a hike.  We also hired 3 security guards ($30.00 total) to ensure safe passage.

Lighthouse at the top

Chapel at top

Sunset over the Guayas River

Views of Guayaquil from the top

 Views of Guayaquil from the top

 Views of Guayaquil from the top