The overpowering heat; the overcrowded streets; the peddlers chasing me with their perfumes, radios and watches; the kind people everywhere, trying to sell me anything, and giving me wrong directions with a warm smile; the stacks of cigarette boxes of all kind; the dozens of shops where you can buy all kind of electronic stuff; the sellers eating hot meals under their hot tents; all the people drinking cold terere; the constant sensation of illegality and danger; the evident illicit activities at the international bridge...
El calor agobiante; las calles atestadas; los vendedores ambulantes persiguiéndome con sus perfumes, radios y relojes; la gente amable por todas partes, tratando de venderme cualquier cosa, y dándome indicaciones equivocadas con una amplia sonrisa; las pilas de cajillas de cigarrillos de todo tipo; las docenas de tiendas de venta de todo tipo de artefactos electrónicos; los vendedores comiendo sus platos calientes bajo sus toldos calientes; todo el mundo tomando tereré; la constante sensación de ilegalidad y peligro; las actividades a todas luces ilícitas del puente...
Tres Fronteiras means three borders and it's pretty cool to be able to look out and see Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil in one glance. There are markers for each country at the point where they come together at the intersection of the Rio Iguacu and the Rio Paraná, but you don't have to visit the markers to see all three countries in one look.
For a traveler, it's hard to look out and see three countries and not at least make an attempt to set foot in each. This was my primary motivation for visiting Paraguay. I thought, "Dang, how often will I be this close!?" Of course, I didn't know about all of the danger that I referenced in the introduction, but I doubt that would have deterred me. Some local Brazilians in Foz do Iguacu mentioned that Ciudad del Este was a good place to go bargain hunting and that was all the reason I needed. We can always use a little bargaining practice.
Fondest memory: So, I stopped in the tourist information office in Foz do Iguacu and asked about which bus to take and within a half hour I was slowly inching my way over the jam-packed bridge (named the "Friendship Bridge", "Puente de la Amistad" in Spanish, "Amizade" in Portuguese) that spans the Paraná River. There were as many people crossing on foot as there were in cars and the hot weather and dust made for a miserable scene. After passing through customs (which involved a Paraguayan customs agent taking two steps into the bus looking at 2 or 3 of the 25 or so people on board and waving us through), I got off at the first stop. The streets were all lined with vendors selling trinkets, CDs, soccer jerseys and more. Most of it was probably being sold illegally. Who knows? But, since I was living dangerously, I decided to spring for a watch. The strap broke by nightfall.
Participate in the street mayhem. Never have I seen so much sales activity in such a concentrated area. The hustle and bustle on the bridge and the streets and shopping centers is phenomenal. People are literally running everywhere, to move around the boxes that come from all over the world.
Fondest memory: Learning the intricacies of the Paraguayan version of Cha Mate, the drink of the mate (mah-teh) plant, that is consumed as a beverage in northern Argentina, southern Brazil, and Uruguay. The Paraguayan version is consumed out of a special small recepticle made of a hollowed out gourd or an animal horn, but the Paraguayan version is consumed ice cold, not hot like the others drink it, and it is sipped through the same metal straw (with filter) as in the neighboring countries.
Favorite thing: If you plan to buy a lot of electronics here in Ciudad del Este, I recommend you to get a person who will follow you around. So, how do you find them? They will find you and they work for the shops. Just use your feelings if they are good or bad, then it is up to you if you want to give any tip or not. I gave 30 reais (Brasil). He helped me a lot to find the electronic things I wanted to buy here.