Ecuador
Discoteca Yoko

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9 travelers at this place

  • Day67

    Cuenca - Week 1

    March 10, 2020 in Ecuador ⋅ ⛅ 68 °F

    I'll split up the Cuenca visit into 2 posts since we're here for 2 weeks. We enrolled in Spanish courses with Estudio Sampere, a Spain-based school that has offices in Quito and Cuenca. We had poor internet connections in the Galapagos and were having so much fun there that we never got around to booking a school and homestay until we got to Cuenca. We arrived on a Sunday night and showed up at this school on Monday morning. Within an hour we had a family to stay with for 2 weeks and enrolled in classes for the same time. We started classes that afternoon. What luck, since schools here only let you start on Mondays.

    I preferred to have 1-1 instruction and Deanne wanted a group beginner class. My private tutoring only cost $40 or so more per week. Sheesh. That's cheap. I think it cost us about $8-9 per hour of instruction. The homestay included room and board. All told, 3 hours of Spanish instructions and full room and board for 2 weeks was about $1500 for both of us, or a little over $100/day. That's great value. Our teachers were great and had been teaching Spanish for over 20 years each.

    Our family was the Polo family. Benigno and Lorena are about our age and have 4 kids. One is a doctor, the 20 something twins are in medical school, and the youngest at 19 is thinking about med school. We're in good hands! The house is awesome and has lots of light. It's in a newer, nicer neighborhood just south of the old town center, south of the Rio Tomebamba. It's a 15 minute walk to classes. We walk through the lovely Parqe de Madres every day at least once. This is a really nice park with a running track, new exercise equipment, a basketball court, a small plantarium, and room for concerts. It's awesome to see so many people exercising and hanging out every day. A couple nights a week, there's a large Zumba class and on weeekend mornings, there's a yoga class in the corner.

    It's a little bit of a shock for us to live with strangers, but the Polo family is awesome. Benigno Sr. lived in the US for a year as an exchange student in high school and Lorena lived in Miami for 2 years. They've forgotten about as much English as I've forgotten Spanish, but we get by. Benigno Jr. lived in Chicago while studying for US medical schools and speak English fairly well. He hopes to pass a test so he can practice in the States. We miss a lot of the conversation once they get going, but they slow it down for us and can translate when needed.

    The morning slots at the school were full, so we had to study between 3-6:15 pm each day. Not my most attentive time of day, but hey, we got in the school at the last minute, so we took it. I took a month of lessons in Quito 25 years ago and lost a lot of it since I don't study or practice. I picked up a lot of bad gringo Spanglish since then and I've had to unlearn some bad grammar. The first hour and 15 minutes is grammar lecture and the last hour and 15 minutes is conversation. Deanne had some basic high school Spanish, but is starting from scratch, basically.

    Cuenca really is a lovely city. It's grown a bit since I was here last. My first visit was April of 1992 and I visited one other time a few years later. I remember it being the "conservative, quiet town." Not anymore. The fist visit I remember walking around town alone on a weekend night and there were no bars open. Now, almost 30 years later, the streets are full of them and restaurants, many of them ethnic restaurants from other countries. It's a lot cleaner and busier. There are 3 Universities here so there are lots of young people. I remember bringing a few beers down to the Rio Tomebomba with my friend Bill Henry and watching Kichwa women do laundry on the rocks in the river. Now, the river is a parkway with pedestrian paths, a bike path, and absolutley no clothes washing is allowed.

    I told Deanne about an embarrasing incident from that first trip. I was wondering around Calle Larga alone when I saw what I THOUGHT was a beautiful antique shop. I wondered in and glanced at a few nice pieces. An elderly woman asked me if she could help me. I said (In Spanish, of course) that No, I was just looking. She glanced up and yelled for her grandson who came out onto the balcony looking down on me and he said "This is our house!" I was mortified and apologised profusely. But now, 30 years later, I'm pretty sure I found the spot on Calle Larga. And guess what it is now? An antique shop! I told the story to my conversation teacher and she laughed and said that sounds like the place down the street and there's an elderly lady that is a tad lonely and likes it when people stop in to chat. Too bad is was closed when I found it again.

    Lots of expats have chosen to live here for the year-round spring-like weather. At 2500 meters and near the equator, it's about 53- 75 degrees each day and this time of year, it rains about every afternoon. There are about 8,000 expats that call Cuenca home, and about 5,000 are Americans! That's a lot. And they've changed Cuenca quite a bit, for better or worse. Housing costs are up but there are so many more cultural events to see/do. For a gringo, it's still pretty cheap. Many live in one area NW of town in new condos in an area the locals call GringoLandia. But I don't feel any animosity here. People are incredibly friendly until they get behind the wheel. They are not the safest drivers. There are few pedestrian lights, so you have to crane your neck to look for the one car light per intersection and try to guess if it's safe to cross. But, there are lots of good sidewalks and it's really a safe city. There are lots of cops in the parks and central city, and many neighborhoods like ours have private security guards. I haven't heard of any crime but I'm sure there is in other parts of town. And beers are still cheap. A 750 ml beer costs about $2.50 - $3 here. In the Galapagos, they were $5-6. And wow, there are a LOT of microbreweries here, like maybe 8 or more. That's a huge change.

    Our school sponsors events for us and we're taking advantage. We went to a nearby National Park called "Cajas" which means boxes. Supposedly, the many lakes up there in the mountains look like boxes. We had a great guide who was a biologist and he explained all the unique plants to us. There are so many that only grow in this area, at 3500-4000 meters. One green plant looks and feels like astroturf. It has to withstand the high wind. Our guide found a small flower that when plucked, looks like a tiny bird. He said it's eaten by a tiny bird that looks just like it! That freaked me out. We went on a long hike from the Continental divide and down to some Podocarpus trees, these unique trees from the area. It was a great day and a nice break from school. I gotta say that learning a language at this age is much harder than 25 years ago, so we appreciated the cultural breaks.

    With the Polo family, Almuerzo (lunch) is the main meal. It's very formal and the entire family is there. Breakfast is light and is fresh fruit, juice and some eggs. But we need to be back by 1 pm for the big lunch. I have no idea what they do for dinner because we're the only ones that seem to eat it at home. It's included with our plan. Many times we have leftovers, but we've started going out for dinner so we're not a bother to Lorena and also because we want to explore the restaurant scene. It's good and varied here. A set lunch or dinner can be as cheap as $2.50. It's basic, but includes a juice, protein, and 2 starches. But we've been opting for better fare in the $10 range each. We splurged a couple times on the nicest restaurants with wine, and that sets us back about $80 for an amazing seafood meal with a bottle of wine for 2.

    Before classes, we either study or hit a museum or the local market. There's a place with a LOT of hustle and bustle. There are lots of women in their cool hats selling the veggies they bring in from the countryside. One of the more intersting museums we went to was the Museum of Forbidden Art. It's nice to know there are radicals in a conservative Catholic city. Check out the pics. Think: possessed babies, fallus faucets in the bathroom, caskets for selfies, etc.

    We also visited a 100 year old chocolate factory in town that was sponsored by our school. That was fascinating. I've taken chocolate tours before but this was different. The machines were made by the owners dad when he started the company. They only make 100% pure chocolate from cacao. They sell it to bakeries and chocolatiers in Ecuador only since international shipping and taxes are crazy expensive. Everything is by hand and by very basic machinery. See the pics. Basically, once they separate out the dried seed from the shell, they grind it and it turns into a thick liquid chocolate that then cools to a solid. They make (for lack of better words), a blob, a pancake, and a large banana leaf imprint and then package these by weight for confectioners or bakers in the area.

    Deanne found some nightlife for us on Facebook. We saw an Argentine rock band called Espiritus at a really nice hostel. It cost $25 each, which is pricey if you're in Cuenca and don't know their music. The warmup band wasn't very good, but we really liked the band. We were definitely the oldest ones around and the only gringos. There's so much more we've done and seen that I probably have forgotten. But after studying in the morning a bit and (gasp!) doing homework and then having 3 hours of PM classes, many nights were were just pooped and hung out in our private room. And yes, we got a private bathroom too.

    All photos and vids from Cuenca's week 1 are here. https://photos.app.goo.gl/DNnq8go5ca5sbPWx9
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  • Day25

    Cuenca - Eine Genussstadt

    September 26, 2016 in Ecuador ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    Huhu!

    Heute berichte ich euch von unseren Erlebnissen in Cuenca.
    Zuerst soll aber gesagt sein:
    Wir haben uns hier mal sehr gehen lassen, denn Cuenca ist einfach eine tolle Stadt mit vielen tollen kleinen Cafés, Restaurants und Bars. Außerdem ist die Altstadt super süß - es verläuft ein Fluss parallel zu der Hauptstraße und an vielen Wänden gibt es Graffiti-Kunstwerke oder schöne Türen zu bewundern.

    Wir haben die 5 Tage im "Alternative Hostels" verbracht und ich war super begeistert! Im Gegensatz zu dem letzten Hostel in Baños, hatten wir ein großes Zimmer mit vielen Fenstern, ein eigenes Bad, dass täglich zweimal geputzt wurde, super gutes WLAN, eine tolle Lage, direkt am Rand der Altstadt und wirklich nette Leute, die dort gearbeitet haben. Nur das Frühstück ließ zu wünschen übrig, aber man kann ja nicht alles haben.

    Allerdings war auch dieses Hostel erstaunlich ruhig. Viele Leute haben sich zurückgezogen in ihren Gruppen, anstatt sich mit einem zu unterhalten. Zum Glück haben wir am Donnerstag einen Engländer kennengelernt, der fortan mit von der Partie war!
    Am Donnerstag sind wir mit Ryan in ein Sushi-Restaurant gegangen, was wir uns theoretisch nicht leisten konnten, aber wer kann Sushi schon wiederstehen? Es war wirklich köstlich!
    Anschließend haben wir unsere erlebnissreiche "Mojito-Tour" gestartet.
    Am ersten Tag haben wir uns nämlich umgeschaut und an super vielen Restaurants und Bars Happy Hour Mojito 2 für 1 für 5$ gesehen! Das haben wir dann auch direkt an dem Tag einmal ausgenutzt und der war so gut, aber so stark, dass wir nach einem echt super gut drauf waren! Eigentlich sollte da schon die Tour starten, aber als wir eine Pause im Hostel einlegten, haben wir die lange Busfahrt doch ziemlich gemerkt und sind eingeschlafen - Que pena!
    Naja, aber es wurde dann ja am nächsten Tag was draus mit unserer netten Bekanntschaft!
    Wir hatten unheimlich viel Spaß und sind von einer Bar zur anderen gelaufen, haben Karaoke gesungen, ein Bild (ausversehen) geklaut und viel Geld dagelassen! :-D
    Aber dafür, dass Cuenca als DIE Partystadt bekannt ist, waren die Straßen wahnsinnig verlassen.

    Ansonsten waren wir mit Ryan in einem sehr merkwürdigen Museum, wo es aber die besten Waffeln gibt, haben uns Pasta gekocht und als der Engländer wieder los musste, haben wir noch einen Lazy-Day genossen und einen unglaublich tollen Laden entdeckt! Er heißt "Prickly Pear", verkauft seeehr gutes mexikanisches Essen und hat eine wirklich tolle Geschichte über eine Frau, die drei Flüchtlinge aus Venezuela aufgenommen hat und nun dieses Restaurant mit ihnen aufgebaut hat, damit sie wieder Arbeit haben. Wir mussten am Sonntag gleich wieder hin, weil uns die Frau so fasziniert hat!
    Am letzten Tag dann sind wir noch zu dem Nationalpark "El Cajas" gefahren und durch die Berge gewandert - wirklich super schön!

    Also insgesamt eine sehr entspannte und lustige Woche, in der wir sehr viel und sehr gut gegessen und getrunken haben! ;-)

    xx,
    Jojo
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  • Day72

    Cuenca Week 2

    March 15, 2020 in Ecuador ⋅ ⛅ 68 °F

    Wow. So much has changed in our 2nd week in Cuenca due to Covid 19, the Coronavirus outbreak. We've been watching and reading the news from other countries, especially Italy and have had a "wait and see" attitude. After finishing our 2nd and final week of Spanish school, we are looking to rent an apartment and hunker down with stocked food and supplies in a safe space. More on that later though.

    While it seems lame to describe our adventures here during a world-wide pandemic, I want to do so just for the record. At the beginning of this week, the Ecuadorian government announced that there were a couple cases in Ecuador. They were brought in by an Ecuadorian National visiting from her home in Spain. The other seems to have been a Dutch National on vacation and was in the Oriente, or Amazon basin when he showed symptoms. Each day, the government took more and more precautions and we kept at our classes. By the other day, all schools were cancelled and groups of more than 500 were banned. By today, groups of over 100 are banned nationwide and the borders are closed to incoming people. That includes land borders. Everyone is ecouraged to stay at home. There are 31 testing centers available nation wide and 2 deaths to date, including the woman visiting from Spain. These tallies change daily, but it seems that the rate is about the same as in Wisconsin as of today, with the notable exception that there are 2 deaths here and none in Wisconsin as of today (March 15, 2020).

    But we continued with business as usual and went to a hat museum the other day that showed how the unfortunately named "Panama" hat is made. They are made here in Ecuador and were misnamed when Teddy Roosevelt was seen sporting one in Panama, where they were popular. Anyway, it was quite intersting to see how they're made. The "super fino" hats can cost over $1,000!

    By midweek, we were both getting tired of classes but stayed with it. I actually missed a day of class from stomach problems that came and went within a day. The water is safe to drink here but something got me. We had been buying water or using iodine treated water mostly and the day after I switched to tap, I got sick. But 3 days after that I switched back to tap and have been fine for a week, so go figure.

    We continued to eat out at some good restaurants, alternating between cheap and good ones to expensive and good ones. And Deanne found out that a band from the Congo was giving a free concert at a mid-size concert hall. We went to that and had a great time but wondered if they would close this venue soon. Yep, 2 days later this and all venus holding 100 or more were closed. Also, as of yesterday, all museums were closed nation wide. It's getting real.

    We see the fear and hoarding going on in the states, but it's not happening here, yet. I am actually happy I'm here. The Ecuadorian government health department is top-notch and seems to be much more organized than the states and seems to be in front of this. Oh, and speaking of health, there are all of these labs all over town where you can get your blood tested for just about anything for relatively cheap. Deanne and I went and just started checking boxes for tests we wanted, no doctors script needed! I asked my physician friend Mike for what tests I should get. Within a half hour we had our blood drawn and paid about $125 for 8 tests between us: lipid panel, PSA, cholesterol, thyroid, and many more. We could see the results online by 4:00 that day. And yes, this was a new, modern lab. Try getting that done in the states, and for anywhere near that price with no insurance. And the best part? The data is ours and not a health insurance company's. They could use these tests to deny us coverage in the future. Without getting into details, we're both healthy and there were no issues. Deanne was absolutely amazed at some of the tests we could take, including ones that tested for various types of cancer. You can't normally get those if you wanted in the US unless your physician had good reason to suspect. Good job, Ecuador!

    The only problem we've seen is that handi-wipes are impossible to find. I set out one morning to get a haircut and maybe find some rubbing alcohol or handi-wipes. I found a grocery store that just opened up and they had a big selection of rubbing alcohol. I was considering buying a liter when a woman came up in front of me and grabbed 4. I decided I'd get 2 and some alcohol free baby wipes and just add the alcohol to it. The psychology of that purchase is so interesting. I was going to skip it until I saw her grab four. Should I grab 4? Or more? I settled on 2 since we're traveling and they're heavy.

    I also found a couple gel dispensers, which are rare also. We''ve been trying to wash our hands or sanitize them hourly now and clean our phone several times a day. That's quite a change. Deanne has had over 30 years experiance as an eye doctor and never touches here eyes, nose, or mouth. Conjuntivitus is so easily spread in an eye doctor's office, and she is very disciplined. I need to learn to stop that bad habit, quick like!

    But the main problem we seem to face in the future is food, and where to isolate. We booked 4 nights in a town called Vilcabamba south of here that is at lower altitude but considered a paradise. We're in an inexpensive boutique yoga hostel (yeah, I know....) that is highly recommended. But we are dailly changing our minds on what to do: find an apartment there and stock up on food? Our main concern is that if they close all restaurants (like in Italy) we'd be screwed pretty quick. The alternative for us is to head to a beach town and get a monthly rental and stock up there. Sea, sand, and sun are the enemy of a virus, right?

    To hell with our return plans and scheduled flight on May 7 and planned visit to Colombia before that. We are in full survival mode now and are looking for the best place to wait this out. We have lots of ebooks and 2 eReaders and we can go anywhere. A plus for Vilcabamba is that they grow lots of veggies there and it's not too populated. We're torn, so tomorrow we will go to Vilcabamba and take the fear temperature and look at some apartments. And I'm concerned about runs on ATMS. We haven't seen any of that, but once panic sets in, all hell will break loose. We've started withdrawing the max amounts for 3 days now. Normally, we'd NEVER carry so much money, but Ecuador is very safe outside of main tourist areas and bus stations. We hired a van from the hostel, so there will only be 6 people max in it and we can avoid the bus station. Actually, I just heard from the hostel. Last week, we barely got a reservation and now they have lots of empty units! Maybe our shuttle will be just us and the driver? Not bad for $30 for two and a 5 hour drive that would take about 8 via taxi to the bus station, a wait, and then the bus that stops a few times on the way.

    Speaking of which, we decided to take public buses to 3 villages today. It's Sunday, which is market day and this is when all the people come from surrounding small villages to the closest markets. We went to Gualaceao, Chordeleg, and Sigsig. It was fun and interesting and the views from the bus was amazing. Only a few people were wearing masks and we did find hand sanitizers at 2 markets that the health department put up. Deanne has this cool small hand pump for alcohol she got as swag at a conference years ago. On a whim, she packed it months ago and now we were using it every half hour on our buses and after walking through the markets. I'll be refilling it daily, I think. It was a great day and we feel like that might be the last time we're in crowds for some time.

    As we hopped in a cab from the bus station to go home, I saw a sign on a hotel across from the bus station : Closed due to the Cornon Virus. I think we really need to find an apartment with a kitchen sooner rather than later. If people start dying here, they'll close all the restaurants.

    In a couple hours, we leave our fun homestay. The Polos are a fun and loving family and seem to always have a good time. We feel so lucky to have been placed with them and to be in such a nice, new neighborhood with lots of restaurants and shops. Our first 2 nights in the old town got pretty bad because the bus and car exhaust went right into our room, even with doors and windows closed. We are also so lucky because this weekend our Spanish school closed its doors indefinitely. That happened 2 days after our last class.

    I hope everyone reading this stays safe and practices good health habits. As my mom and dad used to always say, "This too shall pass."

    All photos and vids are here. https://photos.app.goo.gl/uwwPrVxpRBnm2eJ37

    Today
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    Deb Furlong

    Glad you guys are being careful. Stay safe. Happy travels!

    3/16/20Reply

    What is this a picture of?? (from Anne H)

    3/17/20Reply
    Dave Hippler

    Ecuadorian pigs in a blanket. Chancho is roasted pig and at markets they have them lined up to eat.

    3/17/20Reply
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  • Day207

    Golden Prague Pub

    June 3, 2018 in Ecuador ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    We have walk past the pub two days earlier and noticed the Czech week event from 3rd of June. As that's our last day in Cuenca, we have decided to pay them a visit and see what food they will have.
    Walking to the pub we dreamt about gulas and svíčkova and other Czech delicatesses.
    Once we sat down we ordered a beer each and as we thought it's 5 USD for each, we were determined to make it last throughout the dinner.
    The menu looked really good and it was hard to choose. The Czech chef Vladimír Šalanský who owns a restaurant in Strahov prepared several nice dishes.
    We agreed on gulas and sekaná and patiently waited for dishes to appear in front of us.
    In the meantime Petr spotted their Sunday to Thursday happy hour from 15:00 to 19:00. With beer half price we were ready to enjoy more than one.
    The food was served rather quickly and soon we tucked in. It was absolutely delicious and it made us miss home even more.
    Before we headed out, we asked for a photograph with the chef and promised we will visit his restaurant back in Prague.
    I think it must have been one of the best cuisine experience we had in South America and not just because the beer was finally well priced and sooo tasty!
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Discoteca Yoko, Bar Discoteca Yoko