Trip Start Nov 05, 2006
182Trip End Jan 14, 2008
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Safety - The books say the new neighborhoods in Quito aren't safe, but the locals warned us with opposite advice. We never felt threatened or that we were in danger, but old town at night seemed more risky than the new area. It seems that the crime is more of opportunity and misdirection than of a violent nature. The accounts of muggings we heard weren't as malicious as you might expect. The muggers actually left the victim with some money although I doubt this is the norm for that type of crime.
Food & Drink - We never got to try our guinea pig, but the rest of the food in Ecuador was like a big menu of comfort food for discount prices. The soups in Ecuador are amazing as is the fresh seafood. Alpacas are tasty and make nice sweaters! The coffee is amazing and the chocolate is the best in the world in my opinion. We didn't see any Ecuadorian wine, but based on its Peruvian and Bolivian neighbors fare, I'd say stick to the beer which was decent for massed produced lagers.
Culture - Ecuador is an interesting blend of indigenous tribes with a Spanish spin. The evidence of Incas can be seen in ruins and the faces of the locals as can the evidence of the Spanish who colonized the country. The more indigenous the person, the shorter they seemed to be. In fact, Ecuadorians were smaller than the Pygmies in Africa! The women and men proudly wear their fedora hats and dress quite smartly on a daily basis. Ecuadorians were friendly and their Spanish is clear and easy to understand.
Cleanliness - Ecuador is surprisingly clean. Roadside trash was not prevalent despite people throwing it out windows. City streets were clean and it seemed that there was a sense of civic pride.
Cost - The cost may be the best thing about Ecuador. Although it is a dollarized economy, Ecuador is cheap! Complete lunches were available for one dollar and large beers for eighty cents. If you're traveling on a tight budget, this is a great destination. By eating local and sleeping in dorms, you could easily tour the country (less excursions) for $20 a day. The Galapagos is definitely a splurge, but for the same price as some lame Carnival cruise, you can really see something special. The Amazon excursion ran $75 a day and included food.
Manners - Ecuadorians are very pleasant and friendly. The handshakes are longer and there's more eye contact required. They queue in an orderly fashion and seem to give respect to tourists equal to that of locals. I honestly can't think of anything about the people that I found to be rude. If anything, I think that they are more pleasant than most Americans.
Urban Design - Overall, Quito isn't actually "designed" at all. It's mountain sprawl connected by surface streets. The old town is colonial and has some nice examples of colonial buildings converted to modern use, but the new town is just a mix of weird seventies architecture and strip mall style buildings. Cuenca is more traditional with an actual city center and a beautiful colonial feel, but in Quito's defense, we didn't see much else of Cuenca for a comparison. We missed Guayaquil completely, but even the locals said there wasn't any reason to go there.
Fashion and Shopping - Jeans are huge in Ecuador. Certain towns even specialize in custom made denim and the majority of the younger women parade around in painted on jeans on a daily basis with all the qualities desired by the superficial man. It's a good look for them. As far as shopping, that's Laura's domain, so she'll add it later.