The Unexpected Reasons Why Paraguay Now Rules My World

Paraguay

Have you ever headed off to a new destination with very low expectation levels and then been stunned at what you found?

That is exactly what happened to me recently when I discovered that Paraguay is probably my favourite place on Earth. Why do I love it so much?

The People Are So Friendly

The more places that I travel to the more I realise that it is the people there that make places as good as they are. A city or country could have tons of amazing stuff to do but if the people are frosty or downright rude then this is usually enough to put a dampener on the trip in my book.

On the other hand, the Paraguayans elevate their country to a whole new level just by being so darned nice. While the country isn’t exactly packed with standout tourist attractions, the friendliness of the locals meant that I felt right at home.

The truth is that I have come across smiling faces and genuine warmth everywhere that I have gone in South America. However, for me the Paraguayans have the perfect blend of politeness and friendliness. Everywhere I went people went out of their way to make me feel at home and help me out, but without being pushy about it.

Even the border city of Ciudad del Este – which is infamous for being dodgy – seemed a lot more welcoming that I had expected it to be. I got chatting to a lovely taxi driver there, although his proposed tariff of a million and a half guaranis to take me to Asunción seemed a bit steep.

The Food and Drink Is Unique and Tasty

I had expected the food here to be either a poor imitation of Argentine/Brazilian cuisine or else a sort of hum-drum mixture of uninspiring dishes. Instead, I found some incredible food that I fell in love with right away.

When I first arrived to Asunción the taxi driver said that I had to try sopa paraguaya, a soup called bory and some other classic dishes whose names I instantly forgot. The fact that many food names here are in Guarani rather than Spanish makes it tough to remember them.

Anyway, I soon found some sopa paraguaya and it was fantastic. Despite the name it isn’t really a soup, as it is more like a slice of savoury corn bread and it is nice and tasty.

sopa paraguaya

The bory soup (I think I actually heard it called “bory bory”) was a thick broth filled with bits of chicken on the bone. Like the sopa paraguaya, it was wholesome and fairly simple but I really enjoyed it.

I washed the bory down with some fresh passion fruit juice and felt ready to take on the world. Like everywhere in the region, you can also get some tasty empanadas just about anywhere and at any time.

Finally, the cheese and cassava snack known as chipá is so good that I smuggled a few of them out in my backpack when I went home.

chipa

I haven’t even mentioned the national obsession with tereré yet, have I?

Everything Is So Clean (Relatively Speaking)

If you travel to Asunción from Europe your impressions might be of a fairly dirty and chaotic city. However, if you have spent some time in other parts of Latin America then you will be impressed by the cleanliness of the place and the people

In fact, I have been told that Paraguayans have a reputation in other countries for being very clean and orderly. Certainly, I was particularly impressed by the spotless restaurants and by how the women sold chipá on the buses.

In other parts of South America the process of buying snacks on the bus is at best haphazard and at worst a downright hazard to the wellbeing of your intestines. In Paraguay, ladies with nice uniforms would come on carrying big baskets of lovely smelling, warm chipá and sell it in an orderly way.

I Felt Good There

Ok, so you might think that Paraguay doesn’t sound all that great going by what I wrote so far. The truth is that it is difficult to put its charms into words.

I just kind of felt comfortable and right at home there. After my first day I already knew about 4 locals who would smile and make some jokes with me when I passed them drinking their tereré.

I honestly believe that I could live a happy life here, becoming a chipá addict and drinking gallons of tereré every day in the process. It is a country that I will definitely be going back to.

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