The Golden Circuit and the supermarket of South America

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October 11th 2017
Published: April 18th 2018
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El Circuito de Oro, or the Golden Circuit tour is perhaps the easiest day trip from Asuncion, so it seemed logical to book this tour is as a means of gaining a snapshot of what Paraguayan life entails beyond the context of the nation's capital city. The tour is intended to highlight a few cultural aspects of interest in a circular tour just east of Asuncion, and can be either compressed into a whirlwind half-day tour or taken at a more leisurely pace in the context of anything up to 1 or 2 full days. The majority of the towns and villages which the tour actually stops at or passes through / by are places of artisanal identity, so handicrafts ranging from hand-made guitars and harps, to pottery, filigree jewellery, clothing and leatherwork are sold in abundance in the entire region. First up was the mythological museum at the town of Capiata, and is a somewhat off-beat collection of historical artefacts and sculptures designed to represent the mythology of Paraguay, set in a delightfully contructed house with a quintessentially Latin American feel about it. Next on the tour was a brief stop at Itaugua, where a neatly preserved church seems to yell 'shoot me' at all available camera lenses, and in this very town, you will be able to observe and buy the incomparable lace called Ñandutí. Further along the route, and heading towards the lake, the town of Aregua reveals a few examples of colonial architecture, largely preserved, along with its original cobble stone streets which make this small town a very quaint destination. The resort town of San Bernardino flanks the shores of Lake Ypacarai, where a boat trip on the lake can provide a snapshot of the scenery in the immediate area. Last port of call was Luque, a satellite town of Asuncion, which is renowned for its craftsmanship of guitars and Paraguayan harps as well as Filigranas, gold and silver filigree jewellery including the seven-band ring Carretón de Siete Ramales. In eastern Paraguay, the commercial enclave of Ciudad del Este appears to be the final word in all things marketable, and shopaholics are sure to have themselves a field day due to the fact that the 'supermarket of South America' has such a vast array of goods that a touch of self-discipline and a good sense of orientation are required to get what you seek, at joyously low prices without going overboard or getting lost in the commercial labyrinth. The two most prominent malls in the area appear to be 'Shopping del Este', located mere fairy steps away from the Brazilian border, and the modern-looking 'Shopping Paris', which houses a 'snow world' entertainment zone where kids, and their tag-along parents will no doubt revel in the snow-themed miniature wonderland. There’s a sizeable Korean and Chinese community in Ciudad del Este who are mostly electronic business owners that sell mostly counterfeit wares, albeit bargains of a quality level you can barely carp at. There’s a large Arab and Palestinian community in Ciudad del Este that mostly deal in the textiles industry, and in a city where contraband goods abound, and an underworld presence prevails, it is no surprise to learn then that here, US dollars (as hard currency) really talk, and that virtually every car sold on is guaranteed to have been stolen in either Brazil or Bolivia. If the numerous malls, arcades, billboard-lined streets, department stores (check out Monalisa for an upscale one) and street vendors do not suffice, then revel also in the fact that market stalls also line the main streets making this an experience in itself, and an excuse to stock up on goods you require and those impulse purchases of questionable origin but at prices so ridiculously competitive that the whole state of affairs will be blazing at your synapses for quite some time thereafter.


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