Having just spent a month in Ecuador, busing from Columbia to Vilcabama, our next trip will be to spend a lot more time in the areas we liked most----Banos, Otavallo, Vilcabama etc.
We are Gin (68) and Clancy (53) and decided several years ago that we would retire somewhere in South America. Clancy was born in Panama (a Zone Brat) and Gin has been on the "road" for 40 years. Panama was a idea so we went twice, a quick trip of 10 days and the next year for a month and although we liked it, we found too many gringos, gated communities, golf courses, people bringing America with them. I found that in Costa Rica 20 years ago.
We really liked Columbia but something keeps pulling us back to Ecuador. Cuenca------nice but once again a lot of gringos. Now don't get me wrong, we like to socialize but do not wish to live in a "American Community" in Ecuador. As we live on an island in the Gulf Of Mexico, the beach holds no interest for us and we would like to find a more rural setting, but of course not too isolated sso that the basic needs are a problem. Vilcabama was intersting, but we saw little of the sourrounding area other than on the bus to Loja-------but liked what we saw. Banos, where we spent 11 days was also nice, smoking volcano and all.
As we are older, treking, white water, etc. is not as high on our list, as peace and quiet and good conversation. At any rate, we would certainly enjoy meeting and talking with people that might be on the same search as we are. WARNING: I spent 25 years as a real estate developer and one of the things I have seen over and over from Bali to Costa Rica is gringos driving up prices and bacically messing things up.
It is obviusly hard to know to what you will finally connect but I can recommend on two nice places - banos (which you have mentioned) is one and Mindo is the other one. Banos is bigger, Mindo is much smaller but close enough to the big city and it seemed to have enough Gringos live in to give you a plesent feeling while not too many of them to make it little America as you said.
In general I agree that the Gringos still have long way to go with messing the real-estate market in Ecuador, but it will happen eventually, just like you said things have happened in both Panama and Costa Rica. What can I say, it is hard to resist the option to buy a condo house for 15K$ which is what would be only the down payment for a similar place anywhere in the US....
Have you ever wondered why Americans move to places like Costa Rica and Panama and then try to turn it into the place they left behind. I am an American and that does not make any sense to me. None at all.
I lived in Ecuador for a year and loved the country. My wife and i really liked Vilcabamba, with beautiful scenery and good climate, but one of my favourite places was Chugchilan. It's a small village in the Andes about a two hour bus ride from Latacunga, with friendly locals, amazing scenery and tranquility. Of course there are a few travellers coming in to the village, but not that many to change the pace of life and the prices.
Thanks for the tip and will def look into Chugchilan when we return. We are not looking for total isolation from westerners, as we fully realize we are gringos, but there is a balance. I have seen Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama all take on a "gated community" feel and it is not what we want. Anyway, thanks for the idea and we plan to spend 4-5 months in Ecuador starting this fall.