When I arrived to Paraguay I immedately took the bus from Ciudad del Este to Asuncion. I did not want to stay in Ciudad del Este as it is only famous for cheap electronics and drug smuggling. When entering the terminal in this city I already saw a junkie throwing a stone at another person.
Being a millionaire in Paraguay
I was happy to finally have the opportunity to speak Spanish again. Besides, the prices in Paraguay are also much lower. In Paraguay, with a little money, you are already a millionaire, as 1 € is more than 6000 Guarani, this is how the currency of the country is called. Simultaneously, this is the name of the tribe of which many live in Paraguay and who speak this homonymous language.
For the bus to Asuncion I only paid approximately 5 €. The journey took about 6 hours. When I finally arrived in the capital, I asked locals how to get to the center, because that's where my hostel was located. But the local people said I shouldn't go to the centre now, as it would be "dangerous" there. Anyway, I had no other choice than to go there. I had to stay somewhere overnight.
Rioters set National Congress on fire
Without any problems I arrived and asked in my hostel what was going on. They told me that some rioters had just stormed the Paraguayan National Congress and set it on fire, which is not far from the hostel. The demonstrations came in response to a constitutional amendment that would have allowed President Horacio Cartes to run for re-election. He had previously sent several million to the Congress to pass the law. The opposition called this a "coup". A protester was killed in Paraguay's capital Asunción after being shot with a shotgun by police. A few weeks later it was announced that the president was withdrawing and the constitutional amendment was declared invalid.
Traces of the riots everywhere
During my walk through the city the next morning, I could see the traces of the devastation of the previous day everywhere. I walked past torched garbage cans, burned motorcycles, knocked over fences, smashed windows or armoured vehicles of the anti-terrorist units. On many corners the police had also set up roadblocks to prevent further protests. I also saw the congress with the many broken windows and charred office objects that the protesters had thrown out and burned. Probably also because of these previous protests and the police presence, I saw few people in the center of the city.
The probably most beautiful building of the city is the Palacio de los López, where the president resides. From the coastal road Avenida Costanera there is a nice view to the pinkish building. By walking from there, one street further on, you already enter a favela, a poor district that one should rather avoid. A friend of mine was attacked in Asuncion near this favela. In the evening I had a pizza and some beer with a Dutchman and two Koreans.
The new town of Paraguay
Asuncion also has a new town, which I visited the next day with another Korean buddy. There is not much to see there, except a few skyscrapers and shopping malls. They are very classy, but they weren't too crowded, even though it was Sunday. There are just not many rich people in Paraguay. In general the capital Asuncion is one of the most quiet Latin American capitals I had got to know. Only 500.000 people live here.
A non profit hostel of a kind-hearted French couple
In the many trips I have made, I rarely experienced such a hostel as in Asuncion. It was called "Isla Francia" and was run by a senior French couple full of passion and without any greed for profit. They used to be backpackers themselves and knew that many of them were short of money. They managed the business in such a way that in the end they just break even. So I paid only 6 € for this hostel bed. It was clean, quiet and had everything you need: kitchen, common room, patio. The 2 of them made delicious crepes every morning and partly even helped the backpackers cooking in the evening. Their positive charisma rubbed off on the others and the hostel had a great feel-good atmosphere. In this hostel I met some cool people from Poland, Korea, Germany and also Paraguay. In general, a hostel in such a city attracts more adventure tourists than booze tourists.
Unfortunately I received the sad news last year that the owner died 2 years later and his wife has to run the hostel on her own now.
Returning to Paraguay
About 2 weeks later I returned for 1 night in Paraguay, because I had found a cheap flight to Peru from there and stayed again in the great hostel of the French couple. In the evening I enjoyed some wine with 2 Polish and 2 Spanish women. I would have loved to go out with them, but my flight was already at 7 am. So I had to get up shortly before 5. On the way there the French owner told me how difficult it is to find good workers in Paraguay, because many of the locals don't feel like working. Additionally he told me of a Korean hostel guest who fell for a scam of a Paraguayan who promised him an apartment. The benevolent Korean paid the Paraguayan a few hundred euros and then was surprised that he never saw him again and was left without an apartment.
I had no such problems with the Paraguayans. I found them all nice. The breed of people here is comparable to Argentines.
My time in Paraguay was short but I had a good time here, especially because of the great hostel in Asuncion. Also I never witnessed a violent uprising and such a huge dam before. Paraguay is also a very cheap country, your money goes far here. There is not much to see there though. So I only recommend you to visit if you are interested in countries off the beaten track.