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Ciudad del Este, spending great time in the second city in the 'two' country

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Marla Martin ▼ | July 6, 2019
Ciudad del Este
LatAm   Paraguay’s Hong Kong

They say the second is the first loser but that's definitively not true for Ciudad del Este, a very interesting city in Paraguay.

Ciudad del EsteEverything is "two" when we are talking about Ciudad del Este. Paraguay is one of the only two land locked countries in South America, this is the country with two languages, Paraguay River is the second longest river in South America, and Ciudad del Este is the second largest city in the country. So, everything points to number two but the city is first in many things and one of the most underrated places in Paraguay. So underrated that even some locals are not aware that it is called Paraguay’s Hong Kong.

Ciudad del EsteAnd that name it got for a reason, everything here is about shopping. This the most eastern city in Paraguay is a well-known shopping destination not just for locals but also for Brazilians who are coming here to find, well, everything. This is one of the places where "You name it, we have it, and plenty" stands true. From souvenirs to modern electronics and everything in-between, there is no such product, no matter how obscure it is, that you won't find here.

Ciudad del EsteThis town in a bilingual country where people speak Guaraní and Spanish is a very young city. It was founded in 1957 as Ciudad Presidente Stroessner to make then leader happy but when his regime went to history it was renamed to City of the East (Ciudad del Este) referring to its location at the eastern border of Paraguay with Brazil. In the beginnings there were only an airstrip, two main avenues, number two again!, and the foundation stone for the church.

Ciudad del Este trafficNow streets of Ciudad del Este have a real Hong Kong feel, sometimes you have just two (!) thoughts on your mind: how to survive an endless mess of drivers of all possible vehicles and shop owners' yelling "Come in! Come in!", and another is how to find what you want in the river of all those shops, shoppers and sellers around you. All that is embellished with many languages, from local to European and Arabic, "supported" with a loud reggae band that somehow brought that music from Jamaica.

Shopping del EsteThe Shopping del Este mall is the place to be. From well-known stores to currency exchange places, restaurants and cafes, to casinos and information for tourists, you can find it all here. A city in a city. And it's good to be here because outside it can be very hot, so hot that you can see every person carrying a bottle with terere. This is a local drink made of yerba mate prepared with cold water and ice and it's ideal for this climate.

Ciudad del EsteYou will also very soon notice that people are clapping their hands in front of houses. That's not against mosquitoes or something like that: Some homes do not have doors and the windows are left open due to the extremely hot air and guests don't knock or ring but clap their hands to announce they've arrived. Going further, you will see the San Blas Cathedral from 1964, a very interesting building in the shape of a ship.

San Lucas ChurchThen, San Lucas Church, they say the most beautiful church in Paraguay, is telling the story of Nossa Senhora de Caacupe, the patron saint of Paraguay, all enclosed in the marble that came from Italy. Since people of all kinds and races are living here, no wonder there is the Masjid Al-Khulafa Al-Rashidin Mosque in all of its overwhelming size. And when you see that, it's time to visit The Mitre School, the first school in town, which is now a meeting point for the community with its Nations’ Plaza.

Itaipu DamOutside the town, the Itaipu Dam is something you must see. The dam on the river shared between Paraguay and Brazil is one of the biggest things you will ever see in your life. A monster. For all lovers of nature, gorgeous Monday Waterfalls, a short drive from Ciudad del Este, is pure heaven. And then you have two (!) choices: to go back to the shopping paradise of the city or to cross the Friendship Bridge and step into Brazil on your way through Latin America.

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