October 30, 2012

10 Simple Pleasures of Living in Cuenca Ecuador

We are enjoying our life in Cuenca. Cuenca has so many simple pleasures that this video could go on and on for hours. Do you have time? LOL Instead, this five minute video is of us living our daily life in Cuenca and enjoying every minute of it. Fortunately, I remembered to take out my camera to record some of these simple pleasures of daily living in this beautiful city high up in the Andes Mountains. Enjoy the video!


October 28, 2012

$300 Cuenca Ecuador Rental Home Tour

This is a brand new (never lived in) tri-level home 3 bed for $300. There are some people that have said on forums that renting in this price range you will be living in a hovel...but we are exposing this untruth that has been floating around on some of the Cuenca forums. This home is in a gated community of about 7 other homes that are still in the construction phase. This home in the video has been rented.


October 25, 2012

Cuenca Ecuador Rental Inflation - Local Cuencana Speaks Out

According to the Cuencana in the video below, Gringos coming to Cuenca will spend $600 or more on a rental when they don’t have to. We already knew not to spend that much on rent BEFORE we came to Cuenca, and that is why we pay a local rent of $250 per month for our 2,000 sq. ft, 3 bedroom-3 bath, plus office home.

But that was then. Nowadays, the Ecuador blogosphere is full of blogs with people bragging about what they’re getting for $600 a month. But according to the local Ecuadorian in the video, they could be harming the economy for at least, some of the locals. BTW, this is not the only local who is letting us know about the rental inflation.

This is an unsolicited video from a local that just started talking to Frank and I while she was showing us a beautiful new home (never been lived in) for $300 per month, and I kindly asked her if I could record her thoughts on video, and well, here it is.

If the owners and landlords of the rentals in Cuenca KNOW and SEE that the gringos are willing to pay $600 to $900 on basic rentals (and they do and they are) then of course, they will gladly KEEP raising the rental prices just for them! When gringos come here and just pay whatever, without a care in the world, they are the ones hurting Cuenca and making it VERY difficult for the local Cuencanos to find a home for their family, and now you can hear it straight from the Ecuadorians.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, then you know we don’t just report our opinions, we report the facts and/or our experiences. As such, we occasionally catch some blow-back,  but remember, we’re just the messengers.

BTW, this home in the video has recently rented, but there may be more coming up! Remember never accept an asking price. Always, always, negotiate. This home in the video was actually going for $350 but Frank negotiated the rent down to $300! So please never accept asking prices!Tour of this home coming up in next video.

Do you want a rental for $300 or less? Then click here! 
Read Disclaimer:

This video and article is not intended to denounce or condemn anyone. The ideas mentioned in this article and/or this blog as a whole may or may not apply to all persons in general, but only to those that have an interest in living well on less in Ecuador, and integrating within the population in order to do so.

For more about going local, integrating with the population and having the time of your life in Cuenca Ecuador, a lot of people are recommending the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide!

October 20, 2012

Featuring "La Casa Cuencana" from the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide

In this video we interview Ecuadorian business owners, Martha and Johnathan of the La Casa Cuencana" hostal in Cuenca. This is just one of the hostels that we feature in the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide.

La Casa Cuencana has individual rooms, group rooms, and family sized rooms with private bath. Martha and her son Johnathan told us they would give travelers a discount if visitors stay 3-days or more in her hostel and show her they bought the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide...a one page printout of the ebook will be enough to show her you bought the guide.  Of course, this is her thank you to us for featuring her hostel in the DIY Cuenca Landing GuideHere's the video.


Stay tuned for a video tour and more photos of La Casa Cuencana hostel coming next week! Until then, Adios Amigos!

October 18, 2012

Free Restaurant Guide Updated: Banana Verde Cafe! Traditional Ecuadorian Food!

We wrote the free restaurant guide when we first moved here, which was over a year ago and a few things have changed. Some of the Almuerzo prices have gone up, plus one of the restaurants is gone...yikes! So we updated the restaurant guide with the new prices, plus added two new restaurants. You will find all of the addresses for the restaurants in the free restuarant guide.  Click here for the new updated version.

Banana Verde Cafeteria

We're pleased to tell you about a wonderful little Ecuadorian Traditional food cafe that we stumbled upon.  Banana Verde has been added to the restaurant guide because it is a neat snack food cafe. It's not the typical full meal almuerzo restaurant like the other restaurants in the restaurant guide.

If you happen to be out and about in Cuenca and want a delicious Ecuadorian snack with a cup of "real" (Columbian) coffee for $0.50 then this is a good place to try out. We liked the atmosphere  because of the unique decor, and the owner was friendly and accommodating. She smiled a lot, until I took the photo of her. She does not speak English.  She was very happy we are advertising her restaurant in the guide book. (BTW, we do this for FREE we never charge a dime to list anyone's restaurant or hostel in our guide books.)

Most food items on the Banana Verde menu are $0.75 cents up to a $1.50.  In Ecuador many of the traditional restaurants show you what the dish looks like as does this cafe, which is nice. Here, take a look!
Frank ordered the Banana Verde from the menu, which is the first one on the menu above. And below is a photo of the actual plate so you can compare it to how it looks on the menu. Looks the same. Frank enjoyed the food.

Here's the $0.75 cent menu. I ordered a chicken empanada for $0.75, which is not shown on the outside menu, but is listed in the actual menu inside the cafe. I also had a cup of Colombian coffee for $0.50 cents which was a real treat because usually I am given a cup of hot water and a jar of instant coffee.

Here is the chicken empanada 

 We talk more about the Banana Verde Cafe in the Free restaurant guide

Be sure to grab yourself a copy today. It is our gift to you for being loyal readers/subscribers of the Discover Cuenca Blog!  Be sure that after it downloads to "save" it on your computer so you can reopen it whenever you want. 

October 16, 2012

Restaurant El Monarca en Cuenca

The interesting and fun thing about trying out different restaurants in Cuenca is being able to relish in the history and beauty of some of the colonial buildings in historic Cuenca.  Many of the buildings have been restored and remodeled, like this one, but not all of them retain the old world charm of the colonial period.

This restaurant had beautiful antique furniture, obviously restored.  The tiles were beautiful with hardwoods in between, which was something we’ve never seen anywhere else in Cuenca.

When eating out in new restaurants you never know what kind of setting and ambiance you will be in until you go inside and try it out. We feel that part of the dining out experience is in the atmosphere and décor of the restaurant. We’ve lived here going on 15 months now and we still appreciate and are amazed at the beauty of some of the buildings.

The murals on the wall in this restaurant we're absolutely amazing!
The old furniture was lovely and restored
 The old world charm was all retained


The El Monarca Restaurant served the typical almuerzo and it was good.  On this day (each day is different) the menu was cream of tomato soup, roast beef with gravy and rice, a vegetable and a small desert in a lovely atmosphere, and all for just $2.50.

But the ambiance alone was worth the price.  The beauty of this restaurant / hotel was amazing so we took photos to share with our readers. Photo below is the hotel lobby.

October 12, 2012

Expat Family Robbed in Beach Home in San Vicente, Ecuador

This news story was originally posted on Latin American Current Events, on October 8, 2012. You can go to the article by clicking here.

There are several reasons why this robbery/assault happened to this family; here are just three. One, they lived on a barren stretch of road where there is hardly any traffic (so the article states). Two, they lived in a development with no other homes, and thirdly, they did not have a house alarm. And, not to mention there is not a tall wall surrounding the home. All of these factors will be against you when it comes to personal safety in Ecuador, no matter what city you live in, including Cuenca. 

Here's the story of this robbery and assault. At the end of the article is a link to the story told by the wife.

Ecuador: Family from Chicago living near Bahia de Caraquez, victims of home invasion – assault

On October 7, 2012, at 12:30 am, an expatriate couple from Chicago, Illinois and their thirteen-year-old daughter were asleep. In their newly constructed home, at a development outside of San Vicente Ecuador called “Palmas de Briceno”, three assailants broke into the residence through a window. Two of criminals were armed with handguns, and the third wore a mask. The development is located 17 km north of Bahía de Caráquez Ecuador.

According to the husband, he was awoken by his wife’s screams. She had been pistol whipped after awakening to find a pistol aimed at her head. Another assailant pointed a gun at the husband and father and was ordered to silence his wife. The unarmed thug with the mask ordered the victim to give him the keys to the car. When he tried to tell the thief that he didn’t have the keys, the assailant went to a drawer and pulled them out.

The husband and father ushered his daughter and wife into a bathroom and briefly struggled with the assailants on the other side of the door to keep them from entering. The bandits stole electronic items, cash, cellphones and left in the victim’s vehicle. It was later found abandoned by police.

The victim and his family who reside in the only home in the development of about twenty seaside lots, tried to get assistance from an Ecuadorian living near the property without any luck. He attempted to get help without any luck on the sparsely driven road by the project. Then with limited time on his daughter’s phone, he put out an SOS on Facebook, on the Expat group for Ecuador. One of his friends realized what was going on and help coordinate the police to arrive about an hour and half later. The victim attempted to call the fire department in San Vicente but because of his limited Spanish, they hung up on him. Finally he made contact with the police department and attempted to get directions to the property.

A fire truck and police arrived. With no stretcher, they constructed a makeshift unit with bamboo poles and a sheet to get her to a pickup truck. She was then transported to a hospital in Bahia Carquez where she received treatment for non life threatening injuries. She has been released from the hospital.

The wife is now home with her daughter and husband who were not injured. He submitted to authorities that he believed that the assault may have been an inside job from one of the contractors working on the house. He believed that with only one of the men wearing a mask and knowing where the car keys were, that it pointed to someone with knowledge of the house. When the husband and father was asked if they planned on staying or leaving Ecuador, he responded that the family had not discussed that topic yet.


To read the wife's account of what happened click here:

October 11, 2012

Desayuno (Breakfast) en Cuenca Ecuador

We have posted a lot of videos on having almuerzo (lunch) in Cuenca Ecuador. In this video we are having desayuno (breakfast) in Cuenca. It is a simple meal but tasty, especially when you're out and about and you can't wait for lunch. The special priced Ecuadorian meals are:
desayuno - breakfast
almuerzo - lunch
merienda - dinner


October 09, 2012

Tomebamba River Walk in Cuenca Ecuador

Cuenca boasts four wonderful rivers. This is the Tomebamba River that runs North of Cuenca. It's family day (Sunday) and the river areas of Cuenca are usually bustling with Ecuadorian families doing laundry, playing ball, picnicking and enjoying their day. It is beautiful spring day  (October 7th) and it feels like it's about 80 degrees outside.


October 07, 2012

Garbage Pickup in Cuenca Ecuador

If you live in a house in Cuenca Ecuador you'll need to know about the garbage pickup rules. Garbage pickup is much more efficient here than in the US. At least in our experience.  The garbage truck does not just come around once a week but it comes around three times a week to pickup your garbage! And there’s no need to sign up with any garbage pick up. 

Garbage pickup in Cuenca city limits west side is Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. It might be on a different day in other areas of Cuenca. Ask your landlord, he'll know. They even come by and pickup the garbage when there is a festival/holiday in town, on a Saturday! Sometimes it's almost dark before they come by and get the garbage, but I don't believe they have missed a garbage pickup day yet.

It is interesting to watch the garbage truck. It never actually stops, it slowly coasts by your house while one or two guys in blue jumpsuits jumps off the back of the garbage truck and scurries to grab your garbage and then quickly darts back onto the garbage truck while it is moving down the road.

You know these guys are in good shape with all the running they do. You'd probably want them on your futbol team.

Garbage pickup is pretty efficient in Cuenca with only a few rules to heed. You can't put anything out that is not in a plastic garbage bag or they will just leave it.  UPDATE 2014: we were told this, but it is not accurate. We have put old non-working appliances and huge cardboard boxes out and the garbage men take it.

Garbage (food scraps) need to be placed up high in the steel grates that are made just for garbage or all of the stray dogs will find your garbage and you'll have a big mess. This happened to us one time when we didn’t know any better. Most homes come with a steel grate attached to the tall barred gate. You pull it down and set the garbage on it. This way dogs can't get into it. You can't have garbage cans outside your home or they will get taken.

When we first moved here we were told the garbage men would only take your garbage if it was in a big, black, plastic garbage bag. But we have since learned this is not the case. As long as the garbage is in a plastic bag, small, big, medium, shopping bags, the men will pick it up for you. 

Garbage pickup is free in Ecuador. 

UPDATE 2014: garbage pickup is not free it is included in the rent utilities...something I did not know until a few years ago. It works like this, the higher your electric bill the more the city charges for garbage pickup...its really not that much and that's why we didn't know about it until three years after living here. LOL

And that’s just about all you will need to know about garbage pickup in Cuenca Ecuador, that is if you live in a house. The condos and apartment buildings probably have the big dumpsters for you to put your garbage in.  

If there is something else you would like for us to write about, just let us know in the comments or in the email above. If we have any experience in the subject we’ll write about it. To find out more about saving money and living well on a local level, and a bunch of other stuff, when you move here, check out the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide. Hasta Luego!

October 05, 2012

Why I Won't Ride a Motorcycle or Bicycle in Cuenca Ecuador

The bus driver was speeding down the road like many do here in Cuenca, when just a short distance ahead the light turned red. The bus driver knew he wouldn't be able to stop in time to not hit the car in front of him so he swerved and went into the right hand lane. Unfortunately, in the right hand lane was a man on a motorcycle. 


We saw the motorcyclist, and the bus driver must have also, but none the less, the bus driver was just going way too fast; it was either swerve into the right lane and hope the motorcyclist sees the big bus barreling into his lane, or hit the car ahead.

The bus driver swerved into the right lane and sideswiped the guy on the motorcycle. It could have been fatal but luckily the cyclist was driving defensively, saw the bus, and was able to only get sideswiped, and he and his bike crashed to the ground. 

The bus stopped. 

The motorcyclist slowly got up from the pavement, took off his helmet, and slowly limped to the door of the bus. We thought he was going to yell at the bus driver, or take down information... and well, you know everything you would do in the US had you just been hit by a big "something ton" bus while you're on your bike. 

 The motorcyclist is the guy on the right

Instead the guy just said to the driver in loud Spanish, "what's going on? Didn't you see me?" We couldn't hear what the bus driver said back to the motorcyclist because the music on the bus was really loud. The guy simply went back to his cycle and someone got off the bus and helped him pick up his bike and the bus drove off. 

Ecuador ranks second in Latin America for number of traffic accidents.

Lately, in the last few months we have seen more cops ticketing drivers who are driving too fast. Hopefully this will help curb some of the traffic accidents that Ecuador has. However, all this new police activity, did not seem to bother this bus driver and prevent him from driving erratically and almost killing someone.  

In 2010, there were 50,000 accidents in Ecuador, which killed 2,500 people and 15,000 were seriously injured, while already this year the country has recorded 5,160 deaths from traffic accidents. Read the full article here.

October 03, 2012

Etapa Internet, Cuenca Ecuador – Just When We Thought We Were out of the Woods!

Regular readers know we’ve been back and forth with our Etapa Internet since we arrived. The last article told how we had everything brand new. The very nice head technical engineer at the Etapa office made sure we received a brand new modem. The phone line was replaced with a brand new one. And even the line originating from the telephone pole outside of the property, coming into the home, was replaced with a brand new one.

After all of this brand new equipment, we’ve been basking in pretty good internet, for Ecuador. So we thought. It lasted about three months. Not a bad streak. But, alas, it was not to last.

Some of our readers may have noticed that we have missed days where we have not posted anything. Well, this is because our Internet has been “in and out” for several weeks now. We’ve been at the mercy of Etapa for the past ten days. In the mornings it works ok until about noon and then it goes “out” for the rest of the evening, or the connection is so slow that trying to get any work done is impossible. But for the past two days it has just been “out” and no “in”.

Calling them on the phone doesn’t usually get the service techs to come out any sooner, so we end up rushing in the morning to get downtown to Etapa before the crowds show up. We get a number and wait for the next available service desk to open up so we can let them know the internet is not working. We have gone into their offices three times in a six day period and told them each time that in the evenings we do not have a connection or it is so slow you can’t get any work done.

What happens is the service tech will come out and he does his little techy things with the Internet, gets it working again, then leaves, and the next day, or the same evening it goes “out” again.

We thought since we had a new modem, new cable, and outside line that we wouldn’t be having these internet connection issues, but here it is 3 months later and we are having problems again.
We’re not the only ones who have grumbled about Etapa Internet service. Just the other day a local gal said Etapa was the worse service and she uses “Punta Net”. We have nothing to say about punta.net or any other service, except for our experiences with Etapa.

We sit here at Etapa’s mercy often. You can’t go anywhere and do anything else because the tech might show up. We’ve been waiting for two days for the tech guy to come out. You wouldn’t want to be gone while the tech was trying to fix your internet, would you? That would just push you back another day or two. Not only that, but after they come out and it (temporarily) works that evening, and then the next day’s evening it doesn’t work again, and we go back down to their offices the next day, they say it’s a brand new order and you have to wait two more days in a queue before they’ll come out again. I have to remind them in my broken Spanish that this is still the first order, as it never did get fixed, and so we deserve to be put at the front of the line, well that’s my reasoning anyway. Does it work? I don’t think so…

As soon as we do get the Internet back (no telling when that will be) we’re going to go hook up with “Cable TV” Internet so we’ll have a backup Internet. We’ve heard good and bad things about this Internet Company. We said we were going to do that in our last article but the internet started working so well that we blissfully relented.

It is unfortunate that we may have to pay for two Internet services but we work online and depend on a service that will be reliable. Let’s just hope that they both do not go out at the same time. Now that would be really third worldish.

October 02, 2012

Toasted Corn Nuts Recipe

Dried hominy and corn is used in food preparation throughout the region of Ecuador. Boiled hominy is added to soups, casseroles and other Ecuadorian dishes. Another way to use dried hominy is after it is boiled, roast it in the oven with a little salt and oil to make corn nuts. I remember eating the packaged corn nuts in the US. They are good.

Here in the Andes, roasted corn nuts are also used as a side dish for encebollada soup. We also like them roasted, and so about once a week I make a big batch of roasted corn nuts to have around for snacking on. 


Roasted Corn Nuts

Rinse 1lb of dried corn

Boil corn with a tablespoon of salt for 1 hour

Drain corn

 Spread the corn evenly in a baking dish or cookie sheet

 Add a tsp of salt and a couple tbs olive oil to the corn and mix well

Bake for 45 minutes to an hour in a  325 degree oven, checking on them periodically
You may want to stir them around a bit after about a half hour

Enjoy your roasted  corn nuts. They are kind of hard to stop eating once you get started.
Great for trips, hikes, and taking along with you to work.
Corn nuts are also good with a little Cayenne on them for those of you who like your food a little bit spicy. (Add the cayenne with the salt and oil before roasting)

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