It has been exactly one year since I made the 36 hour trip from Tokyo to Cuenca, Ecuador to visit my parents with an 18 month old. I had my worries going into it, in particular altitude sickness–Cuenca is 2,500 meters (8,200 feet) above sea level, and the water. Honestly, we had zero problems while there. So, if you’re thinking about jettisoning off with your little one seriously consider Ecuador. Here’s why:
1. How easy it is to get around, which is always on my mind with a toddler taken to tantruming at the most inconvenient of times. Taxis to pretty much anywhere in Cuenca were under $2 US.
2. The people. If you think people in Japan are welcoming, man, I was blown away by the hospitality in Ecuador. Everyone was especially accommodating for me as I had a toddler in tow. Example: after nearly 20 hours flying we arrived in Ecuador at midnight to find out the computers at immigration had all gone down. Hundreds of people, literally, sat lined up just waiting. Immediately after deboarding a fellow passenger stepped in, hailed an airport officer and he whisked me and my sidekick off, bypassing everyone into the same special lane as the pilots. We were out in 30 minutes. Later I found out from a couple who was staying at our hostel that they had had to wait four hours to get through immigration. Thank you, Universe, for that one.
3. The food. After having lost a bit too much weight from stress, I entered into this trip with a goal of gaining weight. Trust me, it’s easy. The tamales, though, to die for. I loved the traditional beans, rice, plantain, avocado, and meat set meals too. My less adventurous sidekick scarfed down on eggs (best eggs of my life so far), yogurt, pizza, bread, crepes, ice cream… Basically what I’m getting at is, don’t worry you will find something they will eat. Btw, did I mention it’s all unbelievably cheap? Set meals for $4 US or even less.
4. The culture, especially the architecture. I’m a firm believer that all experiences for children, even if they don’t remember them, are enriching. We did it all. Art museums, history museums, the cathedrals, Chordeleg for silver shopping, Ingapirca for 600 year old ruins, and my sidekick drank it allllll in. I might recommend skipping the Cuenca zoo if you have a young child though. It was honestly 3 hours hiking up a jungle hill. Beautiful, but my arms did not thank me later after carrying *Elsa nearly the whole time.
Moving to India means we will be pretty much as far away from Ecuador as you can get. But, writing this post has reignited the desire to visit again. See you there?