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Asuncion Junction, What’s Your Function? (Or, Here’s a Quick Trip Report)

The thing about being stuck in coach is that, perhaps unlike being stuck in business class, I don’t want to remember every part of the experience. I’d like the trip to be over with as quickly as possible, so while others can write 5,000 words about their flying experience, I prefer to keep mine to 2: I slept.

I feared my TAM 767-300 would be ancient with no onboard entertainment, but I was pleasantly surprised to see they had (at some point in the recent past, as Seatguru shows this plane as having no seatback entertainment) installed a back o’ the seat video that offered a wide array of choices, including the entire first season of Veep, which occupied me for the first 4 hours of the flight until the Ambien kicked in.

Two areas of note:

1) They divide the boarding into 3 groups – business class, the first 30 or so rows of coach, then the last rows of coach. God bless the Brazilians and all, but they are not a people that embrace the idea of a queue. So there was a boarding scrum as new arrivals to the boarding area would go to the front of the line, which is exactly the opposite of how a line works in, say, every other country on earth.

2) I don’t know why they needed to turn the cabin lights on at 11:15pm for dinner service. It would seem, even on a 9 ½ hour flight, that at that hour people would like to sleep. People may like to sleep at that point, but TAM was having none of it, instead keeping the lights on for another hour as they handed our beef or pasta.

The GOL flight to Asuncion was perfectly fine, noteworthy for these 2 things:

1) While everyone complains about airlines in the US, our flight was 30 minutes late in boarding. For reasons I’m not sure of, they tell passengers to go to the gate 1 hour in advance of take off. Then we stood there. And stood. And the boarding time came and went without comment, something that in the US would have caused a) a riot; and b) a barrage of angry Twitter posts. Nobody said anything.

2) There is a women-only bathroom on the Gol 737. I’m not sure why women get their own
bathroom other than, and forgive me, men’s bodily waste must be so pungent that Brazilian women refuse to subject themselves to that odor. I do not blame them.

Asuncion is a dusty capital city that smells of burning garbage due, I’m guessing, to the piles of burning garbage I passed on the way to my hotel, the Paraguayo Yacht and Golf Club. I will now list the pros and cons of this establishment:

PROs
- It is beautifully situated on a river separating Paraguay from Argentina. It’s quite relaxing to just sit and watch the river flow by. See here:

river

- My room, which was large and newly renovated, was $85.
- There’s a very nice health club, a ton of tennis courts, and a golf course that offers spectacular views of the river.
- Nearly* entirely devoid of prostitutes.
*I only saw one hotel guest escorting a prostitute back to his room.

CONs
- The hotel was basically the real-life version of the hotel in the Shining. Or an episode of Scooby Doo. Huge, decrepit ballroom? Check. Large grounds with only myself as a guest? Check. Dimly lit hallways that led to locked doors? Check. Scatman Crothers bartending? Check.

That's a spooky ballroom, don't let the light fool you

That’s a spooky ballroom, don’t let the light fool you

Nice pool.  I'm sure it will be lovely when it's not a pile of wood.

Nice pool. I’m sure it will be lovely when it’s not a pile of wood.

That's the empty poorly lit hallway that leads to my certain death.

That’s the empty poorly lit hallway that leads to my certain death.

- I asked the front desk (well, I think I asked this as I had to speak Spanish, and my Spanish is limited) about options for where I could eat. He mentioned 2 restaurants in the hotel. I told him there were no people in those restaurants. He said there would be later. I ate at 8:30pm, and there was not a soul in the place. Spooky.
- Although situated on a river with beautiful views, there is actually nowhere currently open to sit and enjoy said views.
- If you were looking for prostitutes, you would have been disappointed, as noted above, that I only saw 1. That said, I only saw 4 sets of guests at the hotel. 1 was a couple. 1 was me. 1 was a single guy. And 1 was an older Japanese woman and, I’ll guess, friend. So that leaves 2 options for who could get a prostitute (single guy and me), and I did not get one. So there is a 50% chance that guests who could get prostitutes would get them.

Paraguay is a poor country – according to whatever I could pull up on my work-issued 47 year old Blackberry, it’s probably the 8th poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, hovering in poverty right around Honduras. If I were dropped on earth and told that Paraguay was a developing nation and that they are still at the point where citizens are opening businesses that only cater to the most base needs of the country, I would assume that the country only needed auto repair shops and cell phones, as every store I passed for half an hour featured one or the other.

It’s winter now, so temperatures were pleasant in the morning and in the mid-70s during the day. It was still smelly and dusty despite the climate, which made me think about what was going on here during the summer months when it hits 110. That’s not an exaggeration. It regularly hits 110 degrees, which mixed with the burning garbage and dust must make turn this into, certainly, worse than the 8th worst place in the Western Hemisphere.

To sum up: I would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for those meddling kids.

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  1. There should be a Freddy category for “best trip report of the year.”

  2. #1) Brazilians must have learned their queuing behavior from the Russians.

    #2) This was the best thing I’ve read in a long time. Glad you made it out alive.

  3. You made me laugh first thing in the morning, kudos to you! Glad you survived ;)

  4. “So there was a boarding scrum as new arrivals to the boarding area would go to the front of the line, which is exactly the opposite of how a line works in, say, every other country on earth”
    BienVenido a SudAmerica!
    Welcome to SouthAmerica!

    Also, you missed on the 1920′s Department Store (forgot the name) in down-town, with 1920′s ladies and everything!

  5. thanks for the report. exactly my kind of place.

  6. Pax behavior in South America can definitely seem strange to “Norteamericanos.” I encountered two very odd behaviors last week. First, 30 seconds before my flight was about to land, the guy behind me decides to use the bathroom. Needless to say, he’s swaying and wobbling as he gets out of his seat, and I’m expecting the flight attendant to tell him to sit down. Nope. Nothing. But the guy realizes he can’t make it to the bathroom and tries to get back into his seat. But that’s nearly impossible, too. By the grace of God, he falls back into his seat without crushing me.

    Second, South Americans do not follow the practice of the rest of the world regarding “orderly” disembarking. You know, where you give the people in the row in front of you a chance to get off the plane before you do. Many South Americans try to plow by you to get off 20 seconds earlier. I was actually hip-checked on one flight. Weird.

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