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Ecuador Shopping and nightlife

Shopping in Ecuador

In the Province of Azuay, the cities of Cuenca and Gualaceo offer a wide variety of handicrafts at ferias (fairs) or special market days. The top attractions are the ferias of Otavalo, Ambato, Latacunga, Saquisili and Riobamba, most held once a week. They offer the visitor excellent bargains for Indian crafts and silver. Otavalo market is the largest and most-visited indigenous craft market in South America. This weekly, Saturday morning extravaganza, is an unforgettable experience. Plaza de Ponchos is full of textiles designed for tourists but he surrounding streets are packed with stalls selling paintings, jewellery, weavings, baskets, lether goods, hats, carvings, ceramics and antiques from all over the country. On the edge of town there’s also an animal market. Saquisili market, on a Thursday is quieter and ostensibly for locals. Seven plazas are filled with brightly dressed highlanders in traditional outfits, who come from the surrounding communities to buy and sell everyday goods as well as textiles, bags and ornamental crafts. Polite bargaining is acceptable in small shops and in markets, but prices are usually fixed in 'tourist stores'. A few stores around the major hotels have fixed prices.

Principal silver stores are in Quito. Special purchases include native woodcarvings, varnished and painted ornaments made of bread dough, Indian tiles, woollen and orlon rugs, blankets, baskets, leather goods, shigras (shoulder bags) and hand-loomed textiles, indigenous art and native weapons.

Popular purchases also include Panama hats. Known locally as sombreros de paja toquilla, they are incorrectly described as being from Panama the world over. This iconic headgear is made from the woven fibres of a palm-related plant grown in the hills above Manabi. The finest are from Montecristi and the provinces of Aznoy and Canar, although they can most easily be bought in Cuenca.

Other traditional purchases include mazápan, figures made of bread dough. These vibrantly coloured characters were originally sold to people to leave in cemeteries on the Day of the Dead for the hungry souls of the departed but they are now incorporated into several celebrations throughout the year.

Shopping hours

Generally, most shops are open Mon-Sat 0900-1800. Family shops, set up outside the main towns, often stay open as long as someone is awake. Some shops open Sunday.

Nightlife in Ecuador

There is little nightlife, except in Quito and Guayaquil where there are excellent restaurants and other attractions. Dining out can be varied, excellent and upmarket whilst still affordable. All sorts of restaurants are available in Quito and every type of cuisine is here. Bars and nightclubs are convivial places although the word nightclub in Ecuador can also translate as brothel so do be careful. Bars and clubs are also often raided for drugs by police.

Quito’s nightlife is concentrated in La Mariscal although there are cultural events and happenings taking place all over the city, often free of charge. Check out the monthly booklet Quito Cultura to see what’s on. In smaller towns, social life takes place in the home and in private clubs. The cinema is the most popular form of entertainment. Things liven up from Thursday to Saturday evenings. Bars are generally open between 2000-0200, with clubs staying open until about 0400.

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