Marvelous Manta

Trip Start Nov 13, 2010
Trip End Jul 20, 2011

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Where I stayed
Marg and Stu's

Flag of Ecuador  ,
Friday, February 11, 2011

Our week in Manta absolutely flew by. The luxury of having a spectacular condo on the ocean led to a peculiar laziness and we really didn't do very much other than regular daily kind of life stuff.  Get up, walk down the beach for the daily group salsa lessons that started at 7 am and were attended by around 50 to 60 people every morning.  The class consisted of three instructors, a music system and some catchy Latin rhythms that everybody except me seemed to know well.   I didn’t care and attempted to follow along – usually quite clumsily as the salsa and the meringue just do not come naturally for my western dancing feet.   Nonetheless we were happy to pay our 50 cents and join in with the other folks.

Our next door neighbour, a lovely woman named Bonnie, originally from Georgia, was our connection to the expat community.  It seemed she knew everybody and we were lucky enough to meet many fine friends of hers including a two couples from Calgary.  Another small world story – turned out one of the couples were Carolyn’s neighbours in Chester mere and they had both lived out there for 20 years or so and have never met before – they had to come to Ecuador to meet!

We went on a couple of real estate sojourns outside of the city to look at a few projects in the making.  One day with a friend of Bonnie’s and another day Carolyn went out with the Remax agents we met in Manta.  Chantal and Gilles, originally from Quebec, have recently opened a Remax office in Manta, and Carolyn, a Remax person herself was interested in seeing what they had going.  They have a huge multimillion dollar project on the go a few hours down the coast and Carolyn spent the day with them and some clients viewing that one.  Ecuador real estate is booming booming. I can see the value in buying now as the beaches are spectacular, clean and pristine.  Everywhere the infrastructure is developing – bridges, roads widened and paved and everywhere new housing developments popping up.  Many are for locals – the government has a push on to provide subsidized housing for citizens – this is still a very poor country and that is evident as soon as you get into the rural areas.  Not poor as in starving, but much of the population is still living in simple bamboo type shacks without water or sewage systems and I think many still without electricity.      Still very much the simple life I saw in Cambodia and Laos.  Very similar styles of stilted housing suitable for the heavy rains prevalent here.

I didn’t see anything I wanted to buy – even so I know for sure that in 10 years or maybe even 5, I will be kicking myself for not investing in Ecuadorian Real Estate while it still was the Wild West.  It is that Wild West thing that does scare me about this place.  Few rules and regulations and that combined with a country that has had such political instability, I think I would want to have a few more years of proof that this boom is sustainable and practical before putting my money is a speculative project.  For the already built condos and such – that market seems to be solid – there is an increasing demand for rental properties as word gets out about Ecuador, but there still is the hassle of being an absentee landlord so far away.  Currently the country only offers 90 day visas with a on again, off again extension possibility for another 90 days.  I have way more time on my hands than that so 90 days anywhere might just seem like a teaser if you really got settled into a place you loved.

Chantal and Gilles, the Remax couple were kind to take us to the airport for our $50 short flight to Quito.  We were sad to leave Manta and both of us would have been happy to stay there to try out 90 days of beach living.  Maybe next year.  A very liveable small city.  Nearly perfect except for that visa thing and the accessibility from Canada.

We did head out on a little day trip to Monicristo - the home of the Panama Hat.    Panama Hats are actually from Ecuador and became known as Panama Hats when they became very popular at a world's fair in the 30's 0r 20's...details details.  Anyway, the were sent from Ecuador to a World's Fair and were a huge hit with Europeans and when the fashionable wanted to know where they came from they looked at the shipping labels and they were marked "Panama" because the came from Ecuador to Panama and had Panamanian shipping labels on the boxes.

These hats are known worldwide and there are less than 100 old world style weavers making them today.  One hat can take up to 6 months to weave and we saw some of the factories and looked at the different qualities of hats.  The really good ones can be rolled up in a ball, can be washed and will bounce back to looking new.  Prices ranged from $20 for the ones woven by monkeys...not really, but rather rough, to in the hundreds of dollars.

   A little kid met us on the street and asked us to come to his house and see his mom's hats and carolyn could not refuse as all the little ones were hanging in a hammock watching wrestling while mom, Carolyn now owns a Panama/Ecudaor Hat.  I do not, because a) no room and b) I am too cheap.
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