Our Thoughts About Manta, Ecuador
November 4, 2014
We still haven’t been able to figure out why Manta has such a bad rap. We loved it — and the people. If we come to the coast again for one month, this is good place to park ourselves.
In fact, we had this discussion with some Gringo friends who have lived here for some time. Even they wonder why they get many negative comments, such as: “Oh, isn’t Manta dangerous?”, whenever they tell others in Ecuador that they live in Manta. But then again, we are not the kind of people to roam the streets late at night or at 2:00 in the morning, either.
There is this one hotel though. It is in a neighborhood that is okay during the day, but our friend Wayne mentioned that we would probably not want to walk around this area after dark. We ate dinner in their upscale Chinese restaurant one evening, and could see that quite a few Americans were staying at that particular hotel. So maybe, that helps fuel the concern? Don’t really know, we’re a little confused. Anyway, we always felt comfortable strolling around at night wherever we walked in the central part of Manta, and it doesn’t take much to put me on the alert.
ONE WORD OF CAUTION THOUGH, DURING THE CHRISTMAS SEASON, CRIME DOES GOES UP. SO ONE NEEDS TO EXERCISE EXTRA CAUTION THEN. However, that same warning even went out for the gringos living in Cotacachi.
Manta has some gorgeous subdivisions too, especially in the area around the University. There were many very attractive homes, handsome apartment buildings, and condos to delight the North American taste.
In that area, there is at least one upscale hotel, called Mantahost. That beautiful place kisses the ocean, as it’s literally just yards from the waves. We did not stay there, but we did check it out. In November sometime, they are offering three days and two nights for $100.00. We saw on TripAdvisor that their rooms normally go for about $138.00 per night.
To flag down a yellow taxi from the street was absolutely not a problem. (In Guayaquil, one should never flag down a taxi). We took several each and every day, as they only cost $1.00, sometimes $1.50 to $2.00 depending on distance. None of them were crazy drivers either. And, on at least 9 separate occasions — I took note — cars stopped dead in their tracks to wave us on to cross the street.
Good restaurants in Manta are plentiful, and I’m not just talking fish. There’s all kinds — great Tex Mex, really good pizza places, burger joints, sandwich shops, even a place for wings, Mexican, Bar & Grills, Bistros, and more. Some cheap good food and some not so cheap. There are many, many fine dining establishments as well — Italian, Japanese, Sushi, Mediterranean, etc. And I must not fail to mention, gourmet seafood, like Dorado (Mahi Mahi), or shrimp, in a coconut sauce. Divine!
We came across at least two Gringo style bakeries — in other words, good bakeries. The chain called Dulce & Cremosa is here, also serving lunch items, like quiche, focaccia sandwiches, and espresso.
The German bakery, Deli Cream, around the corner from us was fun! Each visit was always filled with good conversation, as the owner, Michael, speaks English well, besides Spanish and his native German. He’s been in Ecuador around 30 years. Their big baking operation was in Cuenca — and some of it still is, but on a smaller scale now. He and his very sweet wife, Carmen, who’s from Loja, decided to slow down in life and come to Manta, where they operate their shop here from Thursday to Sunday, at Calle 14 y Avenida 14.
He and Carmen bake the best moist cakes! Especially delicious is their Wet Chocolate Cake (Torte Chocolate Mojada) served swimming in a puddle of chocolate sauce. They also make their own 100% natural ice cream — their milkshakes are heavenly. They bake bread, they make waffles, they have espresso, hot chocolate, sandwiches, and etc.
And I can’t stop without mentioning the street venders. Some of the food being offered from those, were simply to die for. Like a huge twice baked crispy potato thingy — crisp on the outside but without skin, filled with veggies and meat. There were various kinds of fantastic empanadas. One street vender served tasty burritos for $1.50 and NOT pre-made either — the meat was cooked to order. We had those a few times! Unfortunately, much of the good restaurants, and street venders don’t open up until 6 or 7 pm.
Manta also has a Supermaxi. And, we were informed, they will be getting a Megamaxi soon, and another Mall — they already have one. The population is approximately 220,000.
Cruise ships come into Manta from time to time. There’s a Gringo newsletter on the web (Manta Expats) that one can subscribe to and it announces the day each ship arrives. The cruise ships give tours, of course, and one of those tours take passengers to Montecristi. A town where they make Panama hats. We also saw them making good quality wicker furniture–all by hand. It’s a fun outing, as there are many shops for souvenirs.
MontecristI is about a 20 minute taxi ride from Manta ($5.00). This little tidbit is from the web: “Panama hats of the best quality are made here. Montecristi is famous for them, and for good reason. They ought to be re-named “Montecristi hats”, but the hats were originally shipped around the world via ports in Panama and thus became known as “Panama hats.””
A beautiful and peaceful beach close to Manta is Santa Marianita. There are also a string of bamboo/grass hut restaurants there serving some of the best fried butterflied shrimp, patacones, and spicy salsa (aji) for $5.50 w/rice & salad. That, with a large Gringo-cold Pilsener beer for $1.50. (the way beer is sold on the coast), heaven!
Each Sunday, Gringos from the area meet for an American style breakfast; probably at one of the hotels in Santa Marianita.
A taxi, or a camioneta for $1.00 per person, takes passengers to and from Marianita from downtown Manta by the mercado. (Taxis are more).
Anyway, we also enjoyed where we rented our small studio in Manta. Maid service was actually included (weekly) in our rent, which was a nice surprise. Our building was quiet and secure. And with two different laundry services on our street, our smalls loads were done for us for only $4.00 dollars — dropped off and pick up the following day. After a month of this, I’m officially spoiled. But I’m not gonna lie! After about the first week here, Manta got toasty, so the air conditioner got turned on several times each day.
However, most mornings greeted us with cloudy skies. before the sun came along to burn them off. That’s when we tried to enjoy the beach in Manta. There are plenty of beach tents offering shade that are available for rent, but from 8 to perhaps 10 am, the blanketed skies offered that to us for free! And, even that early, Manta’s beach was not empty, as it was busy with joggers, street venders, coaches blowing their whistles to direct their teams, a surfer or two, exercise classes, and a visible police presence.
We also enjoyed some nice experiences in the ministry. One of them happened when Fred and I left our group and came home. I briefly offered a tract to our taxi driver. After he readily accepted it, Fred asked him if he had time to watch a 4 minute video. In front of our building, the driver engaged his parking brake and said yes. After watching, he began searching for paper and pen so that Fred could write down the website: www.jw.org.
Back to the mountains!