I lived in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, 15 years ago and recently had the chance to visit it again for the first time in 13 years (I did visit it a couple years after I left). Of course, the first thing I noticed was that the city has changed. A lot. The second thing I noticed was that, well, it’s a quirky sort of place–one worthy of its own little photo essay.

Hope you enjoy this virtual tour of Quirky Quito…I certainly enjoyed setting it up!

PS: I got in trouble in El Jardin Mall when I shot Photo #8! ๐Ÿ™‚

What Has Changed

1. People Multitasking

When I lived in Ecuador, people did one thing at at time. You went to the bank. Or you went food shopping. You put makeup on before going to work.

Now, people are busy. Really busy. And so, they have to multi-task. This woman obviously didn’t have time to get ready for work. So, as one would logically do, she got ready for work–at work. Here, she’s applying makeup while waiting for her customers…


2. Water Faucet in the Sky

Not sure what this is about. I think it’s art. A sculpture of some sort. Anyway, it confused me when I saw it. For a moment, I thought I was under a sink and not in the center of a capital city. Glad I now realize where I really was. PS: I don’t recall this from when I lived in Quito. I’m sure it wasn’t there.

3. Toy Chicky Buses

Back when I lived in Quito, you took chicken buses; you didn’t buy them. Now, you can go to an upscale mall and drop a few bucks on a greeting card and then buy someone a chicky bus (toy version) as a gift. Some more multi-tasking, I think.

PS: Can you imagine how happy I was when I saw these? They made me feel so welcome. It was as if they knew about me and this site.


4. No Longer a Millionaire

I remember how exciting it was to change money–back in the day. You’d go to a “casa de cambio’ and hand over $500 and get back–1,000,000 sucres. ($1 equaled 3000 or 4000 sucres at one point.) You were an instant millionaire–in sucres, anyway. But now, you’re a mere hundredaire or thousandaire–in dollars. And yeah, as you guessed it, that money doesn’t go quite as far. Fortunately, you can still get a cheap almuerzo.

5. Old Town, New Town Safety Reversal

Back when I lived in Quito, the New Town was safe and the Old Town wasn’t. Now it’s the other way around. OK. That’s cool. Still–watch your bag/backpack, etc. wherever you are. Most people I met had been robbed or knew someone who had been. I’m happy to report that I stayed safe.

6. A Bar in the Airport?

I remember the good old days, when the Quito Airport was really limited and had a cage of sorts that one would enter upon leaving. That’s right–in order to leave, you’d enter a cage. And the people waiting for you would look in at you. Or maybe they were in the cage? I can’t remember.

All I know is that a bar in the airport is…well….rather cool. And it feels quirky to me because well, it looks sort of upscale. It’s feels odd to me since it’s not the Quito Airport, the one with the cage, that my friends and I knew and loved. But I’m not complaining…glad it’s there.

7. An Apple Store?

Please, Quito–now, you’re really freaking me out. Now, I know this is not a quirk–it’s a sign of modernity, of being high tech, of a developing country…developing. Still, I included this on my list since it was a shocking change (for me). Back when I lived in Quito, there was no Internet (perhaps the government had it and one or two super rich people) and “apple” was a mere fruit. Now, well, Apple is there!

I like how they handle the name in Spanish, by the way. Sorta funny. I guess it sounds better than “Tienda de Manzana,” which seems a bit ludicrous (if you speak Spanish) because it would seem too literal–as if apples were for sale.

8. Alien Mannequins

Perhaps you thought that unusual mannequins were found mostly in the Middle East. Well, think again. The aliens have invaded South America, too, and especially Ecuador. Check out this bizarre mannequin from El Jardin Mall in Quito. PS: I almost got arrested taking the shot. The police were not happy! Perhaps they were aliens, too?

And the one thing that hasn’t changed in Quito but confuses me nevertheless…

Vulcan Tires

I know that martians have something to do with dry cleaning, so it’s only logical that Vulcans would have something to do with tire repair? Right? Or am I still in MannequinLand? In any case, the tires still say Vulcanizadora on them. And that’s exactly what it was like back in the 90s.


What Do You Think?

Have you been to Quito? See anything out of the ordinary while there? Did I miss anything? LOL Do you find the city quirky in any way? Or does it seem like another other Latin American capital city to you?

Meanwhile…have you unraveled the mystery of the Vulcans and the Martians? Dry cleaning versus tires? If so, could you help shed some light on the topic in the Comments section? Thank you.


  1. Love this post! It’s always cool to go back to a place you haven’t visited for a number of years to see what’s changed, and what’s stayed the same. I’ve never been to Ecuador, but I can imagine how some of these changes must have caught your attention straight away!
    Amanda recently posted..My 7 Links – Posts From the PastMy Profile

    • Hi, Amanda. Thanks for checking it out! It was cool to go back. I went mostly so that I could recall what it felt like to be there–to help with my memoir writing. I wanted to feel the pace of life again and to capture some lost details. And what I found was something similar yet very different. And via photography, I saw the quirkiness. Lots of fun!

  2. Great fun post always good to go back and see how it has changed. Absolutely love the toy chicky buses ๐Ÿ™‚
    Iain Mallory recently posted..The Great Ocean Roadtrip โ€“ A superlative adventureMy Profile

  3. Stephanie - The Travel Chica

    I spent a month in Quito, and I got robbed my first day there in the Old Town. About half the people I met had been robbed, some violently. I was disappointed to discover how dangerous the city really is because the people are so wonderful.

    I noticed the weird mannequins when I was there too. I had to walk buy a shop selling mannequins, and it always creeped me out a little.
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..My First Border RunMy Profile

    • Hi, Stephanie. So sorry to hear about the robbery. I shudder when I think about how many people I’ve heard this from–and now, you too. Also, there’s Ayngelina’s story. Awful.

      Believe it or not, back when I lived there, Quito was quite safe. I often walked home at night and when I took taxis, I didn’t always ask them to wait for me to enter my apartment. I actually spent a night in Carolina Park once. But that was then. A few years after I left, friends told me that it really changed. One of them got mugged near Carolina Park during the day. And on my recent trip, I did feel an edge of sorts there. And so, I was extra careful. I stayed in at night and if I was out, I took a taxi back. Shame it’s gotten to be that way.

      You noticed the mannequins? Very cool. They are creepy. And soon, I’ll be dedicating a post to the creepiest ones of all!

      Thanks for sharing your story.

  4. I spent some time in Quito in 1997. Found it to be completely safe albeit with some quirks. We had no trouble of any kind.

    I do recall seeing loads of dream-like paintings in markets etc of a vintage train floating through a night sky. Seemed like they were everywhere. Even as the motif of a large shopping centre.

    Do you know the ones I mean?

    Are they still there?
    Disarm Doors recently posted..NO DEAL IN MELBOURNEMy Profile

    • Hi and thanks for sharing that. I think Quito was OK back in the 90s. I felt safe there, too. It’s a shame that it’s changed and has an edge now and the crime to back it up.

      I think I know what you’re talking about re: those paintings! Lots of floating things in the sky. Oil paintings, I think. Trippy. And yes, I think they’re still there. Sometimes they’re near those little paintings of the mountains and indigenous (which I wish I’d bought!). I don’t recall one of a train, however.

      • Hey CB,

        I knew I had a photo of some of the art. Take a look at the following link:


        Trains, bells and fruit!

        Again, loved the post. Happy travels!
        DisarmDoors recently posted..NO DEAL IN MELBOURNEMy Profile

  5. Thanks for such a great post about Quito “La Carita de Dios” is nice to hear you were back ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Melissa Ruttanai

    Great post! My husband and I are travel writers. In August, we’ll be in Quito. So, we’re so excited! But I’ve heard some rather shocking things about the crime. Is it mostly in Quito? Other parts of Ecuador too?

    Any tips for travel?

    We’ll have some camera and computer equipment too. So, I am worried about walking around and taking pix. Would appreciate any advice!

    • Hi, Melissa. Going to Quito? Very cool. I do have some tips re: keeping safe Quito and will post them very soon (and will let you know when they’re up). Thanks!

  7. Dyanne@TravelnLass

    Great post! But – my only question for you is…

    What’s with you and these MANNEQUINS??? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    But seriously – why did you “almost get arrested” for taking a pic of the alien mannequin?
    Dyanne@TravelnLass recently posted..To Do: Apply for the CELTA in Saigon – Check!My Profile

    • Hi, Dyanne. Me and the mannequins…well, it’s a long story. No, actually, it’s a short one. I’ve always found them to be peculiar in some way–and also intriguing. When I saw some really strange ones in the Middle East, I photographed them, thinking that they’d make for a great photo essay (if I had a blog, which I didn’t at the time). And then, once I set up Chicky Bus, I made that into a post.

      Re: what happened in Quito…I was warning by a shop clerk (she said it wasn’t allowed because they’re were cameras watching us–OK) and then at a certain point, the police approached me and gave a stern warning. The told me it wasn’t allowed, etc. I’m not sure they wanted to necessarily arrest me, but I think that if they’d caught me, I would have been escorted out the door!

  8. Love this post as well! Isn’t it interesting how a place changes? I have so many things to say about how India has changed…not all for the better either. Love your observations about multitasking…it’s when a country becomes more progressive and enters the 21st century I guess.
    Charu recently posted..The 7 Link Blog Project: Remembering My Previous Blog PostsMy Profile

    • Thanks, Charu. Glad you enjoyed it! Yes, it is interesting how places change while retaining a certain something that’s unique to them. Same with India, huh? As for progress, that might be what some of it is about.

  9. Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista

    I haven’t been to Quito but from your pictures I sure want to. I can only imagine the changes you encountered; some are good and some were probably unwelcome changes. Enjoyed reading this post.
    Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista recently posted..France Celebrates Bastille Day!My Profile

    • Hi, Debbie. Glad to hear that you’d like to check out Quito! If you do, though, I highly recommend Cuenca (after Quito). It’s small, sweet and very special. Also, a bit safer. Still, both are worth a visit if you’re travel through Ecuador and you have the time. As for the types of changes, yes–there were both types.

  10. jill- Jack and Jill Travel The World

    As you already know, we weren’t big fans of Quito. I imagine it must’ve been quite a trip for you to see what has changed and what hasn’t, eh? It happens to me all the time whenever I visit home. Still can’t believe we missed each other with Ecuador being so small as it is ๐Ÿ™‚
    jill- Jack and Jill Travel The World recently posted..Baรฑos: The Weird and The DecayingMy Profile

    • Hi, Jill. Yes, I saw your post re: Quito. And I can understand–especially now that I’ve been to Cuenca. It was a trip seeing it again since it’s different than what I remembered. Feels a lot more overwhelming now in terms of size, etc. than before. Also, it was safer in the past.

      And yeah–it was a shame that we didn’t get to meet up. I think I liked the southern part of the country so much that I just couldn’t bring myself to back up to the northern part any sooner. Glad you did the Galapagos anyway!

  11. Hello there stranger!

    I’m finally back and trying to return to a normal life. How was your time in Panama? We went back to Gamboa one last time. Hope you are well. As for Vulcans….yes they invented it all:) Live and long and prosper:)

    • Hi, there…I remember you! You were drinking the $9 Geisha coffee that day at the Ruiz Cafe! I’m doing well, thanks. You went back to Gamboa? Is that where the ‘chitras’ had attacked you? I actually have a few mini scars from those monsters!

      Thanks for answering the Vulcan question….you’re the only one who did–LOL. Thanks so much for the visit. I’ll be sure you check out your blog, too.

  12. nice post lisa… i was amazed with the huge faucet lol… made me really want to go to central/south america …
    flipnomad recently posted..Five Tips in Using Time as Your Greatest Travel LeverageMy Profile

  13. Kelly ~HipTraveler

    Wow, Quito has changed a lot since I was there. I lived in Pichincha, Ecuador in the early 90’s. Enjoyed your photos and observations of changes over the years.


  14. Wow, you can find apple stores everywhere now. I guess that shows just how popular they are there.

    I’ve never been to Quito so it was interesting to read your observations. I hope you bought one of those toy chicky buses. If anything, it would have been a funny souvenir to bring back home.
    Steve recently posted..Is It Possible to Do Everything You Want Before You Die?My Profile

    • Hi, Steve. I do think what you said is true–those Apple stores are popping up everywhere! As for the toy chicky buses, I did not get one. They were sort of large, so I didn’t want to carry one. ๐Ÿ™ On the other hand, I did get a painting of a Panamanian “Diablo Rojo”–another variety of chicken bus–in the P City Airport. At least I have that!

  15. It truly is amazing the different dynamics of the city and the country as a whole. I was just there in march, and had an amazing time. My fiancรฉ and myself did some health care work in Quito, Ibarra, and Santo Domingo de Colombiano. If you want to re- experience that easy going atmosphere Otovalo and Ibarra are the places to go. We hope to go back there in this coming March again.

    • Hi, Matt. True re: the differences…I totally agree! I didn’t go to Otavalo during the recent trip, but did many years ago. I may have once visited Ibarra….I don’t quite remember for some reason. This trip, I went to Cuenca and Vilcabamba and loved both. I highly recommend them. They were SO relaxing–especially Vilcabamba.

      If you go back, enjoy!

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  17. Quito was my base for several years and definitely observed some changes and mostly good ones in recent visits. But the ChickyBus is right too much internet
    no more mixtapes on the Sony walkman and weird ass situations occuring daily. It’s still a cool funky little spot that if you’re willing and speak some spanish can be pretty happening. One thing is for sure you can’t go back in time but you can go back to a place. That says it all.


    • Neal–The Internet thing was trippy–especially when I saw it in Tumbaco. I do agree re: Quito–if you know Spanish and get out the gringo neighborhoods, you can have some cool moments there. I’m glad I couchsurfed; staying with a family made it extra special.

      True re: going back to a place but not in time….

  18. It was the same in the 70’s too. The more it changes the more it stays the same only now there are more cars needing tires fixed and better roads.

    • Lynette–Do you live in Quito? Sounds like it. I wasn’t there in the 70s…can only imagine that it was lovely and loco at the same time. And I’m sure there were plenty of “vulcanizadoras” back then, but not as many as now. Thanks!

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