One of the questions many prospective visitors and newcomers ask is “where are the malls?” The blunt answer is that there is one called Mall del Rio that is along the Autopista in the South East corner of Cuenca. It is a short taxi or bus ride. While not quite as slick as most North American malls, it has almost everything you might be accustomed to. Anchored on one end by the huge Wallmart-like “Coral”, which is nicknamed “the plastic store,” the mall has about 100 shops on two floors. At the other end is a truly American style movie complex that shows movies in English. A ride-aboard train for the kids winds its way around the first floor among kiosks selling telephones, ice cream, Fossil hand bags, etc. etc. A huge Christmas tree and a bubbling fountain are presently in the center. There are numerous shoe stores (Pay-less is very expensive – figure that out), clothing stores, Porta and Movistar telephone and internet shops, music stores, computer stores, electronic stores, home décor shops, an athletic clothing store, and much, much more. On the second floor, there is a huge entertainment complex and a food court and many more stores. Local restaurants have outlets there, even the ubiquitous KFC restaurant. Interestingly, there is a very upscale restaurant tucked away in the corner. Sunday is the wrong day to visit as almost all of Cuenca seems to be there shopping and it is very crowded especially at Coral. Many of the shops are merely outlets of their parent store in the city but we find ourselves going to the mall where most of our shopping can be done in one place rather than all over town. The only other “mall-like” complexes around town are those that surround the Supermaxi food stores of which there are three. Outside of each Supermaxi there are many small boutiques, barber shops, shoe stores, furniture stores, etc. At one, there is a very upscale department store called Sukasa. At another is our major hardware store, Kywi. So, a shopping trip to Supermaxi usually requires side visits to get a haircut or pick up new shoes for Jonny, or some other item on the perpetual “need to get” list. And, of course, while not a mall, the huge Mercado’s are the essence of the concept of a mall.
At the largest Mercado (there are at least three major Mercado’s in Cuenca and more in the neighboring towns), it would not be doing it justice to say that there are 500 food, clothing, knickknacks, or live animal stalls. There may be more but there is no way of knowing as the aisles and lanes wander endlessly. As you can see, shopping in Cuenca is part of our lifestyle, and we have just barely scratched the surface. Every day, someone tells us of the best store for this or the store with the best selection of that. Even so, shopping at the Del Rio Mall in Cuenca on a Sunday is an experience you will not forget.