From Banos we made our way south via bus and train (well, actually more like a bus on the train tracks as the rail ine was undergoing repair) to the city of Cuenca. The Andean scenery along the way was quite nice. The "train" stopped for awhile at the small town of Guamote, which was filled with festively dressed locals (some being chased by camera toting train riders).
There is great debate among Ecuadorians and tourists alike as to which is prettier, Cuenca or the Old Town of Quito. Both are recognized as World Heritage Sites due to the collection of historic buildings. Our votes go to Quito, but we did appreciate that in Cuenca the Old Town is still the heart of the city with plenty locals going about their daily business. We spent plenty of time here walking around and admiring the architecture and colorful markets.
Cuenca is also the center for the production of "Panama" hats. They are known as such because they were first exported to Europe from Panama and made popular by people from Panama wearing them. They are still essentailly hand woven and the finest ones can fetch upwards of 1000 USD. We visited the shop of Alberto Pullo, who had been making them since he was six years old, and now appears to be about 80.