My first impression of Rio de Janeiro was that of a home away from home as it has so much in common with the Philippines.
I was told by a Brazilian local that I would feel the similarities between their country and ours, something common among former colonies–Brazil being a former Portuguese colony, and our country being formerly under the Spanish. And true enough, in the city sentro, I felt like I was in Quiapo! Pushcarts, peddlers, coconuts, low rise buildings just like old Manila–all of these abound, and in good measure!
Corcovado, the statue of Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) put Rio on the map, making this city the face of Brazil. True, Sao Paolo is the biggest and busiest city, and Brasilia is the nation’s capital, but Rio is undoubtedly Brazil’s face. Needless to say, it is a must visit! Also, don’t forget to take the cable car that runs from the Sugar Loaf Mountain, which offers a spectacular view of this city.
Once you move to the beach line, you experience the classic Rio that all the movies and songs throughout the decades have acquainted the world with. From the common man’s Copacobana, to the elite Ipanema and all the way to Leblon, the atmosphere is abuzz with energy, and business is alive, as seen in the presence of many large hotels and tourist-oriented goods and services.
In the Philippines, we have our beautiful beaches; but Brazil has massive, wide beaches, which is probably why the beach lifestyle is so central to the culture of the Carioca (the term used to refer to Rio locals).
I noticed that the Brazilian people seem to be quite extroverted. They are very warm, friendly and outgoing, as a matter of culture. Of course, they are water people, a fruit of their geographic gift of being located in such a beautiful environment by the Atlantic Ocean. Sunday is beach day, and main roads close down so that people can enjoy a fun-filled day by the sea, playing volleyball, soccer, or just bumming at the beach.
Part of that lively, outgoing culture is seen in their love for music and dance. So when you are in Rio, head to the Rio Scenarium for some bossa nova and of course, samba!
This journal about my trip to Brazil would not be complete without mention of the majestic Iguassu Falls. A trip to Brazil can be quite long and travelers from the Philippines can expect to be in transit for an entire day–very tiring! So you can imagine, the clients I traveled with were quite drained by the time we got to Brazil.
In spite of that, when we got to Iguassu, everyone was certain it was worth the trip. It is truly a breathtaking sight. In all its grandeur, it is clear that Someone Up There has carved Iguassu into the earth, with its 279 falls roaring, tumbling, spraying, creating rainbows in the air. You will never stop shooting photos, thanks to all the different perspectives you can capture!
Take a walk on the catwalk and get close to the falls. But make sure you’ve got a camera that is waterproof, or at least ready to get splashed, because you will get wet! Another option would be to take a rubber boat ride through the falls–so exciting!
For those planning to visit Rio, Iguassu is two hours away, and well worth the effort!
Quick Tourist Tips
In closing this travel journal, let me leave you with some tips on things to eat and buy when you travel to Rio de Janeiro.
First: get some slippers! Our friends at the Brazil Embassy in Manila like to joke that their biggest export is Havaianas! Flip-flops that would cost P1,600+ in Manila go for P250 in Brazil. Semi-precious stones are also a wonderful and special pasalubong item. The country is also well known for its delicious coffee, so get yourself a good espresso. And while we’re on the topic of food and drink: remember to head for a churrascaria, the essential Brazilian barbecue–proceed to eat all that you can! Brazil, which is rich in land, produces a lot of cattle, hence this type of cuisine. It’s truly delicious!
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