Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Paradise City - Rio de Janeiro

Blessed with an abundance of natural beauty, coupled with the pleasant and easy going personality of the local Brazilians (the Cariocas), Rio de Janeiro justly deserves its title. Indeed Rio is the Cidade Marhavilhosa (the marvelous city)!
Which other city in the world can claim to have an excess of 30 white-sand beaches, green hills, botanical gardens and the largest urban park in the world?
City Trademarks
Jesus the Redeemer, at the top of the Corcovado peak, looks down on the city, while nearby are the twin peaks of Sugarloaf. (Its cable car was the shooting location of the James Bond movie, Moonraker).

Brazilians are conscious of their physique, they work out and keep fit, and proudly display their bodies on the beaches. Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon and the Arpoador beaches are some of the best known the world afar. Laying in recliner chair on the beach, sipping on a freshly made fruit juice, coconut juice or even better a refreshing but strong Caipirinha, and it seems that the world has stopped.

Activities and Sport
There are, of course other activities to be taken on. Volleyball, jogging, walking, cycling, hang gliding, rock climbing, the guys favourite, chatting up the beautiful women.... the list is endless.

There's a wide range of food available, ranging from original sandwiches, through various international cuisines, and the churascarias (the all you can eat BBQs). You should try Brazilian cuisine (when in Rome act as the Romans,as they say). It's tasty, spicy and rich in flavours.

When the night falls, the city becomes more energetic. The choices are abundant. From a quiet, romantic drink at Lagoa, to the samba clubs at Santa Teresa and Lapa, the nightclubs at Ipanema, the bars at Copacabana and even the impromptu gatherings around a kiosk next to the beach. You can hop from one place to the other throughout the night, until the sun comes up. (It reminds me of the Geek isles in the summer).

There is a long list of sightseeing tours, including the colonial style center, the museums, the tours to close by places like Barra de Tijuca, and Ilha Grande (I highly recommend it), the Maracana stadium, and even tours to the favelas!

Where to stay
There are a number of hotels all over Rio, with the majority concentrated in the Copacabana / Ipanema area, with prices covering all budgets. You can also rent an apartment or studio for a reasonable price, or you may even decide to stay at a hostel.

Some Notes
Although much has been said about violence in Rio, it is mainly occurring in the favelas (the shantytowns). To me Rio doesn't seem any more dangerous than any other large city. The crimes that are carried out on tourist are mainly petty theft type, so you must avoid wearing jewelery, hanging cameras from your wrists, and carrying large amounts of cash (keep what you expect to spend in a day in your pocket). You can use your plastic almost everywhere!
Finally, try to keep on the main streets, avoid dark alleys in the night, and walk purposefully. giving the impression you know exactly where you are going, just as a local would.

I will not go into detail about the carnival since everything above applies hundredfold!

Indeed, Rio de Janeiro is an experience that one should live during their life. I have been blessed to have done some myself twice, and have not finished yet. To me Rio IS the Cidade Marhavilhosa of the world!

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