Brazil , overview

Old Jul 5th, 2005, 01:55 PM
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Brazil , overview

Why do travelers travel? What do they seek ?
A tourist visits mainly resorts and landmarks, a traveler seeks stimuli from different or better environments than the ones found at home. A traveler wants to experience unusual , different, unique or better environments and options . Different flavors, breathtaking nature, unique cultural background, arquitectural landscape. etc.

A traveler will go anywhere to find something interesting but will expect that it is really UNIQUE or at least better than the options close to home. Average is not a enough. Why go far if is we can find the same near.

We live in the North hemisphere and spent two months exploring Brazil recently.

Brazil has very few UNIQUE options to offer. One and the best one is Iguazu falls, the views of Rio city from the Corcovado and the Sugar Loaf, and the huge amount of water in the Amazon river. The rest is not unique and better options may be found elsewhere.

Of the three mentioned above the Amazons is the least interesting. The image most people have of the Amazon is complete inaccurate. Tarzan's jungle is not there. No dense jungle with lots of wildlife. The Amazons is mainly huge amounts of water that become boring after one hour of boating. The travel book Petit Fute mentions " when going to the Amazons one packs Indiana Jones gear when in reality one should take sunscreen and a fishing pole". Very true ! Lots of fish there. Very little wildlife. No aborigines that will shrink your head. Those , along with giant nenuphares , are only seen in the pages of National Geographic

What is available in the Amazons is wetlands, few birds, lots of different fish, few sloths, few dolphins , a croc and filthy shacks where supposed aborigines ( with cellphones, nail polish and rhinestones ) will show you a boa and some banana , papaya and coconut trees ( of course they are paid by the tour operators to accept the visitors and do the boa show) .

Manaus is the departure point for any " ecolodge" which if evaluated by the quality of the services, results in the most expensive allinclusive . All ecolodges offer the same. The area is so uninteresting that they have difficulty keeping tourist busy through their four night package. Pirana fishing, croc chasing, visit to the local family, sloth watching, overnight stay in the jungle ( you better camp in your back yard since there is no interest at all in staying awake lying in an uncomfortable hammock with no nets and being bitten by malaria mosquitoes, not taking in account that you will be paying good bucks to do so. Most ecolodges are palapa shacks with hammocks and very little cleanliness, no electricity, no purified water ( even though they offer it, there is none) and dubious food preparation. See pictures at

Manaus is one of the filthiest places we have seen, similar to filthy Calcutta. Uninteresting and dangerous. Not even the fish market is worth the trip. The famous Opera house is no architectural wonder if you have seen the real ones in Europe or North America. Our advice is : " see the Amazons on TV. Don't suffer it and better, do not spend time, money or energy going there".

Salvador ( Bahia) , another filthy town with a nice 3 by 8 blocks colonial neighborhood, with boutiques, restaurants, capoeria and drums. A two days stay will do it and if you skip it you won't miss a thing. Capoira is everywhere even in the streets of big cities like New York. Drums also. Nothing worth mentioning about Salvador. Dangerous city out of the "colonial tourist" area. African influence is better in Louisiana.

Iguazu is an impressive and spectacular natural wonder. The town is completely uninteresting so if you can afford the price, stay at the hotels inside the parks on either side of the border. Two days is more than enough to see the falls on both sides. If you want to walk the park or see the dam give yourself an extra day. No other thing in the area is worth visiting. The bird park near the Brazil side falls is worthless.

Rio in itself is not a nice city from the architectural point of view. Every one seems to be living in buildings of all economic levels. The only single houses are in the fabelas where the poor live. All Rio is a collection of buildings mostly modern. The interesting part or Rio is of course the streets bordering the series of beaches ( Rio is a long series of "loops"). Once you leave the Avenues bordering the beaches, the rest is buildings, buildings, buildings in narrow polluted streets with caotic traffic. The botanical garden is no wonder at all but a nice break if you have nothing else to do. A stroll around the inner lake behind Ipanema the same.
The cathedral downtown is different and worth the touble. Sta Theresa neighborhood is NOT the charming area that they advertise. VERY DANGEROUS CITY. We got mobbed across the street from the Marriot Copacabana, at 7 pm with a policeman at 30 mts and people around. It took the crooks 3 seconds to surround us , grab our belongings and run. Result: broken arm, money and Ids stolen.

Matto Grosso is wet lands like the Everglades in Florida or the Yucatan so if you are going or live in the north hemisphere it is not worth the trip. At least in the Yucatan you can see the Maya sites and flamingo reserves.

Brazilia is interesting if you are into architectural urbanism. A completely modern city with no interest for tourist.

The central part of Brazil , north of Brazilea has some National Parks, where you will find nothing unique.
Chapada de Vadeiros is mostly arid and in order to see a small river that forms nice but not tall nor wide cascades, you will have to walk for 4 to 6 miles both ways. Definetely not worth the trouble. I am sure most of you can find similar cascades and nicer environments closer to home or in any of your travels.

The colonial cities of Minas Gervais , the "gold route North or Rio . It may be interesting for South Americans that have no colonial cities close to home. Not worth the trip is you live close to Spain , Mexico or Antigua in Guatemala where colonial cities are architectural jewels.

Paraty : Mostly visited by locals on weekends but it is "sold" as a celebrity's destination because supposedly Tom Cruise visited the place. ( most surely never returning) During our stay we saw nothing but locals. It features an "old colonial" area 4 blocks by 4. with boutiques and restaurants. Although it is a port, there are no beaches. Lots of tour boats that will take tourists to near by beaches for a swim. Nice bay but does not justify a trip to Brazil nor driving from Rio to see the place.

No beach resort in Brazil is worth the trip from the North hemisphere when beautiful Caribbean waters and breathtaking resorts can be easily and inexpensively reached. Also Hawaii, Florida coast, Mexican Riviera. Africa North coast, etc.

In short Brazil's pros ( Iguazu and Rio's views ) are not enough to put up with the risks , energy , money and time involved. If you still think you would like to go be sure to value well your time and energy and choose the things that appeal the most.

advisor2000 is offline  
Old Jul 5th, 2005, 02:18 PM
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Did you like the food?

My husband and I have traveled to and toured Brazil five times. We love it. You and I looked at many of the same things and came away with totally different impressions.
marigold is offline  
Old Jul 5th, 2005, 03:02 PM
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30 Years ago , when I was almost 20 , travelled during 6 months through almost same places and cities as Advisor 2000.
I had quite similar impressions on the Amazones ( Manaos / Santarem / Belem) and certainly wouldn´t go back.

Belive Advisor doesn´t enjoy music , and that is one of the very UNIQUE s cultural aspects of Brazil.

As for food ...well ..depends where you go , Espeto corrido restaurants can be fun.But certainly there are some good restaurants where a meal close to the sea with some Samba music and a good Caipirinha could be very unique .

Carnival is a small Brazilian town is UNIQUE , not in touristy Rio .

Diving can also be unique

In many ways i loved Brazil , except the Amazones
santiagov is offline  
Old Jul 6th, 2005, 12:03 PM
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I feel sorry for you also. I found Brazil wonderful. In fact, it was my #1 trip up untiul a week ago when we got back from Africa. Now it has to share that spot. I didn't think I would like Manaus - it was just a jumping off spot for the Amazon, but it was wonderful. I loved the market and I was suprised at how clean the city was. No idea where you were, but maybe you just are more particular than I am. The Amazon was fabulous - I loved drifting in a boat at night listening to the sounds of the jungle. We were on the Rio Negro just up from the "meeting of the waters" and there were no mosquitos. We saw "the Southern Cross for the first time" (does anyone recall the title of that song? It was CSNY or Neil Young. It's been driving me crazy). The people were wonderful, Rio was magical, and the Amazon was amazing. We didn't get to Iguassu Falls - we'll get back there sometime.

For anyone thinking about going to Brazil - jump at the chance.
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Old Dec 1st, 2005, 08:07 AM
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I have to say I sort of agree with the original poster. For me, I found the constant hassle from people in the tourist areas to be a real downer. I would often get 4 or 5 people in a row coming up to me asking for money or trying to sell me something. Also, in Rio there did not seem to be a lot to do in the evenings apart from touristy trips to nightclubs etc. The Brazilian people were OK but I got the impression that if one of them talked to you the end result of it would be a request for money. I am unsure if I will return. Next time, maybe Mexico
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Old Dec 15th, 2005, 03:18 PM
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Ok Advisor and Laura, you both are officially boring. How could you not like a country that is sooooo Unique? The rythms of Salvador?? The dancing in the streets? I agree that the amazon is a little different from our ideas, but it is definitely dense and full of wild life. Monkeys are everywhere, snakes, piranas, and the jungle is really dense. The rivers were so different than everything we ever saw!! ANd the food?? The fishes are the most delicious I ever tasted!
I also agree that Rio can be a little scary because there are so many odd looking fellows but if you went to ipanema beach and district you whould have felt safe and in the middle of the most beautiful women - you were probably intimidated by so much beauty. And Laura, no one ever asked me for money. You didn't meet brazilians there, just beggers. Brazilians are fun, always go beyond their way to make you feel special and try to convice that their country is the best one in the world. I agree.
I've never been to iguazu, but I've been told it is beautiful too.
Plus, Rio is one of the most beautiful cities I've ever seen. And I've been around my friend!
The atmosphere of that town is just incredible. So much energy and life. You just don't find that anywhere in America.
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Old Dec 16th, 2005, 12:07 AM
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I'm sorry Samantha but I did not find Rio to be that impressive. Perhaps it had something to do with the cool temperatures and low cloud which constantly hung over the place when I was there but I really could not see what was so beautiful about it. I find it incredible that you were not hustled for money when you were there. What's your secret? I wish I'd had it in Brazil!
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Old Jan 1st, 2006, 01:58 PM
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I have been reading everyone's thoughts on Brazil. My husband & I are going in February. We have purchased tickets to the parade. We are extremely excitied. We do not speak Portuguese but we both love the music. He is an amateur photographer hoping to get some pictures of Carnival.

I know you have to be careful of theft so my questions are - can you leave your passport in hotel safe and just carry photocopy? I thought I would get something that hangs around your neck or waist, inside our clothes to put credit card and some local money. I will leave any jewlery at home. Does this mean I should not even wear a cheap timex watch? Can I just wear plain hoop earings?

We often carry backpacks when we are out sightseeing. should I beware of this since someone can come up in back of me and snatch my stuff?

I have dealt with the gypsies in Europe when they were really bad, some years ago. But not sure how to deal with this.

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Old Jan 6th, 2006, 08:58 AM
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You will probably find that your hotel room comes equipped with a safe and you should leave your passport, tickets there, taking a photocopy of your passport with you. I did not feel especially unsafe in Brazil although I do feel it is wise to take the security warnings seriously. I tended to leave my credit card in the room safe unless I knew I wanted to use it. Do enjoy your time in Brazil, I've heard that the Carnival is a great experience.
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Old Apr 30th, 2006, 06:40 PM
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I got a kick out of your overview. Very funny. Very helpfull. You covered a lot of ground and gave an honest appraisal. I'll take what I can from it.
saltravel is offline  
Old May 1st, 2006, 07:35 AM
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I'm thinking of going to Brazil this fall and I think it's good to hear from people who like it and don't like it. There's nothing to feel sorry about, everyone has different travelling styles and opinion - we can't all think allike, now that's what you call boring.

Anyways, I would be interested in hearing of places where I should go visit in Brazil. I'm not bothered by people harassing me to buy stuff - I've been to places like Peru, India, Egypt and China - I'm sure it can't be worse than that.

I doubt it's true about the Amazon Jungle having no wildlife - probably the ecolodges for tourist don't have any wildlife (probably b/c we destroyed it) but considering the size of Brazil and the portion that it is jungle - doubtful. I've been to the jungle in Peru and it was amazing. However, I don't think I would be able to spend too much time in the Jungle, it's a nice retreat for a few days but that's not my sorta thing but if possible I would like to go there time permitting.

I'm really not into the typical toursity but I do enjoy learning about history, culture and seeing the natural beauty/landscape.

I'm open to itinerary suggestions as well..I'll be going for at least 2 weeks, maybe 3 sometime after September...when is a good time to go (weather wise)?
oceania is offline  
Old May 1st, 2006, 07:41 AM
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If I'm going for 3 weeks, I would like to try and spend a few days in Colombia & Venezuela or Argentina while I'm there. How feasible would that be?
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Old May 1st, 2006, 01:31 PM
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It sounds like advisor is extremely bitter about his/her trip to Brazil - perhaps it was due to inclement weather, bad traveling companions or overall bad trip??? It is really unfortunate. Sometimes on vacation there are things that can dampen your perspective. I also spent two months in Brazil traveling all over the country & absolutely loved it. I went to Rio, Porto Alegre, Matto Grosso do Sul (Pantanal), & Salvador. NOT ONCE was I asked for money in any of these places. I wasn't crazy about Salvador but I loved the other places - & especially the food. In the Pantanal we saw so many animals, it was amazing.

Oceania - I would suggest buying an airpass & travling to a few different cities. (The airpass is only sold to foriegners) If you want adventure check out the Pantanal & this small town, Bonito - they have amazing eco-tours - from dangerous to relaxing! also check out the south - Porto Alegre - if you get a chance; we drove to the small town of Gramado which was so cool - very European & beautiful hills/small mtns. I had the most amazing fondue there. The food in the south is so good - many churrascos (Brazilian BBQ) & lots of European influence. Check out a local Galleteria (a gourmet all you can chicken & pasta place) - I went to one in Porto Alegre called Don Francesco - amazing!!
In Rio I would recommend staying in the Ipanema area - it's safe, the beach is beautiful & great restaurants. I never felt threatened in Rio - just be aware of your surroundings.
In the far north the beaches of Fernando de Noronha are supposed to be very beautiful. It is totally feasible to travel to surround countries also, however you may not get to see as much of Brazil as you like, it's a huge country. Have a wonderful trip!
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Old May 2nd, 2006, 03:52 PM
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I'm doing a Buenos Aires/Rio trip in October. I'm glad I go an overview on this. I think I'll still see the Amazon and just make a day trip out of it.

I have been dissapointed like advisor2000 before, I went to at least 20 restaurants in Italy in 4 different citys looking for the AMAZING Italian food everyone talks about. I can honestly say Olive Garden was better than pretty much all of it. I think a definite factor in advisor2000's opinon that was the fact that he got his arm broken and wallet stolen by some thieves.
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Old May 2nd, 2006, 08:09 PM
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Vic me too! Have you outlined an itinerary yet? I'm planning to go mid October for. My email is [email protected] if you're interested in trading info.

I haven't been disappointed with any of my trips but I can say that I wasn't that impressed with Italy and Greece, the 2 countries I look forward to the most...maybe high expectations? Ditto for the food...I was really disappointed with what I had but I'm not fan of Italian food to begin with.
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