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balance (2): RIO!

Friday, December 21, 2007


i decided a day or two ago (based on some prompting from 'x') that since i will most likely not be in this area of the world again for quite some time, if ever, that i couldn't miss out on seeing rio de janeiro in brazil. so despite the fact that it meant an extra $1000 that i hadn't budgeted in, and despite all the warnings that i would get killed if i went solo, i hopped on a plane this morning to spend the remaining days leading up to christmas there.

my flight on varig was kind of disappointing as there was nothing with which to pass the 3 hours. no magazines or movies, crappy food. i wished i had brought more english books with me on this trip as they do not sell them in south america! nevertheless, i got to rio ok and managed to find my way to the coopertramo taxi booth. the lady there sold me a ticket and then thrust a tip box into my face. tips for what? i claimed i had no small change and she took the liberty of extracting some from the change she owed me for my ticket. i was a bit irked by her outright begging before i even stepped foot out of the airport, but nevertheless, took my taxi to copacabana.

the road to copacabana was full of favelas, destitute neighborhoods of burnt out, decrepit buildings. it reminded me of india. the closer we got into the copacabana area though, the more rio looks like a typical south american city. it's covered in grafitti, a lot of it very cool! there are loads of corner juice stands, little supermarkets... it's quite similar to buenos aires, and actually a lot like thailand as well! my taxi dropped me off at the mellow yellow hostel. i had intended to make myself try the hostel thing in an attempt to meet people. but when i got in they had overbooked and put me in a hot stuffy room full of 6 other girls rather than the 4 bed a/c room i had requested. there were two rather trashy english girls sitting on the floor in there surrounded by piles of their belongings and trash. the bed was small, and the girls informed me the hostel was full of bedbugs. the lockers did not lock. there were guys wandering in and out of the room as they pleased. the "bar" they had advertised was a dirty cafe with crappy food, the bathrooms were filthy and not private... the list goes on. even though there were a few cute guys and they offered free internet, there was no way i could handle 4 days there, so i took a walk down copacabana beach to find another hotel.

copacabana is not a pretty beach. it's an urban beach, and it is lined with tall buildings. perhaps if it had not been cloudy, it would have looked better, but in addition to being rather ugly, it was (despite it's reputation for crowds) deserted with exception of a few halfhearted hawkers selling sarongs and fried shrimp. there were a couple of the requisite guys in speedos too, playing volleyball. i walked down the boardwalk 13 blocks alone without even coming close to getting mugged, and i realized that the danger had been totally over hyped. if there is one thing south america has taught me, it is that you should not listen to peoples' paranoia about a place. overall, i have found south america to be safer than thailand!!! rio is just like any other city, at least in the daytime.


anyway, i found a nice hotel (martinique) and moved my stuff in, even though it was more expensive than i had expected. i was starving, so i decided to go eat. copacabana surprisingly does not have much to offer food-wise, so i took a taxi to ipanema. ipanema is a bit prettier than copacabana, and more upscale. there also seems to be more of a selection of food and entertainment there. i went to have a capirinha at the 'garota de ipanema', a famous cafe in which the song 'the girl from ipanema' was written. the capirinhas were super strong but divine! i also had a cuban dish of chicken with shoestring potatoes and fried bananas and palm hearts, which was delicious. i noticed there that rio is similar to thailand- lots of older men with young prostitutes on their arm. ugh.

capirinha at 'garota de ipanema'

back to my room, i debated on going out, but having no idea where to go as i had not really researched the city, and not wanting to wander around alone at night, i crossed the street to peruse the sweet shop, bought a few assorted goodies such as chocolate covered bananas, coconut bars, and dulce de leche, and went back to my room to raid the minibar and fall asleep to the movie 'nacho libre', which was funnier than i remembered.



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