The beaches! They are fantastic, long sandy beaches full of gorgeous near-naked bodies basking in the sun, swimming in the sea or playing some kind of beach sport involving (football, volleyball etc…). Yes, its true, its really easy to chat people up, in fact, blokes just have to say hello and girls will give them their phone numbers. The beaches are full of babes and hunky chunky almonds (see choc ad on UK TV) that use the beach as a sort of catwalk to display their finely tuned bodies and check each other out. It seems that chatting people up is a favourite local pastime just as sex is the favourite local sport. (Sorry for the squeamish bashful innocent ones out there but it certainly seems true). Anyway, needless to say I spent many a happy hour on the beach perfecting my tan, chatting to interesting people and having fun getting knocked over by waves in the sea. Unfortunately the beaches, being full of rich gringos trying to be cool and show off their flab, are pickpocket heaven so I never dared take my camera there, so I have no nice photos of Copacabana and Ipanema to put on display. Beaches being the focal point for sporting activities, we also went running along the beachfront several evenings while I was there, covering the length of Copacabana and Ipanema beaches.
Apart from the traditional beach life, I also tasted the delights of the local nightlife, which is a lot more exciting and interesting than that of Asunción. Needless to say flirting is also high on the list of priorities of the indigenous populations (it always is) in the evening so going out can actually be quite interesting if not amusing. We went to a wide variety of places that were all really nice and I had a good time. Especially recommended are Thursday nights in the Lapa district.
Food and fruit juices were of course highlights of my stay (nice to eat something with variety and drink real fruit juice). I tasted so many different things I have no idea what they were, but they were all nice and yummy. I think one particular favourite was several slices of chocolate flavoured pizza… yes, I admit, it does sound disgusting (I thought yuck when I first realised what it was) but it is in fact one of the most heavenly things on earth. And why not! Think about it: Pizza and chocolate! Who would want more? Deserts are also fantastic over there, maracuja mousse being one of my favourites (passion fruit).
During my stay I visited a number of places around Rio, including the tropical islands to the (very nice boat ride with buffet meal on isolated island with heavenly beach. Got very sunburned. Fantastic day) the small town of Buzios to the North (a paradise on earth, fantastic beaches, warm sea, perfect sand, cool people, nice food, lovely boat ride…) and also many of the traditional sites around Rio. Among those I saw the Pao do Azucar (Sugarloaf Mountain) and the Maracana stadium for football fanatics (the largest stadium in the world – 20 000 people). I also went on an interesting bike ride to the Botanical garden with a multilingual British-ish bloke which nearly left me with a severely bruised bum!
During these visits I went past some of the towns irreputable “favelas” which from the outside reminded me of some areas of Asunción. These favelas are renowned to be some of the most dangerous areas of Brazil. If you are at all interested in the topic, the Brazilian film “Cidade de Deus” (City of God) comes highly recommended and gives a fairly bleak but accurate picture of the situation by covering the true story of a young photographer who fought his way out.
Transport in Rio (I have to include a transport paragraph don’t I?) is a lot more evolved on the evolution chain than in other places I have been to. The buses don’t have holes in them, they only play dodgems with each other and even then it is not too violent. Taxis seem pretty calm on the whole and no one scared me. We were not attacked at gunpoint or knifepoint and travelled safely around. All in all it was a pretty tame experience compared to places like BA and was actually a little disappointing in some ways. By the time I reached Rio I seemed to have got used to periodical adrenaline rushes on public transport and was actually starting to enjoy the experiences. I must stress that although I encountered no problems in Rio, I did hear many reports of violence from other travellers. The main thing to remember in Rio is not to show wealth. This means no watches, chains, cameras, bracelets, expensive pens etc… anything that looks valuable makes you a target for crime, so just leave it behind.
Basically, to sum up my first stay in Rio: it was fantastic, I didn’t want to leave and I wanted to return. People there are active, the town is alive, and has an atmosphere that just didn’t exist in Paraguay. Streets are full of people wandering round, selling things, chatting, cafes, restaurants, bars, trees lining the roads….