Friday, August 19, 2011

When I grow old and its time to retire, this is where you'll find me ... Salvador, Bahia !

After an all night party and a 6am departure from Porto Alegre, I was finally on holiday and ready to start the second part of my travels in South America.

If I could retire now, this is where I would live! From the minute I arrived, I fell in love with the place. It definitely helped that the sun was down on me and that was a welcome change from the rain and the cold of Porto Alegre. Being too tired, sleepy and hot to find the bus from the airport.. I ended up taking a taxi to the Galeria 13 hostel located in the historic centre of Pelourinho. I got there in the afternoon and promptly fell asleep in the Moroccan themed chill out room while I waited for my travel buddy- Jasmine to arrive.

We went for a stroll around Pelourinho in the evening and I was in love! Every street you turn down, there is different live music playing, kids doing capoeira and vibrant, rich colour and the wafting smells of chili and acaraje. The historic centre has such a good vibe to it with all of these elements. But, being too tired from our travels and the heat of Salvador, we had an early dinner and an early night and fell asleep to the distant sounds of Samba in the square which continued into the night.

Being on holiday and not wanting to be on a schedule as I usually am, I slept in the next morning and decided to spend the exploring the historic centre some more. We walked around the different Plazas in the vicinity, drank lots of coconut water, checked out the Sao Fancisco De Assiss Church and the balcony where Michael Jackon once stood when he filmed his "They don't really care about us" video. I ended up buying a rubbish magnet from the store where the balcony is located just so I could take a picture there.

In the afternoon, we took the Lacerda Elevador - ie, the Elevator that connects the top city to the bottom city - yes they have an elevator to connect the cities!  - to go the Mercado Modelo where I added to my earring collection.

With Jana's arrival in the afternoon the next day, we had strict instructions from her, that we were to go to the beach so that she could work on her tan (yes, I needed to work on my tan too!). Soon as she was in, we made our way to the infamous Barra beach where I had a cold cerveza and I ate one of everything that came my way.

We had booked in for a Candomble ceremony that evening. We had a guide come pick us up and take us to the Favelas where there was a ceremony being held that evening. The evening started off pretty easy where the head of the ceremony gave us some background, told us that we were not to cross our bodies and then the chanting and dancing began. Jana, Jas and myself all had the evil spirits yanked out of us by one of the ladies involved in the ceremony. Jana was the first one to go through this and the image of this happening still makes me giggle a little a little bit. Our experience lasted three hours and was still going on when our guide said it was time for us to leave. Before we left the ceremony hall, the exit had to be cleared of all of the evil spirits. This time, I was the lucky first to go out the door and I had the head of the ceremony yell in my ears and vigorously spin me around 5 times before I was pushed towards the door. Amusing as it was, the ceremony itself was quite interesting and well worth a watch if you ever decided to visit Salvador.

The following day, we decided to make our way to the Bomfin Church where we spent some time taking photos of the Church Fences that were covered in the Bomfin ribbons. One of the first things we noticed when approaching the church were hundreds of colorful ribbons tied to the wrought-iron railings enclosing the structure, blowing in the wind. Senhor do Bonfim wrist ribbons, known as fitas, are an institution in the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia. Senhor do Bonfim means Our Lord of a Good End, which is one way that Bahianas refer to Jesus. The ribbons found on the streets of Salvador have "Lembrança do Senhor do Bonfim da Bahia" printed on them. Translated from Portuguese, the phrase roughly means In Remembrance of the Savior of Bahia or Souvenir from the God of Bahia—or something along those lines. The belief is when you have to tie the ribbon with three knots and each knot represents a wish.. when the ribbon falls off, it means your wishes have come true. I'm still waiting for my wishes to come true as I still have the fita on my wrist that was given to me by a vendor in Salvador.

After our visit to the Bomfin Church, we had a leisurely stroll down by the beach and took the ferry across to an island that I can't remember the name of to sample what is to be known as the best Moqueca in the Salvador at Boca de Galleta. Unfortunately, when we got there, we found out that the restaurant is only open on weekends and not during the week. It wasn't a completely wasted trip as we wouldn't have had a chance to see that side of Salvador otherwise and on our way back to the city, we stopped at Mercado Modelo and had what is perhaps the second best Moqueca in all of Salvador anyway.

Tuesday evening in Pelourinho was the whole reason I was in Salvador in the first place. After hearing so much about the Tuesday night Street Party , I was up and ready to go at 7pm. We made our way down to the "steps" where there was a concert going on and from there we walked the streets and came upon the Swing de Pelo drum band that was getting the party started. These guys are awesome ... watch the video to get a feel for what a Tuesday night in Pelo is like .. and why I travelled half way around the world to experience this.

After the all night street party in Pelo, we spent the next day showing Jana around the Historic centre (coz after 3 days there, Jas and myself were also experienced guides), shopping and visiting the markets and the other Sao Francisco Church... this one was even more spectacular than the last one.. It is one of the most spectacular churches in the world, and is richly adorned inside with gold, silver and precious stones and has ceiling art that has been compared to that of the Sistine Chapel. In the night, Jas and myself went for an Afro- Brazilian music show which was fantastic.

The next day was Jana's last day in Rio and in Brazil before she headed home... so of course, we had to go to the beach for some more sun and sand in the morning. In the afternoon, Jas and myself walked around the historic centre some more (clearly I did not want to leave the place!) and visited some of the museums.

Friday... well Friday and our trip to Pituacu National Park deserves a dedicated post. This will be updated in a few weeks once I get back home-- so watch this space!

And Saturday was my last day in Salvador. Jas and myself spent the morning relaxing, befriended fellow travellers from France, Germany and England and went to the Museum de Arte Mordena by the sea for Jazz in the evening. Here we spent the evening listening to Brazilian Jazz and again.. eating one of everything that I saw at the fiesta stalls.

It is with a heavy heart that I left Salvador, but like I've been saying for the past few weeks.. I'll be back !

Next stop >> RIO Baby !

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