Friday, January 3, 2014

Tips for Traveling to Manaus

Are you going to Manaus? Thinking about traveling to Manaus? Considering a trip to Manaus for the World Cup? When planning my trip to Manaus, I learned how little information was available on the internet, and how much information we had to get on the ground, once we were there. I, as a non-Brazilian, feel so uncomfortable having vacations like that! So I'm going to share lots of tips with you, dear reader.

DISCLAIMER: I don't work for any travel agencies or sites. This is my personal blog about my personal opinions and experiences. It's not my fault if you get quoted a different price for something or disagree with something I wrote. I encourage people to leave comments if they have different experiences, but please, no nastiness! Also, I don't have any information about other hotels or places that are not on this list, so please don't ask me. But feel free to ask a question if you'd like to know something more detailed about one of the places I mention!

OK, if you go to Manaus, do not be dumb like we were: DO NOT MISS YOUR RETURN FLIGHT. The airport is small. There are not a lot of flights. You will likely get stuck in Manaus. Lucky for you, we stayed in TWO hotels in town and did a lot of stuff, on the expensive side while we thought we were staying within our vacation budget, and on the cheap side when we had to buy insanely expensive return tickets for three days later.

Something to consider when planning your trip to Manaus: Do you want a city experience, or a rural, rainforest experience? Lucky for you, we had both. Details below. 

HOTELS IN MANAUS

Our first hotel was called the Lord Manaus Hotel. Site here. The pictures make it look nicer than it is.
Pros:
*I think it's pretty cheap. I don't know the exact price we paid because we got a package deal with the flight, but I think it was on the cheap side.
*It's in the middle of downtown. That means it's within walking distance of the port and tour agencies, so you don't have to pay the tour agencies to come pick you up for the activities. It's also within walking distance of this street called "Rua da Instalação", which may go by other names and which, close to the port, is the hub for a ton of bus lines. The city of Manaus has a weak but slightly useful site about the bus system that you can access here.
*The employees of the hotel are really friendly and helpful. When we didn't check out on time (because we confused the day of our checkout), they didn't charge us any late fees or anything.
*Even though the hotel is on the corner of two very crowded streets, the rooms are quiet and noise from the city didn't bother us or wake us up. We were on the 5th floor.
*They have free parking if you rent a car. They said the actual parking lot was a couple of blocks away, and they had a couple of spots right in front of the hotel. Because we went in a really off-season week, we got to just park right in front of the hotel every time.
*They have free, relatively fast wi-fi.

The Cons are the bad sides of all of those factors:
*It's cheap, so it's pretty bare bones. The air conditioner works, but is kind of crappy. (We learned just how crappy after staying in another hotel, which had a timer, temperature choices, a "moist air" setting, and other fancy features.) It's not bad at all, but it's nothing special, either.
*They told us the restaurant was being remodeled, but it seemed like it had been closed for a while, and there was no work done on it the whole week we were there. I have a feeling they didn't get enough business to keep it open. So they have breakfast set up in a conference room, but no dinner.
*They didn't have any kind of tour agency -- most hotels in Manaus have a tour agency hooked up with them. They told us the girl they'd hired quit...but there was no table or anything, so I think that was a lie. However, they recommended a decent travel agency, which you can read about below.
*The downtown area around the hotel is not the safest, so this hotel is not a good choice if you are traveling alone. At night, the area is more dangerous, and there are no restaurants within safe walking distance at night, so you have to take a taxi or your rental car to eat at night (since remember there is no restaurant in the hotel).

We also stayed in a wonderful pousada (in this case, a sort of farm hotel) in another city about an hour outside of Manaus called Presidente Figueiredo. It was called Pousada Aldeia Mari-Mari. Facebook page here. More details below.

After we missed our flight and had to check into another hotel (mostly because we were too embarrassed to go back to Lord Manaus after having missed our checkout time), we considered a hotel called Hotel Brasil, on Avenida Getúlio Vargas. You can go to their site here. We considered that hotel because they had a hotel restaurant inside AND a delicious and cheap lanchonette / Middle Eastern sandwich shop outside, where we ate twice. It's also in a good location for buses, taxis and tourist activities, and it's on a safer, more well-lit street. When we called to find out how much it was, they said it was only R$100 a night (in the off-season; who knows what they'll charge for the World Cup). Plus, they said they have parking, and you can see from outside that they have the same simple air conditioners as the previous hotel. If your goal is to save money while staying safe, this hotel might be a better choice than Lord Manaus. We didn't actually go into the rooms, but the outside sandwich shop, the restaurant, and the lobby/attached tour agency were all simple but decent.

At the last minute, however, we decided to stay in a slightly nicer hotel, since we didn't plan on leaving it or doing any more tourist activities. We chose the Hotel Saint Paul Manaus, a nicer hotel that is also in a good location (I think the neighborhood was still considered downtown). You can access their site here. It was so fancy compared to the other two! We paid R$200 a night for this one in the off-season.

Pros:
*It has a pool, a gym, a fantastic air conditioner with lots of settings, 13 floors (we got to be on the 13th so we had a great view), a computer room (but also free wireless, though it was weak on the top floor), laundry service, and a better shower than the other two hotels we stayed in.
*It has a restaurant that's open for lunch and dinner from 11am -11pm (with room service) and which is not too expensive for the quality; plus, they have a nice breakfast.
*They're also an "eco-friendly" hotel, so the air-conditioner had extra eco-friendly options, the lights in the hallways had sensors, and they had this paper with instructions for how to communicate to the maid that she doesn't need to change your towels or wash your sheets if you want to save water.
*The pool is small but fun, especially in the heat of Manaus!
*The gym is also small and doesn't have an air conditioner (only fans), but it has a lot of equipment and options.
*They have parking, but we had to pay R$8 a day for it.

I think it was worth the extra money, mostly for the nicer bed, shower, and air-conditioner.

Cons:
I can't really think of any, though I'm biased because I'm comparing it to the cheaper hotels. So I guess the main con is the price.

Another hotel option is the Millennium Hotel, which is home to the Sax restaurant you'll read about below. We didn't stay there (we only ate there), but it's pretty and in a safe area. You can get to their English site here. It's part of a complex with a mall and an office building. There's not much else within walking distance, so this hotel might be a better option if you rent a car or don't mind taking taxis around. (Note: This hotel and the one we stayed at, the Hotel Saint Paul Manaus, are part of a corporation known as "Manaus Hotels".)


GETTING AROUND MANAUS

OK. All taxis from the airport to anywhere are R$65, a flat rate. (At least that's what we paid; imagina na Copa!) But I think it's worth it to rent a car. Read below.  

All right. If you are not focusing on saving money, it's worth it to rent a car in Manaus. I think your best plan is to only rent a car for the days that you will NOT do day trips with the travel agencies. We rented a car on the 4th day of our trip. We went to a couple of car rental agencies -- some were inexplicably closed, and one tried to charge us ridiculous prices with limits on mileage and no insurance. We got a great deal with the American company, Thrifty Car Rentals / Alugel de Carros. You can get to their site here. We called on the day we wanted the car and only paid R$70 a day for it. They accept American credit cards and American driver licenses. All of the cars come with full-coverage insurance and air-conditioners. Important: They have two branches: one at the airport and one close to downtown. They're flexible if you want to pick up the car from one branch and return it to the other. So I recommend reserving the car from the airport branch for the day you arrive, using it for the first couple of days, and then scheduling the day trips for the end of your trip, after you've returned your car. Or, you can do what we did: pay for the taxi from the airport to your hotel, schedule your day trips for the first few days, and then rent a car for the last few days and use it to get back to the airport instead of paying for another taxi. When we picked up the car, we took a van-bus dowtown toward "Amazonas Shopping" and got out of the van when we saw the giant Thrifty sign on our left. (Obviously if you're coming from a different direction, it might be on your right.)

If you really want to save money, the city bus system is good. There are buses and vans that go to most all tourist destinations. I think the buses are from the city and the vans are private companies. The vans sometimes have air-conditioners and fancy seats, which is nice. As I mentioned before, there's a simple bus website that only lists the public buses, but you can just ask people at the stops for the streets or places where you want to go, and people will tell you. We also got helpful bus information from the hotel receptionists.

On our first couple of days, when we didn't have the rental car, we asked the receptionists at the hotel to call taxis for us to go out to eat at night. Each ride averaged about R$25, so that adds up pretty quickly and makes it kind of worth it to rent the car. (The city also has a few spots around town where it is impossible to turn left or make a u-turn, so the taxi drivers drive allllllll the way down the street and around instead of dropping you off and letting you cross the street on foot.)

When you're downtown, most everything is within walking distance. The downtown streets are super crowded, so I'd be wary of pick-pocketers, especially if you're super tall and white and dressed like a foreigner. Sorry, that's just how it is. All of the locals we had conversations with were so nice and friendly, but it's still a really, really poor city.

RESTAURANTS IN MANAUS

We had this wonderful plan of asking every local we met to recommend a restaurant, and then eating there.

Here's the thing: if you're going to Manaus, you have to like fish, or at least be willing to try it. Manaus is on the freaking Amazon River! The famous edible fish are called pirarucu, tambaqui, and tucunaré. I'm not a big fan of cooked fish, but I enjoyed the breaded pirarucu and the tambaqui escabeche. (Escabeche refers to a way of preparing the fish, like in the oven with eggs and potatoes.)

Here are some restaurants that we went to:

Restaurante Canto da Peixada
Simple and cheap-looking on the outside; delicious on the inside. We were told to try the costela de tambaqui (tambaqui ribs), and even I liked them. It was a little pricey -- R$100 for the two of us -- and the caipirinha is not worth ordering. But the quality of the food was excellent. Check out their website here. Oh, the waiter gave us a bunch of free pens when we left. Not sure why! haha.

Praça do Caranguejo
This is not actually a restaurant, but a plaza with a series of restaurants and botecos / street bars. They have tables right inside the restaurants, and then filling the plaza. Don't go before sunset because nothing is open. Some of the restaurants specialize in caranguejo, or crab, which is how the plaza got its name, I think. It was just a fun environment with lots of happy people (though beware - lots of mosquitoes, too!).

We took the bus there because a website about it had directions by bus, but when we got off the bus, the walk to the plaza was actually kind of complicated. This very nice woman who was also getting off the bus offered to walk us to the plaza, since she lived in the neighborhood. We took a taxi back to the hotel.

Peixaria Panela Cheia
All right. This restaurant is kind of an adventure. We went for lunch and it was packed with locals. While we were there, the power went out, which meant there were no fans. The chefs were cooking in the dark and it was loud and quiet at the same time. We ordered caldeirada de tambaqui, which is a thick, hot stew with pieces of the tambaqui fish inside. Alexandre, the fish aficionado (fun), was sweating but in heaven. He said it was one of the best fish dishes (more fun) he'd ever eaten. It was kind of hard to get to-- we went on a day that we had the rental car. If I remember correctly, it was relatively close to the new soccer stadium, but not really within walking distance. It came to about R$80 for the two of us. (Because the power had gone out, we had to pay in cash.) They don't have a website, but they have a poorly updated Facebook page here.

Sax Bar e Restaurante
This restaurant is located inside the Millennium Hotel, which is part of the city's Millennium Hotel/Mall/Business Center complex. It was my dream to try the famous dish of the North, pato no tucupi, and we'd heard it was good there.  (It's actually more traditionally from the city of Belem, but since tucupi is easy to come by in Manaus, a lot of restaurants serve it.)
The waiter explained to us that their version of pato no tucupi had a French twist on it; it wasn't really traditional pato no tucupi. They had two different pato no tucupi dishes on their menu, so we each ordered one. I forget the names, but one was with sliced duck breast, and one was with shredded duck and tucupi risotto. Alexandre ordered the shredded duck dish, but we ended up exchanging dishes because I liked his so much more.

I have to say, it was the best thing I ate on the trip. "Delicious" isn't enough. Maybe "exquisite." Definitely unforgettable. I even ate traditional pato no tucupi another night (see below), but I thought this one was better. A local explained that many places add water to the tucupi sauce, and that Sax probably didn't, which made the sauce so strong and flavorful. 

Sax is pricey -- it came to R$130 for the two of us, and we didn't order any alcohol -- but it's really a once-in-a-lifetime meal. Check out their website in English here.

Banzeiro
This is where we ate traditional pato no tucupi. After the amazing French one from Sax, I was a little disappointed. But this restaurant is fun; they have caipirinhas made with traditional Amazonian fruits, and they served complimentary cups of soup made with the pirarucu fish. Also, a lot of the employees speak English, and the hostess we met was totally fluent; I got the impression that she lived in the US as a child or something. (We learned this because there were quite a few foreigners in the restaurant, and the English-speaking employees helped them out.)   

The first night we went there, the restaurant was actually super crowded and there was an hour-long wait, so we ended up going somewhere else. I recommend making a reservation first. (If you don't speak Portuguese, you can just go to the restaurant early, or you can ask a receptionist at your hotel to call for you.) Check out their website here.
We had planned to go back and try this place again, since there were so many yummy-looking things on their website. But then we spent a dowry's worth of money on our plane tickets home, so fancy restaurants were out of the question. :( (I think this restaurant came to about R$100 for the two of us.)

Teatro Amazonas Restaurants
This is not the name of a restaurant; what I'm trying to explain is that, on the side of the Teatro Amazonas, there's this cobblestone road / plaza thing with a line of 4 or 5 restaurants that are cheap, yummy, and family-friendly. All of the restaurants share a bunch of tables in the plaza. The one we especially liked was called Mundo dos Sucos. It was super cheap (I think we paid like, R$20, total, for the two of us). It's a bit confusing, because the building that houses Mundo dos Sucos says "AFRICAN PLACE" or something non-sequitur in English, and then it has this tiny "Mundo dos Sucos" sign. (Maybe there's some history, but I don't know what it is.) But if you'd like to hang out with some locals and some tourists, hear some music in the plaza, and eat a cheap meal after you've spent all your savings on return tickets (ahem), then this is the place to go to!  Oh, it's also within walking distance of the Hotel Saint Paul Manaus.

Peixaria do Largo
This is another yummy fish place, also a little on the fancy side, and it's also right next to the Teatro Amazonas. We ordered the tambaqui escabeche there. If you are not Alexandre and it is therefore not your goal to try all of the beloved fish restaurants in Manaus, then I think the other ones listed above are more worth trying than this one. However, the location of this one is more convenient if you are car-less. It was similarly priced to the other fish restaurants. Check out their Facebook page here.

Alexandre was excited about our tambaqui escabeche at Pexiaria do Largo.


Habibi 
This is the Middle Eastern restaurant outside the Hotel Brasil. Also cheap and delicious. Plus, they have shwarma. Shwarma, in Brazil! 

PASSEIOS / DAY TRIPS / ACTIVITIES IN MANAUS

The Portuguese word passeio can be used to mean tourist activities or day trips. You'll see this word a lot as a tourist in Manaus.

There are actually only a few passeios that all of the tour agencies market, so don't think that you'll get to hear about special activities if you go to other agencies. We went to a LOT of agencies and they all offered the same three things:

1. Encontro das Aguas

You can read about our  day trip to Encontro das Aguas here, plus some tips on how to choose (and how not to choose) a travel agency.

2.  The Rio Negro / Swimming with botas (dolphins) / visiting an indigneous tribe / the rubber plantation museum

You can read about this day trip here.

3. Presidente Figuereido waterfalls

We ended up going on an adventure alone for this day trip, and we turned it into a two-day trip. WORTH IT. Read below in the part about the rainforest experience.

The reason we went alone is because the travel agency we used totally flaked on us! Here's what happened: the day before, we signed up with them for this trip. We had to be ready at 8:00am for the van to pick us up at our hotel. The driver called at 7:30, which was 30 minutes early! We were rushing to get downstairs. By the time we got there (two minutes later), the driver had left, and told the receptionist to tell us that the trip had been canceled because another couple had called to cancel and therefore, there wouldn't be enough people on the trip to make it profitable for the travel agency! Tacky, tacky, tacky!

The travel agency in question is called Amazon Explorers. They're located inside the Hotel Palace, which is also downtown. Check out their website here; but use this address and phone number:
Av 7 Setembro, 593, Manaus - Amazonas 69005-140
(92) 2123-4777

We did the first two activities with them, and we had a really good experience. Their prices are also really fair and we found them to be cheaper than the other proper agencies we talked to (including the one inside the Hotel Brasil). Plus, there were a lot of people traveling alone in our groups, so I recommend this agency for people traveling alone. The guides do a good job of balancing between making us all be friends and giving people their space. So even though they flaked out with the last trip, I guess it wasn't so bad because we hadn't paid yet and because all we had done was wake up early.

Tip your tour guides!
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In the city of Manaus, there are lots of little activities to do and things to see. We spent one day doing all of these things, and I'll be honest that some of them weren't really worth the effort.  Examples of these fast activities include:

Teatro Amazonas / The Amazonas Theater
This is the large theater downtown. It's easy to spot. You pay R$10 for a 15-minute tour. It was interesting, but Alexandre has visited a lot of cities in Europe and was less impressed. I thought it was good in its own right, and for the time period and the resources available.

Cigs (The Military Zoo)
CIGS stands for Centro de Instrução de Guerra na Selva, and it's a military training center that also, inexplicably, has a zoo. I don't know. Brazilian zoos tend to make me sad. The big cats are always caged up in tiny exhibits, and the birds are always molting and stressed out. This one was no different. We took a bus there from that big Rua da Instalação bus stop.

Centro Cultural Palacete Provincial -- Museums
There is this giant building/complex close to the Lord Manaus hotel. It houses a bunch of museums, including a Museu do Índio (Indian Museum), which I really wanted to check out. Unfortunately, the complex was closed for renovations the week we were there. This webpage has a list in Portuguese of all of the museums in Manaus and their descriptions (not only the ones inside this building).

Bosque da Ciencia (The Science Zoo/Park/Forest however you want to translate "bosque")
A lot of people recommended this place, which is essentially another zoo. I think it might have the animals in better conditions because it's some kind of research center, too. We didn't get a chance to go there, but do leave a comment if you know anything about it!

Jardim Botânico Adolpho Ducke - The Adolpho Ducke Botanical Garden
This botanical garden is part of a giant rainforest reserve on the outskirts of the city. I'm so sad that we didn't get to go there. The day we planned to go, it rained! It also closes on Mondays, but it's free! Supposedly, this is the place to see sloths. It has some trails and some gardens. Check out their website here. The website says that you need to wear close-toed shoes! No flip flops, people!

Mercado Aldopho Lisboa / Mercado Municipal - The Municipal Market
This is the city market next to the port. If you've been to Mercadão in Sao Paulo, you'll be disappointed. This market totally caters to tourists now. It takes about 5 minutes to walk through and realize that they're just selling simple arts and crafts and plastic trinkets that say "BRASIL" on them.

If you want to see an intense market, check out the fish market, or the Mercado do Peixe. It's not the same building as the Muncipial Market, but it's close by. We stumbled upon it while exploring the avenue that runs parallel to the water, close to the port, on the first day. I can't find it on Google Maps to give you the address, so just walk down to the entrance to the port and ask around!

Praia da Ponte Negra
I'm not really sure why so many tourist agents recommended this spot. THERE'S NOTHING THERE. Did we go on an off day? It was a Friday afternoon. It's a riverside "beach" (we Californians don't like using the word "beach" for sand that does not meet an ocean) and it's close to the rich part of town. But there was NO ONE there. The few little food stands were closed. I don't know what we did wrong.


RURAL MANAUS - THE RAINFOREST EXPERIENCE

As I mentioned above and in my first post about Manaus, it's a big city and you won't be isolated or in nature, except when you're on the river trips with the tour agencies.

If you want a more rural, nature-based travel experience, I recommend that you skip Manaus (or spend less time there) and go to the city of Presidente Figueiredo. You can read my long post about the city and my birdwatching adventure here. You'll take the main avenue out of Manaus, and it becomes the highway that takes you to this town. Be careful, because there's a small sign that tells you how to get on the highway toward Presidente Figueiredo, just after the military post at the edge of town. You'll have to make a slight left, and you won't go straight.

Soon after PF, there's a big lake called "Lago de Balbina". There are lots of fishing and eco-tourism places there, too. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to go there, but it looked really fun and people in PF recommended it.


There's a tourism office in Presidente Figueiredo that's open until 5:00 or 6:00pm. It's called "Centro de Atendimento ao Turista - CAT". The phone number is (92) 3324-1308. There are a few signs that point to the tourism office, but it's still a little hard to find. You'll want to keep your eye out for a BR gas station, two galo-da-serra (bird) monuments, and a sizable Virgin Mary statue. The tourism office is just off the road. We parked at the gas station and asked the employees for directions, and they pointed us to it.
one of the monuments and the gas station; the CAT is to the left
Presidente Figueiredo is known for its waterfalls, caverns, and parks. There are many waterfalls, and you can swim in most of them. Each one charges R$5-R$10 per person.  Here's a picture of a map of all of the waterfalls:

Click to see a bigger version
Here's a list from the tourist agency of hotels and restaurants. Click on it to see a bigger version

 We went to a place called Reserva Ecológica Santuário (site here). It's actually not on that map. It's on AM-240 somewhere between km10 and km14, on the right-hand side if you're driving east from Presidente Figueiredo. It has waterfalls, hiking trails, a restaurant, a snack bar place close to the waterfalls, and even hotel rooms. If you want this rainforest experience but don't want your actual hotel to be out in the woods (i.e., you want proper showers and maybe an air conditioner), this hotel might be a good choice for you. The hotel rooms are actually little cabins that can be for individuals, couples, or families. To be honest, I kind of wish we'd stayed there.

The entrance to the reserve

us at one of the waterfalls

Alexandre on one of the trails

The trails and waterfalls are extensive and you could easily spend hours here. We also ate at the restaurant, and it was yummy and not too expensive. We paid R$10 to get in to the waterfalls (I don't think hotel guests have to pay), and the food was about R$60 for two people (and it was a LOT of food!). I imagine the little snack bar down by the main river is cheaper.

As I mentioned above and wrote about in my PF post, we stayed at a pousada called Aldeia Mari-Mari. You can see pictures and read more about the friendly, welcoming owners in the post I just linked to. If you're interested in staying at the Pousada Aldeia Mari-Mari, here is their contact information:
Pousada Aldeia Mari-Mari
Betão and Ana Paula
AM-240 Km 13, just after the Comunidade Marcos Freire
Presidente Figueiredo - AM
pousadaaldeiamarimari @ gmail. com (no spaces)
(92) 9409-2923
Facebook page here

If you're going during a popular tourist time, you should try to get in touch with them earlier than later. Their phone doesn't always have reception, so email may be best. Tell them the couple Danielle the American and Alexandre the doctor sent you from Danielle's blog. :)

Staying at their place is an unforgettable experience, especially if you're interested in birds. However, it's not good for you if you're uncomfortable with non-first-world conditions. The shower is a wooden box with a small shower head at the top, with only cold water. There is one toilet for all of the guests (in another small wooden room), so if you have to pee in the middle of the night, you have to leave your room and walk the 20 feet or so to the bathroom. The family lives there and rents out their guest rooms. That means the guest rooms are right next to the family's room. They can hear you talking in your room, and you may hear them talking, or hear other guests talking, or the baby crying. They also had some friends from town come over to visit who were very...alternative (420 friendly). 

Ana Paula and Betão are in the process of building more rooms. These rooms are separate from the family's house and will have their own bathrooms. Ana Paula said they would be done by February 2014, but this is Brazil so if this separate space is important to you, you should ask before you make your reservation.

GENERAL TIPS

I'm going to paste what I wrote in my first entry about Manaus, if you still haven't clicked on the link:

I have to tell you guys, even though Manaus is a big city, it's not for the faint of heart. Sorry, American friends, but I don't think I'd bring any of you here. I don't recommend this place for people who are used to cushy vacations and city planning. The streets are dirty, the traffic is hectic, and social rules are not like those of the US. The bathrooms outside our hotel are unpleasant. The sense of time is different here. It's hot -- hotter and more humid than you're used to, even if you´re from Florida, and the air conditioners are lacking. You can't be picky about your food and you need to eat what people serve you. If you care about all of these kinds of things, and especially if you are not familiar with Brazilian culture in general, Manaus is not for you. You need to be a very flexible and easygoing person to enjoy your vacation here.


If you can deal with all that without whining, the locals are so, so nice.


I stand by that statement. As Jim always says, "Brazil is not for beginners." Manaus is no exception. I don't care if you're coming for the World Cup -- don't expect receptionists, taxi drivers, or hotel waiters to speak English. If you're lucky, you'll get a tour guide who speaks English, but you will probably have to pay more and I wouldn't count on finding one anyway. This is a poor country -- do you think people who get paid Brazil's minimum wage have money for foreign language classes? Do American-born taxi drivers use their salaries to learn a foreign language? Your experience here will probably be close to unbearable if you don't speak Portuguese. Do yourself and the people of Manaus a favor by learning some basic Portuguese expressions and questions.

The population is composed of a lot of mixed-race people and a lot of people with indigenous blood. If your genes come from Western Europe, like mine do, you will stand out and people on the buses will sometimes stare at you. Manaus is not Sao Paulo, or even Rio. There are not as many European immigrants. If you are not dark-skinned, you will probably feel very foreign. I felt very foreign, in a way that I haven't felt foreign in Brazil -- not even in Bahia. Alexandre and I were lighter and taller than almost everyone. Some people care about those things, so I'm just warning you if you're one of those people. 

I also recommend that you do not wear flip flops around town on rainy days or shortly after it has rained! Lots of dirt and urine on the streets = dirty feet!

If I could go back, I think I would spend only 2 full days in Manaus proper (for the two day trips that we took), and then I would spend the rest of my time in Presidente Figueiredo and the tiny towns surrounding it and the lake. I would stay in a couple of different pousadas and I would go up to Balbina Lake. There was so much more to explore up in the PF region, and I personally love nature-based vacations. I've also visited a lot of big cities, and in that respect Manaus is not unique. But now matter what details you decide on, visiting this part of the world is a once-in-a-lifetime experience! I think it's definitely worth going to!  

5 comments:

  1. I have really enjoyed this series of posts, since Amazonas is the part of Brazil that I know the best. I'm so glad you had a great time. But I'm puzzled--why did you choose not to go into the actual rainforest? It seems like you love animals and birds so much, and it's great that you got to see some of this (and the bird that was your main goal!) in Presidente Figueiredo, but why not go in deeper? Just curious.

    I have stayed at the Hotel Brasil and you're right, it is nice, but not as nice as the Saint Paul :)

    The only thing I don't agree with is--there are actually lots of English-speaking guides in Manaus and in the area. You might not have been exposed to them as much because you and Alexandre speak Portuguese, so they didn't bother giving you an English-speaking guide or the guide didn't bother speaking English. But I've never known this to be a problem. A number of the guides do come from Guyana (where English is the official language but the rainforest is, according to them, the same), since as you say most of the local people couldn't afford English classes even if they had them available. But my boyfriend, along with some of the other Brazilian caboclo guides, learned English "on the run" so to speak... from tourists. And they speak quite well!

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  2. Wow - what an extensive and helpful post! You are clearly gearing up for some World Cup-related traffic on your blog, which your post title will certainly drive your way. Good karma to you for your extra work.

    I especially appreciated the food descriptions and encouragement. One of my favorite things to do when traveling is to eat as much like a local as possible. I'm definitely a comida caseiro type of guy. (Although I could not get Luiz to eat guinea pig in Peru.)

    Thanks for the shout out. And I would say your final paragraph says it all in a nutshell. I'm ready for an extended adventure in and around Manaus.

    Great post!

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  3. Bosque da Ciencia has stingless bees!!!!!

    Also, there is the Japanese museum/aquarium (Museu de Ciências Naturais da Amazônia) that you seem to have missed which has a giant piraracu in a tank. The Indian Market down town and the Municipal Market on Sundays are also worth a visit. The indian museum, Cathedral Museum, etc. are all really tacky. But the Numismatics museum is actually full of nerdy fun. The best part of Ponta Negra is to get away from the "beach" more into the forested area, swim out to the trees in the middle of the water that you can dive from and get fun picks of yourself swimming in the Amazon!

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  4. Hi Danielle.....I would b graduating with a bacheolers degree in management studies this year..would like to know if there is job opportunities fr me....would love to work in Brazil....a place that i love since i was a kid.....
    Do reply

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