Saturday, August 28, 2010

Brazilian Beaches Part 3: Salvador da Bahia

Welcome to Salvador da Bahia! Also know as the biggest rip-off in Brazil... I think it also means... You will be robbed in Portuguese... haha

Let's start with some background information... I've been to Brazil some 5 or 6 times, I've walked for hours all over Sao Paulo, taken Public transportation and in RIo walked at 3 AM for almost 3 km on Avenida Atlantida, I've never once felt like I was in any danger, well just a bit at 3 AM... I was walking back to my hotel after spending some time on the beach with a new friend and leaving her at her hotel room, this was back in 2008... We decided that walking by the side of the ocean would be fun, of course I was wearing a nice pair of loafers, and guess what... Huge wave hits us, my jeans and shoes are soaking wet but it was fun... Walking back on Atlantida, I walked fast and ignored several beggars, hookers and other night creatures that call this stretch of road home...One of them followed me for about 4 blocks but a few strong words got him off my back... so these events made me feel like the Brazil is Dangerous slogan/thing was blown out of proportion by scared gringos... till I visited Salvador... now I wasn't robbed in Salvador, but I've never ever felt like I want to board my plane back right after landing... until Salvador...

The "nice" Salvador, just don't even think of walking those side-streets...
So I still had a few days left in Brazil and found a cheap ticket on TAM from GIG to SSA, leaving out of Rio de Janeiro/GaleĆ£o would allow me to connect easily to American Airlines on my way back. TAM allows non-Elites to get exit row seats at the time of booking so I had some lovely exit row seats on the TAM Airbus 321. I always considered that plane as a wanna be Boeing 757 and the 757 still has a special place in my heart even if we call the American Airlines 757 the Slave ship, with it's 3-3 configuration and old seats, even in first class, it's a torture of a plane... any way, enough about the 757, this story is about the 321 and Salvador... I board and look at my seat and see someone sitting in it, no way I'm giving up my seats... he mutters that he is seating in the same seat but across the aisle, I told him in Portuguese to nicely get out! He moves across the aisle, and within a few minutes is forced to move since it seems he had tried to do a seat swap and no one was interested in his crappier seat...

Just over 2 hours later I land in SSA... I had spoken to the hostel Che Lagarto and in Spanish (which is funny considering this was Brazil) told me to catch a local bus in front of the airport. This is the only bus, as far as I can remember that runs from the airport, it takes awhile to reach the hostel, which is located about 15 minutes from Pelourinho and some 5 minutes walk from the main lighthouse.. on paper, a nice location... of course this being Salvador, no location is really nice... I check in and get about a 3 minute warning speech about avoid this, avoid that, and especially avoid walking on the beach at night, simple common sense things, but still not a nice thing to hear when you check into a hostel, to have to avoid almost everything... I go into my room and meet an Israeli couple, now Israelis sure have a backpacker reputation, together with Australians, every hostel seems to be full of them... this nice couple had just left the Army, and were backpacking South America... I know Israeli backpackers in South America, what's next an Aussie in Europe? jk hehe Backpacking stereotypes!!
After talking for a few minutes, I venture out to the local supermarket, located just 100 meters away, right after you walked past the huge rats and the needles on the floor, I know soooo lovely...  After 20 minutes, I'm back enjoying a nice cold beer and they returned she was crying like there was no tomorrow and for the first time and only time during my Salavdor stay I saw a local police car... they had walked about 50 meters , crossed the street to a little Jesus statue on top of a hill, a mini-Cristo Redentor and had gotten mugged, now they had some really bad luck since not only they lost their camera, but cash and passports... I've carried passports on me at times, but I always leave some cash at the hostel with a backup credit card as an emergency plan... I went to the common area, found a group of Spanish speakers and had a few beers with them.... after a while we decide to venture out as a group in Search of a Beach party hosted by another hostel.. we were about 6 guys and 3 girls, plus a hostel employee, after an hour searching for this party, the hostel guy says lets head back, it's no longer safe around here... one of the girls tried to take a picture, and even if the 6 guys of us were next to her, it was supposed to be tooo dangerous... we returned to the hostel and enjoyed a few beers...
Beaches are beyond off-limits for Tourists once the Sun falls...

The next day I decided to venture into town, the bus ride costed less than R$2 and took some 15 minutes, I quickly found the local tourist information desk, after avoiding some six or seven agressive beggar kids, I grew up in South America and I'm welll aware of the sticky fingers that these lil kids have, but seriously these were really a pain and helped cement my dislike of Salvador.
Funky Public Phones!!


I walked around town for a few hours, the derelict architecture, reflecting the past glories of the city was visible everywhere and gave me some great shots, but even as I walking around, I was always looking around and double-checking that I wasn't being followed, I'm not a dumb tourist, and have some basic street smarts, but having to hide your small camera after every shot and walking fast just wasn't my idea of a vacation...

Graffiti!!
Old Church!
After a day and a half in Salavdor, it was time to head back to the airport, what can I say, I was glad to get out of Salvador, the TAM check-in agents were great, I got to the airport less than 30 minutes before my flight due to some traffic delays, but I was stilll able to check-in, pass security and take my lovely exit row seat...

I love Brazil, even if I'm half Argentine, but Salvador is one of few cities that is off my list, the architecture presented me with great shots, the history was great, but the locals I encountered just gave me a bad vibe... I know Salvador has nice middle-class areas and most of the residents are hard decent workers, but I'll stick to the South East when I return to Brazil!

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