Saturday, January 06, 2007

Rio! Brazil

I´m not sure if it´s a whole lot hotter here or if the air conditioning is worse but given the step up in quality (and price!) of our room I would guess the former!
The step up in wealth is plainly evident in Ipanema and Copacabana where muscled bods and expired goods alike wear teeny tiny shorts or even smaller bikinis and seem to lazily stroll to and from the beach to who knows where...and back again!
It would be easy to say ´hey it´s not all that great´ and to be a naysayer to all the guide books, travel mags and the Cariocas (Rio dwellers) themselves who tell you that Rio is one of the most beautiful cities on Earth. But I won´t...standing under the outstretched arms of Cristo Redentor and overlooking the sprawling metropolis you juts have to agree. With white sand beaches lining the shore and stretching as far as the eye will take you, and beautiful parks and architecture - all in stunning detail under a clear blue sky and beaming sun, it is just beautiful.
Of course from up there you can´t see the the abject poverty that makes Brazil (one of the worlds largest economies) such a dicotomous state where the gap between the ´haves´ and ´have nots´ is unparalleled.
With one of the highest murder rates of any place (more than one per hour), the desperation of the favelas and slums makes Rio one of the most dangerous cities on the planet. Perhaps that has in part driven some of the famous energy into Rio and it´s culture?
Who wouldn´t want to drink, samba, laugh and talk the night away when it may be your last?
As for the streets around the beaches of Ipànema and Copacabana (the places that most tourists...including us, see) the vibe is positively european. Big glasses, gilded handbags, surgically stretched and tightened skin and prices on a par with home, you could be forgiven for thinking you sre strolling the more well heeled streets of any European capital.
Not relaxing per se...there are far too many people for that, but not harrowingly so, unlike many of the less developed locales along our path. Tourism is big business but in a city of 11 million it´s far from the biggest or only, and it shows in the attitude - not hassling you for your custom, but happy for it nonetheless.

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