A dream destination – yes. It is better than the pics, it is better than the best postcard you’ve ever seen. I still sense the emotion when landing and looking over the Copacabana beach, the turquoise waters in the bays. I’ve been in Rio two times in November and April, and the weather was great every time, although not so much for bathing in the ocean.
But you are not in Rio for bathing and relaxing, it is not an exotic island or a secluded beach. If you go to the beach it is mostly for watching and showing off, similar to the locals.
My first time in Rio I was shocked about the prices on Ipanema. I’ve landed there after Bangkok, a paradise where an euro worth 100 in buying power and I felt like an arabian petroleum prince. I had a similar feeling of being poor in Tel Aviv and that is why I love cheap destinations in Europe or Asia.
So here are my first 3 things that make me always wanting to visit Rio, except the famous ones that we all know and they really worth the effort:
- beach, beach, beach and especially, if not the only one, Ipanema beach, not particularly Copacabana, not my style, too crowded and touristic. Ipanema is expensive but visited mostly by locals, very beautiful girls and boys, a strange mixture of rich and poor from the favela just behind the blocks with flats of million dollars.
- street food sold by vendors on the beach, the famous pasteis or empanadas. Both times I saw Monica, a food vendor on the beach of Ipanema, alongside the vendors of Mate, acais and beer, and the stand preparing caipirina and caipiroshka.
At noon we used to go for a mango juice at Big Bi bigbisucos.com.br. Be aware it is good because of the added sugar. Than to eat at Beach Sucos,beachsucos.com.br.
- farm market and hippie fair in Ipanema, just to see the fish and meat stands and those with cooked food from different parts of Brazil. It is a culinary experience. In addition a hippie fair, full of kitschy stuffs that they call art. Well, not too much on my taste.
I personally like to walk the streets, have a coffee on a street corner coffee shop or just have a beer. I like to see the locals, so beautiful and full of life. But when you are a tourist in such destinations you always tend to see everything in pink.
So on the other side, I would never move in Rio for some very good reasons:
- very expensive, too expensive for tourists – accommodation, restaurants, souvenirs, local experiences, supermarkets…..too much.
- too crowded and too much fashion or muscles attitude sometimes. They are obsessed about how they look and if you are not an Adonis or Venus, it tend to be quite disturbing and depressing
- outside touristic areas, life is hard, they are poor, and have nothing to lose so just be aware about.
I will always love Rio for its beauty and especially for its contrasts and cariocas.