When I ponder upon my days in Brazil, I can’t help but think of the Portuguese term, saudades. This beautiful word translates to “the love that remains” after something is gone. It harks back to the feelings, experiences, desires, and memories that once brought pure happiness and now provoke feelings of longing. As I sit to write my blog to the tunes of bossa nova, I am filled with sheer nostalgia for the beautiful city and people of Salvador.
Visiting Salvador (also known as Bahia), in North East Brazil is by far one of the best decisions I have ever taken. I had the privilege to spend my time in Salvador with a Brazilian friend’s family. This made my stay even more real as I got a chance to experience the food, culture and people first hand. For three months, I was deeply absorbed in the myriad magical moments offered by the city & people. For Bahia is known for its folkloric and cultural heritage. I spent my days sipping caipirinha by the beach & enjoying the most exquisite sunsets. I vividly remember going wild at the street parties or absorbing the sweetly sombre bossa nova music at charming cafes. Devouring the traditional, African-inspired black-eyed pea fritters called acarajé or simply walking on the cobbled streets of Pelo, often marveling at the pastel coloured buildings are other excellent ways of passing the time in Bahia. Salvador is also known for its martial arts therefore it was normal to witness impromptu capoeira demonstrations – an acrobatic display of martial arts and dance performed to drums. This was invented by slaves as a way to practice self-defense but to keep it secret by making it look like a dance. The nearby praias (beaches) of Morro de Sao Paolo, Praia do Forte, and Island of Itaparica are perfect for weekend getaways.
Salvador, the capital of Bahia, is the unique northeastern city where Portuguese, African and indigenous cultures mesh together, captivating culturally curious travelers.
A neighborhood called ‘Pelourinhio’ or Pelo especially caught my fancy. Infamously known for its slave trading past, Pelo now hosts people of diverse culture, magnificent churches and colorful colonial buildings in shades of pastel pinks, yellows and blue. When slavery was common, Pelourinho was seen as the the old slave auction location. It was not only common, Brazil was the New World’s premier slave importer. Brazil was the Atlantic slave trade’s largest importer of slaves, nearly 5 million of them, accounting for about a third of all the Atlantic slave trade! Brazil was also the last country in the Americas to outlaw slavery in 1888.
Pelourinho is named a world cultural site by UNESCO. Easily walkable, Pelo comes alive during Carnival and has something to see along every street, including churches, cafes, restaurants, shops and the pastel-hued buildings. At night, the mini-city of Pelourinho comes alive with music, people, and all layers of life! Each night there are several bands that can be found playing outside.
Carnival is quite a celebration in Salvador with Afro- Brazilian bloco afros (African street percussion groups) singing African chants and dancing to an exotic mix of merengue, salsa and reggae rhythm.
Barra, Itapoán and Piatã are some of the good beaches to go to in Salvador. In terms of nightlife, People in Salvador have an eclectic taste music, so you’ll have a huge variety of bars and clubs to choose from.
If looking to enjoy a relaxed and inviting stay in Brazil’s northeastern region of great beaches, sun and sand – Bahia is your place!
No-miss things in Salvador!
Walk to remember through Pelo
Eat Bahiana food
Shake a leg at an Afro-Brazilian Bar
Soak up some sun the Brazilian way
Samba your way!
Shop till you drop at Mercado Modelo
Take the Lacerda Elevator in the historic center of town to get an eagle eye view of the city
Art culture at the Museum of Modern Art of Bahia
Getting basics in
When to go
Salvador is an all-year destination, with February to July being the most hot and humid
Brazilian Portuguese is the language widely spoken in Brazil
International and domestic flights fly to and from Salvador’s airport
Buses run daily to and from other Brazilian cities
Windows rolled down, and music blasting through the speakers, we cruised along the roads, a cool and salty feel in the air. We arrived at the Pousada Alvorado Do Farol, freshened up, dropped off our luggage, and stepped outside. The streets were alive with a vibrant flash of colors. Bopping my head along to the rhythmic beat of the drums, I let myself flow through the sea of people dressed in traditional, colorful garments. The Capoeira dancers took to the stage, twisting and turning, their bodies in fluid motion with the music. A hand enveloped around my waist, as another grabbed my wrist and twirled me around. I began laughing, completely oblivious to anything else, as the music pulsated through. Salvador, we have arrived…
The carnival of Salvador da Bahia is one of the greatest tourist attractions in this culturally vibrant city, which is divided into the Cidade Alta (Upper Town), and Cidade Baixa (Lower Town) connected by the Elevador Lacerda. Alive with the Afro-Brazilian culture, Salvador is known for its cuisine, music, architecture, and adventure.
The city also happens to have some of the best beaches around. We traversed to the Porto da Barra, known to be the third best beach of the world. The clear, blue waters shone brightly, as I put on my snorkeling mask, and dove in. After rendez-vous’ing with some of my underwater friends, we grabbed a bite to eat in a local eatery nearby, and dug into our feijoada.
Leaving the beach, we moved onwards to one of the city’s four parks: the Pitaçu Park. One of the coolest features of this place is it has an artificial pond surrounding it, along with an exotic array of plants and animals scattered throughout. Many youngsters lay sprawled on the grass, while others strolled through on their bicycles the curving lanes.
The Historic Center of Salvador is also a major tourist attraction. This comprises of the old houses during the colonial times, as Salvador was the first colonial capital of Brazil. Named after the whipping post in which many slaves were punished, Pelourinho lies in the upper city of Salvador. It has now become a cultural hub of the city, as it hosts many musical performances, dances, and short plays. Walking thorugh, you can come across many cafes, restaurants, and bars.
No trip to Brazil is complete without a trip to the FIFA football stadium. The Arena Fonte Nova holds up to 55,000 people, massive in size. This was the venue for the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup, and will be for the 2014 FIFA World Cup as well. Roaring fans witnessing power packed football match in one of the world’s largest stadiums is something you don’t want to miss out on!
Salvador typically tends to have tropical climate, but the wettest months are anywhere from April to July. The cuisine is also symbolic of the African culture from the colonial times. Seafood dishes, the acarajé, and the Shrimp bobo are a few of the delicacies found in markets. Traveling through the metro, and buses are convenient modes of transportation for most tourists. For us, we cruised along the BR-101 out of Salvador, on to our next destination.
The world is such a beautiful place. And, without a doubt, El Nido holds a big chunk of its beauty. I’ve heard so many good stories and saw countless stunning photos of El Nido. Having learned about this majestic place, there’s not much convincing to do – it is, indeed, one of the best places here on Earth. Who wouldn’t be amazed in a town enveloped by towering limestone formations and surrounded by islands boasting fine beaches and turquoise waters? I’ve been to Puerto Princesa, my mother’s hometown, numerous times and saw some of its best beaches and natural attractions. Little did I know that those places are just the tip of one fascinating iceberg that is Palawan. There’s more to the province’s unparalleled beauty. Take for example, El Nido.
It was the peak of summer season. My family – composed of one parent, four sisters and a one year old baby, together with my partner – traversed the long, sometimes bumpy road to El Nido in an almost six-hour trip. The quaint town of El Nido has this homey and laid-back feel. Narrow streets separate the houses, eateries and other small establishments from one another. The town’s boundaries are set not by fences nor barbed wires but by magnificent limestone formations and karst cliffs. The streets are lined not by lampposts nor waiting sheds but by happy people, both locals and tourists from different parts of the globe. We arrived early afternoon, a bit tired and sleepy yet thrilled for another wonderful experience waiting.
Prior our visit, we already made arrangements with Northern Hope Tours. There are lots of agencies that offer island hopping packages and other tours in El Nido, you just have to choose which one suits your preferences. We’re running on a tight schedule so we opted to get the combination tour which took us to islands included in both tours A and C.
It was probably one of the best mornings of my life. We left early and started our ocean journey onboard a boat big enough for all the people in it. With us was an American-Korean woman and four men – our not-so-experienced-yet-trying-his-best tour guide, two boatmen and the captain. The sea was calm and clear, the sun was bright and the scenery was perfect. It wasn’t long before we landed on the first island on the list: 7 Commandos Beach. Coconut trees lined along the shore welcomed our group. It was the first time Elise, my niece, stepped on the sand. How lucky she was getting her first feel of the beach at such a very young age. Our toes found comfort every time it touched the fine, white sand. It was the perfect spot to chill out and relax with nature. Of course, that was just the first island. The other islands and beaches on the list were just as majestic.
Upon getting satisfied, we hopped back to our boat and continued the journey. We passed by a group of huge limestone formations facing each other as if forming an entryway for us. Our tour guide briefly introduced them to us. “It’s the big lagoon”, he said. The sight was simply breathtaking. If there’s a big lagoon, certainly there would be a small lagoon. It’s pretty much the same but still has that distinct look and features. It was also a good spot to snorkel for deep down is a rich and abundant underwater life.
Lunch was not an exemption. We were treated to an island style feast in a beach equally stunning. Imagine indulging on sumptuous food – grilled pork, roasted chicken, buttered shrimps and lots of crabs with tropical fruits and veggies on the side, in an island surrounded by a beautiful view of the sea and limestone cliffs. We ate our hearts away while thanking God for an awesome experience. And we’re just halfway through our trip. After getting our hearts and tummies filled, we nonchalantly boarded our boat and started the second part of our island hopping journey.
The places we’ve been to already reiterate the magnificence of El Nido. But it seemed like the El Nido wasn’t done yet with convincing us. It leisurely showed us more reasons why people rave about its beauty. After seeing the Hidden beach, Simizu island, the Secret lagoon, the Secret beach – similar names with distinct and outstanding beauty, and Matinloc shrine, I was absolutely convinced that the whole of El Nido is one fascinating and enchanting world of wonders. Landing on a particular beach, island and lagoon made me appreciate life more. I can still clearly recall how amazed I was while inhaling the majestic moment back in Secret beach. The surreal sight on top of the limestone cliffs in Matinloc Shrine overlooking a panoramic view of nearby islands and landscapes is forever etched on my mind. These were just some of the moments I wished I could freeze even just for a bit.
Words and pictures aren’t enough to justify how strikingly beautiful El Nido was. Its dream beaches and islands, jaw-dropping limestone formations, crystal clear bodies of water, rich underwater life, its laid-back people and delicious food are significant parts that sum up to a greater and fascinating whole. It was, indeed, paradise....
After spending a week exploring the ancient Egyptian history it was time to work off the exhaustion by the shores of Sharm- El-Sheikh, who would have imagined to find this hidden treasure between the desert and the deep blue sea. Known to have some of the best diving locations in the world I was all frenzied at the opportunity to explore the psychedelic marine life of the Red Sea’s coral reef!After making a diligence research with over 400 different resorts available in Sharm, I lay my jaded self at Aloha Shores Sharm resort, which was extremely luxurious and boasted its own enticement.Aloha Shores Sharm-El-SheikhSoaking up the sun in this beautiful landThe moment I lay my eyes on the house reef at the resort I was absolutely spectacled at the bursting vivacity. Having explored this quaint resort what followed more over the dinner was a plethora of tahini and flat bread with some great in-house hummus served under a star-splattered sky. One of the best and most authentic Mediterranean cuisine I have ever had! Now that seemed like a heaven-sent feast by this shore!The next day was an early beginning towards exploring the crystal clear and warm blue waters of the Red Sea! I was naïve at the endeavor that awaited me next on the Sea, but having spent few hours training I was all clued-up and excited to witness the underwater world by myself.My first encounter with the Red Sea!Those endless training session at the sea!My first encounter with the Red Sea!Those endless training session at the sea!DSC00401 (2)Gearing upAfter few hours I was finally all geared up for my first ever scuba diving experience amidst the sea in great contrast to the stark desert. Within seconds on my first dive I felt my heart sink in with the sea. The feeling was exhilarating but also very scary. It felt you were between two worlds , floating and experience the surrounding near you in a way you have never before. This Red Sea was adobe to thousands of brightly coloured reef fish, coral and many other things, which I witnessed within minutes of my first dive.Dive into the Red SeaDuring my dive I grasped how the underwater world embraces huge walls and shelves as well as caves and wrecks. One of the best diving sites and a delight for competent divers, the Blue-Hole is a must see here! Exploring few areas of this conspicuous 40-mile belt of coral reef there was a new discovery at every trice. The most spectacular 45 minutes of my plunge.ncounter with the beautiful coral and reefsOverall Sharm-El-Sheikh is mainly about soaking under the sun, leaving yourself by the sea and indulging into activities like diving or snorkelling but if you’re itching for a bit of culture way you ascend, to the main centre of the isle at Naama Bay.Bedouin style restaurants!Exploring the majestic Naama Bay!Who wouldn’t want to have a dinner in-between these cave restaurantsSpending a night exploring this promenade, which was buzzing with cafes, restaurants, shopping, and nightlife I sojourned myself at this clannish Bedouin style café only to marvel on the spectacular night view this city offered.Sharm-El–Sheikh definitely did a lot to my weary soul!Cannot Miss:Stay at one of the beach resorts to unwind the desert and sandsWater activities at the Red Sea and a must dive in the Blue-HoleVisit the Naama Bay at night to enjoy the nightlifeThis blog was originally published on 'GlobeTrottin365days'...