Brazil, the largest and most populated country of South America, also boasts of the most beautiful city in the world -Rio de Janeiro. This five hundred year old city is dramatically set between rainforest- clad cliffs and the sea. With its combination of sunny beaches, spectacular mountain views & its reputation for being the city which never sleeps,Rio is one of the most visited tourist destinations.
Rio is also one of the most densely populated cities in the world. The locals call themselves Cariocas, are very good looking and speak Portuguese. Famous for its samba, beach and cafe culture and its vibrant night life, Rio is a hedonist’s delight.
We reached Rioin December but found the weather perfect for sight seeing. Being situated in the southern hemisphere, it was summer time there.Rio de Janeiro has forty five miles of white sand beaches. It has two of the world’s most famous beaches Ipanema & Copacabana. As soon as we arrived inRio, we headed for Ipanema. Ipanema beach has been immortalized in Frank Sinatra’s famous song ‘Girl from Ipanema.’ Museums & boutiques fringe this beach which is visited by the young and the fashionable. Hotels and restaurants abound in its vicinity. Copacabana beach, equally famous, is very lively. We saw people playing beach volley ball with different beats of Samba playing in the background. On visiting this beach I was reminded of the saying “No matter how small your bikini is, it will always be much bigger than what the Brazilians are wearing.” No wonder Brazilian swimsuits are often referred to as dental floss bikinis. I personally thought that dental floss would perhaps cover a larger amount of skin! Sitting at one of the open air cafes near Copacabana, we were besieged by hawkers & peddlers of jewellery, souvenirs and clothes.
The next visit was to the Museu Historico National or the National Historical Meseum. Its collection of over thirty thousand historical items would take a few days to see but our time was short. The collection of ivory toys owned by the Imperial family was most impressive.
Everywhere we went we could see the large statue of Cristo Redento, set on a mountain top. The next day we set out for Corrcovado, theGraniteMountainon top of which was located the hundred foot statue of Christ the Redeemer. We had to take a tram and then a cogwheel train which dated back to 1885. Standing at the foot of the hundred foot statue set on a 20 foot pedestal, we could see most of Rio and its sparkling beaches.
Lunch was at a Churascaria or the mother of all barbeques. Here at least one hundred
kinds of meats are barbequed & served from venison, rabbit, wild boar and hearts of chicken stuffed with sea salt to the more ordinary pork, beef and sausages wrapped in bacon. This all you can eat eat lunch is a real steal as it is supplemented by offerings from the salad bar, dessert trolley and unlimited quantities of the famous Brazilian Brahma beer and coffee.
The visit to Rio’s famous Pao de Acucar or Sugar Loaf Mountain was unforgettable. This huge granite mountain was in the shape of a loaf hence its name. The cable car ride was in two stages as the peak is 1295 feet high. The view on top was breath taking as we could see the whole city, most of its beaches and the Atlantic Ocean.
The next day we visited the shopping malls in Rio Sul or South Rio. There is a sharp divide between the rich and the poor in Brazilas inIndia. Majestic scenery cannot hide the shanties ofRio & although malls & beautiful parks abound, one can see the poverty too. Rio is considered one of the most dangerous cities of the world with rampant crime.
As we sailed out of Rio, the last impression was of sheer granite cliffs set against the Tijuca forest, the world’s largest urban rain forest and we knew that for sheer beauty there was no city to match Rio.