Sunday, September 29, 2019

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil



Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Sachi G. Dastidar

In September of 2019 Shefali and I took a trip through Brazil. Our first stop was at Brazil’s Amazon Rain Forest, then to the newly-built capital city of Brasilia, followed by a trip to Iguassu Falls of Argentina and Brazil, and on the beautiful city of Rio de Janeiro. Iguassu is a junction of three nations: Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. Thus we journeyed to the Argentinian side of the Falls, then made a brief trip to the Paraguayan border city of Ciudad del Este.
If one lands at Manaus, the center of Amazon and the capital of Amazonas State, as we did, one may not realize that one is landing in the middle of a forest, as Manaus is a huge metropolis of 2.3 million people with freeways, skyscrapers, theaters, hotels and restaurants.
These days we hear a lot about fires in Amazon. There was none in the Metropolis. But we witnessed small fires set by residents during our road trip to our jungle lodge, as well as when we flew over the forest going to Brasilia. Most of the fires are at the edges of the forest as people were land/forest grabbing at the edges going towards the center. Manaus is at the center of the forest area, hundreds of miles from the border forest fire/cleansing.
An added pleasure for this travel was that many Brazilians looked like us, thus many locals took us for “locals” until we said something. Then there were some who were confused learning that we Indians were not traveling from India, but from the United States.


Rio de Janeiro or simply Rio is known for her glamour, architecture, beaches, fancy neighborhoods and favelas (illegally-occupied slums). True. She is famous for the statue of Jesus the Redeemer, the World Cup football stadium, her Bohemian areas, Sugarloaf Mountain with cable car ride, new Mexican pyramid-style new cathedral, her famous Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, and lot more. The beautiful stretch of beach is lined up with nice buildings, beach-side eateries, lanes for biking and jogging, while the beaches are taken by barely-clothed women and men where they try to get a suntan. Rio has a good public transportation system with buses, cable cars (trams) and metro (subway). It is one of the largest metro areas of the world, and is the second largest city of Brazil.

Brazil also has one of the largest slums, favelas, of South America, often known for their violence. These days there are tours to many favelas, including the largest and at-times violent Rocinha. We took a tour of Rocinha, where a public bus ride and a short walk took us to a height of about 800 meters. Tour group walked down the entire stretch bringing us to the Metro station. In that process we walked over 2 kilometers to the Metro station, at times walking down steps that are over 9” high, and some time alleys were barely 14” wide. The tour showed us true success of individuals among poverty, violence and anarchy. Many businesses, health care, IT, restaurant and educational offices are being run by individuals who grew up here. To some extent it parallels refugee colonies of Kolkata, West Bengal and Tripura and success of kids growing up there.

Blue jean and tee-shirt is the norm everywhere, except for offices when it is black trousers. Many women wear extremely small pants, even those who are obese, and many men prefer not to wear any shirt. Even in their late winter temperature always hovered over 90 F, some places like Manaus with high humidity whereas dry in other places like Brasilia.

In Rio and in every city we visited we tried local public transport, including Rio. In Rio we tried all kinds of food as well, but possibly the best treat was a dish of a single fish. We have never seen such a huge fish fried with batter, served with salad and French fries. The fish was at least 18” long placed on a 2’-long oval tray, served with fresh coconut drink or beer. We could barely finish a quarter of the fish, with rest being exported to New York.

Rio in Pictures




At Christ the Redeemer Statue







Sugar-loaf Mountain with Cable Ride






Tour Friends of Bangladeshi-Brits and Bangla-Brazilians



Rio Beeches









The Bohemian Area








The New Cathedral built in Mexican-Aztec Pyramid Style





Rocinha Favela








Saturday, September 28, 2019

Iguassu / Iguacu Falls, Brazil & Argentina, and Paraguay



Iguassu/Iguacu Falls of Brazil & Argentina; and next door Paraguay


Sachi G. Dastidar

In September of 2019 Shefali and I took a trip through Brazil. Our first stop was at Brazil’s Amazon Rain Forest, then to the newly-built capital city of Brasilia, followed by a trip to Iguassu Falls of Argentina and Brazil, and on the beautiful city of Rio de Janeiro. Iguassu is a junction of three nations: Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. Thus we journeyed to the Argentinian side of the Falls, then made a brief trip to the Paraguayan border city of Ciudad del Este.
If one lands at Manaus, the center of Amazon and the capital of Amazonas State, as we did, one may not realize that one is landing in the middle of a forest, as Manaus is a huge metropolis of 2.3 million people with freeways, skyscrapers, theaters, hotels and restaurants.
These days we hear a lot about fires in Amazon. There was none in the Metropolis. But we witnessed small fires set by residents during our road trip to our jungle lodge, as well as when we flew over the forest going to Brasilia. Most of the fires are at the edges of the forest as people were land/forest grabbing at the edges going towards the center. Manaus is at the center of the forest area, hundreds of miles from the border forest fire/cleansing.
An added pleasure for this travel was that many Brazilians looked like us, thus many locals took us for “locals” until we said something. Then there were some who were confused learning that we Indians were not traveling from India, but from the United States.

Brazil Iguassu Falls, also called Iguacu in Argentina is possibly the largest falls of the world by many measures. Most of the falls is in the Argentinian side while a section is in the Brazilian side. Not far from the falls is the border of Paraguay, across Parana River, thus the area is also known as tri-state or tri-nation area. We stayed at the Brazilian side in Iguassu City which is a large urban center, visiting both Brazilian and Argentinian falls. In both sides it is their National Park, now declared as a World Heritage Site.

Iguacu Falls in Argentina: Up and down walk on the Argentinian side is several kilometers long, in addition there were train rides to various sections, and a boat ride to inside one of the water falls giving us a total drench. We also had to climb down and then up of hundreds of steps to and from the boat station. A van ride took us from train station to the boat steps through the reserve forest.

Walk on the Argentinian side is several kilometers long, in a nicely planned and designed steel walkway. Building of the infrastructure began in 1930. 

Brazil Iguassu Falls: The Brazilian side has a shorter walk, still over one-kilometer-long where one has to climb down several hundreds of meters to the end of the walk where there are shops, rest rooms, rest area and transport pick up.

Bird's Eye View: A helicopter ride gave us better idea of the enormous size of the falls areas that are preserved as national forest on both sides of the border.

Ciudad del Este, Paraguay: We also took a short, side trip to the city of Ciudad del Este across the bridge connecting with Argentina. In Brazil it is known as a city good for shopping. The city looked very vibrant-yet-congested like many cities in developing countries. Right after the bridge crossing stands one of the finest stores, Monalisa, a multi-storied structure. Its cafĂ©’s menu is in US dollar, not in local Guarani. Seeing us one of the waitresses offered us Hindu Tea, most likely hibiscus tea. This border crossing is among the very few places in the world, beyond European Union, where the border is completely open with no checks of immigration and customs on either side. (White crossing to Argentina and returning to Brazil, there were border checks in Argentina, but not in Brazil, taking only a few minutes.)
Argentinian Falls























The Brazilian Falls


















Bird's Eye View from the Helicopter
















Ciudad del Este, Paraguay


Monalisa Departmental Store


Its Menu in US Dollar