Belém is burning, and I felt fine
Belem, PA Travel Blog› entry 1 of 2 › view all entries
Belém is a city that doesn't look as big as it is. The population is around 2 millions.
Being a tourist, everything will take you to "Estação das Docas", one of the best succeedind project of port modernization in South America. It's a long food mall (there are a couple of book stores and this is it), with live music by night, bars, and either typical restaurants or what we brazillians call international cuisine (mostly european, especially italian dishes). You can also walk along the riverside, like local couples and families do. But what I recommend doing is eating an ice-cream bought in a store called Cairu. There are all kind of different flavours, and my favourites are açaí, tapioca and taperebá.
The old buildings of Belém are great. I was told by a local artist that the last Culture secretary from Pará state has put a lot of energy to recover abandoned cities attractions, during his administration (that ends this year). I can say he was pretty successful. When I asked about corruption, I had no answer but a smile. Some other people that I talked to told me this secretary actually owned some architecture bureaus, and those were the ones chosen to do the job. But I couldn't check it...
Emanuel Nassar is maybe the top artist from Belém. In his late forties, he is this kind of guy who loves the city where he was born. Delicious laughing. He knows everybody from the woman that serves beer and fried fish with farofa in this authentic "botequim" to the clients of this fancy restaurant downtown - where the tucupi sauce is the main attraction.
Meeting somebody like him is the best tip one can offer. Talking to people is what will help you. Using the internet won't, it is so hard to find stuff, and when you do it, you can´t be sure if it is still correct. That doesn't mean the streets aren't full of cybercafes, it is impressive.
Actually, my experience with local habitants was better than with who works for tourists. I stayed in a hostel, in Rua Governador José Malcher, where surprisingly nobody spoke English. Not a problem to me, they did speak portuguese, at least. But some americans had to leave because they couldn't be helped with some bed issue, as I was told afterwards. The hostel had no newspapers, and you had to pay R$ 4 to use the Internet, twice the outside price. They didn't know about nightlife, all they suggested was going to the 24 hour supermarket, not exactly my idea of fun.
When I asked about visiting Ilha de Marajó, one of the top reasons that took me to Pará, two different hostel employees told me there was a boat back to Belém at 6 in the afternoon. I knew Marajó was a at-list-two-day visit. But after some mathematics, I got to the conclusion that from 10 in the morning (when the boat from Belém would get there) to 5, I could at least get to know Soures, the most important village in the island. Well, when I got there I found out the last boat would leave at 3 in the afternoon: no way I would make it to Soures. I just stayed in Salva Terra, pretty place but with no local art, no archeology (some ancient indians pottery was found there) or typical food.
But my biggest regret has nothing to do with the hostels' people. I didn't get to go to an aparelhagem. I've been reading all around that the Pará's version of Rio's baile funk is astonishing, not exactly because of the music, but of what it does to people. Electronic music from a brazillian northern perifery, distributed by cds home recorded with mp3s, I was really curious. Times, they are definetely a changing. I got twice to the door of Ciclone Aparelhagem, but it was too early to start (like eleven thirty at night!) and I ended up going back to sleep. Another good idea is to visit Biruta, near Praça da República, to listen to some brazillian northern reggae. If you like classical music, the Teatro da Paz is this beautiful and big theatre built back when Belém was the world capital city of latex.
At the end of my stay, I was sure I had got to a place I will need to go back again other times in my life.