you can take the boat a 3pm it was already pretty full. My hammock was squeezed. we headed out of the port Belem at about 7pm. Five days later we should be arriving to Manaus.
Stopping for a few hours in Santerem - About half-way to Manaus
Stopping for a few hours in Santerem - About half-way to Manaus
The days on the boat were not as bad and as slow as I feared. I was comfortable in my hammock. The food on the boat was pretty decent, The bathrooms that are supposed to be horrible are actually ok – that is if you accept that a toilet and the shower are in the same rusted little space
The ports from which the boats were leaving
Tuesday: Port Marques Pinto
Wednesday: Port Rodrigues Alves or Port Tamandare
Friday: Port gate 09-10 (I think this is the main port downtown)
Ever had pizza with palm heart and jambú (regional plant of Pará that makes your tongue shiver) - it's delicioussssssss!!!
The Café Imaginário has the best in town and is also a very nice place to hang out, listen to live music and enjoy the colorful ambiente.
Estacao das Docas (The Docks) was opened in May 2000. The old harbour was transformed in a huge modern centre of art, culture, leisure and gastronomy with the intention to increase the tourism of the state of Para.
In the complex you find six restaurants with best regional food, bars, small brewery, ice-cream and confectionery shop, stalls and shops with crafts and other regional products. There are also cash machines, post office, cyber cafe, magazine and bookshop, travel agency, temporary exhibition with the history of port and urban archeology, art gallery and several halls for events: concerts, dance, theatre, cinema and exhibitions. Cultural program is vivid and varied. There is no entrance fee!
In the evening it is sometimes nice to walk along the river and observe the magnificent sunset.
Known primarily as museum, the Emilio Goeldi installation is actually more of a botanical park and ecological research centre. Recognized as the first research centre for Amazonian studies, the park is dedicated to the study of all things Amazonian, including the flora, fauna and native cultures. It was founded in 1866 and reorganized in 1890 by Swiss zoologist Emilio Goeldi.
Inside is a botanical garden with more than 3000 spicies of plants and trails to walk around and observe them. Animal habitats feature more than 600 animals, from manatees, anacondas, jaguars, giant otters, macaws, sloths to monkeys, and fish tanks have various species from the local rivers.
Museum has an extensive collection of Indian artifacts, including distinctive and beautiful pottery of Marajo Indians, known as marajoara.
Park also contains a cafe and a good gift shop.
It is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 9am - noon and 2pm - 5pm
Casa das Onze Janelas (House of Eleven Windows) was constructed in 18th century as a residence of a sugar baron. Later became a military hospital and in 2001 it was transformed into cultural space with the reference of contemporary art of north and northeast of Brazil. It hosts two principal exhibitions: Contemporary Brazilian art and Contemporary Photography of Para.
Interior of the mansion is filled with attractions and a terrace on the external part of the building has a beautiful view to Baia do Guara.
It is opened from Tuesday to Friday 10am to 6pm, Saturday, Sunday and feast day 10am to 8pm.
The complex also houses one of Belem's finest restaurants, Boteco das Onze Janelas. It has a nostalgic ambient that brings an imagination of european tavern. Boteco hosts various talents from the city. It gets packed especially on Saturday so it's advisable to come early.
Praca da Republica (Republica Square) is one of the most attractive points of the city with lush of mango trees. At the square you'll find a large statue that commemorates the proclamation of the Republic of Brazil and several French-style iron kiosks.
On Sunday vendors, food booths and musical groups create a festival-like atmosphere that attracts crowds of locals. It's also a great place to have a picnic and stroll around.
The place is full of life, densely occupied with people and products from the Amazon. The fish market, a steel construction imported from Glasgow in 1901, is the most memorable image of the city. Ver-o-Peso market is a historical site and was recently renewed.
In addition to the fresh fruit, vegetable, plants and fish brought to market by dugout canoe, you'll find some crafts from the Amazon, indigenous ceramic, items for macumba ceremonies, medicinal herbs, aromatic roots and potions... It's like a picture postcard where colours, smells and flavours are all mixed together into a scene that is varied and original. There are also numerous cheap restaurants where you can try some tasty local food.
The name Ver-o-Peso means Check out the Weight. This is because a few decades ago all products sold were weighted on the spot, in manual balances, and the buyer wanted to check out the weight to avoid frauds.
The market is on the docks and is one of the largests in Brazil. It has more than 2000 stalls. It's open all day, from 4am to 3pm, but you should aim to arrive early to get the freshest produce.
Theatro da Paz (Peace Theatre) is the most important theatre in the state of Para and highly esteemed in Brazil. It was built between 1869 and 1874 during the rubber boom in the Amazon region and it's rare and well-preserved reminder of the time.
The theatre is one of Belem's finest buildings, built in neoclassical style. In its interior, the detail in the mosaic and parquet floors and staircases, the stenciled wooden ceiling and walls, the crystal chandeliers and mirrors, attest to the fame of this excellent opera house.
It's well known for having the best acoustics. The theatre has hosted Brazilian and international presentations of first-class. It is located in the heart of Belem and can seat up to 1100 spectators.
Half-hour guided tours (4 RS) are offered hourly from 9am to 5pm weekdays and 9am to 1pm weekends.
Depending on your interest, time of travel, level of adventure and craziness, taking the riverboat down the Amazon River is indeed one of those character-building experiences.
There are many types of riverboats of different conditions and they depart on different days.
I took Amazon Star which departs on Wednesday evenings, so I shall provide my tips based on this.
This is quite a big riverboat with an air-conditioned compartment. I certainly recommend that you PAY EXTRA and buy the ticket for the air-conditioned compartment. Believe me, 5 / 6 days / nights on the Amazon River, you will certainly appreciate it! Also, the non-air-conditioned compartment down below is more like a container where they stock up on sacks and crates, etc... to be transported to the riverside-towns. They place more importance on space for the goods, than for people.
Although the riverboat leaves at 6pm, go there early in the morning at 8am or so and register yourself. Why? Because you should hang your hammock at the choice spots as soon as you can. Well, the recommended place is to hang your hammock as close to the front as possible because the toilets are at the back. But because everyone thinks like that, the front area is very cramped and people literally hang hammocks one, on top of another. So, you might return and find your hammock buried under others, laden with babies and toddlers.
Meanwhile, the middle portion is usually more spacious, so this is a good spot. The only problem is that from around 11am to about 5pm, ironically the hottest part of the day, the air-conditioners (located at the front and back) are switched off and the middle of the middle portion is the hottest.
The lights are never switched off, so wear an eye-mask or cover your face with a dark cloth if it bothers you.
Food is not interesting, mostly overcooked beef and rice, but not as bad as I imagined. Bring some snacks along to fill your tummy then.
The waterfront area is a delight to visit for anyone with a sense of the facinating history of Belem. A city of 1.4 million inhabitants 160 km (96 miles) from the Atlantic and the largest port on the Amazon, it was founded by the Portuguese in 1616 as the City of Our Lady of Bethlehem (Belem in Portuguese) Belem was a slaving port, exporting spices and cacau. Illness so decimated the local population that in the mid 18th century a royal decree issued in Lisbon, to encourage growth, every white man who married an indian woman would recieve: "one ox, two scissors, some cloth, clothes, two cows and two bushels of seed".
The Forte do Castelo dates from the foundation era. Today it is open as an historical building and has a really well thought out museum at the entrance. Palacio Laura Sodre built 1772, now houses the Para State Museum, almost next door is Palacio Antonio Lemos (1883), now the Belem Art Museum. Both palaces are beautifully restored. Opposite is the 1750's Cathedral and around the corner is the Museum of Sacred Art. Casa das Onze Janelas, an art museum and excellent restaurant is nearby.
The fishing harbor and wonderful Mercado Ver-o-Peso (means check the weight) are a short walk away from the historical area. The old dock area (Estacao das Docas) is just a bit further East, now shops and restaurants.
This whole restored area reminds me very much of New Orleans' (pre Katrina) riverfront area, Riverwalk, French Market, historical buildings including a cathedral and some shady characters to be on the look-out for.
A bus that takes you pretty much to most of the interesting places in Belém is the "443 - Pedreira Lomas Utinga". It passes the Bairro Marco (and the little forest nearby), Pedreira, Umarizal, Ver-O-Peso, Cidade Velha (the historic center), Batista Campos, Iguatemi (one of the two big shopping centers with cinemas) and the Praça da República and it's only R$ 1,35. Nice if you just want to relax and see the city.
Actually, there is a cool version of the bus we call "fresquinho", it has almost the same route, is a little more expensive (R$ 2,25), but a smaller, more comfortable bus with air condition.
One for the history buffs, most old towns have one and Belem isn't any different, look back to the bad old days, when the fort was in use for the defence of the town, its very well maintained and worth doing, but, if forts aren't your thing, then don't bother, nice setting though.
During the day, the streets off of the side of the main street are taken up with market stalls selling everything you would expect from a market, but take a trip down to the waterfront and you come across (2) entirely different markets.
The 1st market you come across is the food market, under permanent canvas, lots of little stalls selling all sorts of local foods, its very local so not at all your 5* cuisine, but its really cool, if you carry on closer to the waterfront you can find a couple of bars and also some juice bars that sell their fruit juices in plastic bags.
Further along the waterfront you come to the spice market where they sell absolutely everything spicewise under the sun, they also have some excellent local arts and crafts and quite cheap too.
If you're in Belém, take a boat to the Island of Marajó (to Camará) and from there a bus or van to Cachoeira do Ararí. There, you'll find one of the most beautiful museums that I've ever seen. Established by a padre, everything in the museum is interactive; wooden "computers" teach you what alternative medicine you need for which disease, images and stories tell the history of the Island, including the inidigenous cultures, the history of slavery and local flora and fauna.
The museum even features a two-headed buffalo!
Seriously, I spent hours there and still didn't see and read everything, it's very beautiful and certainly worth a visit.
Just like in Manaus we felt like exploring the city just taking a walk in some vague direction ( to the river , without city map ) and let the city soak in on us..... Here are some of the simple impressions we had on this nice walk . Pic # 1 shows the tiles on the floor on Praça Republica , pretty old by their looks and very esthetic in my opinion. Pic # 2 , a house with a tree growing on the balcony ( or roof..? ) , pic # 3 an old house that must have seen better and more glorious days , but fascinates in its morbid decadence..... pic # 4 , the beautifully revamped docks that were turned into a leisure area with nice cafes and restaurants , a place to meet friends and hang out.... and finally pic # 5 , the romantic me at the docks in front of a beautifull sunset .....