Eating: The bounties of the brazilian amazon rainforest.

Discussion in 'Brazil' started by anileze, Dec 9, 2013.  |  Print Topic

  1. anileze

    anileze Gold Member

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    No superlative would do justice to actually capture the rich diversity of the amazonian ecosystem. The ecosystem of the rainforest, lakes and its various river tributaries that offers bounties of fruits, vegetables and fishes that are unavailable anywhere else in the world. Tastes that are uniqueand totally new to the tastebuds from cupuaçu to Jambu ! Gurabana to Acai !


    Last few weeks I took some time off to taste some of what amazon jungles and its rivers produce and put in the plate of the locals.


    From fishing and cooking in deep forests few hours away from nearest civilization, to street corner Lanches near the churches in Santarem. From the outdoor grilling by the docks in Manaus to haute cuisine of Brazilian Amazon in Belem, Para. Fresh fish by the homestead cooking in the islands in the vast state of Para, to rustic lodges in upstream Rio Solimos. I had to taste it, and taste I did !


    The wrap with tomatoes, herbs, coconut cream and pork and local spice at a street corner lanches (A street cart akin to one seen in midtown manhattan during lunch hours :) )

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    Freshly caught piranas by my friend which were promptly cooked in spices and pan seared in the logde about three hours upstream from Manaus.

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    Freshly caught jacuda grilled and served with lemon at the riverside homestead few hours into Marajo Island.

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    Flaky white fish for dinner in an outdoor cafe inside a renovated old Dock called Estação das Docas in Belem.

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    Pirarucu with peas and carrots along with pasta at a self-service jungle kitchen in Juma river.

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    Grilled fish in a stick near Ver O Peso market in Belem, Para.

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    To change pace, a lovely tasting menu at La Em Casa in Belem It is the most renowned restaurant in Belem.

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    After eating in sitdown restaurants of Manaus, I ventured into a place where fresh fruits were in the menu. Here is cacoa fruit. Yummy and creamy.


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    Nothing like a glass of freshly made Acerola juice.

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    Days of really hunting, fishing and eating with a native of one of the tribes was an experience of a lifetime. A place with no electricity, no cell phone signal, and no creature comforts.



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    Early morning coffee - local beans ground at the local riverfront General Store, and water from the local tributary of Solimoes River. I was surprised as to how good this coffee was, and the flavor was sort of spiked :)


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    No discussion of eating and drinking in Brazil is considered complete with mention of Caipirinha with beer chaser :)


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  2. Newscience

    Newscience Gold Member

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    What a world traveler! :cool: Thank you for sharing! :) And if you'd like to share details about your travel arrangements, they would be quite welcome! ;)
     
  3. anileze

    anileze Gold Member

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    Once it is completed, I definitely would. I am still not yet back :)
     
  4. Sweet Willie
    Original Member

    Sweet Willie Gold Member

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    This easily has to be one of the most anticipated trip reports ever (for me anyways), thanks for posting !!!!!!

    I had started to draw up plans for Mrs Willie & I to vacation in Belem but sadly things just didn't work out.
     
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  5. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    I agree completely. This first post makes me desperately want to go home, being now in St Louis, Missouri, USA. All of these delicacies are available in Rio de Janeiro one place or another, but not in the profusion that is available in the Amazon. BTW, because piranha is so incredibly boney (you cannot imagine!) it is only in the Amazon that is served whole. In most other parts of Brazil it comes with the meat extracted and is served in styles often similar to crab cakes.

    This thread illustrates one major reason I love living in Brazil.
     
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  6. harvson3

    harvson3 Silver Member

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    Do you have a recommendation for a place that serves pirarucu in Rio? It's my favorite thing about Manaus, and not really a dish/fish I've found elsewhere.

    Also, I don't mean to be rude, but that juice looks a little too yellow and not red enough to be acerola.
     
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  7. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    The most consistent place has been Albamar but Satyricon has had it sometimes and Pescheria in Leblon had it when I was last there. It has been on menus sometimes as arapaima (the biological name). Lately it has been farmed on a small scale including in Malaysia where it shocked me to find it inn a Chinese restaurant in Kuala Lumpur. My most memorable encounter with pirarucu was at Ariau Towers (my absolute favorite Amazonian hotel
    http://www.ariautowers.com) where one pirarucu served all the guests and staff with plenty left over. Succulent, delightful, light flavor well suited to spicy preparations.

    Thanks for reminding me harvson3. I MUST go home now!
     
  8. anileze

    anileze Gold Member

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    You could be right. Give my patois, and their understanding of any other language, I just pointed to the four fruits in a basket. Interestingly, the access to this homestead/artisinal store cum dock is through a wobbly stairs. One can take a po-po-po (a diesel engine small ferry boat) or your own speed boat.

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  9. Sweet Willie
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    Sweet Willie Gold Member

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    according to wiki, arapaima in Brazil are not caught commercially, so my guess is the restaurants are using farmed.
     
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  10. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    The Rio restaurants do serve farmed ones, as the chef of Albamar told me, so you are right (aren't you always right, Willie? :D). Anileze OTOH probably was served a wild caught one since the ribeirinhos do fish them.
     
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  11. Sweet Willie
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    Sweet Willie Gold Member

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    Mrs Willie would have a very definite answer to your question.:D
     
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  12. anileze

    anileze Gold Member

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    The day I had pirarucu, our handler said it was caught earlier in the day. If my local fixer was to be believed two days ago while strolling at the local mercado, I spotted this !

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    [i-better-zip-my-lips-and-hide-my-photos]

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    What can I say :)
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2013
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  13. anileze

    anileze Gold Member

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    A Drinking Life:


    When in Rome, do as the romans do ! So for a while I had to give Jamesons, and Negro Modelo and spicy rum a break and get into the mood for the local fare. If you want to have a drink like your neighborhood bar in the Village or Hell’s Kitchen style place, unfortunately there not to many in States of Amazonas or Para in Northern Brazil. There are dives which serve alcohol and make a mean caipirinha. And the hotel bars really do not count.


    If you look hard, you will find one. Luckily, in the rubber boom of the 1800s, Manaus built some very fine buildings, and the rich patrons of the Arts had their famed Opera house in opulent grandeur fit for a small town wanting to become something important in a hurry.


    The Opera house lives. It even has a steady core of patrons who drive their BMWs and Mercedes and them gents and ladies do dress up for an evening in at the Theatre.


    In the shadow of Teatro Amazonas, on the Rua Dez Julho there is a bar. Where the artists that play in the opera, and art artists; mix with a few backpackers and locals from the neighborhood. It is called Bar do Armando. It is apparently an institution. Sit in or sit out, by the sidewalk or the appropriated portion of the road. The bar is hopping every week day in a town where nearly all restaurants close by 10 PM if not earlier.

    The kitchen is greasy spoon, but the caipirinha is the best value for money. Two and you have a good buzz.

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    This melancholic posture of the regulars does not fit with the brazilian ethos - It is more like barrio San Telmo in Buenos Aires, or La Boca after a loss :)


    On a hot humid night and rather clear sky, sitting outside (but under the canopy of the restaurant) in Estados dos Docas, in Belem - A chilled beer and a Cachaça shot ! Puts rot-gut-tequila to shame :)

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    As I was planning to go to Belem for a long week, an expat living in Para, and a frequent visitor to Belem, suggested I go try Amazon Beer. I thanked him, and was puzzled. My first visit to Estados do Docas, I knew why ! Amazon Beer, is a brewpub. And a fine one too with five fermenting Tanks. What was more surprising was that not only was their beer good, so was their food.

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    Being a good citizen, and also CYAing, Amazon Beer, the restaurant, brings a full size printed sheet of paper where they keep count for each customer, how many drinks they had. Imagine doing that is some party school town in Florida or whereever - Maybe Ohio !

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    One of the expat owner of a boutique hotel, not quite a posada; recommended I try out a bar inside a shopping mall. It had a good selection of cacahasa, and decent small plate snacks. So off I went to the mall.

    I tell you - these cacahasa will kill ya - Worse than cheap vodka or Old Monk !

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    When there is no bar ? there is always drinking in the boonies - In this case really out there there !!
    Under the stars and candlelight - in the middle of nowhere (not even a GPS worked) Maybe somewhere between Caapiranga,AM and Manacapuru,AM.

    A gallon of cacahasa and six guys doing shots in plastic cups, till the gallon was gone ! You do know that grilled cayman goes well with these rot-gut-moonshines :)

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    No story of drinking is complete without a trip to the hotel-bar, however pathetic it maybe,


    Once upon a time, Best Western Lord Manaus downtown had an intimate bar, but gone are the glory days, today it is just Lord Manaus, and the bartender does double duty in the kitchen in the back.

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    Any of course there were other small snack bars with cacashasa and beer places that dot along the banks of the various tributaries that feed Amazon, Solimoes and Negro.. but they are like the unlicensed speakeasies one sees in parts of the world, where things are different ! Northern Brazilian Amazon is no different.
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2013
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  14. anileze

    anileze Gold Member

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    The boats of the Amazon river.

    Amazon being what it is, and the many tributaries that feed into it; the two rivers - Negro and Solimos that merge at Manaus, has always been the river of superlatives. The aura, the myth and the awe it holds from the Nat. Geo documentaries, is all true ! Yes It is all that and more..


    The boats in the Amazon offers an interesting perspective on the chaotic yet uniquely organized business of moving goods, people and produce from one end of the river ecosystem to the far end of the region. Boats like these are the supply chain, infrastructure and lifelines of the region. From Tabatinga to the Atlantic. They all have a similar look and feel. They are not tourist boats, they are not “traveler boats”, they are just workhorse boats. Like the D train from Bronx via Yankee stadium to Coney Island.


    Most boats are three stories tall. On the lowest level, the cheapest space to hang your hammock. On the top is the entertainment and also the cabinas. The middle level is where you want to be if you intend to have some modicum of rest and sleep.


    The lowest level, call it the cattle-class or the cargo class. You will share it with chicken, other livestock, produce, sacks, and sacks for fruits and spare parts, and occasional buffalo. It is also where you have the engine. So everything your drink and eat is smoked in diesel. Or Ethanol mixed fumes. There will be a bar, where cold beer, cachaca, caipirinha, and occasional rot-gut-vodka for the half the price price of a latte at Starbucks on the Upper West Side.



    During the rubber boom days, the market, or mercado in Manaus was built in the image of Les Halles in Paris. In fact lot of ironworks came from France in its building. Needless to say that the docks that brought all kinds of produce from yonder places upstream and downstream sprung up near the mercado. But, boats dock anywhere across the banks of Rio Negro. Small speedboats and personal motor boats prefer to dock away from the chaotic, yet colorful line boat docks.


    From one end of town to another, about five odd miles in total (who is measuring :) ) there are docks. Each dock varies in size and types of boats and destinations. Most docks float as the level of Rio Negro rises and falls as the season changes.


    Heading to the Dock downtown near the Mercado is an experience to be beholden. If you are headed up to Tabatinga and the Colombian and Peruvian border then you go on certain days. Headed to Santarem, the other days. There are no reserved seats or beds. There are spaces and ties. Where you hang your hammock. You think the New York subways are encroaching on your space ? Wait till you have some stranger tie his hammock few inches above yours.


    Having been to Brazil many times over the decades and the region once before, there were not many surprises, and no culture shock.


    The first day, I saw a boat pack in two wheelers, headed upstream. Another head down with sacks of manioc flour and dried river shrimps. Cargo comes first - Those are paid by the weight. The cabinas, air conditioned or not, make some of the quirky places across the border from San Diego in Tijuana looks like five star luxury. Some do have attached toilet.


    Most fares (except rock-bottom, crew negotiated cash on the spot) come with meals. manioc, meat and beans. Even the passengers lowest level bring their own extra food - cookies, chips, booze and brazilian junk food. Some boats have an enclosed middle level, air conditioned they say, but more like recirculated air. Remember, the wet season begins in upper regions of Amazonas end November and continues till May, and some areas in June. It rains. I have seen Indian monsoons, and though the rain does not go non stop, when it rains it does not pour cats and dogs, it unleashes jaguars and pirarucu - My Minolta telephoto zoom can swear on it’s servomotor. A veteran of Alaskan freezing north, to the sandstorm of Jordan.


    The day a line boat to Santarem leaves Manaus on time, will be the day Americans will win the World Cup soccer. Pissed of that JetBlue stranded you for hours on the runway at Kennedy ? Wait till you try one of these boats. My first day of inquiry and research, the boat from previous day was rumored to have broken and stranded 36 hours downstream. ETA for Santarem was not known.


    Everything is negotiable at the docks. Speak Guarani-portugues ? You could negotiate a low fare on the spot. From cabinas to the lower level tie space for your hammock. fares get you entry to the boat, where you finally shack up is up to you.


    Early spring when I looked into it, the backpacker popular sites were quoting something between 90 to 300 USD for a trip from Manaus to Belem, with the variation of 50% between them. The higher was for the A/C cabina “shared” By the time you reach the dock after breakfast, you could get a cabina for that in brazilian real or less.


    And then there is the Iberostar's occasional 5 star all inclusive cruise for 300USD/person/night double occupancy. But then you did not bargain for this when it is supposed to be your one-in-a-lifetime trip down the almighty Amazon did you ?

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    On this day, there were motorcycles headed upstream.

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    A better boat, with Airconditioning - :)

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    Early morning at the main downtown dock.

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    Boats ready to head out in the afternoon.

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    Hours before the departure, passengers begin to tie their hammock.

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    Boat pulling into the dock.


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    A family gets settled in.

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    More passengers than there are life jackets ?

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    The entrance to the main dock.

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    The two rivers - Solimoes and Negro few klicks from the dock.

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    The lunchonettes and bars.



    Do as I say, not as I do.



    Sem entender Portugues ? Sozinho? Loira ? Gringa ? Don’t even think about it ! If you do, do so please - Do not whine later. Behind every blog or story of what a great trip it was, would be incidents buried like roaches beneath an abandoned mattress in a burnout warehouse on the wrong side of the tracks.


    Wearing shorts ? No mosquito net ? No Deet no Picaridin ? Don’t even think about it !


    Weak stomach, diet restricted ? Weather sensitive ? Don’t even think about it !


    Need a soft bed ? Need a nordic or alaskan sized personal space ? Don’t even think about it !


    Take a trip to the jungle, join an overnight trek with camping and sleeping in a hammock, An overnight tourist boat to the upper amazon with gringo-comforts. If that was on the edge of your comfort zone - Don’t even think about it !


    Other than that ! Enjoy the ride. No miles no points.
     
  15. Sweet Willie
    Original Member

    Sweet Willie Gold Member

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    Amen, of course I value points/miles & what they have done for me & likely will in the future. That said there are so many worthwhile experiences that points/miles can't bring me.
     
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  16. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    Astounding! Such as??? Really, Willie, I fear you've imbibed rather too much of Chicago seasonal brew and failed to understand the basic premise of all travel; to wit: "it's all about the points".

    That said, I write this is my corner suite at the Park Tower in Buenos Aires, 'freely' obtained by my status-based upgrades. All things considered home is better, so I'll be happy to be back home in Rio this evening.
     
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  17. Sweet Willie
    Original Member

    Sweet Willie Gold Member

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    @anileze sorry to go off topic, I feel I need to respond.
    I think it might be you drinking too much of the points/miles koolaid:D
    I'm assuming you are joking but if not, per this thread, a river cruise out of Manaus would be one such as. For me personally, the following are just a few of my most treasured experiences that had nothing to do with miles/points:
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    BWCA
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    Winter hiking in the UP
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    Our annual family pheasant hunt, followed by a fresh trout lunch, then drinks by lodge fireplace
    ----
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    sunset at cabin in N Wisconsin after a summer day on the lake
     
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  18. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    Of course, but non-pointful great travel; experiences are always worth pointing out.
     
  19. IDGflygirl
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    IDGflygirl Gold Member

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    I love the Ariau towers! We went piranha fishing (small ones) & my then 5 y.o. son was thrilled (he's now 19 & loves to fish!). I remember all the monkeys all over the place! I loved the pirarucu & remember them well!
     
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  20. anileze

    anileze Gold Member

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    The Necessary Details: Planes and Places

    From Here to There:
    The first journey was from New York to Manaus on Delta, with domestic on Gol. What a horror show :( You could be Titanium-for-life-with-additional title of Dilma's transport advisor - Gol ain't giving you any favors or waivers to board an earlier flight even if the plane is 1/2 empty. Welcome to Brazil :D

    I returned from Belem, again Gol fulfilling the domestic and Delta taking the international segment. I waited all this while because I have been trying to square away them pesky miles DL said I was entitled to, but dragged their feet. Day before yesterday, it was sorted out, kind of :( I guess they had to clear all open case #s :)

    After millions of butt-in-seat miles, and decades of flying - Gol customer service from Gate Agents to ticketing - Has to take the cake.

    Hassling for every bit of convenience. They wanted to check my carryon :rolleyes: :mad: Same PNR, but weight limit for carryon is 5 kilos!!. Even though the plane is half empty and I am tpp of the elite-chain in the line, no concessions given, all released reluctantly. They are worse than some LCC in services and amenities. Plus, some of their metal is old DL A/C.

    Win some, lose some. Managed to get them to yield all but one domestic flights, after lots of UN-style negotiating. Enough about Gol, they are to be avoided.

    Throughout my stay in Amazon, the layers of accommodations could be categorized as firm land/cities, water's edge and then wilderness.

    Water's edge is about lodges and boats and stilted huts with pathways. a.k.a Juma Lodge. The wilderness is about expeditions and scientific discovery/exploration. Basic as basic can get. Hook your own hammock in the wooden beams.

    The points type was in the cities. It made no sense booking a week in Hilton or Priority Club properties and then spend days out in the wild. Hence I limited it to days when I was in the city the whole day, be it Manaus or Belem. Since I could not take my carryon to the wilderness (I had to carry non personal communal/group gear including pots,cauldrons, and hammocks ) I used to leave my luggage with the hotels.

    Breakfast Room at Lord Manaus (used to be a Best Western, no longer)

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    Restaurant, also Breakfast room at Hilton, Belem

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    Poolside breakfast if you wish at the Hilton, Belem.

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    A French expat owned and run boutique small hotel in Belem, which was a good value when I had to just come rest your eyes :) Hotel Le Massilia A nice guy to talk to while waiting for your car to pick you up.

    bl1.jpg

    There there were two other hotels in Manaus, nothing worthwhile visually or service wise to talk or write about.

    Off topic OpEd

    I shudder what will happen when World Cup games take place in Manaus (4 games in all - England-Italy and a US-Portugal match too is to be held in Manaus ) Manaus, the only city in the North/Amazon to have World Cup does not have that many hotel rooms as such. I know that TajMahal International, Lord Manaus, and Holiday Inn had told me what they plan to whack Europeans (specially the unruly Brits) -- A whopping 600-1000 GBP/night for a room that I had bargained down to less than 50USD/night. Go Figure ! I have no love-lost to the soccer-crazed gangs, having experienced them on few occasions, This is the way of filtering out the outsiders.

    By the time I left there, all the hotels I stayed in had "claimed" they were sold out ! Yah Right ! and US will advance to the sweet 16 :confused::cool::p
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2014
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