My guest post today takes us to the Bahia region of Brazil, which offers a relaxed way of life, stunning beaches, wildlife and national parks and is bigger than most European countries – lucky we have my guest writer Modi to guide us.
Bahia is one Brazil’s most colourful regions and definitely the one that strikes westerners more than any other part of the country when it comes to cultural diversity. Brazil’s immense size, which is a bit smaller than the US and bigger than Europe (excluding Russia), makes it obligatory to plan your trip carefully well in advance, unless you have a few years available to travel in that beautiful country.
With an area of 564 square kilometres and a population of almost 14m people, Bahia is greater than Spain in size and twice bigger than Great Britain. For the European standards that feels like visiting another country. And when it comes to culture, tradition, history and nature Bahia really stands out from the rest of the country. It was there that the Portuguese “discovered” Brazil in 1500 and made it part of the Portuguese empire. However, the Dutch took over for a short period of time and it was there that a vast number of African slaves were sold as cheap labour to work in the plantations all around the country.
After slavery was abolished and it wasn’t profitable anymore for the Portuguese to carry on with the coffee plantations, they left all those millions of slaves on their own destiny. This is why Bahia, is until today the most colourful part of the country and where people of European descent are a small minority. For the same reasons it is one of Brazil’s poorest parts and unemployment soars, especially in the capital city of Salvador.
Places of interest vary from stunning national parks and scenic valleys, to pristine beaches and a few magnificent islands. The biggest and most well-known national park is that of Chapada Diamantina which is a plateau of steep cliffs and incredible wildlife which includes snakes, large mammals, birds, insects etc. Another interesting destination is the beautiful beaches around the touristic town of Porto Seguro, such as Trancoso , Caraiva (a remote sea-side village built on the sand where still there’s no electricity other than that produced by petrol generators), Itacare (where the Brazilian surfing championship takes place once a year).
Caravelas, a sleepy village located between a river bank and the sea is another great place to experience proper Bahian life and culture as it is a place that doesn’t attract tourists, apart from Brazilians. Another great reason to visit it is because from there you can get a boat to Abrolhos National Marine Park, where Charles Darwin made a stop over to do some research in that group of remote islands. Scuba diving, snorkelling and the like is possible in the transparent water full of the most colourful and exotic fish you can imagine.
Bahianos (Bahian people) are different to all other Brazilians in a sense that they are very friendly, simple and open. They are what we would call in Europe or the US “cool” people as they don’t seem to know what stress is about, they are always up for a laugh, a dance or a chat and they seem to enjoy their time. So much they envy them, the more posh and rich southern Brazilians, that the main stereotype of any Bahiano is that he’s lazy and never works. Bahia is also recommended for anyone who wants to learn Portuguese as the people there speak in a quite slowly and in a relaxed manner and they are very patient with “gringos” (foreigners of any occidental country).
The best part of Bahia though, is daily life which still has a very strong African impact in all aspects. From food (mainly seafood) to music (axe, forro) and from religion (the Yoruba derived system of Candomblé) to martial arts (Capoeira). There’s no need to mention a visit to the Salvador – Bahia’s capital, as it is impossible not to pass through it if you’re travelling in Bahia.
Although many tourist guides claim that Bahia is a dangerous place, if you avoid the big cities and do not try to show off by walking around with your mp3 player, mobile phone and digital camera, wearing that expensive watch and sunglasses you shouldn’t have any problem. Showing a bit of respect to all those people who don’t have as much as you do is not such a big deal and it will make your life easier too. Especially in the small places there’s nothing to fear about and you will feel that straight way. Common sense is all you need to have and a little bit of insight into people’s problems.
Many Thanks for this guest post to Modi Sodek, who is is a keen internet marketer who loves travelling and currently works for a company that organises river cruises
Photo Credits: all photos copyright Modek Sodek