I wrote this several days ago, but like the last few posts, it didn’t go up, so here it is now. Sorry these are all out of order.
It’s our second night in Salvador. Here are a few thoughts and experiences:
Staying at the Hotel Arthemis has been a pleasant surpirse. We choose the hotel largely because it was recommended by Lonely Planet and because it was easy to find when we got here. And at first it was pretty basic but satisfactory. The rooms are bare but large (ours is painted pink and has a view). A big advantage was also that the sink was big (in case we want to do some quick clothes washing).
But those things hardly make for a great hotel experience.
However, tonight, after a day of sightseeing and exploring, we decided to go back to the hotel to rest for a while. We got some guarana and cookies and went to eat them on the balcony. The hotel occupies the entire seventh floor of a building at the edge of the Pelorinho (the historic distict). It also has a decent lounge and, even better, a large balcony overlooking the city and bay (I may have mentioned this last post, but if so. I hope the reiteration emphasizes the quality of the view).
We were out on the balcony for a few minutes when the guy who runs the hotel came out. We struck up a conversation with him, and eventually we were talking to the other staff member about Capoeira. He’s been doing it for a long time and had some really interesting things to say. We talked for a while and at some point Laura must have mentioned that she does art because all of the sudden the owner gave her a pencil and asked her to draw something on the balcony’s wall, which he would later paint. Apparently he is a painter and has painted all sorts of things, which can be seen in different parts of the hotel. He’s currently working on a mural-type painting that will wrap around the balcony.
I think Laura may have been a little intimidated at first to contribute to someone else’s painting (or maybe she wasn’t and I only think that because I would have been) but she drew some guitars on the wall. Also, The owner decided to include a stylized portrait of Laura in the mural, so I guess Laura’s face and artistic contribtion will be forever immortalized on the walls of the Hotel Arthemis.
In any case, it was an enjoyable evening spent with new friends, and it made me really glad we stayed where we did. We’ve been really surprised on this trip at how many cool people we’ve met and how we sometimes meet them when we least expect to. At the hotel, that probably happened because the whole place has a hostel-like feel (laid back, personable, friendly, informal) with the privacy of a hotel.
One other good thing about the Hotel Arthemis is that because it’s on the seventh floor of a building, it gave us the first quiet night of sleep we’ve had on this trip. In both Rio and Sao Paulo there were things (traffic, roosters, etc.) that either made noise all night or woke us up early. Here, I could have slept late.
Besides our evening hanging out at the hotel, we’ve spent our time in Salvador visiting museums and sightseeing. At one point we wandered into a free art gallery in a very old building. It primarily featured black and white photos of the Bahia (the Brazilian stated where Salvador is located) from the 70s. It was a cool exhibit and the building had great views of the area’s main square. So, once again we somehow stumbled onto a really fantastic experience.
We also went to some of the oldest churches in the Western Hemisphere today. At one, a guy came up and gave us an (un-asked-for) tour. It was really informative and interesting, though as soon as he approached us I suspected he was going to try to get some money. And he did. After the tour he asked for money and, because he had been a genuinely good tour guide (he knew a lot and spoke English so Laura could understand), we gave him R$15. I knew that this was a disappointing sum to him, but we’re on tight budget and we hadn’t been looking to take a tour anyway. It made me think how the whole process would have been better if he had just been upfront about the whole thing, because then he wouldn’t have spent his time giving a tour to people who couldn’t afford to pay him what his skills are worth. As it was, I think we both walked away feeling ripped off.
Other than that though, I think we’ve managed to avoid the multitude of scams people push on tourists. In the Pelorinho, there are people trying to sell stuff everywhere, and because of our language, skin coloring (pasty white, even for white people), clothing, and even physical size (I tower over many people), we really stand out as tourists. To mitigate, if not eliminate, our conspicuousness I finally gave up on carrying my bag anywhere, dressed down even more (shorts all the time, t-shirts instead of button up shirts, etc.) and wave away anyone who even gets close. It’s unfortunate, because most of the people are just trying to make a living, but we can’t buy something from everyone or we’d run out of money before we got to the end of a block. Seriously, The only place I’ve ever been approached more times by people hawking stuff was on the beaches in Rio.
Anyway, the street vendors seem to make up a characteristic element of the area, so I wanted to mention them.
As soon as we can (which may not be until we get back), I’ll post some pictures, because the area really needs to be seen to be appreciated. Also, tomorrow we decided to take a bus to some other, nearby towns. We feel like we’ve pretty well scoped out the Pelorinho (it could be explored for days but we’ve at least walked around it a lot) so rather than head to a crowded Salvador beach or wander around looking for other attractions, we’re going to visit some smaller towns.