This material compliments of Rum & Reggae Guidebooks
Introduction to the City of Rio
(Rum & Reggae's Guide to Brazil - Rio Chapter, 11/12/2005)
Life in Rio moves ai its own sultry rhythm. There is no reason to rush. We always try to avoid this feeling while in this sensuous city. When we find ourselves in a hurry, we soon become very impatient and frustrated—not to mention hot and sweaty. Rushed or not, we spend easily a third of our time here waiting on someone or something. It just doesn’t make sense to hurry up and wait.
Lazer, the Brazilian Portuguese word for “leisure,” would not accurately describe how Rio’s inhabitants actually live. It describes how they prefer to live as much as possible. Although those who live here work most of the time, leisure is a daily pursuit of Rio’s denizens from all levels of society. If you run an Internet café, you have computer games; if you drive a bus, you bullshit with the fare collector. Rio is a town with an incredible amount of human energy packed into a very small space. Copacabana and Ipanema are two of the most densely populated neighborhoods in the world. The rest of Rio is just as jammed with people, animals, and nature. All of them contribute to an energy that is raw, sensual, and powerful. It’s like a sticky pheromone that envelops.
By day and by night, Rio pulsates with the life of nine million inhabitants.The energy from such a high density is intoxicating and may cause sensory overload. We find that the longer one stays in Rio de Janeiro, the more its magic spellbinds. Many of us who choose to remain here never hear of visitors who didn’t like it.
However, there is also a downside to all this seething humanity. Like many of Brazil’s big cities, Rio is loaded with poverty and it can be dirty and dangerous—reminders of that are everywhere. Fortunately, the area where most visitors stay and frequent, Zona Sul, is well patrolled by the local police, as tourism is big business.
This is a huge city, but what makes Rio most charming are the long stretches of beach—so abundant and beautiful that they are enough, collectively, to soften this city’s tough edge. Stroll down to the water on Ipanema Beach and look back toward the city—you will see buildings but hear just the surf and the city’s hum. We find it enchanting.
OK, here’s what makes Rio so special. For men and women alike, eye candy abounds. You can’t help but see a gorgeous man or woman every five minutes. Cariocas are preoccupied with their looks, which makes for a great show for the rest of us who like to look at them. (Hair salons stay open until 10 p.m., and plastic surgery is nearly ubiquitous amongst the over-40 crowd—and trending younger by the day). The hard bodies that sunbathe, swim, and play futebol along Ipanema Beach will make your head spin. When these same people get souped up for a night out on the town, they leave all competitors in the dust.
Eventually we all must leave Rio—only the cariocas can handle this lifestyle. If you give your stay a week, you’ll leave perhaps wanting more. If you give it two weeks, or at least two weekends, you’ll leave exhausted but satiated. Try to leave any time after having stayed a month in this city, and you’ll begin to understand in a very personal way why those who live here consider Rio de Janeiro the Cidade Maravilhosa. It truly is a “Wonderful City.”
So when you come to Rio, don’t be scared to bare it, try it, smell it, kiss it, or taste it because, whether you like it or not, the essence that swirls in this place will invade your thoughts, feelings, and organs. We recommend that you jump into Rio headfirst.