After two years of talking about it, we
finally decided to join Larissa and Luiz in Salvador. The trip wouldn’t have been the same without
these two, as well as their extremely hospitable families, who made the trip extra special.
Upon arrival, we were greeted by Luis and
Larissa’s family and taken back to their home for a relaxing afternoon of
swimming, food and drinks. The location
of the bar, in the center of their home, made it very clear where the
priorities lie! There was never a moment that we weren’t without a drink, as
well as home-cooked amazing food. They couldn’t have been more welcoming – I thought it would take a while to “unplug” — especially considering I was writing emails on the flight over — but being in their house brought reality to the fact that we are on holiday very quickly.
Of course, the primary reason for this trip
was Carnival. Carnival typically lasts
for 6 consecutive days, immediately before Lent. The forty days of Lent marks
the annual time of turning, and it is said that the time before is a chance to
consume all the rich food and drink, and hence the celebration.
Salvador’s Carnival is said to be the
biggest street party in the world, with over 3 million people filling the streets to the
brim. Given Carnival’s origins, this is
no surprise – Salvador became the seat of the first Catholic bishop of Brazil
in 1552 and is still the center of Brazilian Catholicism, as seen with its 365 churches.
There are a couple different areas for the
Carnival festivities, and a number of different ways to experience them.
Starting around 6pm, there are parades that form around the city, each
containing dozens of bands playing on trios, large semitrailers decked out with
decorations and bands. You can enjoy the
dancing and music by attending one of the camarote parties, being part of the
blocos, getting an invite to be on one of the trios, or just standing in the
street. We tried both the camarote and blocos:
– Camarote: All along the street, there are dozens of “pop
up” clubs (VIP parties) that come up for Carnival. You
can purchase tickets to attend one of these parties, which offer
drinks, food, massages, games and a DJ (who plays between the parade of bands
that are coming by about every 15 minutes).
We chose to attend Harem…twice.
– Blocos: The trios, or parade of trucks,
form what is called a bloco (block).
Basically, there is the roped area containing 1 trio, a bar, and a food
area. You can buy a ticket to be inside the area and walk with the
parade. In essence, it is a disco on wheels. In total, Salvador has 224 blocos, so there are plenty of options and it is important to pick a trio
that you enjoy the music of. We went with Luiz’s advice went went to Tuca Fernandes.
In addition to the parades, there is also
another Carnival celebration in Pelourniho, the historic old town. We visited this area during the afternoon, and caught a glimpse of the carnival
festivities around 5pm.
This charming part of Salvador is a UNESCO
world heritage site, and is known for its Portugese colonial architecture,
historical sites, restaurants and shops (as well as one of the locations where Michael Jackson shot the video to “They Don’t Care About Us”). The old city is a cute part of Salvador, and a different Carnival experience –
there are people dressed in costumes and a lot of traditional bands marching
through the streets – it feels more traditional and family friendly, and a very
relaxing way to participate in Carnival.
Despite our focus on Carnival, we had a
chance to appreciate some of Salvador’s 80 kilometers of coastline as
well. We spent some time on the beach and also took a private boat trip to a nearby
island. All 18 of us (Luis and Larissa’s
family + the SEMBAs) hopped in a boat, where we enjoyed food, drinks and sunshine as we set out for the islands. Upon arrival, we swam, played
volleyball, relaxed (and of course, eat more and drank more) for the afternoon.
It was perfect and a must-do if you
& Highlights (Only makes sense for those on this trip)
– “Can I start with something
light?” – Trang; “Ok, how about tequila?”- Larissa’s dad
– “You look like Kim Kardashin” – Brazilian guy at Harem
– “Well, he asked so nicely” – Trang
– Crossing the bridge at high tide
– Scene: Six of us piled into a
taxi. “You guys (Raj & Prashanth)
should do it for your own entertainment, not ours” – Prachi
– Meeting Fan after 10 years!
– “Ziriguidam, Ziriguidam” – All + highlight was Trang, Prashanth and I in a taxi where the driver was singing and dancing to this.