Monday, February 7, 2022

[SALVADOR] Brazil's Fourth Largest City


I guess there will always be one city bound to be your least favorite, and after almost three weeks and visiting my fourth state here, Salvador took on that honor. I guess this is just another case of ending up in the wrong neighborhood. I decided to book an Airbnb in the neighborhood of Nazaré close to all the action of the main tourist attractions downtown. I guess this is the only time since I arrived in the country in which I was really reluctant to get my phone out of my pocket, in fear of legit getting robbed.


On my last day, though, which happened to be my cheat day from all the touristy stuff, the Uber driver passed by several upscale neighborhoods farther north near the big malls. Those areas seem relatively more peaceful, and I imagine it would have been easy to book an Airbnb there had I done my research better. So, yeah. I guess it was indeed another case of being in the wrong neighborhood. Since Uber is plenty and cheap in Brazil, you can always just Uber in and out of the tourist hotspots anyway with a single click. Oh well, Salvador. Maybe if I decide to come back, I will do just that.


Anyway, enough with the rants. Why Salvador and what will you see here? Salvador is the capital of the northeastern state of Bahía and is mostly known for having one of the most popular carnival celebrations in the country. Because of the pandemic, those celebrations were canceled this year. Salvador also happens to be the fourth largest city in Brazil after São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Brasília. Arriving on a Sunday, the streets were deserted. The shops were also closed, prompting me to ask where everybody was. Ask that question on a Sunday, get your answer on a Monday. Be careful what you wish for or ask about.


Yes, Salvador is crowded indeed. Monday was hectic and the combination of the heat/humidity and the crowd just makes you want to lock yourself up in your airconditioned Airbnb room. But I had to go out for sightseeing, lest my visit would have been in vain. Bring an extra shirt with you and leave your valuables at home. Make sure your phone/camera is secure. Buy one of those phone cases with a leash on them. Since the sun is always shining brightly here, you are bound to take wonderful photos.


Since I knew the heat would be unbearable for me in the long run, I decided to just choose some select attractions to visit. I let go of the pastel-colored houses since I’ve already seen enough of those in the Caribbean anyway. My short tour was focused around the Lacerda elevator area which offers a good panoramic view of the bay. I am not sure if cruise ships also dock here in Salvador, but the city has a prominent port area always teeming with tourists and locals. Hop on the elevator to get down.


Why an elevator, though? I don’t know. Rumor has it that it has been in place since the old times when the friars would use it to transport supplies down to the bay or up to the hill. Nowadays, what’s waiting for you is a modernized elevator system, four of them, with a measly charge of BRL0.15 (~PHP1.50) one-way. That is super cheap, and perhaps the nominal value is just for show. I wonder if they are actually getting enough for the maintenance of those elevators out of that meager amount.


From there, you can visit Mercado Modelo if you want to shop or grab a bite. There are giant S-A-L-V-A-D-O-R letters at that plaza in front of the Mercado along with a museum with a façade made of azulejos right across the street. The elevator will be behind you across a busy street, and you also have a good view of Palácio Rio Branco from that lower vantage point. Walk past the Mercado and you end up at the port. That body of water is not the South Atlantic per se, but rather the Bay of All Saints which forms some sort of large internal port area shielding Salvador’s coast from the ocean.


If it’s the South Atlantic you want, you can always book your accommodation at Itapuã or São Cristovão closer to the malls and the airport and farther away from all the chaos of the historic city center on the other side of the peninsula.

[SALVADOR] Brazil's Fourth Largest City

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