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Some Salvador Impressions

San Francisco...
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Some Salvador Impressions

I haven't posted on this forum before, but have been following it and found a lot of useful information, so I thought I'd return the favor. My husband and I just got back from Salvador yesterday. We had a really wonderful time - one of our best trips yet. I will post as a reply.

San Francisco...
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1. Re: Some Salvador Impressions

Hotel: We stayed in Itapua at Pousada Encanto de Itapoan, which is located about 50 minutes by bus from Pelourinho. Before we went to Salvador, I had agonized about whether to stay there or closer to - or in - Pelourinho, but once we got there we were very happy with our choice. It was fun to go to Pelourinho but it was great to go back to the peacefulness of Itapua. (The pousada, that is, I would not classify the town of Itapua as peaceful!) The pousada is about a 15 minute walk from the town of Itapua, where you can catch buses all the time to anywhere. There are also stops closer to the pousada, but we preferred to walk to Itapua rather than waiting around. The owners of the pousada, Janet (from England) and Octacilio (from Brazil) were marvelous hosts. I am posting a separate hotel review so if you are interested, you can read that for further details about the pousada. That will be up in a few days.

Transportation: Originally, we took a lot of cabs, but found them to be a little on the expensive side so we switched to buses for the most part. If you do take a cab, be sure to establish the price before you get in the cab, or at least get an estimate. Many do not seem to use meters, although some did. I don't like the uncertainty of how much a cab is going to cost, so we preferred the buses. Buses run all the time and we had no problem getting anywhere we wanted to go on the bus. The price of the bus is listed on the front of the bus, along with the final destination and stops along the way. You need to put your arm out to hail a bus or it won't stop. It's rather frenzied - trying to read a small sign on a careening bus going God knows how fast, and making a split-second decision about whether to hail it - but you get used to it (sort of). Once you are on the bus, to stop, either pull the cord or if there is no cord, just stand and walk to the front of the bus. If there is just a driver, you usually pay at the end of the trip. If there is a driver and a helper, pay the helper when you get on. They do give change. On bigger buses, it seemed like you usually enter from the rear and exit at the front. On smaller buses, there is only one door. Although we didn't find many Brazilians who spoke English, and my husband only speaks rudimentary Portuguese, everyone was very helpful with directions and with the buses, including the bus drivers. If you are uncertain about where to stop, just say your destination to the driver or helper and they will help you know where to get off. There was not the usual impatience with tourists that we find many other places, including, I'm afraid, in San Francisco.

Pelourinho: We went to Pelourinho three times. We were there during the Sao Joao Festival so it was really hopping. The first time we went, we were early enough to go to the Jorge Amado Museum, a couple of churches, and some shopping. Our pousada owners recommended Cana Brava CD Store, which we visited a few times, and I can recommend if you are looking for Brazilian CD's. It is owned by an American from Indiana who now lives in Brazil. God knows where it is in Pelourinho - we were constantly lost - but you can probably look it up online or just stumble on it, as we did. Pelourinho is pretty small. Very close to Cana Brava is a wonderful restaurant called the J&K. Fellow pousada guests were probably sick of us talking about this place! The food is absolutely out of this world good and they have live bands that begin very early (maybe 5:00 or so) with all kinds of different music. You can sit inside or outside. The prices are very reasonable and something like a $2 cover charge. One entree is enough for two people. Love that place - we went there three times!

I'll continue on another reply.

Salvador
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2. Re: Some Salvador Impressions

Most taxi drivers do use the meter but if you have some idea of where you are going and the approximate price you can usually negotiate a fare off the meter.

The only buses where you pay the driver are the little 'executivos'. Standard buses you pay the conductor when you enter at the rear. They should always change. They will struggle however if you hand them a large note. Always keep some small change when taking a bus.

Salvador, BA
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3. Re: Some Salvador Impressions

Glad you enjoyed your trip, Looking forward to hearing more about it.

The Cana Brava music shop is owned by the same knowledgable guy who has the excellent informational site www.bahia-online.net that I recommend to anyone thinking of visiting Salvador.

Pardal has a lot of information about the Encanto de Itapoan pousada on the site. It is located on a very quiet little side street in Itapua and one wall opens to a very nice stretch of beach near the farol.

I have never taken a taxi that didn't use the meter, unless I asked and bargained for a flat fee for a certain distance/destination, in order to save money. Perhaps since you were so far out in Itapua, the drivers felt they were doing you a favor, price-wise, by offering you a flat fee.

Nice to see that yet another traveller has understood the considerable charms of Salvador. When are you planning to come back? :-)

San Francisco...
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4. Re: Some Salvador Impressions

Excursions - We went on three excursions, all arranged by the pousada.

The first one was a schooner cruise to two islands, Itaparica and another one (name escapes me but it wasn't anything special - just a beach). This is an all day cruise and the day we went out, the water was extremely rough and there were a lot of seasick people. The others on the tour were almost all Brazilians - we were the only English speakers. Everyone was very friendly and fun. There was a band on board that was very good. Itaparica was very nice and worth a visit. Janet of the pousada recommended doing this visit on a Sunday since there is not a lot happening in Salvador on Sundays, and that is what we did. If you tend to get seasick, take a Dramamine or re-think going. I really couldn't believe how rough it was out there and everyone got soaked from the waves coming over the side. Janet said that was unusual, though.

The second excursion was to Praia do Forte and Guarajuba. If you like beaches, these are fine, and the turtle reserve at Praia do Forte is interesting - although not that exciting - but we are not really beach people and could have skipped this excursion. They stop at a churrascaria for lunch in Guarajuba so we just hung out there for a few hours.

The third excursion was by far the best one. We went to Cachoeira for the day on a private tour. We signed up for the group tour but I guess they didn't have any other customers that day because it was just the two of us, the guide and the driver. There is a lot of driving on this tour, but it is well worth it. You get away from the beaches and really see a different side of Brazil that is fascinating. All of these tours took all day.

Nightlife: The first night, we went to a nightclub in Pituba that was fun called Eu Vi. There was a local band that was very good. Three nights we saw live bands in Pelourinho, including Gil Gilberto one night! That was amazing. The other nights, we just walked into Itapua and went to a local place for dinner and local music. One surprising thing to us is the music was not what we expected. We thought there would be bossa nova type music but there wasn't. Maybe because it was Sao Joao, we saw a lot of interior country-type music, which isn't really our thing, but we danced to it anyway. The other kind of music is called MPB, I think (Modern Popular Brazilian). So we were somewhat disappointed with the lack of bossa nova, but seeing Gil Gilberto more than made up for that.

Food: I liked the food more than I thought I would, because I don't like seafood, but let's just say serious diet action needs to happen now. There was a lot of deep fried food that was delicious, but is the kind of thing we never eat here. We did not see a lot of green vegetables making an appearance. They have some incredibly good sauces that I am going to scour the internet to see if I can buy. Really great stuff. I think one of them is called pimento or something like that.

Beaches: We really liked the beach at Itapua. The best thing to do is park at one of the barracas and order a beer and/or food. Then you have a place to sit. We made the mistake of going to Praia do Flamengo on our own one day and the second we got off the bus we were accosted by barraca owners and other people trying to sell us stuff. I was so freaked out by their aggressiveness that I started running and ran into a prickly bush of some kind, and I am still picking splinters out of my leg from that one. In retrospect, we should have just accepted one of the barraca owners' offers and then everyone else would have (presumably) gone away. As it was, we just got back on the bus and left. That was an unusual experience though, and didn't happen anywhere else.

Tips: Two things we found rather difficult to do was change money and do laundry. It is easier in Pelourinho but from where we were, you either had to take a bus to Pelourinho or go to the airport to change dollars to reals. We went to the airport twice. It wasn't that bad - 20 minutes or so each way - but we didn't expect this difficulty. I guess it was because we weren't in a usual tourist location. I'm sure it is easier if you stay in Barra or somewhere like that. There is a laundry place in Stella Maris - about 10 minutes bus ride from Itapua - the second stop in Stella Maris. That's the only one we found in the area. There was a place in Itapua but it would have taken them five days (!!) to do our laundry. The place in Stella Maris took a couple of hours so we just left it there and came back later.

On the safety issue, we were advised not to wear jewelry or a backpack and basically dress like slobs, which we were only too happy to do. We didn't have a problem at all - and we were on the buses at 10:00 at night. At the airport on the way back, we did run into a student from UCLA who told us that one of her friends had been robbed, though. She had been carrying a backpack and it was late at night. So I would say be careful but no need to be paranoid. I thought it would feel much more dangerous than it did. I would be very cautious in Pelourinho, especially if there are crowds, as it would be easy to be pickpocketed there, and just don't go anywhere where there are no people.

All in all, a really wonderful trip and we are already plotting a return trip to Brazil in a few years.

Salvador
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5. Re: Some Salvador Impressions

Glad you enjoyed your stay. There is a price to be paid for staying so far out in terms of convenience and cost. Just a note for future reference. There are ATMs in Itapuã, you can always take out money there.

San Francisco...
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6. Re: Some Salvador Impressions

Oh, I know the difficulties we had were because we weren't staying in tourist areas, but we are very happy with our choice of the pousada and wouldn't have traded staying there as opposed to a hotel for anything. I just wanted other people making that choice to be aware of the few issues we had so they could be prepared in advance by having enough reals with them in the first place. As far as using ATM's, we could have done that but were a little freaked out about some of the reports on this forum about cloning ATM cards so we were trying to avoid doing that.

Callaway, Minnesota
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7. Re: Some Salvador Impressions

Thanks Shario for a most interesting review of one of my most favorite places. Bummer that you had to motor all the way to the airport to exchange money. Shopping Bahia has a couple of places and you could have hopped off the bus and tried there.

I tried to locate the J and K restaurant,but came up blank. It sounds interesting and could you tell me more about it as to type of food, prices etc. It is always an adventure to try new places. I am a big favorite of La Figa in Pelo, Italian food that to me is well prepared at a fair price.

As for the tours and as a long time visitor to Puerto Vallarta in Mexico since 1961, the boat cruise, jungle tour, town tour, etc are really kind of boring, yet these are still pushed onto first time visitors. I would pass for the most part: take a bus, take a ferry, have a good guide book and just poke around, and to me much more exciting and interesting than a canned and maybe tiring and not very exciting tour. In my three visits to Salvador I have not done any tours, but by walking and exploring on my own, I have seen and learned a lot. I just wish my minimal Portuguese was better.

It is always fun to read a post like yours that is positive and not of a whining nature. Thank you.

Jim in Minnesota

San Francisco...
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8. Re: Some Salvador Impressions

Hi Jim - thanks for the kind words. The J&K is located near the Angola Capoeira place if that helps. It is also not far from Cana Brava records. I tried googling it but nothing came up. Sorry I can't be more specific. The food is typical Brazilian but everything was really delicious - the best we had in Salvador. We ordered a grilled chicken dish that had a yellow hot pepper sauce that I unfortunately cannot find on the internet. It came with several side dishes, including fried bananas. The drinks are really reasonable and you can just go for a drink and listen to music if you prefer. There was a different band all three times that we went.

As far as the tours are concerned, two of them were just okay and one was outstanding. However, it would have been difficult and time consuming for us to get to these places on our own so I'm not sorry we took a tour. We had plenty of time on our own also. The other thing is we met a lot of Brazilians on the tours and we ran into a few of them in town after the tour, which was fun, and we exchanged e-mail addresses.

I envy you going to Salvador three times. I would love to go back, but there are so many places we haven't been that it will probably not happen.

9. Re: Some Salvador Impressions

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