Rio de Janeiro: A Counterfeit Paradise

To recap; beautiful people, stunning landscape, near-constant threat of unavoidable violence, sex, drugs, and rock n roll. Interested? Keep reading my (literally) feverish notes typed while I was still in the moment.

My notes from a Rio de Janero Honeymoon have changed a bit since I first wrote this article. For one, I have been back in the states now a month since returning and my perspective has mellowed a bit. The bronchitis my new wife and I contracted has finally gone away, though the medical plan co-payments still show irregularities. My pending legal action against my hotel and of course Orbitz is, well, still pending but you can be sure I’ll tell you about that later. With the distance of a few weeks – and tons of vacation photos – I can better appreciate the beauty. Not having watched a live mugging since getting back in the states must have done that.

Impressions from the Rio Airport

I write this from the GIG Rio de Janero International airport. My, that sounds like an august name. I’m sure that it conjures a exotic portal to tropical goodness. In reality, it’s anything but. If GIG is an international airport, than Charlotte Douglas is a galactic starport. But I forget myself. I turned this computer on to write about my Brazillian honeymoon. I need a distraction from the crazy, screaming hot mess that I find myself in. And, as you can surely tell, our pneumonia [editor’s note: it turned out to be bronchitis] hasn’t brightened my mood one bit. Let me tell you the story of a counterfeit paradise known as Honeymoon in Rio.

Our trip started early in the day on Monday, February 8th. We woke up in the Yucatan paradise known as Aventura Spa Palace, ate breakfast and departed. Jen had been sick for a few days at this point but was her usual cheery self and refused to cancel the trip. Just get me some meds she said and she’d be good to go. Of course that was during our flight from Cancun to Charlotte after some stewardess friends plied us with free airplane bottles and snacky foods pilfered from first class (which we had gratis for the trip south but not north). Their way of saying ‘Happy Honeymoon!’

As I mentioned before, the wedding week was great. The flight back was very nice. We picked up some cold meds for Jen and returned to the airport for our flight. The 10pm departure was hour 17 of travel for us.

After an hour delay cuased by our 767 “not accepting fuel”, our flight was boarded and we were off. USAir must have dumped the oldest crafts in their fleet and complemented them with the surliest stewardesses they could for this trip. Entirely opposite either of our arrival return voyage from Cancun. An old 767 outfitted with lights that would not turn off, a single widescreen for all of economy to share playing such classics as Wolverine and Amelia. Bright choice on Amelia; a 10 hour flight over waters unknown prefaced with a lost aircraft story. Didn’t, couldn’t know at the time that the plane and its crew would forshadow the entirety of the trip.

Take off the Wedding Rings

Our fellow passengers were the most enjoyable part of the experience. On first glance I thought they’d keep me awake all night with their nonsense. However, the bulk of the plane went to sleep early and it was a peaceful trip. We even learned valuable information like not to wear earrings, wedding bands, engagement rings, or any kind of jewelry worth more than a few dollars. The guide book served to corroborate the returning Cairioca’s warnings and we complied. My new bride gracefully agreed to stow away her rings though she was not too happy about it.

Welcome to Rio!

10 hours on the plane passed with little difficulty. The plane was buzzing as soon as we were roused for breakfast. The meal, like the plane, left much to be desired. I busied myself by looking out the window at the spectacular vista of morning in Brazil. Warm light illuminated a diverse topgraphy. Gentle hills started as bumps in the earth and gradually expanded to full wrinkles of sheer mountains jutting into an azure sea. We were soon welcomed to Rio by the heat and an excited plane.

Taxi Over

We took one from the frist stand, agreed on a price 70 reals – a good price. We were treated to our first hour long tour of the city as we drove to our hotel on Copacabana. We learned of the Favelas– Rio’s slums – their hundreds of thousands (that’s >100,000 in many favelas) of denizens, and the drug gangs that control them. Red Command (Comando Vermelho), Pure Third Command (Terceiro Comando Puro ),  Amigos dos Amigos – Friends of Friends are the 3 he told us about. We later went on a tour of a Amigos de Amigos held favela. More on that in a separate article. The movie City of God – which I have yet to see – supposedly shows the early beginnings of Red Command. It’s now on my to-watch list.That first day was 40 degrees Celsius. 40C = 104F. 104 Farenheit with humidity is incredibly, mind-blowingly hot.Our hotel, the Rio Othon Palace seemed nice from the outset. Hansomly attired bellmen, taxis and porters at the ready, an agreeable concierge provided us early check-in but stated that the room itself wouldn’t be available until the afternoon. We signed in, checked our bags, and tried to walk around outside in the heat. Despite being 100 yards from the beach we didn’t dare go in the water. The intensity of the sun and the waves of heat coming off of the sand saw to that. When you are that hot it is hard to be hungry but we found a shaded outdoor Italian restaurant and ordered a pizza and a few drinks to idle the time away.

Eventually our room was ready. I could go into a tirade here but I will save that for a future article on Why You Should Never Book on Orbitz.In short we paid for a 4 star room and were given a 1 star. I have personally constructed wilderness shelters out of flea and tick infested shrubbery that were more hygenic than this disgusting excuse for a room. Jen cried. We complained. No dice.

Our experience with the hotel eventually ended up being a model of which we experienced all of Rio; By all appearances it ts beautiful on the outside but corrupt and empty once you scratch beneath the surface. A counterfeit paradise.

Good Things About Rio

  • Early AM beaches
  • Stunning Scenery (the beaches! the mountains! the freaking rain forrest inside a city!)
  • Sugar Loaf!
  • Christo Redentor
  • Infectious samba / Carnaval atmosphere.
  • Coconut water from real coconuts
  • Fitness fanatics everywhere – make you feel lazy. Everybody’s always moving.
  • Favela tour (more on this later)
  • Random parades with live music
  • Pretending to be a resident of Copacabana Hotel for a few hours

Bad Things About Rio

  • Muggings
  • !@#$ty hotel conditions
  • Constant begging
  • Group tours necessity
  • “Ladies of the night.”
  • Absolute inabilty to walk or explore anywhere on your own.
  • Having to take taxis to ridiculously expensive restaurants so you can eat without getting shived.

Honeymooning in Rio was like vacationing in a real-world Grand Turismo. Rio was one of the most dangerous place I’ve ever been. That includes Israel, Palestine, NYC, and West Virginia’s Mountaineer stadium wearing VT colors. It was also the most beautiful. (Again including Israel, Palestine, NYC, and West Virginia …) All in all, I am glad we went. I think I’m going to petition for a mulligan on this trip and call a re-do on the honeymoon though.

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