On The Road: It was as normal as a club in London, only in Rio the locals are friendly
Saturday 17 October 2009
I had an evening to kill in Rio, and I wasn't going to spend it on Ipanema beach. Stunning though it may be, I was tired of its white poodles, snooty looks and glossy brand name superficiality. The Rio I love is boho more than bistro, samba more than bossa nova. So as the sun sank over Guanabara Bay, I headed inland to Santa Teresa, where cobbles clamber over steep hills between the city centre and the forests of Corcovado.
I was meeting a friend in Espírito Santa, a little restaurant-bar perched on a hill with sumptuous views over the city. "According to New Scientist this is officially the friendliest city on Earth," Luís told me over a zesty caipirinha. "In Rio the locals want to meet the tourists."
Not on Ipanema, I thought. But Luís was taking me on a tour somewhere altogether different – a favela party – housed in a vast warehouse in one of the breeze-block honeycombs that make up the largest slums in Latin America.
Brazilian cinema and official statistics had left me nervous. According to a Unesco report, shooting is the most common form of death for Brazilians under 25. "That's just between the gangs," Luís assured me. "Really, if you are with me you are welcome – and very safe."
I didn't feel so when we arrived. Enormous bouncers searched us for guns and ushered us past a steaming, sweaty crowd straight to a caged VIP area. An enormous, shirtless guy sidled up to me. "Where you from?" he asked. "London," I answered. His hard face burst into a child-like grin. "My best friend lives in Willesden!" He slapped me on the back.
Soon I had a new group of friends, with whom I spent the night writhing to a visceral thud on the packed dance floor. Half-drunk men were struggling to attract the attention of uninterested girls. Couples were snogging in the corner. It all looked as normal as a club night in Clerkenwell. But with a difference: in Rio, the natives are friendly.
Footprint's 'Brazil Handbook' (£14.99) is available now
The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations
- 1 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 2 Licence fee: What is the BBC charge – and how will the changes affect you?
- 3 This is what the photographer has to say about the picture of a weasel riding a woodpecker
- 4 Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
- 5 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'
£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...
£12500 - £13520 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced Hotel Receptionists...
£12500 - £13520 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Qualified Lifeguards are required to join a fa...