Our first night in Rio left quite an impression. We went to Lapa, and at first sight, you have an overwhelming crowd, lots of rhythms and a mixture of smells. The crowds on the lower areas had a good mixture of people, and I was surprised to find so many tall locals.
Lapa used to be a red light district area, but it is now known as party area. Although, on the bus ride there you can find a few working girls. You can find police cars around the lower areas to keep the tourists and locals more at ease.
Drinks are sold at the restaurants and bars at a more elevated price, but you get the luxury to sit under the fan, which you get to appreciate on a hot hot Brazilian night. On the streets, drinks are less expensive (5-7 R$) for a caipirinha (or a caipifruta), but there is nowhere to sit and you are in the midst of the dancing, singing, sweaty sweaty crowds (yes I said sweaty twice for a reason :p).
In Lapa, much like anywhere else in Rio, you avoid going up the hill. Now, even if you blended with the crowd in the lower areas, beware as that will change as you work your way up. As an outsider, you can feel some looks directed at you. It was not until later that I truly understood why.
We found friendly individuals at the end of our journey, a samba bar (which had a bit of an older and more calm crowd, who warned us to keep our eyes open). It was not without a scare that we arrived, however.
Within the crowded areas, some will purposely create confusion and hold you off from going forward or being able to retreat. If you find yourself in this situation, it it likely because you are being pick-pocketed. So, as warned, always be aware of your surroundings (which is easier said than done, I must admit). It is better to walk around the edges of the street than in the middle where there is more of a crowd. Cornelius, while grabbing me to move out of the way as a few guys swiftly started backing up, was pick-pocketed but we only lost our house keys and the chain to our change purse which had fallen out earlier.
All and all, it was a good night. We walked away matching the adequately named style of hole in the wall bar, with dirty feet or peis sucios as they say, and our documents in pocket (replacing them is always a pain, specially in a different country), so if possible, only carry what you need and tuck away your documents with enough money for the taxi ride home… Just in case
For now, it is off to bed thankful for the opportunity to experience life outside of our routines and comfort zones. Our journey has just began …