Manaus (Brazil) is a small city on the Amazon River. There are tons of factories here...Samsung, Honda, Sony, Yamaha...you name it and they are probably here too. They all came for the same tax break that the government has offered to help lift the region out of the economic isolation. This Free Economic Zone began more than 60 years ago, and I read in a well-known travel guide, that this city was now a prosperous region of the country.
Rosie got talked into visiting this region by...yours truly. I really love Brazil and the Brazilian culture. Yes I am biased, but in my defense, let me say that the people have a warm heart and a welcoming nature. How could anyone not like that!? Anyhow, I have been to the country three times in the last year and each time I have overflown the Amazon River, I thought how I'd like to see it and the surrounding jungle. This region has one city that has direct flights from the US: Manaus. So that's just what we did the next time we headed to Brazil.
After arriving in Manaus in the morning, we quickly got settled in and talked to the locals to get the real scoop on what to see and where to go. We had three days, which is plenty of time to see a small city. We did some calls and hired ourselves a private guide for the Amazon River. So that left us with two days to explore Manaus before heading to Carnival in Aracaju.
The locals suggested restaurants and sights, most of which we visited. The downtown market was a commonly suggested idea. We had been to these in other cities and always enjoyed tasting some of the exotic foods and viewing the local crafts for sale. The market is the trade hub of the Amazon region, so we envisioned strange-juicy fruits, tantalizing nuts, and exotic flowers for sale. Sounds interesting to us...so we hopped into a cab heading downtown.
While Rosie chatted in Portuguese with the taxi driver...I looked out the window, taking in all the sights: factories, local shops and favelas (slums). I started to realize that this was a city of factories and favelas and a few islands of "nice" areas. As we got closer to downtown the shops' products changed from flowers and snacks to knives. A twelve inch blade with a brass-knuckles style handle would make a great souvenir for the kids, don't you think? A little over-kill for a tourist gift. So who buys this? The locals? Anyhow, the taxi driver said that HE wouldn’t hang out in Downtown where we were going for too long...especially once the sun went down (ahhhhh...check please!). Regardless of our perceived safety concerns, Manaus is not a city that you would send a postcard from. It's no London, Rio, Vancouver, or San Francisco.
For the sake of clarification, let me offer an analogy to better illustrate my point. If you wanted to see Yosemite National Park (USA), I would suggest flying into Fresno (California). It's the closest city to the National Park. I'd then tell you to get up to the National Park and stay overnight at Yosemite Lodge. Unless you have family in Fresno, there really is NOT much to see, AND some areas are downright dangerous after the sun goes down. Again, you fly into and out of Fresno to go see the natural wonder(s), then hop back on a plane to go see a big city like San Francisco, or a small city like Carmel or Napa. You'd be much happier for it.
In the same light, I would suggest flying in and out of Manaus to go see the Amazon River and the surrounding jungle. It is ABSOLUTELY worth seeing! Unless you have family there in Manaus, there is no reason to tour the town, but instead hop back on a plane and go see a big city like Rio De Janeiro.
I hope that helps others that may follow...Bon Voyage!