Published: August 2nd 2009August 2nd 2009
The flight to Paramaribo from Belem was late by 15 minutes, and I noticed I was the sole backpacker, most were Brazilians and of course Surinamese. Weird when we got in the plane all the stewardesses were wearing masks, I felt like entering a hospital. later on they sprayed some perfume disinfectant stuff. While on flight they distributed forms to fill up for customs and immigrations, suddenly there were commotions, people getting up and huddling, I got curious, then I realized they were Brazilian laborers and like in school, they are copying each other's information, granted the forms were in Surinamese(Dutch)/English not in Portuguese, I think some cant read and write. This continued on until we landed, only an hour 45 flight.
Everyone is trying to be the 1st out of the plane, cant understand why, we were taken by a shuttle to the terminal and queued up, of course I went to the non resident queue with the Brazilians, most of them were being scolded by the officer I dont know why and being given new forms to refill, one whole family have to re do it again, the guy in front of me looking so nervous and stressed
to get yelled at showed me his form, asking me to check it, I just gave him the I dont know gesture. When it was my turn it took only 1 minute, not even asking for the yellow fever card, oh and I have to pay $42 departure tax at the airport in Belem, really ticked off at that.
Getting out I saw my name being paraded around by an Indian dude, my shuttle bus ride, I asked him to show me the ATM machine but it was another bank, LP said RBTT are the only ATMs accepting international card. he agreed to stop at one on our way, we stopped about twice and i got annoyed coz both times it was another bank, I said to him repeatedly RBTT! His English was good so it was not miscommunication, really. I pulled out the LP and showed him the map, I said stop at the ATM near the hostel he is dropping me off, he refused he said he will only drop me off at the hostel and the ATM is not on his route, Ok I dont want to lose my temper so i shut up, when we
Colonial Govt bldgs at Independence Square
arrived i saw the RBTT bank in front of us about 300 meters only, I left my backpack at reception and walked there taking my sweet time, i decided to make the idiot wait, we stopped at every ATM on the way(wrong ones though) then the one closest he wont, it took me not even 2 minutes to get some money, form the bank I can see him pacing and watching me, annoyed. The fare is 40 dibdobs, I gave him 50, he's got no change. Went to reception to change it, she gave me mostly coins and that is what I handed to him. The boy is a little bit stubborn.
The receptionist made me welcome so friendly, the hostel is Albergo Alberga, right smack in the thick of things, I have a fan room and is sweltering hot that she moved me to a better room, nice of her to avoid suffocating in the heat. My shirt was dripping wet just standing there, the place is fully booked, they have a pool, yay! First thing I did is to find food, Burger King next to the bank. And sort out the currency exchange then walked around like
a mad man at 4pm I was the only one around, I think everyone is taking a siesta as it is oppressively hot, almost like a ghost town. The buildings are mostly made of wood, colonial style, reminds me of Amsterdam from photos but a little older, maybe 17th centurystyle(?), I was impressed of how quiet it is here, totally different from the South America I know, I felt like I am in Europe with the buildings and all, walked around and sightsee for an hour going to the port as well, lots of wooden structures some nice some ugly, i love this town i concluded, very charming in its own way, not a typical South American city. The laundry in the hostel is about $20 for a small bag so I bought laundry soap and washed them all in my sink.
At night I went out again and it was still very quiet, odd for me, used to the hustle and bustle in Brazil. Burger King again for dinner, there were restaurants in the waterfront but was too lazy and tired to walk there, tomorrow I try local cuisine.The next morning I woke up and a pretty good
looking receptionist Aruna of Indian decent knocked on my door and handed me an envelope from METS the travel agency I made arrangements to do the turtle trip at Galibi , I went to their office and asked if I can pay cash they said yes, but without asking the guy helping me wrote a receipt for payment in $, I told him I pay in Surinam dibdobs, he made a new receipt, dont know really why he cant just amend it, His calculation was 747 Surinam dollars, I borrowed his calculator and with the current exchange rate to the dollar(2.75) that means $272, I reminded him I was quoted in writing $247. he went to his boss and came back to tell me their golden standard is the euro so the trip costs 180 euros and they calculate from there the dollar value or Surinam dollar value at the time of payment, which is fair I thought, but my point is when they quoted me the price they never have a clause saying so, so i argued to no end with them ,its the principle crap thing again for me, am just annoyed when I get different rate when
its time to pay. I refused to pay the $25 difference and walked out of the office, I was very dissapointed and shocked that my dream to see the turtles fell because of a silly misunderstanding. i walked slowly back to the hostel recounting in my head what just happened and taking occasional fotos as well of course.I would have paid it right there and then but I am tired of travel agents screwing you up, i know this is not at home where you can argue and sue people's pants off but i thought I should make a stand.
At the hostel Aruna was still there and recanted my story to her she phoned some travel agents and one guy came to explain trips he does to me, in the meantime Aruna phoned METS and they were apparently annoyed, is he doing the trip or not?! balked the person on the other line and hung up on Aruna! So scratch that from my list I thought. A nice Dutch couple staying in the hostel gave me some tips and recommended Zus and Zo next to the palm tree park, they said they met other tourists that went to
Galibi and only saw one or two turtles and that they were just lucky. Its now off season they were told, I was devastated but not given up, I went to Zeus and Zo and they have a turtle trip to another place called Matapica and yes they still have turtles coming to nest, of course not 100% guaranteed but they are coming and STINASU would have called it off it none comes ashore anymore, relieved I booked it and went back to the hostel, Blue Frog, another agency wanted to talk to me so I stopped by their office and Stephen a travel agent assured me I will see a turtle in one form or another. They will run the tour i just booked. Then went for a walk at the Central market took some photos, had lunch at the waterfront stalls and back to hostel and lingered in the pool. Moments later a dude from METS probably a messenger boy came to ask me if I am still interested in the Galibi tour, we sent him away to tell his bosses I am not doing it.
There are numerous tour operators in Paramaribo and METS is the
biggest I think but the agency I spoke to were much nicer than them, for those reading this blog, try Zeus and Zo or Blue Frog they have extensive trips and less expensive than METS, and clarify the method of payment and the rate so you wont walk away dissapointed like me.
In the eve there is something going on in Fort Zeelandia so i investigated and took photos, I got told off by a guard am not allowed to walk through the congress bldg. compound so i have to go around. Walked for a bit noticed some bars next to the Palmentuin, had my dinner of Javanese food again at Waterkant food stalls, so cheap for $5 you eat well. another sticky night struggled to sleep. Woke up to a bright sunshine, walked to the Mercado Central to see the hustle and bustle in the morning, lots more people . I talked to this woman selling some odd fruit I never seen before, its round and green like a logan berry but with a big seed, i bought some and also took a photo of the inquisitive boy on the next stall selling okras. As i walked further
on I arrived at the fish market, a woman was grabbing crabs from a big drum full of live crustaceans with her bare hands and tying them together. An Indian elder man talked to me and explained where it came from and he gave me directions where to try them crabs.
The 2nd floor of the market has dry goods, meaning clothes, I bargained and was able to buy a souvenir Suriname soccer T shirt. The man who sold me the shirt gave me directions to a seamstress as I need my pants to be repaired badly, i showed her the tear on my behind, she asked how are you gonna take it off, I said to her I have a boxer short on, she stared me in the eye quizically. Ok come back in 15 minutes I have to find a cloth to patch it up with, i ran to the hostel to grab the other one, dropped it off and was told to come back at 3pm for $5 only! so cheap if you could only see the massive tears my pants has.
Had a breakfast of some noodle thing at the Javanese stall at Waterkant ,
delicious! Then off to Zus and Zo and Monique introduced me to a guy who will run my next trip,deal sealed she showed me the rooms at the hostel, they also run a GH, for 15 euros 2 less than Albergo Alberga I have a small room outside toilet, but with a/c, sold! i move in on Sunday when I arrive from the turtle thing.
Went back to my favorite Javanese restaurant in the Waterkant street and had a delicious veggie with noodles and peanut sauce slightly spicy, washed down with a good 1 liter of Parbo bier. Then went back to the market to pick up my pants, got to chatting with lady and her sister, both migrated from Guyana speaks perfect Dutch and English, gave me tips on Guyana and sampling local cuisines there, took their photos and left.
There are more photos below