After travelling with two of my best friends for three months, having the time of our lives and seeing things that are out of this world (but actually on it), we knew the journey had to end sometime. Chups and Mayo had planned an appearance in London, and I was to stay on for a few weeks longer to see how I can hack travelling on my own! So amidst tears of sadness (or maybe they were joy?!), they left in a taxi for the bus station, and I left for the airport to go to Salvador de Bahia!
As I am a massive Michael Jackson fan, I had wanted to go there ever since I knew that his They Don´t Care About Us video was mostly filmed in Salvador, as it looked like an incredible place to see. Located on the Northeast coast of Brazil in the state of Bahia in a tropical climate, Salvador was the original capital of the country when it was found in 1500 by the Portuguese, and it remained so for nearly 300 years.
I spent six nights in the city known as the land of happiness, three in the historic centre and three by the beach. The historic neighbourhood, known as the Pelourinho made me gob-smacked from the start. I don´t think I have been anywhere that I can compare it to. The narrow, cobbled streets, the brightly coloured flags streaming from building to building, the drum rhythms pulsating through the streets and the delicious Bahian street food gives the city a vibe of its own. On my first walk around the Pelourinho, I literally said ´Oh my god!´ out loud, and wandered around, peering into the little shops that were bursting full of Olodum t-shirts, tambourines and drums.
Olodum is a drumming group based in the Afro-Brazilian community of Salvador, and is extremely popular in the state and well-known for appearing in the MJ video. I had wanted to buy an authentic Olodum t-shirt and was determined to get one in Salvador, but I didn´t have to look too hard because after about a one minute walk, there they all were! I went a bit crazy with the Olodum and even bought a drum, but I know Michael would be proud of my ridiculous shopping spree!
The next day, I was out and about in the town again when I heard the familiar beat of They Don´t Care About Us blaring out from a tiny little shop. I wandered in and couldn´t contain my excitement when I saw the video playing as well as loads of MJ t-shirts, magnets, photographs, statues etc. The shop owner came up to me and told me that the reason why his shop is decked out in MJ gear is because right outside the doorstep is where the video was filmed! He paused the video and showed me exactly where it was, and then asked if I wanted to go up into the balcony where he stood and have a photograph taken! Of course, I accepted.
So I ascended the tiny, dark stone staircase and walked into an empty room with bare walls and dusty floorboards. I walked out onto the balcony, changed my top for one of the Olodum ones I had just bought (ahem) and had some photographs taken! It was a lovely feeling to have found the area when I wasn´t even looking for it, and as I was alone for the first time in three months, it made me feel better and closer to Michael, being so far away from home and anyone I know.
After three nights, I moved hostels to one in the Barra neighbourhood – by the beach! This hostel had many more people in it than the first, and I hung around with some other travellers including one other girl from London. I went back into the old town once more, ate more street food, and then spent the rest of my time on the beach. The beaches were amazing and had lovely warm water for swimming in, and it was nice to relax and top up my tan/burn for a few days!
My last night was a random one. Firstly, we got caught up in a Jesus parade where people were literally shaking their asses to Jesus! It was such a lively, fun atmosphere though, and we pretty much ended up going for the food! Then later that night after a caipirinha or two ( or more) I went out with a random mixture of people – three Detroit medical students, two guys from Birmingham, one Brazilian and one Argentinian – and of course, myself! It was a fun night and we went to a reggae party with live music. They also got the Brazilian funk on and played other music like Lauryn Hill, MJ and Snoop Dogg, and then got back to the live reggae again! We got home at 4am and I had to be up at 7am for my plane back to the wonderous land of Sao Paulo. Let´s just say, that journey wasn´t fun!
Salvador de Bahia is an incredible place with fun people, amazing beaches and beautiful colonial architecture. I would definitely go back, but will take my gringa girls with me next time!