After 14 hours and two police checks, we arrived at the bus terminal of Manaus. A friend of my father, Mr. Tsai, picked us up from the terminal and brought us to a hotel and arranged a 3 day/2 night jungle tour for the family. We asked Mr. Tsai to find some low budget hotel and tour for us. He assured us that these are ones used by those tourists that came from mainland China so the price should be low. Unfortunately, those tourists from mainland China are mostly government officials so their standard is not low! We stayed in a 5 star hotel in the historical center and went on a 5 star jungle tour – forbidden for backpackers. This leg of the trip broke our budget, but given that Mr. Tsai was so kind to arrange it all before we arrived, we accepted with thanksgiving trusting that God has his plan. I tried my best to not think about the high cost and enjoy the tour given we have already paid for it.
We had a day to rest before the jungle tour so we toured around the city. We tried different local snacks, such as the Acai juice ($R 3) with tapioca, Tucaman fruit (taste like a mix of papaya & mango which the taste grows on you) and had 5 set of prato feito ($R 6), typical Brazilian meal, because we were so hungry not having eaten dinner and breakfast since we were on the night bus. After one day in Manaus we realized that the cost of things were are similar to the US. We need to watch our budget.
Instead of visiting the famous Amazonas Theater, we opted for the Bosque da Ciencia (Forst of Science) which we thought would be more interesting for the children. We took Bus 519 from Praca da Matriz ($R 2/person) and after 6 km arrived at the shabby park entrance ($R 2/person). After 5 minutes, I felt disappointed as the Amazonian animals were not to be seen, many exhibits were closed, and the tank with Manatees were so dirty that we couldn´t see anything. Then things started to change.
As we were following a free roaming Amazonia giant rodent, we saw a security guard. The guard was very kind and he started to point interesting places for us to see. He led us to all sorts of free roaming animal habitats. He even showed us how to pick berries from a tree to feed the turtles. Then a young local guide, age 12, who is part of a community program to develop kids from the local poor neighborhood showed us around the park. At the end, a staff of the park gave us a exclusive tour inside the Manatees area. At the end, we saw all sorts of Amazon flora & fauna such as monkeys, crocodiles (caiman), sloths, giant otters, turtles, manatees, electric eel, ants, giant rodent, giant leaf, etc., many of them free roaming. I gave thank to God for this unexpected experience.
At night, Mr. Tsai, Mrs. Su, and few other Taiwanese church members treated us to special Brazilian roast beef. We had all sorts of local tropical fruit drinks, such as Cupuagul, Graviola, Buriti, etc. It was such a treat. Their hospitality really touched us and we really saw their love for reaching out to the mainland Chinese here in Manaus. We ended the night, singing Christian songs from China at the only Chinese church here.
Note: Current exchange rate is USD 1.7 per Real, 25% down from 2 years ago.
1) We stayed at the 5 star Taj Mahal Contnental Hotel in Manaus, situated right next to the famous Theatre Amazonas in the historical center, which was nice but too much for backpackers at $R 238 per night. Right next door I saw a Hotel Brzil for $R 69 per night, which might be an excellent option. The Taj Mahal is at Av. Getulio Vargas, 741 (www.grupotajmahal.com.br).
2) Bosque da Ciencia turned out to be a unexpected delightful experience which we highly recommend ($R 2 per adult). Kids were free! The park is dedicated to showing the fauna and flora of Amazon and on how to preserve them. Take bus 529 from Praca de Matriz for $R 2 per adult. We were able to bargain the bus fare so that 3 kids went in as one adult.
3) Ariau Amazon Towers (www.ariau.tur.br) was expensive for backpackers but I think a wonderful option for none backpackers as the guides were excellent, the excursions were authentic enough, and there were so many delightful surprises. It cost $US 470 per adult but the three children were counted only as one adult and we were given two cabins.