Manaus - Amazonia

Trip Start Jun 13, 2014
Trip End Jul 14, 2014

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Where I stayed
Park Suites Manaus
Read my review - 3/5 stars
What I did
Arena de Amazonia
Rio Negra

Flag of Brazil  , State of Amazonas,
Saturday, June 14, 2014

Day 1 : England 1 - Italy 2 at Arena de Amazonia : 14th June, 2014

The flight from Sao Paulo arrived on time at 12H35 ( Manaus time = - 1 hour from Sao Paulo). I went straight to collect my England fans ticket from the Manaus - FIFA Venue Ticketing Centre, Centro Cultural dos Povos da Amazônia: Praça Francisco Pereira da Silva, s/n° CEP: 69073-270.

When I arrived at the ticketing centre, I was offered two choices:
  • Choice one: use credit card I used to pay for the tickets and collect from a machine. There were two machines available. However, if this did not work, you had to join the queue for choice two.
  • Choice two: queue to see any of five agents and only needed passport to collect the tickets
I opted for choice two and one and half hours later I had my three guaranteed tickets for the group matches. The rest of the tickets are conditional upon England progressing to the knockout phases. 
When I checked in at the Park Suites Manaus at Avenida Coronel Teixeira, 1320, A, Ponta Negra, I had an interesting moment - I was given room 711 and to my surprise there were clothes on the bed and it appeared whoever was the occupant was in the shower. I hastily returned to reception, where I was then allocated room 604.

I took at taxi at 17H00 to go to the Arena de Amazonia. Traffic was a nightmare and nearer the stadium the roads were blocked by the police. So I had to walk a quarter of the journey on foot. At the stadium there was airport style security - all bags were scanned, everyone had to go through the body scanners and liquids were not allowed in the stadium. I later found out that you could only consume liquids bought in the stadium.

The England supporters were all in section C, levels one, two and three. In the stadium everything was well organised and it was easy to buy whatever was on sale - except for fish and chips which were meant for the England supporters but I understand the locals took a liking to them as well so they were sold out.

Before the game, the England supporters were in full voice and as usual, all the bars leading to the stadium and within the security condone were packed with England supporters - full of voice, singing from "God save the Queen" to the usual " Come on England." In the stadium the atmosphere was electric. When the teams finally walked onto the pitch, the stadium reverberated as the supporters chanted their support for their teams. It was clear from the onset that it was England supporters against the locals plus the Italian supporters. I later found out why this was so.
When the game started, England were brisk and quick to the ball. England were dominant in the first half. So it was a surprise when the Italians scored first against the run of play. The good news was that England equalised soon after from the best move of the game - Sterling threaded a defence splitting pass to Rooney on the left and Rooney crossed to Sturridge, who slotted it home. When England scored, the England supporters started mocking the other supporters, asking "Who are you" and " you have gone quiet now". The teams were level until half-time.

In the second half, the teams were even for the first twenty-five minutes. However, in the last twenty minutes, England began to tire and the Italians became alive. Mario Balotteli scored the second for the Italians from a cross threaded from the right. England were now hanging on as the Italians bombarded our goal. The match finished 2-1 to the Italians.

Despite England trailing, the supporters never gave up on them. There had been such optimism that this team would do something exciting. As this was our first game our hopes were now resting on us beating Uruaguy in the next game. My voice was horse from all the singing. I did not sit down the entire match.

After the match, I started to retrace my footsteps back to where the taxi had dropped me off. On the way, I saw this place full of locals enjoying some barbecued meat. I could not resist, so I went and placed my order and sat at one of the six chair tables on my own. A Brazilian couple and their son came over and asked if the seats were taken and they joined me. The interesting thing about the couple was that the husband and their son were wearing England shirts and caps. It transpired that the wife had met Roy Hodgson when he came for his reconnaissance visit. The son's England cap had been signed by Roy Hodgson - I did offer to swap with mine - did not work. I also found out from the wife that the Manaus crowd was against England because of what Roy Hodgson had said about Manaus - it was hot and how could anyone be expected to play football here - definitely a public relations disaster as it was about ten thousand England supporters against twenty-nine thousand Italian supporters in the stadium.

Day 2 –  Manaus: 15thJune, 2014

I got up and went for breakfast just before it ended. I then went and sat outside and started writing my blog and taking pictures at the same time. It was just great sitting outside people watching and at the same time typing.

People in Manaus are very friendly. Whilst I was typing a lady came over and just said she was waiting for her friend who had just gone on the boat. She spoke very little English but we soon found ourselves using google translator. Her name was Elene and she said that she was studying
engineering. As you always do, I offered her a drink and some food as I was in the middle of my steak sandwich called Mr Amazon – it was huge.

I later went to Equipol, the tour operator, based at the Park Suites Manaus. I booked the full Amazon tour for day 3. I was told to come down at 09H00 and the tour will last the whole day. Whilst I was there the lady also asked me if I had been to the FIFA Fan Fest – great set up with a huge screen and stadium like sitting with stalls selling all sorts of things. Security was tight, everyone going into the Fan Fest was subjected to body searches and bag searches. I met two Birmingham supporters who were also staying at my hotel. So we watched the match between Argentina vs Bosnia (Messi vs Dzeko)

Whilst we were watching some England fans came over and asked what we were doing after the match. They suggested we meet-up at a local club called Copacabana – like the beach in Rio. I went to Copacabana and it was heaving – there was a live band. One could not move and the queue for the bar was incredible, so I ended up paying for the VIP area where there was waiter
service. I had a great time and only got back after 03H00.

Day 3 – Manaus (The Amazon tour): 16th June, 2014

It was a struggle to get up but I just made it for the tour. On the way to the speedboat, I started talking to Edwin, who is from Northampton and a staunch Northampton Football Club supporter – he always hangs the NHFC – Cobblers flag at all England matches. Edwin introduced me to Ian who is also a Northampton FC staunch supporter, as well as to Richard and Ben who are father and son respectively from Yorkshire (Bradford & Leeds).

Our first port of call was at the local indigenous people village. The chief welcomed us and then they performed they traditional dances. However, I was not that impressed, as they did not seem very enthusiastic. When I mentioned this to our guide, he said maybe they were tired as there was one boatload after another coming over due to the world cup and they normally used
to welcoming one or two boats a day. I bought a mask and instrument that you use to fire darts. On the boat, on closer inspection, the masks were plastic mouldings, which had been painted.

We then headed to the place were we swam with pink dolphins. We were unlucky, because on this day, the government has mandated that humans do not feed the dolphins, they must fend for themselves. It was great fun and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

After swimming with the dolphins we headed towards the floating restaurant (on stilts), apparently the best fish restaurant in Manaus.  We passed under the Rio Negra bridge – it is an amazing bridge. Just to give you the scale of it – the Rio Negra river is a minimum of eight kilometres wide and in some places it is sixty metres deep. The Rio Negra river has it's own beach at Ponta
Negra.  Just as we got to the restaurant the heavens opened up – in true "rain forest style" we were told. The food was gorgeous. It was interesting that they have electricity and the electric poles are in water - ever heard of electric shock - I guess not!

After lunch we went to see an area where they have some interesting fauna and flora. We were shown some water lilies that have a one-metre diameter. The interesting fact about the lilies is that the flowers only last three days.  We then headed to feed some big amazon fish that are kept in pens. We paid five Reals for the bait and this turned out to be great fun as the fish just snap at the bait and they are very strong.

The highlight of the visit was the meeting of the waters where the Rio Negra and Solimões join to form the Amazon River.  “The Meeting of Waters (Portuguese: Encontro das Águas) is the confluence between the Rio Negro, a river with dark (almost black colored) water, and the sandy colored Amazon River or Rio Solimões, as it is known the upper section of the Amazon in Brazil. For 6 km (3.7 mi) the river's waters run side by side without mixing. It is one of the main tourist attractions of Manaus, Brazil.”

After this we went back to our hotel, which was at Ponta Negra, and it seemed to take an eternity. However, on our way back we passed some big cargo ships, container loading/off-loading stations, barges, floating petrol stations, with their convenience stores, for the boats. From the river we could also see some of the residential areas.

Day 4 – Manaus: 17th June, 2014

I woke up around 09H00 and went to the gym for about an hour, this was my first time since my arrival in Manaus. I decided to skip breakfast and then later on went for a buffer lunch instead. 

After lunch I decided not to go anywhere but to catch up on my blog instead. The frustrating thing is that the Wi-Fi in the hotel is very slow and drops-off all the time. I suppose the network is overwhelmed since everyone is always busy on whatsapp, email or surfing the net.

The other reason why I decided to stay in was that Brazil were playing against Mexico in Fortaleza at 16H00 local time. The roads were gridlocked and the FIFA fan fest was bursting to the seams. Wherever, one looked you could only see the yellow Brazilian shirts and flags – whenever, Brazil plays, the whole nation is gripped by “World cup fever”. I watched the match
from my hotel room and it was a humdinger. The Brazilians bombarded the Mexican goal and Guillermo Ochoa stood firm – he was named man-of-the match. The match ended goalless.

Day 5 – Manaus: 18th June, 2014

I got up and went for breakfast. After breakfast, I packed and then checked out at exactly 12H00. I went straight to Eduardo Gomes International Airport. I was on flight JJ 3609 - Operated by TAM LINHAS AEREAS departing at 14H55 and arriving at 18H50 in Brasilia. My connecting flight to Sao Paulo: Flight: JJ 3715 - Operated by TAM LINHAS AEREAS, departed at 20H30 from Brasilia and arrived at Congonhas-São Paulo Airport at 22H10.

Landing at Congonhas-São Paulo Airport was fascinating. It reminded me of landing at the old Hong Kong airport where one got the feeling that the plane was going to plough into the tower blocks.

  I took a taxi to my hotel, Mercure São Paulo Pinheiros Hotel. The taxi driver did not speak any English but the journey was flawless. I got to my hotel at about 22H53. I checked in and I ordered some food – I was starving. TAM does not give much in the way of food – with the number of flights I will be taking – I do not think that I will want to see another ham and cheese bun. I was actually surprised that even for an almost four hour flight from São Paulo to Manaus, all we got was a ham and cheese bun and a cool drink. I have been spoilt by British Airways, South African Airways and even Air Zimbabwe just to name a few where you get decent food and drink (tea, coffee, beer, fizzy drink, water or juice). Maybe it's a Brazilian thing. I will find out when I fly Avianca on my penultimate trip from Rio de Janeiro to Sao Paulo. Even on the morning flights, I would have expected some coffee since Brazil is a big coffee producer - I guess I have a lot to learn.                                                                                                                                            







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