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krisek Paramaribo - A travel report by Krys
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Paramaribo,  Suriname - flag Suriname -  Paramaribo
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krisek's travel reports

Dutch? Caribbean? South American? Paramaribo.

  6 votes
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The capital of Suriname, former Dutch Guyana, has an incredible, unique on the South American continent, colonial architecture, which elevated Paramaribo status to the rank of UNESCO World Heritage Site. And it is well deserved indeed.


The old part of Paramaribo.
The old part of Paramaribo.
As I was travelling in French Guiana on my National ID and not my passport, I ignored the immigration procedures in St Laurent du Maroni on the way to Paramaribo in Suriname. Otherwise, it would have required a trip further afield to the ferry terminal, where customs and immigration were based. Instead, I just jumped inside a small pirogue at the low bank of the Maroni river and waited 10 minutes before there were six other people in it, so we could go. The charge for crossing the river was EUR5.

Let me clarify a few things for some travellers wanted to head to the Guyanas, and in particular crossing the Maroni river between Suriname and French Guiana:

- there was no bridge over the Maroni river;

- ferry did 3-4 trips a day on certain weekdays, but usually just three crossing - two in the morning and one in the afternoon;

- there were 2 morning ferries on Saturday (7am & 9am);

- taking a pirogue across the river was not illegal and took only 5 minutes;

- traveling on EU passport did not require exit stamp out of French Guiana if there was no entry stamp into French Guiana;

- entering and exiting French Guiana could be done using an EU national ID card instead of an EU passport;

- In Albina, one must obtain an entry stamp (a trip from the pirogue landing to the ferry terminal some 1km upriver was therefore necessary); and

- In Albina, immigration and customs asked no questions to EU passport holders, one must complete a landing form and that's it.

The above points are to bust a few myths about the crossing between Suriname and French Guiana.

So, on the Surinamese side, a car owner scrape me from the pirogue landing a d offered a ride to the immigration office and on to Paramaribo for EUR20, which was within my budget (I planned EUR40 for the taxi). He lured two other people and I was on the road within 5 minutes, and the clock was showing 11:45am.

The road very bumpy, so it was 14:30 when I reached the front desk of my hotel in Paramaribo. Not bad for 8 am departure.

Favourite spots:
The Waterfront wooden mansions.
The Waterfront wooden mansions.
I think my favourite spot in Paramaribo was the Waterfront. Two reasons: a) it had a string of nicely restored old wooden mansions, and b) it had 24 hours non-stop food and drink bars, which attracted local people, who would sit by the river bank under large trees sipping their lager (SRD10 for a litre) and munch on the snacks, be it pastry with meat or veggie filling or fried chicken. The place had a jubilant atmosphere and the bar owners put a happy music from the giant speakers, which would blast mainly Cuban tunes. The Waterfront felt very Caribbean and people there seemed very friendly. Occasionally, a beggar or apparent trouble maker would make an appearance, but that would hardly spoil the fun there.

What's really great:
Black and white wooden mansions in the old town.
Black and white wooden mansions in the old town.
The old town, packed with mainly black & white wooden mansions was being slowly restored. Government bodies occupied the majority of the buildings there, which meant that the level of maintenance was relatively good for the structures. UNESCO very wisely granted the old Paramaribo the World Heritage Status. Recent boost in Suriname's economy might have meant that those beautiful mansions could been soon overwhelmed with modern office buildings, which, in comparison with the old ones, often look like monstrosities.

Perhaps an odd 'what I really liked', but I really enjoyed the old town at the weekend. It was almost completely deserted. Since it was not residential, and offices closed on Saturday 1:30pm, no-one lingered there. Walking around it felt like having it to yourself, as of this was an open-air museum.

Sights:
The Fort Zeelandia in Paramaribo.
The Fort Zeelandia in Paramaribo.
The main sight of Paramaribo, was, of course, its 'black & white' wooden old town. Some of the mansions' construction was incredible and mind-boggling. I stood in front of some of them trying to figure out how the building was built up by using just planks of wood. Not only were the mansions, but also warehouse, which captured my attention. I loved the wooden window shutters placed in the window frames at this particular angle.

One of the three most prominent sights in the old town was the Fort Zeelandia, right by the working office of the President of Suriname. It was a small stone and brick fort placed strategically on the western bank of the river. A few cannons were scattered around.

The other sight was the very flamboyant 'white house' an official seat of the president. He actually did not live there, but it was a representative office, where noble guests and heads of state were taken up.

The third one was the very yellow and tall wooden St Peter and Paul cathedral.

Accommodations:
Double room at the Eco Resort Inn.
Double room at the Eco Resort Inn.
On the Internet, I found the Torarica Hotel Group, which operated three hotels in Paramaribo - the Torarica (four star, the original (I heard it was the first) hotel in Suriname, now at 58 years old a little dated), the five star The Royal Torarica (right next door), and the three star Eco Resort Inn, just yards from the Torarica. All placed on the river bank. I made an online reservation at the Eco Resort Inn, which charged me USD69 for a good size, air-conditioned double room with massive bed, and a balcony overlooking the garden. Everything was mega clean, the sheets and towels were spotless, and mattresses very comfortable. Free, although patchy, wifi was available throughout the premises, including the garden and the riverside. The main quality of the hotel was its relaxed and informal atmosphere, almost a homey ambience. The majority of staff were friendly and helpful. English was spoken. The hotel offered free transfer to the Zanderij international airport.

Nightlife:
Crowd at the dancefloor of the Zsa Zsa Zsu night club.
Crowd at the dancefloor of the Zsa Zsa Zsu night club.
Paramaribo had a sophisticated night scene. The going out period last from Wednesday night to Saturday night, and each night was concentrated on a different part of the capital. Friday night was all about the Margaritas club, just across the Royal Torarica hotel, where action would kick off at about 1am. Saturday night was reserved for the Zsa Zsa Zsu club in the south-west end of the town. I checked both. The Zsa Zsa Zsu was located in a purpose-built buildings and was complete with a cinema and bowling lanes. I arrived there on Saturday night about 1:30am, and was worried that I would have to queue for a long time. But it was not too bad at all. I was in within 5 minutes. Cover charge was SRD15 and there was no door policy. One could wear what they wanted, although people generally dressed smartly, yet some wore flip-flops and no-one made notice of that really. No ID was required but everyone had to pass through a metal detector. Excellent mix of people and top-notch tunes!

Hangouts:
The Palmentuin's palm trees.
The Palmentuin's palm trees.
One of the main hangouts, apart from the aforementioned Waterfront, was the Palm Garden (Palmentuin), which contrary to what they said on the fco.gov.uk travel advice pages was absolutely safe. It was not a very big garden, perhaps 4ha, and to claim it was unsafe during the day was rubbish. Many locals also told me that they felt safe in it during the hours of darkness, too and that no trouble was waiting for anyone there, yet sometimes after 6pm people had sex there, homeless gathered and occasionally drugs were sold.

The palm trees were very tall and there were hundreds of them. The garden had a kids ground, one large round stage covered with a conical wooden roof, an open cabin, a small pool with a couple of fountains and a number of benches. The Palmentuin was very popular amongst the young at heart, who'd sit on the benches, hold hands and look in the eyes of their partner.

Restaurants:
The 'White House' the official residence of the President of Suriname, although not his office.
The 'White House' the official residence of the President of Suriname, although not his office.
I had two meals at the Eco Resort Inn, both of which were fantastic, although not very cheap. The six fried king prawns, prepared to perfection were USD26, and the incredibly yummy chicken satay (nicely spicy and beautifully nutty) was USD8 for three large skewers, served with garlic bread (?!). I do not normally eat at the hotels, unless I am in a place where is no alternative, as there needs to be one does not guarantee a terrible in all its consequence bowel revolution. Yet, something happened in Paramaribo, and in that hotel in particular. The ambiance of the place was terrific. It was homey and very, very relaxing. I simply could not be bothered to venture outside the hotel just for a meal. Despite the fact that there were a couple of rather reputable eateries, one Chinese, the other local specialising in seafood.

But I did try some fried chicken at the Waterfront the other day. It was about average but very cheap and many locals scoffed that washing it down with cold Parbo lager.

Other recommendations:
Fishing on the Suriname river.
Fishing on the Suriname river.
Contrary to a number of publications and notes on the Internet that Air France and/or KLM might be operating such, in 2011, there was no air connection between Paramaribo and Cayenne of French Guyana.

Paramaribo had two airports. The general aviation and flights to Guyana operated from the small Zorg en Hoop (ORG) airport in the southwestern suburb of the town. The flights to Georgetown's smaller Ogle airport (OGL) were operated daily (at different hours, though) jointly by Gum Air and TransGuyana Airways for USD151 one way, allowing only 33lbs of luggage.

The other airport, the larger international airport of Paramaribo, the Zanderij (or officially the Johan Adolf Pengel - PBM) was 45kms away from the capital, or at least 1h drive. It had flights to Amsterdam, Aruba, Curacao, Belem in Brazil, Miami and Port of Spain in Trinidad - all operated by Suriname Airways, with Amsterdam also by KLM, Curacao also by Insel Air, and POS also by Caribbean Airlines.

Published on Tuesday September 27th, 2011


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Thu, Sep 29 2011 - 04:20 PM rating by jorgesanchez

One more time you wrote an extraordinary report. Thank you!

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