Once you actually are in Suriname…
What should you do and where could you go?
There are plenty of jungle resorts, excursions, events and activities to explore. Some you will find on the web and in event calendars published in newspapers or on Facebook. You could head out of town, leave the city of Paramaribo behind and wander off to another district. And, there will surely be hidden treasures going on, such as parties or art exhibitions and other things, that you might not come across or not become aware of. How to resolve this?
Talk to locals! Strike up a conversation with your hotel staff, your taxi driver, the waiter or a friendly passer-by. Tell them what you are interested in, ask questions and they will tell you what they know. This is a great way to get lots of useful information. Be alert though, keep your eyes open and do not let anyone talk you into doing things you do not want to do or going places you do not want to go. Use common sense and good judgment, just like you would anywhere else in the world.
Take a hike downtown!
Paramaribo boasts numerous historical buildings in colonial style, which feature Dutch architectural elements and local materials – most of these structures are made of wood.
The historic inner city runs along the left bank of the Suriname river, enclosed northward by the Sommelsdijkse Kreek and southward by the Viottekreek; this part of town has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A whopping number of 291 monuments in Paramaribo are included in the World Heritage List. Take some time to admire these mansions and imagine what life must have been like back then – horse carriages, Europeans wearing their black suits or hooped skirts, enslaved Africans breaking their poor backs – everything in this unforgiving climate.
Once home to the rich and famous of historic Paramaribo, many of the colonial mansions hold fascinating stories. Suriname’s well–respected author Cynthia McLeod knows countless of these stories and captures these in engaging historical novels, some of which over the years have been translated into German, Italian, Swedish, and English.
Cynthia McLeod published her first book in 1987. It was this debut – Hoe duur was de suiker, in English: The Cost of Sugar – that brought her instant fame. Read my review of The Cost of Sugar here.
Who knows, you may be lucky to catch Mrs. McLeod in Suriname while you are here, and get her to take you on one of her exciting walking tours through the city center. She is highly knowledgeable, and the best storyteller ever! Her latest book is titled Zenobia, a touching story about a little girl born in slavery who worked at the Governor’s Mansion – now Presidential Palace – which is still standing strong, majestically overlooking the Suriname river.
Experience the interior
Wanna see the jungle? Do not try this on your own! Make sure to book a trip with a local tour organization. You will find them online. These trips to the interior are worth the journey and the money! Go sit in a rapid! Catch some big river fish or a couple of smaller swamp fish. Have a local guide show you medicinal plants of the rainforest!
Check out the wildlife
If you decide to explore the jungle, you might have luck on your side and spot some wildlife there. If not, Lelydorp has a beautiful butterfly garden and Paramaribo Zoo is modest but worth a visit. Dolphin spotting on the Suriname river is great fun! You can even keep an eye out for wild creatures in town, such as the little iguana that paid me a – not much appreciated, I have to admit – visit at home!
There are a great many recreation areas out of town, where locals love to spend time with friends and family, swimming in natural creeks and relaxing in hammocks. Some resorts have shady huts roofed with pina palm leafs, fit to spend a great day. Others offer cabanas to stay the night. Book a trip or organize your own journey, and enjoy an unforgettable experience in beautiful natural surroundings.
Have a bite, or two
While in Suriname, you should definitely try our food! With all of these different cultures we have here, Surinamese cuisine offers great variety. Forget your home food for a while! Make sure to get your hands on an Indian roti, try some Javanese bami or a tasty saoto soup, and do not miss out on the traditional party dish: rice and pom! Our Chinese restaurants are terrific, too. Oh, did I mention satay topped with delicious peanut sauce or sweet soy sauce? I will have to come back and talk about this topic some more in future posts!
Fresh local fruits
Locally grown, sun-ripened fruits are sweet and full of flavor – absolutely the best! Try a juicy mango, papaya, watermelon, starfruit, or the more exotic passion fruit, ambarella, sapodilla, or jackfruit.
Naming these few, I have not even touched below the surface of what tropical fruit paradise Suriname has to offer! I will have to publish a post dedicated to local fruits later!
I will be talking about specific sights and events as well as some delightful dishes and fruits in future posts!