Blue Monkey, Paramaribo
Stay: 19-20 August 2017 (1 night)
Facilities: 2 bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom, AC, large-screen smart TV, free Wi-Fi, free private parking
Rate: SRD 170 (± $ 22.50), ex 8% VAT
Available at: Booking.com
Sometimes, it so happens that unexpected events cause disturbance in the house.
Last Friday, late evening, I was startled by people screaming outside, drowning out the tornado-like buzz of my noisy fan. Frightened, I jumped up from behind my desk to turn off the fan and check what was going on. It sure sounded like some guys fighting. Or, perhaps the security guards of our gated community had caught someone trespassing?
Fortunately, it was nothing violent. What it was, was that my neighbors – the only neighbors that I actually have – were having a small get-together in their yard with a couple of friends. I heard Latin music playing, at totally acceptable sound levels. Loud voices, however, were all over the place and filled the quiet air. This went on until way after midnight. With my bedroom window at about 20 feet from the party, I tried to avoid going to bed by keeping myself busy for as long as I could. Finally, in the wee hours, I decided to leave my noisy fan on during what was left of the night and catch some sleep.
The next morning, to my surprise, the party people were still there. They seemed to have stayed up all night and were now hanging in their chairs, legs up. I just went about my business, but in the afternoon, I started noticing increased activity in the neighbor’s yard when unfamiliar sounds caught my attention: Latin music playing at totally acceptable volume levels. Loud voices, however…
I took a peek outside, and lo and behold: they now had tables and chairs lined up and guests coming over! In a split second, it struck me that last night was just a dress rehearsal, and that the party was now seriously about to take off! It did not take long before I realized that I do not have the option to sleep in another part of the house right now and I knew that I was not going to put up with another night of disturbed sleep! What to do?
I wondered if it would not be great to grab the opportunity to go somewhere, enjoy a short break and forget about the turmoil in the backyard! So, I considered driving down to Moengo, my birthplace – towards the eastern border – or, to Nickerie – all the way to the western border. It was already mid-afternoon, though, and I prefer to head in those directions a bit earlier. For now, I just needed a place at a short drive, with a nice bed and air-conditioning – in
a quiet neighborhood! I went to Booking.com, typed Paramaribo and got
a flood of hits to choose from.
After checking out the pictures of colonial style houses or luxurious hotels with lush gardens, and comparing the online customer reviews, the facilities and the different rates,
I picked Blue Monkey apartment. I did! I made reservations for the night, got my reservation number, packed up my laptop, threw some clothes and toiletries in a bag, grabbed a couple of snacks and something to drink, and took off. A little after 5 pm I was on the road, free as a bird!
Veldhuizenlaan is situated in the outskirts of town, in a quiet, upscale residential area. It is near major roads, such as Johannes Mungrastraat, Tweede Rijweg, and Gemenelandsweg. There are convenience stores nearby, some restaurants and it is actually quite centrally located: downtown, Hermitage Mall (including TBL movie theater) and the Kwattaweg vegetable market for example, are all at about a 10-15 minutes’ drive.
On my way to Blue Monkey, I picked up a saoto soup at Java Restaurant of Gemenelandsweg and by 6 pm I was checked in! A friendly employee, originally from Cuba, waved his hand and shouted out a cordial Hola from the front door. I parked my pick-up truck smack in the middle of the driveway, behind the gate, the chivalrous concierge gave me a hand with my bags and he showed me around in Yellow Monkey*: a small bright-colored two-bedroom bungalow!
* Blue Monkey is the overall name: there is a house with four bedrooms, one with one bedroom, and Yellow Monkey with two bedrooms. On Booking.com, look for Blue Monkey to find all.
Yellow Monkey is spacious, it has a huge Samsung smart TV, abstract works of art on the living room walls, modern furniture, a simple bathroom, and a fully equipped kitchen. And… aah yes! The air-conditioner was already on when I got there. Suriname is currently in the dry season, with daily temperatures peeking towards 40 degrees Centigrade (104°F) and my new home does not yet have air-conditioners. So yes, it is so nice and welcoming when the air-conditioning in your home away from home is set to 23°C!
I instantly settled in, installed the laptop on the glass-top dining table, went for a quick shower, and arrgghh… Yellow Monkey does not offer hot water! Since it had been very hot that day and I got there dirty and sweaty, I held my breath and took a nice cool shower using the coconut scent shower gel provided. Feeling all fresh and new, I enjoyed my dinner and then crashed on the couch in front of the inviting large-screen TV. Well, the couch was beautifully white and nice looking but sadly, it is not the most comfortable couch I have ever come across – it is more or less OK. Yellow Monkey’s beds are great, though – both beds have good matrasses.
The living room is decorated with attention to detail and even if for only 1 night, it is nice to have paintings on the wall, a reading chair and fresh plants around. One thing could do with replacement: the tile floor in one of the bedrooms looks old and shabby. Everything was clean and spotless, though.
Sunday, I was so happy to finally have the peace of mind to read a book! The two pillows from my bed made the couch nice and comfy, and when it was almost time to go, I could not help myself and asked for a late check-out! I got an extra hour, at no cost. All things come to an end, though, and at some point, it is really time to go. Late Sunday afternoon I drove home, rested and relaxed.
I would recommend a break like this to anybody, anytime! Noisy neighbors? Fed up? Looking for inspiration? Go someplace and stay the night! You really do not have to go far to relax and have a great time – Blue Monkey is just 15 minutes away from my home!
Such breaks are good opportunities to get acquainted with some part of town that you do
not yet know. Exploring is not the only option, though – I simply locked the doors, closed the windows, enjoyed the air-conditioning and was in a different world – one night may be short, but it is definitely long enough for a system reset!
Should I have known about the cold shower, I possibly would not have chosen Blue Monkey. Lucky me, I did not know – Blue Monkey was a great choice, a perfect match!
Mango season has just started in Suriname, which means that we are looking at flourishing mango trees and colorful piles of juicy mangos in local markets and at fruit stalls along the roads.
The scientific name of the mango tree is Mangifera Indica. It grows in the wild in parts of Southern Asia, from where it probably spread to East Asia, thousands of years ago. By the 10th century CE, the fruit was introduced to East Africa by Arabs, after which Portuguese brought it to Brazil at the beginning of the 18th century. The rest is history, as they say – as a neighboring country of Brazil, Suriname is currently blessed with a great mango tree variety.
Many hundreds of mango cultivars have been named, but not all climates are suitable for all cultivars. In Suriname, we have around 20 cultivars.
Mango trees are evergreens and can grow up to 40 m, carrying a dense crown with a 10 m radius. The leaves are alternate, averaging about 20 cm in length, and 10 cm in width. Check out the pictures that I took of a tall mango tree in my birthplace, on the Nature page.
Young mango leaves have a silky feel and a delicate pinkish color, which gradually turns into dark green as they mature. Mango inflorescences are composed of thousands of small flowers; only a part of those turn into a fruit and only part of the fruits mature. It takes three to six months for a mango to grow from blossom into a ripe fruit.
Mangos are juicy and delicious, would you not agree? They are considered stone fruits because of their hard, stone-like kernel, which covers the seed. Ripe mangos vary in size and color – from green to yellow and red on the outside, and from yellow to orange on the inside. Mango sizes range from small ones the size of a kiwi, to humongous kinds of each over 2 lbs in weight. Some mangos are quite fibrous, while others contain no threads.
Most of you probably know what a mango tastes like. Still, I will elaborate on the taste a little bit, since most mangos available in stores in the US, Canada and Europe are really not the champions. They are certainly not all bad. However, during my years in Europe, many a time I got myself an absolutely tasteless and/or rotten on the inside mango. They look perfect on the outside: nice, shiny and fat, with a pretty color.
However, the drawback of exported mangos is that they are often the kinds that boast features such as a long shelf-life and transportability, and they get picked way too early. Although they do continue to ripe during shipping and storing, they are nothing compared to sun-ripened mangos. Once you experience the truly tasty flavor of a juicy and aromatic sun-ripened mango, you will no longer settle for less! Check out some fresh mangos from Suriname below! I will show you two of my favorites!
This picture shows a bunch of purple mangos hanging from the tree in my yard. Don’t you just love the color? These mangos get kissed by the sun every single day, until their initially shy blush gets more and more intense, and their sweet fragrance starts spreading around the tree. In just a couple of weeks from now, they will be ready to fall off.
Purple mangos are quite thready. Yet, they have great taste and are much loved as one of the most popular mangos in Suriname. Over here, we call them Roodborstje, which would translate from Dutch into English as Red Robin – yes, the bird!
The wondrous thing about this tree of purple mangos is that it produces yellow mangos as well. Check this picture here – these yellow mangos are from the very same tree: same shape, same taste, same fragrance – just a different color. Some of these yellow purples mangos do get a red blush, but as you can see, the ones in this picture are really just plain yellow.
Some mangos keep their green color when they ripen, or only get a mild coloration. Look at these huge babies as an example. These large, elongated mangos originate from Indonesia. They are threadless, have a wonderful aromatic fragrance, and they are incredibly tasty. Just delicious! A favorite with many! And, they easily measure up to 20 cm.
Now, let’s talk linguistics, as a side note! Did you know that the plural of mango can be written either as mangoes or mangos? The word mango can be traced back to the spice trade between Portugal and the Keralaregion in India, in 1498. During this time, the Malayalam word māṅṅa was introduced to the Portuguese, who then named the fruit manga. It is unclear when or why we ended up with the o at the end of mango. Should you happen to know, please do drop me a note!
Over here in Suriname, mangos are a tremendously popular fruit. Everybody loves them and many have one mango or the other as their favorite. People who are fortunate enough to own a tree, tend to brag about their mangos being the best! Personally, I often find myself buying Roodborstjes (Red Robins), because of their beautiful color – they just look appealing and, not the least, they taste terrific, too! They are thready, though. Another mango that I like a lot, is the giant pictured above: Golet – huge, sweet, no threads, and very tasty! So, there you have two of my favorite mangos. Next, let me show you a totally different one.
See, we also have mangos less well-known and less popular, such as Turpentine mango. Turpentine, you might wonder? That’s right! It so happens that all mangos contain a small amount of turpentine/kerosene. Should your mango smell of turpentine, though, toss it – do not eat it. However, there is a mango by the name of Turpentine mango, supposedly named for its turpentine taste. Honestly, I am not familiar with this particular mango. I just find it fascinating that it should taste like turpentine! I have been told, though, that Turpentine mangos are very sweet and tasty. Well, I do not know – I just thought I would tell you about it and show you what they look like.
Let’s move on to eating a mango! It may seem pretty straightforward, but dealing with a juicy mango can turn out to be no easy task – this is, if you do not want mango juice running down your arms and dripping off your cheeks! Surinamese kids learn to eat mangos by biting a small hole in the top and squeezing the mango so they can suck up the juice. When most of the juice is consumed, they peel the mango using their teeth and then eat the pulp around the pit. Another way to eat a mango is, of course, by cutting it up. This picture shows my favorite way to get mango cubes.
Except for ripe mangos, we love to eat unripe mangos, too! We use unripe mangos to prepare mango chutney, we pickle them, and eat them with salt and pepper as a snack! Delicious! And, who would refuse a glass of fresh mango juice?!
Finally, in case you did not know – let me tell you that mangos have wonderful health benefits! They contain 44% of the amounts of vitamin C and 11% of folate that we need on a daily basis. The yellow-orange color of mango pulp is because it is loaded with beta-carotene, which our bodies transform into vitamin A. Mangos also contain enzymes that help digestion!
If any time you should be in Suriname and fancy a mouthwatering mango, you will not have to look far – they are all over the place. If you do not see any, it is not the season.
Soothing Aloe Aftersun Gel by Banana Boat
Usage: apply as needed
Contents: 16 fl oz (473 ml)
Ingredients: Water, Denatured Alcohol, Glycerin, Polysorbate 20, Carbomer, Triethanolamine, PEG-4 Dilaurate, PEG-4 Laurate, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, PEG-4, Benzophenone-4, Imidazolidinyl Urea, Iodopropynyl, Butylcarbonate, Fragrance, Yellow 5, Blue 1.
Available at: Amazon.com
Price: $ 9.97
Don’t Mess with the Sun!
One thing not to be messed with in Suriname is our sun. Since we are located at just 6° from the equator, the heat of the sun can be intense. Our skin is our largest organ. It is our buffer to the exterior. Make sure to protect your skin against the sun at all times! Use a high SPF sun screen as well as a cooling after sun lotion.
I really love out of town trips! I recommend them to visitors here on this website and I enjoy taking them myself. For my latest trip, I went to the Amerindian village of Galibi, along the Marowijne river. If I show you a picture, I am sure you will understand why I love this place.
See what I mean? Does it look like a dream, or does it?
So, I am in Galibi with a friend, who came over from the Netherlands and she is having a blast. The bus trip from the city of Paramaribo to Albina went smoothly and the boat ride on the Marowijne river, with Suriname on the left coast and French Guiana on the right coast, is just amazing! Especially when you get to see a sloth up in a tree, as we did.
In the evening, when we hit the shower to get ready for dinner, it appears my friend’s back looks like this:
It would have been so much better had she worn a shirt that covered her back and arms!
However, now that we were confronted with her roasted back, it was a good thing that I brought my Banana Boat aftersun. I use it to cool my skin after being hit by the sun, even when there are no signs of sunburn showing – check my half full bottle.
And, wow! Did it work fast on my friend’s back! Her picture was taken after we applied the Banana Boat aloe lotion. Pretty soon we noticed the bright redness fading into a more pinkish hue. Yes! The picture shows an improvement already – it looked worse before! I seriously regret not having taken a Before and After picture!
This whole thing came as a surprise and since the Banana Boat soothing gel worked so well, I decided to tell you about this product. Let’s have a closer look at it.
I have listed the Banana Boat Aloe Vera gel ingredients at the top, for you to see. I copied this list from the bottle and, unfortunately, it does not say just how much Aloe Barbadensis the product contains. As we should all know, aloe vera is the absolute best when it comes to sunburn. I took a picture of my aloe vera plant to show you what it looks like. Should you ever get burned and there happens to be an Aloe Vera Barbadensis plant around, grab a leaf, cut or tear it open and sooth your skin with the cooling leaf gel. Repeat until it stops burning. The same way, we applied Banana Boat’s Aloe Aftersun to my friend’s back and repeated this as needed. And, even though we do not know how much aloe vera Banana Boat puts into this product, it probably contains a fairly good amount, since very quickly the redness calmed down and – even better – my friend did not feel a thing – no pain whatsoever!
By the way, I have a light tan skin color myself and do not easily get burned by the sun. The two times it did happen, I was on my way to Galibi! No kidding! I really love the boat ride: feeling the breeze through my hair, and the warm Marowijne river water splashing up – one tends to forget about the sun! The first time around, I was wearing bermuda shorts and by the time I got off the boat my knees were the color of Christmas hams. This time, with my friend, my nose had become a fluorescent red!
I am just saying: don’t mess with our sun, especially when traveling to Galibi – read: whenever traveling in an open boat or hiking in open air. Bring a strong sun screen and a cooling aftersun lotion!
To tell you the truth, I bought my Banana Boat Aloe Aftersun randomly – I was already familiar with the powerful benefits of Aloe Vera Barbadensis and so out of a tremendous amount of products to choose from, I just grabbed that aloe vera one with the nice color. In the meantime, I have come to really like this product – I love the fresh smell (Alcolado Glacial-like), it is easy to apply, it is not greasy and gets absorbed into the skin right away.
There is just one suggestion that I have for the Banana Boat people – now that I am halfway down my bottle, I wish it had a dispenser instead of the regular nozzle cap. That would be so much easier. Perhaps the next edition could be a refillable bottle with a dispenser! That would make it a 5 Star product for me! But hey, I just store it upside down and rate the product 4.95 the way it is today. Get yours now!
In case you need a pile of this great product for the whole family, there are 2-, 3-, 4-, and even 5-packs available. Starting from the pack of 3, you will get smaller bottles, which are great to stick in your handbag or back pocket on a day trip!
It is a laid-back afternoon at the Paramaribo Waterfront as I meet with Rinaldo Klas to talk to him about his life and work, and his travels. Mr. Klas is a painter and a sculptor, and one of Suriname’s most highly regarded artists.
He was born in Moengo, in 1954, and has lived in the tranquil Commewijne district for many years now, at about a half hour drive from the city. Rinaldo Klas is married to Carmen, his wife of over 30 years. He is the father of three adult children – two daughters and a son.
Rinaldo Klas’ work is colorful, and is considered figurative art. He painted this work of a mother and child tapir against a background of a golden horizon, an abundance of fish in a clear river, and fertile forest soil for the animals to wander about. On her back, the mother carries a peaceful green landscape. The image consists of beautiful bright colors and as a whole, it looks prosperous and healthy.
The piece Tapir with Child as well as the one titled Gold Pays Off, are both part of the Gold Rush series, which Rinaldo Klas presented in a solo exhibition in 2012. Since gold has become an important economic asset for Suriname in recent years and legal as well as illegal gold mining is now daily practice, the downside of this development is also emerging. Mr. Klas has always been inspired by nature and the Gold Rush series expresses his concern for nature. He feels strongly about making a statement, since gold extraction seems to go hand in hand with deforestation, loss of biodiversity and mercury polluting the rivers and creeks – the natural habitat of fish and vital sources of water and food for local communities. If nothing is done to tackle these issues and only dollars count, then this beautiful scene of mother and child in their natural surroundings will soon be a thing of the past – a firm statement in the light of environmental protection.
I wonder what led him to becoming an artist? “As a child, I used to draw on sheets and pieces of paper, on notes, even on cloths – anything I could find. At the age of 10, I moved to the city of Paramaribo. I was staying with my uncle at the time and my inclination to make little drawings each and every waking moment urged him to sign me up for drawing class. In the end, I graduated from Nola Hatterman’s New School for Visual Arts in 1979 and I took a teaching job there in the 1980s, teaching drawing and painting.”
Nola Hatterman was an Amsterdam born Dutch artist, who settled in Suriname in 1953 at the age of 54. She started the New School for Visual Arts in Paramaribo, which closed in 1979 when Ms. Hatterman decided to move out of town and started a studio in Brokopondo. After her death in 1984, a group of her former students – Rinaldo Klas being one of them – established the current Nola Hatterman Art Academy, which is housed in the former commander’s home in the Fort Zeelandia complex.
In 1992, Rinaldo Klas became the director of the Nola Hatterman Art Academy, until he retired in 2014. Guess how he spends his spare time? Painting! “I enjoy having more time to myself. I did paint while I was director of the Art Academy, but I can spend more time now doing the things I like.”
He tells me that what he likes to do, is painting and spending time with his family. Also, once a week he works with abused children, teaching them how to make drawings, paintings and art crafts – and talking to them about the challenges they are facing in their young lives.
Just recently, he was invited to join the art movement in Moengo and so he travels to his birthplace every weekend during two months to spend time with local kids doing what he knows best: teaching art class. And, as all artists in residence of this project, he too will leave behind a work of art in the Moengo Art Park, as a token of appreciation and encouragement for the local community.
On the subject of why anyone should visit Suriname, he has this to say: “I think our multicultural society is quite interesting – the diversity is tremendous. The natural environment, the people, the sunshine – and the food in Suriname are all special! The diversity is also present in our food! Visitors will first connect to our food and then to our people – once they try a roti from our Hindustani, a pitjel or saoto soup from a Javanese warung, or a heri heri from our black cuisine, they will want to know more about the people of Suriname!”
And what should visitors see while in Suriname? “The city of Paramaribo, the Waterfront – since my retirement, I have spent a lot of time here. I enjoy observing people and getting in touch with visitors from abroad.”
Mr. Klas will start a conversation with a tourist by simply saying Hi! and asking if they are having a good time. He noticed something peculiar, though: “There are quite some visitors who do not really spend time in Paramaribo – they go straight to the interior on a trip and return to their country right after that or travel to neighboring Guyana or French Guiana. They come over for a two- or three-day trip to the interior and leave.”
This means that many a visitor is just passing through and does not bother to explore Paramaribo or other parts of the country, which is a crying shame. Particularly considering the price and time it takes to get here on the one hand, and all the good stuff that gets left untouched and unseen on the other hand. Click here to check out some ideas and a sample tour program, that can help you make good use of your time in Suriname.
Rinaldo Klas loves to travel and has been around. I ask him to tell us about the first time he ever traveled. He recalls his very first trip abroad, which he also considers his biggest accomplishment ever: “I was a young upcoming artist at the age of 26 when I met Carlos Andrés Pérez, then president of Venezuela. At the time, I was attending a Spanish language course at the Venezuela Cultural Center of Paramaribo and they spread the news that their president was coming over to discuss agriculture, among other things. When I heard about this, I made a painting based on rice fields and offered this to Mr. Pérez on behalf of Surinamese artists. He was so pleased with this that he invited me to Venezuela and I got to travel his country as a guest. That was an amazing experience.”
Even more spectacular – if possible – was his trip to China: “I was invited to attend a 3-week conference about Chinese culture and economy, in the city of Nanchang. During that trip, I also visited Beijing, Shanghai, several places – there was room for travel, plus I extended my stay by a week. It was a very special time, as I got to understand the Chinese better. Since I did not want to stay put in one place, one morning I got on a bus and just let it take me where it went. I did not know where it was going, I just sat and enjoyed the view. It appeared to be heading to the countryside and after about an hour, it reached it’s final stop and I got off. I started walking around and it looked like I found myself in a farming village – a small village, about just 100 inhabitants. I decided to look for the village chief and introduce myself. Fortunately, some of the locals knew English and I was invited to look around. There was an old couple and I walked up to them, started a conversation using hands and feet plus the few Chinese words that I knew. The male invited me to their farm and I was happy to accept. He started harvesting vegetables and I helped them to transport these using a yoke. I worked with them on the farm doing chores and all the while we were chatting away. We went fishing for dinner and this farmer caught three fish using a car battery that was hooked up to a fishing rod. In the end, it was already late and there was no way for me to transfer back to the city. We had a nice dinner of rice and fish and vegetables. The couple invited me to stay the night and offered me their only bed. I did stay but, of course, I refused to take their bed and slept on a tall bench that they had. The next morning, it seemed like there was a party going on – all the neighbors came over to check me out, since they had never seen a black man before. That afternoon, around 3 PM I returned to Nanchan. But before I left, they put up a show for me – dancing, martial arts and fireworks. It was a wonderful event! I do not remember the name of the village and have never been back nor have I been in touch with this lovely elderly couple. They were in tears when I left, because somehow probably they knew that we would never meet again. I was moved myself, because of the warm welcome and the heartfelt friendship that was offered to me – a complete stranger who happened to get off the bus one day. Even after so many years, I have never forgotten about these people. After I got home, I did many paintings featuring Chinese dragons.”
So far, Mr. Klas has always lived in Suriname – he did travel and spend time abroad studying and working, but he never felt the need to live abroad nor the urge to leave Suriname. The reason for this lies within his heart: “I never wanted to leave, because everything is here – I love my friends, and nature has always been an inspiration for my painting, I need Suriname’s nature to work. I have worked as an artist in residence in several places – such as Vermont (U.S.A.) and Amsterdam (Netherlands) – and I have even been away for two years when I attended Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Jamaica from 1986-1988. But I always come home”.
Rinaldo Klas has a few special recommendations for visitors: “The people of Suriname are nice people. They will embrace you, tell you where to go, what not to do, etcetera. Do not be shy to talk to them! And, the absolute best that Suriname has to offer is for you to sit in a boat and travel across the rapids in the interior!”
Here is a phrase in Sranan that Rinaldo Klas wants you to learn today: Switi Sranan – Sweet Suriname.
Should you stroll along the Paramaribo Waterfront, do not miss the opportunity to Meet & Greet with this free-spirited man. If you are lucky enough to spot him there, just walk up to him and let him know that you have read this interview on Suriname Travel Tips. This is what Rinaldo Klas looks like:
I really hope you have enjoyed this interview! Feel free to leave me a comment below. I would love to hear from you!
If you are serious about traveling to Suriname, you might go to the web and search for Suriname Vacation Tours.
Pretty soon, you will find out that there are not many package tours to Suriname out there, meaning: package deals including your flight, accommodation and activities – unless you are traveling from the Netherlands or Germany.
If you do not have the option to book a package tour to Suriname, or even if you do but prefer to organize and plan your trip by yourself, this is post for you.
Book your flight
Are you flying over from Amsterdam? Click Surinam Airways and check direct flight dates and air fare. Also check out KLM, and compare to Surinam Airways.
Adventurous? If you are in for an adventure and do not mind an extended journey, you can opt to travel from Amsterdam to Paris to Cayenne to St. Laurent to Albina to Paramaribo. In this case, go to Air France and check out what works best for you.
If you are flying in from a location on this side of the globe, i.e. North-America, South-America or the Caribbean region, you will have more options to choose from. First, look for flights to Paramaribo. For the most frequently incoming flight services click on Surinam Airways, Caribbean Airlines, Delta, orInsel Air. On the airline’s website, enter Paramaribo as your destination and find out from which locations you can fly. Compare flight schedules and air fares!
The Johan Adolf Pengel International Airport is home to Surinam Airways. Our national carrier operates flights on a regular basis. Although the company has greatly improved on professionalism over the years, you probably want to know that some of my friends prefer other carriers because they do not want to deal with delays or other unexpected events. Speaking for myself: whenever conditions are equal (flight schedule and air fare), I choose Surinam Airways and – up until now – have not had one complaint.
Insel Air is a new player in the field, and they offer great deals. However, be aware that an even larger number of my friends avoid this carrier altogether because of frequent delays and lack of good communications and service quality.
Trinidad serves as a hub in the Caribbean, which means that there are many flights that land and take off there and you will have lots of options to choose from. Trinidad’s Piarco International Airport is well-organized and their national carrier Caribbean Airlines offers good and friendly service.
Connecting flights operated by the same carrier offer the advantage that they will wait for you or offer arrangements at no charge in case your flight is delayed and you arrive late for your connection. If not, you might just miss your connection and you will end up paying for a new ticket.
Find a bed
The next thing you want to do while planning your trip, is finding a place to sleep. After a long day of traveling, all we want is a nice soft and clean bed to crash into. Even if you are the spontaneous type and tend to be flexi, I would recommend that you make arrangements for the first night or two.
After that, you can always switch hotels or travel to your next stop if so you wish. Some hotels offer a luggage room, where you can store your bags until you come back, so you can move around with a backpack carrying just the stuff that you will need for a short trip.
As for accommodation, there is plenty of choice. There are upscale hotels, some of which you may even know, such as Courtyard by Marriott, Residence Inn or Ramada, and some you will probably have never heard of, such as Torarica and Royal Torarica, Eco Resort Inn or Krasnapolsky. Apart from these, there are other good options between local hotels, apartments, rental houses and a few Bed & Breakfast places. Use the search box below to find yourself a bed!
Have some Fun!
You are all set – all travel documents are in order, you got your plane ticket, and you have found a place to call your home away from home. The next step would be to throw in some fun! Check the web for local tour organizations, compare your value for money and book a trip!
What to choose, you might wonder?
Apart from all of the cool stuff that you can do in and around the city of Paramaribo, a trip to the interior is definitely one to consider. I would recommend taking a 2 or 3 day trip to the Upper Suriname region. Let me show you where it is on the map. Go to the Geo page of this website, scroll down to the second map on the page, which is the map of Suriname, and locate Lelydorp right below Paramaribo.
Then, check out the following map, which has Lelydorp in the top center.
South of Lelydorp, do you spot a couple of names marked orange? These are nature resorts along the Suriname river. The first location marked orange is Bergendal Eco & Cultural River Resort (“Berg en Dal” on this map), which offers luxury in the jungle – a beautiful place to spend the day and/or a night. Further down the river is where you will find the gorgeous rapids! (Check the picture on the Nature page of this website!) There are a lot more nature resorts on this route than you can see on this map, starting from Bakaaboto all the way down to Awaradam, south of Kajana (“Cajana” on this map).
Bakaaboto, Anaula and Danpaati are excellent destinations. Danpaati River Resort holds multiple touristic awards. Bakaaboto is accessible by bus. If you are interested in heading down the river to Anaula, Danpaati or other places, a bus will take you to Atjoni, from where the journey continues by boat. These kind of boats:
The boat ride is one of a kind! Skimming over the dark surface of the clear, cool water of the Suriname river and gazing at the rainforest on both shores left and right, makes me feel a sense of inner peace and utmost freedom. The local young men of the tribe of Saramaccans are expert boatmen and steer their vessels through the water passed rocks as if they were riding a bike – making it look easy. When the water is really low, too low for the boat to float over the rocks – as may happen in the dry season – some or all of the passengers will be requested to step out of the boat and walk a short track through the jungle only to get back on board after the boat has passed the dangerously low part. Don’t worry, a crew member will guide you on the short hike.
The other locations that I marked for you on this map, are also available as excursions. Batavia, for instance, top left on the map above, is quite unique. It is a small village, inhabited mostly by Amerindians, but once it was a leprosy colony. Leprosy is contagious and leaves patients with physical deformations. In the old days, once diagnosed, patients would be transported to Batavia, where the Dutch priest Petrus Donders lived and worked from the year 1856 onwards helping the lepers (interrupted from 1882-1885, when he was back in Paramaribo). He died in Batavia in 1887, of kidney inflammation. Petrus Donders was initially laid to rest in Batavia, but was re-buried in the Saint Peter & Paul Cathedral (currently: basilica) of Paramaribo in 1900. Today, you can join a pilgrimage to Batavia.
To the left on the map above, you will see Bakhuis and Tafelberg, both mountains in the interior. These are the areas where new animal species can still be found!
The big water on the map is the Brokopondo Reservoir, a 135,000 hectare lake which serves as a hydropower plant and provides part of the electricity for the Paramaribo area.
Do you spot Brownsberg at the top left of the lake? Berg is the Dutch word for mountain. Brownsberg is a beautiful nature reserve and a popular destination for visitors – locals as well as tourists. Driving up the road towards Atjoni you can see the top of Brownsberg. It is great for hiking and a guarantee for pretty pictures. Click on the picture below to get more information about a fun tour.
To the right on the map, towards the border with French Guiana, there is Moengo and Galibi. The infrastructure, the bauxite industry – actually the entirety of Moengo and the surrounding area up to Albina have suffered a great deal during the internal conflict that went down in Suriname in the years 1986-1992. Nowadays, there is a wonderful art movement active in Moengo, making efforts to bring back culture, education and color to this region. While en route in the Marowijne district, you might as well push it to Albina and further to Galibi. Galibi is an authentic Amerindian village that accommodates small groups of tourists. From there, you can go turtle spotting at night and observe huge leatherback turtles laying eggs on the beach – or rather, in the beach: they use their hind flippers to make holes in the sand and lay their eggs in the hole. Then, again using their hind flippers, they wipe sand into the hole and close it. Amazing!
Tour Program Sample
In order to offer you some ideas, I have put together a tour program for you, as a sample. Say, you have 12 days to spend in Suriname. Here are some thoughts of what I think would be interesting and fun.
Day 1: Arrival.
Relax, go for a swim, grab a great dinner – that is, if a regional flight does not land you here in the middle of the night.
Day 2: Join a walking tour in town. Also, go to the Tourist Information Centre by the entrance of the Fort Zeelandia complex, ask for flyers and anything you would like to know. Check out the fortress and enjoy a local lunch at De Gadri around the bend at the back of Fort Zeelandia, by the waterfront. You may want to try our traditional rice and pom! After lunch, see if you can get a hold of a local ice-cream for desert – ask for a fudgesicle (look for the chocolate one in the green wrapper! But Triple Chocolate is delicious, too!). Talk to your hotel staff, your waiter – ask for tips about places to go, where to eat, etc. Take a taxi to Blauwgrond, ask the driver to drop you of at Mirosso, and try saoto soup and satay for dinner; have a dawet drink with that. Click on the picture below for more information about Viator’s Paramaribo city tour.
Day 3: Join a 3-day trip to the Upper Suriname region, Anaula for example. Enjoy!
Day 4: Follow the Anaula program. You will get full-board, plus activities such as croc spotting (Yes, croc as in: crocodile!), a jungle walking tour, a trip to Pikin Slee art village – all depending on the season and the length of your stay. Bring swimming gear and protection against the sun!
Day 5: Back in town!
Relax day. Is there anything else that you would like to see or do in the city? Have you checked out the all-wooden basilica yet? And, did you photograph the Islamic mosque along side the Jewish synagogue in the Keizerstraat? Why don’t you try a roti today? – take a taxi to the nearest Roopram restaurant – your driver knows where.
Day 6: Join a dolphin spotting excursion. Wear a hat, protect your skin against the sun using clothes and sun screen! In the evening, go for dinner at L’Espoir in the Johan Adolf Pengelstraat; ask for their cassava fries. If it is Friday, you can be a karaoke star and sing the night away! Perhaps after a couple of local Parbo beers?
Day 7: Relax, go for a swim, see if you can get some fresh fruits at the central market by the waterfront. You may want to walk over to Readytex Art Gallery in de Maagdenstraat – there is a store part that offers great souvenirs and the Art Gallery might host an art exhibition that day. In the evening, grab a taxi to Jawa restaurant in the Gemenelandsweg and order a bami or a telo and salt fish, or perhaps one of their combo dishes. After dinner, ask your cab driver to take you to the Torarica hotel; enter the hotel and walk straight through the lobby to the back door, passed the swimming pool and terrace, via the garden onto the pier. Oh, do not forget to ask for a drink that you can take to the pier – if there is no event planned at the pier, there might be no service there. If there is an event: join the party, let your hair hang loose! No party? Great! Walk all the way to the gazebo at the end of the pier, sit by the Suriname river and watch the millions of stars up above. Aaahh, what a life!
Day 8: Join a 2-day trip to Galibi and go check out the leatherbacks. You will be heading to Albina by bus, where you will board a boat that will sail up the Marowijne river to Galibi.
Day 9: Back in town!
Grab some BBQ dinner Suriname style at Hesdy’s BBQ restaurant at the Ringweg-Noord. Try the chicken! And a ginger beer; it is non-alcoholic, nothing close to beer – what’s in a name!
Day 10: Spend a day in the Commewijne district – stop at the fruit stand just around the bend following the base of the bridge across the Suriname river, to get some delicious fruits. Then head to Fort Nieuw-Amsterdam, an ancient Dutch fortress that is now an open-air museum.
It is an interesting stop, from where you can view Paramaribo shimmering in the sun on the opposite side of the Suriname river. In the afternoon, relax at De Plantage, a peaceful resort along the way to Moengo. Bring hiking shoes and swimming gear. They serve lunch. You could also drive to Tamanredjo, a village along the same road towards Moengo, characterized by many warungs – Javanese eateries. If you have not tried a tahoe longtong yet, this is your chance! Even if there is no longtong (glutinous rice), the dish is still great with just the tahoe (tofu), chicken, fresh bean sprouts and delicious sweet soy sauce alone! Make sure to try some of their snacks, too: cassava chips, banana chips, peyeh – just get your hands on some of those treats!
Day 11: Would you like to leave Suriname with a BANG? Spend the last day of your vacation gliding above the jungle and driving a quad through the savanna! Click on the picture below for more information.
Day 12: Departure.
Make sure to book your transfer to the airport ahead. They will pick you up at your address.
This tour program sample is solely for inspiration purposes. Of course – should you want to use it, you are welcome to copy it. And, do feel free to leave me a comment below!
Historical Novel by Cynthia McLeod
Original Title: Hoe duur was de suiker?
Translator: Gerald Mettam
Publisher: HopeRoad Publishing
Available at: Amazon.com
Price: Paperback (298 pages) $ 17.00
Kindle $ 4.61
About the Author
Cynthia McLeod is a Suriname native. She gained fame as a writer of historical novels, some of which have been translated into English, German, Italian, and Swedish.
Mrs. McLeod (1936) was born Cynthia Ferrier, a daughter of Johan Ferrier – Suriname’s last Governor under the Dutch administration, who became the first President of the Republic of Suriname when the country became independent in 1975.
The author finished high school in Suriname and then took off to the Netherlands for studies. She met her husband there, Donald McLeod, and the couple returned to Suriname in 1962. Cynthia McLeod continued her studies in Suriname and worked as a Dutch teacher at a high school in Paramaribo until 1978. She then followed her husband to Venezuela, Belgium and the United States, where he was appointed Ambassador of Suriname. It was during her time abroad that Mrs. McLeod started writing and researching the history of Suriname extensively.
She published her first book in 1987: Hoe duur was de suiker?, the original version in Dutch of The Cost of Sugar. This debut instantly made her Suriname’s #1 author: the initial 3000 copies of the book were sold out in 6 weeks – this is a big deal in Suriname with its small population, that does not tend to spend much on books. To this day, Hoe duur was de suiker? remains the best selling book in Suriname as well as the best selling book abroad by a Surinamese author. In 2013, a Dutch crew turned this title into a motion picture of the same name.
Here in Suriname, there is probably not a soul who does not know Cynthia McLeod. Either people know her as an author or as the Republic’s first President’s daughter or as the great storyteller that she is, or she has been their teacher back in school. And there is yet another reason for which Mrs. McLeod became known in Suriname and abroad. See this picture here of the barge by the name of Sweet Merodia*? A dream that Mrs. McLeod had came true when she was able to purchase an old flat bottom boat and convert it into a tourist vessel that cruised the Suriname River or the Commewijne River, along the coast where once hundreds of plantations were located. On board, she would talk about the history of the planters, their families, their plantations and their slaves. The tours were open to paying guests, who raised the money for the organization to be able to offer the trip to Suriname primary school classes at no charge. The purpose was to educate anybody interested and particularly Suriname’s youth on the country’s history. After a number of successful years, the maintenance costs of the old barge grew too high and the Sweet Merodia was docked for good. The historical tours are now carried out per bus and Mrs. McLeod also guides walking tours through the historical city center of Paramaribo.
*Merodia was the name of a plantation in Suriname, featured in Cynthia McLeod’s book “Vaarwel Merioda” (1993).
Story and Setting
October 1765 – Sarith and Elza are teenage step sisters. They live at the Hébron Plantation on the banks of the Suriname River, near Jodensavanne.
In their lives and times, Jodensavanne was Suriname’s most important town, larger and of greater economic importance than Paramaribo was back then. Today, the ruins, the cemetery and the tall, old trees are the silent witnesses that remain of this abandoned Jewish settlement. If only the trees could speak, they would tell us everything about life at the plantation, the business deals, the church formalities, the continuous concern for attacks by runaway slaves, the cruelties, the heartbreaks – the daily life that went down at that beautiful spot by the river.
The trees cannot speak, but Cynthia McLeod reveals what life could have been – and probably was – like for two young ladies growing up in the Dutch colony. The book covers 14 years of Sarith’s and Elza’s lives, during which they marry, learn to deal with life’s struggles and become mothers. The author describes life in the young colony in detail – we learn the names of real people, we read about their day-to-day activities and get a picture of how their communication must have sounded like.
Suriname’s plantations produced cocoa, coffee, cotton and sugar. In the 18th century, the production of sugar reached it’s peak and profits were good. Sugar was the colony’s most important export product. Hébron was a successful sugar plantation. But producing sugar was a very labor intensive process. Enslaved Africans would start working the fields early in the morning, at sunrise. They would harvest the sugar cane and chop it into smaller parts using a machete. Then the sugar cane pieces would get pressed by large rollers and the laborers would boil the juice in large, round metal dishes until syrupy. This syrupy mass would go into large barrels, where it would thicken and get shipped off to Europe. The harvesting, pressing and boiling process was not only heavy duty but also a high risk job the slaves found themselves exposed to. Meanwhile, the planters were facing troubles of their own, constantly worrying about the continuous attacks on plantations by runaway slaves. The story of Sarith and Eliza is set against this background of the high cost of sugar.
Cynthia McLeod writes historical novels which are set in the 18th or 19th century Suriname – the age of Dutch colonization, when slaves were toiling and plantations were booming. The events are true stories. The places are real places. Some of the people in the books are to be found in historical archives, while other names are fictional but based on real characters.
The book offers a touch of Dutch as well as Sranan. It contains an overview of consulted literature and an extensive glossary of terms, of which the following picture shows you an excerpt.
You will get a feel of the humble speech of the slaves (which is still recognizable in today’s speech!) and the degrading tone of voice their masters poured down on them. You will get an understanding of the situation in which Portuguese Jews and Dutch settlers got themselves into, and of the suffering the slaves had to endure. At the same time, you will enjoy the frivolous story of two maturing well-to-do young women who – each in her own right – tried to make the best out of life in the colony. Cynthia McLeod is a storyteller – once you pick up the book, you will find it hard to put it down.
Have you enjoyed this review? Feel free to leave your comment below!
So, you gathered all relevant information, got your plans together, booked your trip, packed your bags, and made your way to Suriname!
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–respectedauthor 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 Sugarhere.
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!
Suriname is located in South America, just above the equator line. Tropical sunshine, colorful nature, delicious tropical fruits, exotic people, hot music, interesting history, colonial architecture – we have it all!
Are you looking for an adventure you will never forget?
Do you enjoy doing your own planning?
Would you like to experience the tropical rainforest?
Do you prefer to go fishing? Or,
Would you rather get the feel of downtown Paramaribo?
If your answer to any of these questions is then you should really consider spending some time in Suriname! And, the good news is: you can pick and choose any of these adventures and even add to this list – and do it all in one single vacation!
This website will show you how to find your way around in Suriname and stay safe. After all, the rainforest ain’t no park – you definitely do not want to be heading into the jungle by yourself! In certain cases, it would be best to just book a trip with a local tour organization. And sometimes, you can get to places organizing your journey by yourself, and travel by public transportation or hire your own driver. Suriname offers many possibilities – you just need to be aware and be flexi, as we say.
Regular posts on this site will offer you a taste of daily life in Suriname, some facts and figures, music and sound clips, and much more. No politics and economics, though – there are plenty of other platforms to cover that. This site is all about the wonders of traveling – and specifically about the magic of traveling to Suriname!