Category: Suriname

Last Time in Paramaribo??

Paramaribo, Suriname – June 1, 2014

This will be my final trip to Paramaribo during my posting to Guyana. Because of that, I decided to change things up a little bit on my flight. I usually take the first single-seat as soon as I board. Selecting that seat allows me to be the first off the plane in Paramaribo. This time I sat directly behind the pilot. That brought back memories of my days as a pilot. I do miss them.
Today we boarded at about 08:25 for our 08:30 departure. We were maybe ten minutes late taking off. We taxied to the south end of the single runway and turned around. There was another plane ahead, which had just lifted off. We had to wait for a minute or two to let that plane clear the area. When it was our turn, the pilot gently moved the throttle forward on the single-engine Cessna Caravan. We lifted off at 75 knots (about 86 miles per hour) on a heading of 330°. At about 250 feet (76 meters) in altitude, we turned right to a heading of 040°. At that point, we were climbing at 500 feet (152 meters) per minute at a speed of 110 knots (126 mph).
We flew directly over Enmore at about 3,000 feet (914 meters). I visited the sugar factory there in October 2013. It was quite hazy, and the visibility was poor, I estimate five miles (eight kilometers) or less. Regardless, the flight was not bumpy.
Climbing through 5,000 feet (1,524 meters), we topped the first layer of clouds. At 7,000 feet (2,134 meters), we made it past the thin layer of clouds; after that, neither the ground nor ocean was visible, just the white clouds below. Based on the heavy rain at home earlier that morning, I thought most of the flight would take place in clouds and rain. I was wrong.
We leveled out at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters). Frankly, I thought that was a little high since the plane was not pressurized. I believe most of the larger commercial planes pressurize their cabins to about 8,000 feet (2,438 meters).
In level flight, the pilot maintained about 130 knots (149 mph). I noticed a placard on the instrument panel read “143 knots maximum weight maneuver speed.” As long as we were flying straight and level, that was not an issue. I noted the actual redline of the plane was at 175 knots (201 mph).
About midway during the flight, we flew through some cloud tops at about 9,500 feet (2,896 meters). There were a couple of minor bumps and a very slight mist on the windscreen. Almost as quickly as it had begun, the flight was smooth and clear again.
Roughly 50-minutes into our flight, the pilot changed our course slightly to a heading of 010°.
The flight was only to have been 1:15 in duration. At 1:21, we began our descent at about 500 feet per minute. Our airspeed was 145 knots (166 mph). At one point we were traveling at 160 knots (184 mph), descending at 1,000 feet (305 meters) per minute.
At 7,000 feet (2,134 meters), we entered the cloud tops. By 6,300 feet (1,920 meters), we had zero visibility, some bumps, and a little rain. We emerged from those clouds at 5,800 feet (1,768 meters). Between 5,500 feet and 5,000 feet (1,676 – 1,524 meters), we went through more clouds and rain. That happened again between 4,300 feet and 3,800 feet (1,311 – 1,158 meters). At 1:34 into the flight, at 2,000 feet (610 meters), we finally made it below the clouds.
At 1:35, I spotted the runway ahead.
At 1:36, we were at 1,000 feet (305 meters).
At 1:37, we were at 600 feet (183 meters), slowed down to 120 knots (138 mph).
At 1:38, we were at 250 feet (76 meters), slowed down to 90 knots (103 mph).
We touched down after 1:39, flying at 80 knots (92 mph). Our average ground speed during the flight was 126 knots (145 mph).
Luckily, the pilot did not know how much of a backseat pilot I had been!
I made it to my hotel, the Royal Torarica, and checked in to my room at about 11:45. Coincidentally, the room was next to the room Leslie and I stayed in during my previous visit to Paramaribo.

Paramaribo with my Bride

Paramaribo with my Bride

Paramaribo, Suriname – April 6, 2014

Leslie and I left home, bound for Ogle Airport in Cummings Lodge, Guyana. The airport is only about a 10-minute drive from our home. We arrived right at 06:00 even though check-in for our flight was not due to begin until 07:00. We just sat and watched the sunrise and the intermittent rain.
Even though Ogle is an international airport, it is not very busy. That is because virtually the only planes flying in and out are 12-passenger Cessna Caravans (plus two for the pilot and co-pilot). So even if three full flights are leaving at the same time, there is a maximum of 36 people at the terminal. Most of the Cessna Caravans from Ogle have been fitted with a small cargo-hold under the plane. Regardless, one is restricted to a mere 33-pounds of luggage. At the check-in counter, they weigh both the luggage and the traveler, separately!
We checked in on time, went through passport control, security, and then finally sat down in the air-conditioned waiting area. The waiting area before checking-in is open-air. Through the window, we could see one of Trans Guyana Airline’s Cessna Caravans parked on the apron. Both sides of the engine cowling were propped open. We saw several small planes take off over the hour or so we were there. Ultimately we boarded the lone plane we had seen on the apron.

Our trusty steed…

Waiting to board.

We sat in the rearmost bench seat and were joined by ten other passengers and the pilot. On this particular flight, the co-pilot seat was vacant; however, I have seen a passenger sit in that seat on several occasions in the past. Our boarding had begun at 08:25. By 08:30 the pilot was taxiing on the single runway. The airport is so small there is not a separate taxiway. So, takeoff, landing, and taxiing all take place on the same piece of concrete.
The taxiway dead-ends into the runway at about the mid-point of the runway. Once the pilot was sure there were no planes coming or going on the runway, he pulled onto the runway and turned left. We taxied to the south end of the runway on the runway itself. At the end, there is an additional portion of the paved area that provides enough room for the plane to do a u-turn. As soon as we had turned back to the north, the pilot pushed the throttle forward. In no time we were airborne, leaving the 4,200 foot (1,280 meters) runway below. After gaining about 500 or 600 feet of altitude, the pilot turned right and aimed us at Paramaribo for our 1:15 duration flight.
Except for some very minor corrections on our heading, it is virtually a straight-line flight to the one runway at Zorg en Hoop International airport in Paramaribo. That airport is very similar to Ogle, although it is a bit smaller. The runway there is only 2,559 feet (780 meters). The flight itself was relatively smooth. The approach, as usual, was a little bumpy.
When the pilot touched down, he pulled the yoke so far back the stall warning buzzer went off. That continued for several seconds until the wings finally lost enough lift to allow the nose-wheel to settle onto the runway. That was not Leslie’s favorite part of the flight!
We zipped through immigration, met our driver, and were quickly on our way to the Royal Torarica hotel. I had never stayed there on any of my previous trips. That hotel is much closer to the center of town, which makes it easier to get around to the various tourist sites. En-route, the driver was kind enough to drive by the embassy so Leslie could see it.
Due to the one-hour time change, it was about 11:30 when we checked-in at the hotel. The lobby was a little chaotic because they were preparing to film a commercial for the hotel. We were too early to get our room key, but they were kind enough to store our bags. Once the transaction was complete, I asked them to call a taxi.
The taxi arrived within two minutes. I told the driver we wanted to go to the Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral. He said the trip would be $15SRD, about $5US.
On our initial drive in from the airport, we drove by the cathedral and could see mass was in progress. When we arrived by taxi, the mass was over, and people were exiting. Many of the people stopped to talk with and take photos with the Bishop. There seemed to be a real air of excitement.
After exiting the cab, we approached the Bishop and introduced ourselves. He did not speak much English, but he seemed genuinely interested in meeting two travelers from Colorado.
As we prepared to walk inside the cathedral, I noticed some signs or plaques above each of the three entry doors. I could not see what they were as they were each covered by a cloth.
Walking inside, Leslie was awestruck by the beauty of this all-wood, 129-year old building. I, too, am amazed every time I visit. The wood used inside is not stained or finished. Instead, it has a 129-year-old patina that is strikingly beautiful. The stations of the cross and the crucifix are made of wood too. They are painted, which contrasts nicely with the natural wood.
Two of my favorite objects in the cathedral are the pieta and the enamel and gold-colored depiction of the Madonna and Child. The colors are so vibrant. It is a cathedral I shall never forget.
A few other tourists joined us as we walked around the cathedral. It is quite challenging to take in all of the details.
At the rear of the cathedral is a small area that has been set aside to sell religious items. Leslie found a ceramic cross. We bought that cross to add to her collection.

Departing the Basilica.
Typical artwork for the stations of the cross.
The main crucifix.
The altar.
Detail of the Pieta statue.
Various artwork at a side chapel.
The Madonna and Child.
View toward the back of the basilica.
Detail of the wood ceiling in the basilica.
The diocesan flag beside the green, white, and red Suriname flag.
Covering the sign at the entrance to the basilica.

The newspapers the next morning shed light on why there had been such an air of excitement at the cathedral that Sunday. It had been an extraordinary mass which elevated the church to a Minor Basilica; no wonder!
Leaving the cathedral, we set our sights on Fort Zeelandia. It was a location I wanted to be sure Leslie saw. Part of the intent of our visit was to eat lunch at the restaurant at the Fort called Baka Foto.
It did not take us long to walk the three or four blocks to the Fort. I am sure it would have taken even less time if I had not stopped so frequently to take photos. The photos do reveal that many buildings within the UNESCO World Heritage Site are in need of repair and restoration. The good news is I did see a lot of properties preparing for rehabilitation, such as the old police station near the cathedral.

Looking east on Henk Arronstraat.
Typical buildings on Henk Arronstraat.
The Suriname flag flying in front of a building on Henk Arronstraat.
The Ministry of Justice and Police on Henk Arronstraat.
Flags at the Onafhankelijkheidsplein or town square.
The Presidential Palace faces the Onafhankelijkheidsplein.
Detail of the coat of arms on the Presidential Palace.
The flags in the Onafhankelijkheidsplein.
Art for sale at a building near the Onafhankelijkheidsplein.
Side view of the “art” building.

When we arrived, we sat at a table on the patio that overlooks the Suriname River. It was very relaxing, in part, because it was so quiet.
We both opted for a glass of Merlot. For lunch, we both had fish and chips. Shortly after we placed the order, I realized I did not have much Surinamese cash with me. I asked the waitress if the restaurant accepted Visa. She informed me they only took MasterCard. In somewhat of a panic, I asked her where the nearest ATM was located. She said it was about five minutes away. I told her I was going to dash out to get some money. She said there was no need to worry. I should relax and enjoy my lunch. So we booth relaxed and enjoyed lunch. We enjoyed it so much we decided to share a creme brulee for dessert. It was wonderful!

The outdoor dining area of Baka Foto Restaurant.
A panorama of the Suriname River and Paramaribo. The Jules Wijdenboschbrug is on the left of the frame.
View across the Suriname River from the Baka Foto Restaurant.
A colonial house across from Fort Zeelandia.
More colonial houses across from Fort Zeelandia.

I left Leslie at the table, and I began walking to get money. I thought to myself how much simpler it would have been if I had just gotten money at the hotel after we checked-in. The hotel is only about two blocks from the Fort. That is where I decided to go. For security’s sake, I did not want to chance a “public” ATM.
When I arrived, I asked at the front desk of the Royal Torarica, where the ATM was located. They told me they did not have one, but there was a machine at the neighboring Torarica Hotel and Casino. That was another block or so of walking. I went inside, got some money, and then promptly hailed a taxi. For just a few SRD, I was whisked back to the Fort. I paid our bill, and we began to look around the Fort.
Fort Zeelandia dates from about 1613, the oldest building in Paramaribo, began life as a Dutch trading post. The Fort was held for a time by the French and then the British. In 1667, it was taken back by the Dutch and Christened Fort Zeelandia. According to a sign on the property, that was the same year New Amsterdam (present-day New York) was traded for Suriname. It was not a very defensible structure as it changed hands many times. It was even sacked by a French pirate, Jacques Cassard, in 1712. Regardless of its history, it is a site well worth the visit.

Waiting for her husband at the well in Fort Zeelandia.
Detail of a roof in Fort Zeelandia.
One of the Fort Zeelandia cannon at the shore of the Suriname River.
View toward the central courtyard of Fort Zeelandia.
The Fort Zeelandia pharmacy is still on display.
Detail of the pharmacy.
A man walking toward the Baka Foto Restaurant.
An old building near Fort Zeelandia.
The “I Love Suriname” sign near Fort Zeelandia.
Door to an old building near Fort Zeelandia.
Detail of an upper window crisscrossed with barbed wire.
The remnants of the old storehouse at Fort Zeelandia.

We left the Fort, destined for our hotel. Our stroll ended with us obtaining a room key and our bags. After a quick change into bathing suits, we went down to lounge by the pool. That was another area that was so relaxing. There was a water fountain that provided that soothing gurgling sound. One could relax at a table, a lounge chair, or a type of twin bed structure with a loose, fabric sunshade.

An old wooden building on Kleine Water Street.
The bridge over a canal on Kleine Water Street seems to have been completed in 1953.
Three men walking along Kleine Water Street.
The Royal Torarica Hotel.
A very colorful business vehicle.

Adjacent to the pool is a Koy pond. There were numerous, large Koy. Besides, there was a much smaller, but more striking, neon-blue fish. The pond was a favorite with guests. Many of them stopping by to watch the fish for a while before continuing on their way.

The swimming pool area at the Royal Torarica Hotel.
Feeding the fish at the Royal Torarica Hotel.

After the pool, we changed and decided to walk to the Torarica Hotel and Casino. It is the parent hotel of the Royal. Both hotels share the same grounds, which are amazing. They are immaculately cared for and full of tropical plants and flowers.
Our ultimate destination was the building/patio area by the river bank. I thought it would be a relaxing place to have a toddy and watch the sunset. When we got there, the bar portion was closed. Undeterred, we took the opportunity to walk out on the pier, which extends into the Suriname River. Before we got on the dock, we could see several people standing on the pier, looking over the sides. Reaching the others, we found they were watching several egrets, and a snake dining on fish.
Most of the egrets were white, but there was one that was a grayish-blue. On one side of the pier, a white egret was letting a snake flush out the fish. The river was low because the tide was out. The muddy river bank was exposed as were numerous holes. The holes ranged in size from a quarter to a half-dollar. Going from hole to hole was a small snake, I estimate it was about 18 inches long. Periodically the snake would completely disappear into a hole. When that happened, the white egret would get reasonably close to that hole, stand, and wait. Now and then a small fish would jump up from the same hole, and the egret would catch the fish.
Something I found interesting was the little fish near the water’s edge. I believe they are mudfish (Gobidae). Many of them were lying on the mud letting the small ripples from the river wash over them. Quite a few were similar in size to the fish we saw the egret eat. Regardless, none of the dozen or so egrets we saw showed any interest in the mudfish.

A white egret on the banks of the Suriname River.
A snake coming out of a hole on the banks of the Suriname River.
A white egret.
A gray egret.
A gray egret.
Small mudfish on the bank of the Suriname River.
A white egret waiting for the snake to flush out dinner.
A white egret still waiting for dinner.
The pier of the Maritieme Autoriteit Suriname (MAS). This is the Suriname Maritime Authority.

I had been on the pier on a previous journey. For some reason, I have always liked boats and ships. The dock allows a good view of another pier just downriver. That is where the pilot boats dock.
We slowly strolled back to the Royal, enjoying the manicured grounds. When we got back to the hotel, we selected two overstuffed chairs on the patio overlooking the pool. We also picked two glasses of wine. It was around 17:30, which meant the late afternoon light was excellent — the commercial crew we had seen when we first checked-in were taking advantage of that light. The team was now filming on the deck of the pool. They had multiple takes of every shot. It was interesting to watch how a commercial is made.

Patterns on a tile roof at the Royal Torarica Hotel.
The top of a palm tree at the hotel.
Detail of a palm tree.
An eastern statue near the swimming pool at the hotel.

Since we had packed so much into the day already, we decided not to go out for dinner. We walked inside and sat down at a table in the restaurant. We ordered a bottle of Casa Silva Cabernet Sauvignon to go with our meal. As the waiter opened and poured the wine, he mentioned that one of the specials that night was lobster. That piqued Leslie’s interest. She had several queries about the size, how it was cooked, and how it was served. The waiter said he would have the chef come out and explain.

The selection to accompany our meal.

Even though we had said it was not necessary, the executive chef, Floris van Noort, was soon standing at our table. He was a people-person, very friendly. He loved Leslie’s enthusiasm. They both acted as though they were long-lost friends.
The tray he had brought to the table was filled with about a dozen servings of lobster. They each looked like they were ready to eat right then. Chef Floris explained that the meat was from lobster claws. He further told how it had been marinated and how he intended to present the dish. Leslie asked if she could have a surf and turf dinner. The chef said that would be no problem, even though it was not offered on the menu.
The first thing we were served was the cream of vegetable soup in a small demitasse cup. It was just a sample, but good none the less.
Not too long after that, our appetizer showed up. We opted to split Gemarineerde Zalm. That is marinated salmon on toast with a sorbet of cucumber and a jelly of cucumber. It was served on a piece of black slate. Chef Floris came with the waiter and explained the dish to us. We felt like royalty! If someone had told me I would eat sorbet of cucumber and jelly of cucumber, I would have responded they were nuts. Well, they were both fantastic!

The salmon appetizer.

Next up was a bowl of soup, but this was a cream of white asparagus. The chef said the white asparagus had just arrived that day from Amsterdam. He told us we were the first people in Paramaribo to try the white asparagus this season. It was very rich and very delicious. I cannot communicate just how good the soup was.
Our main entree, lobster, and ossenhaas (tenderloin) arrived with another explanation from the chef. The lobster was served on a bed of risotto. The vegetables included peas, green asparagus, and some seagrass (it had a slightly salty taste). He had also drizzled a couple of sauces on the plate. Quite frankly I was a little nervous about the steaks because one was about twice as thick as the other, but Leslie and I had ordered ours done the same way. I thought for sure the thicker steak would be under-cooked. I could not have been more wrong. The certified Angus beef was cooked superbly, melting in my mouth.
We finished our meal with a creme brulee — wow, twice in one day!

The main dish of lobster claws.
The dessert course.
Leslie with her new buddy, Chef Floris van Noort.

The restaurant and the chef were both so amazing we ended up eating there three nights out of the five we were in Paramaribo. I highly recommend the restaurant and the hotel.
One of the days during our stay, we discovered another fish pond. That pond had some massive catfish. Some of their heads looked to be at least one foot across. There was also an arapaima in the pond. They are native to many of the rivers in South America. We recognized it right away because we had seen an episode of River Monsters in which the host, Jeremy Wade, caught an arapaima. This particular fish was around four feet long. They can grow to between six and eight feet in length, weighing up to a couple of hundred pounds.

An arapaima fish in the pond at the Royal Torarica Hotel.

Wednesday, while I was at work, Leslie had a massage. She raved about it so much I decided to schedule a massage for the next afternoon. That was my first ever massage. It was very relaxing. I was shocked at the price, $48US for a 60-minute massage. That seemed very reasonable compared to what I have seen at other hotels.
Thursday evening, after my massage, we decided to try our luck in the casino. There is a brand new Ramada across the street from the Royal. It has a casino. We walked in, looked around, and settled on some of the old-style quarter slot machines. We cashed in $50SRD each for a cup of quarter-size tokens. That is roughly $17US. We made a pact to only use the tokens in our container to feed the machine, saving our winnings. I broke even exactly. Leslie lost $20SRD.
We took what was left and cashed in for paper money. We took that and went to an automated roulette wheel. We played until we both had zero left. It was entertaining, we did get a couple of drinks, and it did not cost an arm and a leg.
Even though I worked each day, this was one of the best excursions we have taken in quite some time.

An orchid on the grounds of the Royal Torarica Hotel.
A beautiful flowering tree on the hotel property.
Detail of the flowering tree.

Walking Tour

Walking Tour

Paramaribo, Suriname – February 23, 2014

I had to leave Georgetown on Saturday because Trans Guyana Airlines does not fly on Sunday. The flight was full, 14 people including the pilot.

Taxiing at Ogle Airport in Georgetown, Guyana.

It was mostly cloudy the entire trip, so the views were not all that spectacular. As we descended through the clouds to land, it did get a little bumpy.

Flying near our house. Toward the center-left is a row of five houses. Ours is the one in the middle of the group.
A canal in the countryside. Many of the fields are sugar cane.
At our cruising altitude.
Descending into Paramaribo.
Passing a cemetery on the final approach.
On the ground at last!!

Upon arrival, a driver met me. He took me directly to the Courtyard by Marriott, my usual abode here.

The jackpot is a little over $72,000US.
Passed this large Hindu temple on the way to the hotel.
A very, very small two-story house in Paramaribo.
The view to the east out of my hotel room.
The Suriname River passes the Courtyard by Marriott.

Shortly after checking in, I made arrangements for a walking tour the following day. At about SRD 175 (US$55) I was a little nervous, wondering if the tour would be worth that much money.
Typically when I am here, I stay in the hotel for dinner. This time I decided to live on the edge and go into town.
I had the front desk hail a taxi. The car was at the hotel within a minute or two. A few minutes and SRD 20 (US$6) later, I was deposited at De Waag Italian Restaurant. It is downtown very near the Suriname River wall, on the edge of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The building was used initially to weigh cargo coming and going at the Paramaribo docks; thus the name, De Waag. At 18:05, I found I was the only customer.
The ambiance was nice. It is a 19th Century building of two stories is wood construction covered by white plaster. Breaking the roof-line on the riverside were three dormers, each no doubt providing a commanding view of the river.
I found it interesting that the music being played over their sound system was quite heavy with Rock and Roll selections from the 1950s; enjoyable, but somewhat out of place.

The sign for De Waag.

Some paintings on the wall in the restaurant.
Some other early diners at De Waag restaurant.

I opted for the shrimp in Creole sauce. The server brought it quickly. The vegetable served with it were thin, long slices of carrot and some skinny green beans. The Creole sauce bathed the vegetables and the shrimp. It had a pleasant, spicy taste, but it was not spicy hot. They served french fries on the side with mayonnaise, which immediately reminded me Suriname was a former Dutch colony. I had undoubtedly heard of mayonnaise and french fries before, but I had never tried it. I was shocked at how good that tasted.
The entire meal came to 110SRD (US$35), including two glasses of Merlot and an espresso. I thought it was very reasonably priced.
After dinner, I called for the same driver to come back to the restaurant. Once again, he was there within a few minutes.
When I returned to the hotel, I stopped at the bar for a nightcap. Since my tour of the El Dorado rum distillery in Georgetown, I have been drinking the 21-year-old El Dorado rum. So that night I decided to try a Surinamese rum. The oldest available was 15-year-old Borgoe rum. It was good, but I do not think it compared to the 21-year-old El Dorado. It was smooth, but there was a real distinct taste of oak. That taste seemed to me to verge on bitter. The 21-year-old El Dorado is milder with a little hint of sweetness.
After that, it was time for bed. I had to be rested for my hike the next day.

Sunrise over the Suriname River.

Finished with breakfast, I made my way to the Hotel Torarica. That was where I was to meet my guide for the walking city tour. Of course, I was there well before my appointed time. That provided me the opportunity to walk around the property and take some photos.
I was astonished by the size of the hotel property. Walking through the lobby to the rear of the hotel, one ends up at a huge swimming pool and patio complex. Beyond that is an extensive garden area. In addition to plenty of open space, there are two tennis courts. Continuing toward the Suriname River, one encounters a riverside building that houses a bar/snackette. There is plenty of seating on the expansive deck.

A riverside bar as seen from the pier.From the deck, there is a pier extending just past the bank of the Suriname River. At the end of the dock, there is a gazebo. The entire complex can be used to dock boats. When I was there, I saw a small “party” boat docked at the gazebo. A little farther out in the river was an anchored sailboat. I did not recognize the red, white, and blue striped flag at first. Then it dawned on me it was the Netherlands flag. That made sense. I don’t think I would have wanted to be on that tiny sailboat for the Atlantic crossing.

A gazebo at the end of the pier at the Torarica Hotel. The sailboat is flying the Netherlands.
The pier leading to the gazebo.
The Suriname River as seen from the pier.
At anchor, the sailboat is pointing downstream. That means the tide was coming into the Suriname River.
A family walking back to the hotel.

A little farther downriver was another pier. Docked there were several pilot boats and other small boats. I assume that pilot boats depart from that location to meet up with ships coming and going from the Atlantic to the docks at Paramaribo. The pilot boats meet up with ships, regardless of their direction of travel, to drop off a pilot or pick up a pilot. The pilot is in command of the vessel while he or she is on board. The pilots have the local knowledge necessary to navigate the shallow river to and from the Atlantic Ocean.

The pier next door is where the pilot boats dock.

I ultimately met my guide, Boyky, in the lobby. That was around 09:00. He was born in the interior of Suriname into the Saramaka tribe of the Maroons. The Maroons are tribes that formed as escaped slaves intermixed with the indigenous peoples of Suriname, beginning in the 18th Century.

He ushered me outside and asked if I would like to start by walking to the Chinese Market. I said sure, although deep inside I don’t think I was too interested. We walked through a typical urban neighborhood on our way to the market. Old buildings that seem to have already enjoyed a long life are the norm. Many of the residents of the city do not have enough money to buy the necessary paint for their homes or businesses. It does lead to some interesting photo compositions.

The home on the corner may have seen better days.

As it turned out, I am delighted we went to the Chinese Market. It was unique and fascinating. The Chinese Market is open-air, under one giant roof. I estimate the covered area was something like 75 feet by 150 feet. As soon as I walked under the roof, I felt as though I had been transported directly to a small village in China.
We made our way to what I would call the back corner of the market. That is where some people were frying something that reminded me of the Mexican churros. The man working the dough rolled out long, flat pieces about four or five inches wide. He then made several crosscuts. That resulted in a flat piece of dough four or five inches long by one inch wide. He placed one on top of the other and creased them lengthwise down the middle with a small piece of bamboo. The final process was pulling them until they were 15 or 16 inches long. Once they were the right length, they were laid gently in a large pot of hot oil.
The finished products were retrieved from the pot when they were golden brown. I did not have one since I had just eaten breakfast. I was told they are not a sweet snack. That surprised me since I had likened them to a churro.

The frying station for what appeared to be a Chinese version of a Mexican churro.
Preparing the dough for frying.
One places the new dough in the oil while the other removes the finished product.

The market was reasonably crowded; however, I would not have called it packed. It appears one could get just about anything there; chicken feet, fish heads, squid and vegetables. In addition to those ingredients, one could also purchase any number of cooked delights; some fried, some steamed, while there were others that were packaged and ready for consumption. I could not bring myself to try anything. If I return, I will make sure to go hungry so that I can partake.

There were a lot of people in the market for a Sunday morning.
Green vegetables for sale at the Chinese Market.
Not being the best Chinese connoisseur, I was not sure what many of the items were.

As we departed the market, we walked by a booth where the offering was roasted ducks and roasted chickens. We stood and watched for a moment as the booth worker took a Chinese cleaver to cut up a chicken for a client. It looked and smelled terrific. If I had had a place to keep them and then heat them, I would have bought one of the chickens.
The next stop was the Palmentuin, Palm Garden, about two blocks away. It is directly behind the Presidential Palace, which was at one time the Governor’s home. When the garden was initially planned, there were about 1,100 palm trees planted, thus the name. It is a pretty and serene setting.

Typical drainage found throughout Paramaribo.
Palmtree Garden, a park very near Fort Zeelandia.
The palm trees are incredibly tall.
The iconic I Love Suriname sign near Fort Zeelandia.
A row of homes outside Fort Zeelandia. I believe they all house businesses today.

Walking through the Palmentuin, we ended up at the Fort Zeelandia complex. There is one impressive “skeleton” of a building in the area that used to be the storehouse. It was nearly 200 years old when it burned down in the 1990s. I thought it was just an interesting looking hulk of a building. Unfortunately, since it is directly beside the President’s office building, I was not able to take a photograph.
The actual fort itself dates from the mid-17th Century, comprised of five brick buildings connected by some bastions. The buildings, by their placement, form a five-pointed star. The fort was critical in protecting a young Paramaribo from marauders, including Caribbean pirates. Boyky let me wander around on my own for a while.
Virtually all of the buildings house various exhibits detailing the history of the fort and Paramaribo. One of the buildings houses the pharmacy. There is a relatively extensive collection of pharmaceutical containers. That makes it easy to “transport” oneself to the 17th and 18th Centuries and imagine what life must have been like then. In that same building, there are also a couple of old surgical tables on display. Quite frankly, I found them to be a little gruesome.
Baka Foto is a good restaurant on the ground floor of one of the buildings. From the outdoor dining area, one has a splendid view of the Suriname River. During a past trip, I ate at the restaurant. I thought it was excellent. It is one of the highest-rated restaurants in Paramaribo.
The smallest building houses a museum gift shop on the ground floor. A couple of items caught my eye. Both were made from seeds native to Suriname. One seed is red, about the size of a pomegranate seed. Holes were drilled into the seeds by which they are strung onto a bracelet. The other item was made with much smaller, flatter seeds. These were woven into an intricate necklace.

One of the buildings in Fort Zeelandia.
Looking down the steps into the center courtyard.
Two more tourists entering to tour the fort.
A gun emplacement at the fort overlooking the Suriname River.
Another of the buildings in the courtyard of the fort.

When I met up with Boyky again, he surprised me with a cold bottle of water, quite thoughtful.
We continued our walk along the river to the area of town that is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Much of that area in the city has the preserved architecture of the early Dutch colony. The look is very European, with some portions reminding me somewhat of the French Quarter in New Orleans. The area is very picturesque.
Most of the homes and buildings have red brick foundations. The expensive bricks initially imported from Holland, showing one’s wealth based on the finished height of the foundation. There is one building in the row facing the river whose entire front facade is of the red bricks. That original builder must have been quite wealthy.
What remains today are structures that were rebuilt after the devastating fires in Paramaribo in 1821 and 1834. Since wood was the primary building material in use, it is easy to see why both fires were so destructive. According to a January 2014 report by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), “…to date, the property maintains the attributes for which it was inscribed on the World Heritage List. However, if urgent measurements are not taken the Inner City will fall into an irreversible decay or suffer significant transformations, which will lead to the progressive erosion of the attributes that warranted inscription of the property on the World Heritage List”. That would be every bit as devastating as the fires mentioned above.

These homes facing the Suriname River are a testament to why the historic inner city of Paramaribo is on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

The structures in the “Fixer-Uppers” photograph document three stages of the buildings; the building on the right is in apparently excellent shape, the building in the middle is a government ministry building. I believe Boyky said it was the Ministry of Housing. That was a little ironic. Harder to see and in much worse shape is the building on the left. That one is decaying because of family problems.

Many structures have been renovated while others, “fixer-uppers,” stand and wait.

Boyky explained that part of the problem leading to the decay of the area is the prevalence of multiple family owners scattered around the world. Over time, many properties have been passed down through wills. The family heirs have become far-flung; with members of a typical family residing in Suriname, Canada, The Netherlands, etc. That makes it difficult for everyone to come to terms on what to do with a property. As a result, some properties continue their decay with no mediation on the part of the family.
Across from the river-facing buildings, one can see the hulk of a sunken ship in the middle of the Suriname River. Boyky said this was a German boat that was sunk by its captain during World War II.

A sunken boat from World War II is still visible in the Suriname River.

We wound our way to the Catholic cathedral. Mass was in process when we arrived so we were not able to enter. Regardless, I was able to take a photo during communion from the door at the rear of the cathedral. Please see more pictures of the cathedral in the post, Suriname on TDY. It is worth taking a look back at that blog entry. The interior shots of the wooden church show just how amazing the structure is, especially after the recent renovations.

A building at the corner of Waterside Street and Keizer Street.
The monument to Simon Bolivar sits behind the white Center Church.
The Center Church dates from 1810. In the distance, one can see the spires of the Catholic cathedral.
A very bright building on the corner of Heeren Street and Noorderkerk Street.
The recently renovated Cathedral in Paramaribo.
Mass was in progress, so I only made this one photograph.
Another view of the Cathedral.

Ultimately we wandered back through the Palmentuin to end up at the Torarica, our starting point. The total distance of the walk was 2.11 miles or nearly 3.5 kilometers. It was 11:40 when we finished.
Since I was a bit worn out, I decided to sit by the Torarica poolside cafe to have a Merlot and lunch. A DJ was providing the music. It was loud but strangely relaxing. Maybe I was just unconscious after my hike!

Detail of the typical colonial architecture found in the inner city of Paramaribo.
Flags of South American countries flying near a government building.
The flags as seen from the other direction.
Sitting with lunch and a Merlot at the poolside of the Hotel Torarica.

For lunch, I chose the Honey Mustard Chicken Club sandwich. Once again, it was served with french fries and mayonnaise; wonderful! The entire lunch ran $22.
After lunch, I called for my taxi and went back to the hotel.


Paramaribo, Suriname – July 9, 2013

I arrived in-country at about 15:30 local time. The Embassy driver picked me up and took me to my hotel. On the way, we stopped by King’s, a large, new liquor store. I got two bottles of Merlot for about SRD 60 (US$20).
Leslie departed Guyana yesterday morning at 05:35. She flew back to Grand Junction, Colorado, hoping to have her right hip replaced. The pain she has endured recently has been incredible. So, I will be on my own for quite some time.
Supposedly our next consumable shipment arrived today. I left Georgetown at about 11:30. The goods were to have been delivered at 14:00 while our housekeeper was at the house. I will check when I get home to ensure all went well.
While I was sitting in the waiting area at Ogle airport in Georgetown, there was a blackout. It lasted for about 20 minutes. I was surprised the power did not come back on with a backup generator. I guess I am too used to our home or the Embassy. I have no idea what they did with the x-ray machine and the metal detector for that period; not to mention the control tower. It was not dark in the waiting area because of all the windows.
Looking out the window, I was struck again with the tremendous poverty in Georgetown. There was a man painting lines on the tarmac. It was all done by hand, no machine. Earlier in the day, I saw some lines being painted on the road in front of the Embassy — by hand. All of the baggage carts at the airport are “muscled” around. There are not any baggage vehicles.
As we were flying to Paramaribo, I watched the ocean. I could easily see the line between the blue-green sea and the mud/silt from all of the various rivers that drain the South American rain forest into the Atlantic.
At one point, as we were flying through some light clouds, I could see a double rainbow below the plane. That followed us along until the light clouds blotted out the sun.
When I traveled back home, I got to the small Paramaribo airport at about 08:30. As I was waiting, a man struck up a conversation with me. I found out he was a Customs agent at the airport. He knew I worked for the Embassy. When he walked away from me, he shook my hand and said, “Have a good flight, Excellency.” That is the first time I have ever been addressed as “excellency!”
I did find out the consumable shipment did arrive the day I left for Paramaribo. So, when I got home, I began putting things away. There were 30 boxes of groceries, not counting the 23 boxes of wine. I should be set for a while.
In Paramaribo, I finished reading Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. I did enjoy the book.