You probably haven’t heard of this country called SURINAME.
It is one of the 3 Guianas: Suriname (which is the Dutch Guiana) is cradled in between the (British) Guyana on its west side, and the French Guiana on its eastern border. The Guianas lie along the Caribbean-Atlantic coast and are situated north of Brazil in South America.
While all these countries are delineated by their political borders, they all geographically share the Amazon Rainforest and its river systems. And being part of the largest rainforest and the river with the largest drainage area on Earth, all of them have natural reserves protecting wildlife and the environment. (Related Article: Guide on Finding Cheap Flights from Manila to South America)
At different points in its history, the British and the Dutch Empires contested for their rich soil and established plantation colonies, until it separated from the Kingdom of the Netherlands to become an independent state on November 25, 1975. With its colonial past, Suriname is a melting pot of culture and ethnic diversity. Sharing the land are Hindustan, Creole, Indonesian, Maroon, Amerindian, Lebanese, Chinese and Dutch people co-existing in peace and harmony.
Would you believe Filipinos too have been helping its economy since the 1970s, building its roads and bridges, manning precious metals and oil reserves, providing health care, and have been steadily calling Suriname their second home? (You might wonder how I discovered this uncommon work destination and made it my home away from home, but I will write a separate article on this.) To see a synagogue next to a mosque, and Christian churches next to Hindu temples, where the streets are alive with the colors of multiculturalism, makes this smallest country in South America one of the most interesting countries in the world. With this geographical-political picture in mind, you would know what to expect when you find yourself in Suriname. But just because it is relatively unknown, it doesn’t mean there are no awesome things to do in this emerald country. So if you happen to put South America in your itinerary and include Suriname as your travel destination, let me entice you with these 7 Awesome Things To Do in Suriname:
1. Be lost in the streets of Paramaribo’s Inner City
Find yourself immersed in the colonial history of Suriname. With only a map in your hand to guide your way, walk along the bank of Suriname River at the Waterkant, follow the rows of buildings with characteristic Dutch architecture fused with traditional local techniques and materials most of which are woods and bricks, towards Independence Square where the Presidential Palace and Ministry of Finance with its classical portico and clock tower are found. Nearby is Fort Zeelandia which defended the old city in the past, Palmentuin, a large garden lined by tall palm trees, and the Cathedral of Sts Peter and Paul, the biggest wooden structure in the Western Hemisphere.
Why this is Awesome: The Inner City of Paramaribo is a UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE. Although entry to historic museums charges 15-20 SRD, it is all worth it, while the rest of the walkthrough tour is free, and done at your own leisurely pace. PRECAUTION: Always have with your water as long walks can get you dehydrated especially during the dry seasons (Aug-Nov and Feb-Apr).
2. Meet and greet the fauna and flora
Be introduced to the other residents of this country aside from the humans of course. See dolphins majestically swim along the Atlantic coast, or stay wide awake from midnight to the early morning hours to witness how endangered sea turtles build their nests and lay eggs in the sands, or be awed by newly hatched baby sea turtles scurrying towards the open sea to continue with the circle of life. Momentarily slow down your pace as you keep up with the sloths in the dense Amazon Jungle. Look up the thick green foliage and witness the play of colorful feathers of the macaws in their natural habitat. If you are brave enough, see how fierce piranhas are, or if you could maintain eye contact with the caymans. Two ways to see wildlife: (1) arrange for wildlife tours. Typical prices from 50-100 SRD per person, some tours are seasonal (2) or do volunteer works for conservation projects of the WORLD WILDLIFE FUND (WWF) in the Guianas.
Why this is Awesome: You will get to see wildlife roaming free in their natural habitat, and not in those cooped-up zoos. Plus learning about wildlife and environmental preservation is an awesome way to help Mother Earth. PRECAUTION: Maintain ample distance from wildlife so as not to disturb them, as well as for your safety.
3. Run for your life
Keep a healthy outlook on things. Annually, to celebrate Independence Day, full and half marathons are organized, as well as monthly fun runs organized by different private companies. There is also duathlon (cycling with the marathon) events. These races are well attended by international athletes (Guyanese are among the fastest runners) from the Caribbean and South American regions, but you don’t need to outrun them to win. You win by outrunning yourself. Registration for these races ranges from 20-100 SRD. This year, celebrating Suriname’s 40th year of independence, the 12th Srefidensi Marathon is special and will be held on Nov 21, 2015, Saturday.
Why this is Awesome. What better way to stay fit while on tour than by joining these races, while also making friends with international participants and spreading World Peace. PRECAUTION: Your mind and body should be conditioned to last and finish the race.
4. Join in the festivities celebrating unity in diversity
The Surinaamse people sure know how to celebrate their identity as different ethnic centuriongroups in one, unified nation. Wear white shirts and shower with brightly colored powders during the Hindu celebration of Holi Phagwa in March. There is Wandelmars (Four Day March) during Easter, which is considered their version of Mardi Gras, where every ethnic group participates in their most colorful traditional costumes dancing through the streets as they march. There is Keti-Koti every July commemorating the abolishment of slavery, setting the Maroon (Black people) finally free, Surifesta and Owru Yari (Old to New), the grandest celebration of all, during the last week of the last month of the year giving way to the coming New Year, when street parties are endless and when Pagara’s (their version of centurion ni Hudas, only it is a street block long) are lighted to get rid of the bad energies of the old year. [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CfXgOvGsWRs]
Why this is Awesome: You get to be part of the celebration, from dancing to the lively beats of the local music, to wearing their traditional costumes. You will be joined by hundreds of foreign tourists who flew in just to experience these cultural events. PRECAUTION: The streets can get crowded but fun!
5. Party more! Surinamer/ Surinamese style!
While item #4 is scheduled cultural events, every day in Suriname can be enough reason to party! Clubs like Euphoria, Havana Lounge, and Club Touche are always fully packed every night. These night spots offer promos like Ladies Night, themed events like Cuban Nights, and foreign acts like DJs, bands, and singers are invited to get you partying for more. Big hotels, too, have their nightly party events, so check for schedules in the hotel you will be staying in. And when somebody you know invites you to party in a moving bus, as long as you are at ease with that person, hop in and party on while the bus tours around the streets of Paramaribo.
party bus! #party_animal #drive #mobile #party #partytime #partyhard A video posted by Miguel Rogali (@survivormate) on Jul 10, 2015 at 3:33pm PDT
Why this is Awesome: With upbeat music, voyeuristic lighting, and exotic-erotic, Surinamese dance moves, you will be in for a new clubbing experience. Plus the Party Bus takes you under the night sky around the streets, where people walk, looking on, and wish they were riding and partying with you.
PRECAUTION: You may not be used to body contacts but this is how they party in Suriname.
6. Eat and be merry
Because of the ethnic diversity, and the surge of foreign ex-pats and tourists, there is a smorgasbord of cuisine to choose from. Surinamese cuisine combines Indian, African, Javanese (Indonesian) Chinese, Dutch, Portuguese and Amerindian cuisines. International cuisines are also found in here: Italian, Japanese, Korean, French, American, and even Filipino cuisine finally found a spot on the menu, when the first Pinoy resto-bar, Flavours, was opened recently by the entrepreneuring Pinoy Nurses. Flavours Restobar and Grill is located at Kwattaweg 325, Paramaribo
Why this is Awesome: Food replenishes and sustains you during your travel so be sure to eat well to keep you going. While international cuisines may be more familiar to your taste buds, you also got to taste the traditional dishes born out of the blending of cultures.
PRECAUTION: Be sure to specify NOT to put pepper on your order, otherwise your mouth will be smoking hot because they put pepper automatically, it can get VERY spicy!
7. Go Into the Woods
Be one with the Universe. Arrange for a tour in the binnenland (interior) of Suriname where the jungles are, and stay in for a few days to live the rustic village ways. Be an adventurer and discover the raw beauty of nature. Go kayaking upstream, hike through the wooded trails, bathe in the sula (waterfalls) and marvel at the vastness of the rainforest and its biodiversity. Be friendly with the locals while being mindful of their culture, sample their delicacies prepared in the traditional ways, and observe their inherent customs. For a 3-4 day tour staying in a village, the resort costs 700-1000SRDperperson.
Why this is Awesome: Away from the fast-paced city living, you will get natural high breathing in the fresh, forest air. The Central Suriname Nature Reserve has been designated a UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE for its unspoiled forests and biodiversity. And because no city lights are blurring the night sky, the stars and constellations are easily identified, and if you are lucky, there may be meteor showers (Perseids in August, Orionids in October) during your stay, with enough wishes you can make.
PRECAUTION: Although malaria has been successfully controlled in Suriname, make sure to protect against insect bites by bringing repellants. Don’t swim into the deeper parts of the river where the piranhas are.
Traveling is a very rewarding endeavor. If you do find time to visit Suriname in your next itinerary, what better way to impress the locals than by learning some Dutch (their official language) phrases: goedemorgen, goedemiddag, goedenavond = good morning, good afternoon, good evening; dank u well = thank you; graag gedaan = it’s my pleasure, as well as Sranan Tongo (the lingua franca) phrases: fa waka = how are you? bun dankie = Fine, thank you abung = that’s good; goodbye. They love it if you can speak their language.
All prices are quoted in Suriname Dollars (SRD). 1 US$ = 3.27SRD; 1SRD = Php14.05
About The Writer:
Miguel Rogali is a community doctor working in the binnenland (interior) of Suriname, within the Amazon Jungle. When not traveling and during his off duties, he does artwork and writes prose and poetry.
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