The Europe of South America: Paramaribo

Dutch House - ParamariboParamaribo is the Capital of Suriname. Suriname, with a population of lesser than 500,000, isn’t a dominating presence on the World map. In other words, not many people know where Suriname is. To refresh your memory, it’s a tiny little country to the north of Brazil. Only 5% of this country is inhabited while a huge monster, commonly known as the Amazon, envelops the rest of it. Another strange fact about Surinam is that it’s one of the few Countries having more Surinamese people out of the Country (predominantly in Holland) than in the Country.

When you’re in South America, ordering nasi goreng (fried rice) from an Indonesian vendor, who (doesn’t speak a word of Bahasa and) replies in Dutch, you get a feeling that something went drastically wrong.

To understand Paramaribo, you’ll need to understand its history. Before you nod off at the mere mention of history, I’ll summarize in 4 sentences.

  1. The Dutch showed up and built fancy buildings
  2. They imported indentured laborers / slaves to cook (Indonesia), clean (Africa), and farm (India).
  3. The Dutch were then kicked out (we can’t be certain why)
  4. Somewhere along the line, the Chinese showed up and started selling Japanese cars and Chowmein. Bet you didn’t see that one coming.

The best way to explore this city would be to rent a bicycle and drift through the old streets of Paramaribo. The historical centre is beautiful and walking / cycling through it on a Sunday afternoon is a treat.

A few things you should check out are

The Cathedral

Reconstructed in the late 19th Century, it is an engineering marvel built entirely from wood. The immensity of this Cathedral doesn’t register until you walk in and you won’t be able to help but gape at the beautiful wooden paneling. That it has been standing for over a hundred years is a mystery.

Palm Garden

Supposedly part of the palace gardens at some stage, this beautiful garden consists of over a thousand palm trees planted on a 4 hectare piece of land in the middle of the city. Obviously popular with muggers and drug dealers come nightfall.

Water Front

Overlooking the water as the name suggests; the building dotting this street are the oldest in Paramaribo.

Sunday Flea Market

Some smartass decided that the best way to convert a regular market into the hottest event in town would be to add a “flea” to the name. Works like a charm. Tons of tourists show up to a display of fruits, vegetables, hardware, etc. Save your energy. Sit at home and drink Parbo Bier. Burrrp.

Fort Zeelandia

Once a symbol of the Dutch dominance over Surinam, this is now a restaurant that charges you 10 SRD to enter the fort, if you don’t eat there. Best way to subvert this tourist tax is to enter, check out the fort, glance at the menu and then make like a banana and split (or make like a tree and leave). I must concede that the view of the river is amazing and the prices are reasonable.

Imperial Palace

The Imperial Palace is lit up at night and stands as an imposing landmark bang in the middle of the historical centre of the city.

Once you’re done with this, give yourself a pat on the back (I did) and treat yourself to some wine and cheese to make your European-South American experience complete.

Wine and Cheese

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4 Comments on “The Europe of South America: Paramaribo

  1. Pingback: Backpacker Hostels in Paramaribo: the Cheap vs. the Nasty | theOrangeMango

  2. Pingback: Travel on the Cheap: Overland Trip from Guyana to Suriname | theOrangeMango

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