Shopping in the Amazon city of Manaus is as weird and wonderful as it gets, with nearly every spot, from floating restaurants to palm thatch-roofed houses, offering arts and crafts made by local indigenous tribes and the “ribeirinho,” as Amazon River dwellers are called.
Some of the top spots:
GALERIA AMAZONICA: With artful displays of fine native crafts, this store across the central square from Manaus’ emblematic Teatro Amazonas feels more like a museum. It’s run by a local indigenous group that gathers woven baskets and mats, sturdy painted pottery, beaded necklaces of dried seeds and other items made by tribes throughout Amazonas state and beyond. Among the most unusual products are anteater, monkey and macaw figurines made from natural rubber that retail for about $15 apiece; “the bench of wisdom,” a squat wooden stool upon which the Tukano people say god was sitting when the world was created ($112); and a 3-meter- (9-foot-) long dart gun embellished with jaguar teeth and crushed ostrich egg shells ($240).
MERCADO MUNICIPAL ADOLFO LISBOA: This fin-de-siecle gem of glass and steel recently reopened after an extensive face-lift. There is an eclectic mix of tourist shops stocked with stuffed piranhas that sell for about $4 a pop. At herb vendors catering to locals you can find everything from “xirope de cupim,” an asthma syrup made from boiled termites ($4), to turtle-fat soap ($1.50) to “pau rosa,” a tree oil extract used to sooth arthritis, muscle aches and depression. A dozen shops on the Rua dos Bares and Rua Rocha dos Santos opposite the market carry a wide selection of hammocks that cost from $4 to $160, depending on quality and design.
PRACA TERREIRO ARANHA: More than a dozen thatch-roofed stands in this square near the port are stocked with tourist knick-knacks, from ash trays made from coconut shells to grimacing masks made from piranha jaws and the silver dollar-size scales of the giant “pirurucu” fish. It’s a great place to pick up artfully beaded necklaces, straw baskets made by the Yanomami tribe, and homemade chocolate truffles filled with “cupuacu” fruit jelly.
Galeria Amazonica: http://www.galeriaamazonica.org.br