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Brazil

Day 49: Rio de Janeiro

 
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The Panda, one of Rio's smarter love motels. The lovers' garage. Very discreet.
Michael Palin - BrazilIt's Children's Day today and a public holiday. Despite the cloudy weather, volleyball nets and football posts are going up on the beaches, and the beachside avenues, partially closed to traffic, are taken over once again by an army of strollers, walkers, power-walkers, joggers, roller-skaters and skate-boarders, their bodies adorned with appliances heart monitors, pedometers, headsets. The body, at all stages of life, is celebrated in Rio. And the display isn't just for the beaches, it's for the samba clubs and the nightspots. It's about making yourself attractive. It's about sex. And yet sexual display is less overt than in Europe. There's less nakedness in street adverts and topless sunbathing is still frowned upon. I see very few couples enmeshed on the beach. There's plenty of show, but not a lot of action. So where do these honed bodies go to enjoy other honed bodies? For all the apparent openness of Brazilian society sex is still at the heart of one of its more secret, lucrative and from what I can gather universal phenomena, the love hotels, or simply, the motels. Dotted all over the city, and indeed the country, are establishments where for anything from thirty minutes to thirty hours rooms can be rented for sex. And not necessarily sex with prostitutes. They're used by boyfriends and girlfriends seeking privacy away from overcrowded family apartments, husbands who fancy other people's wives and wives who fancy other people's husbands, or just lovers who prefer a bed to the back of a car. They cater for all incomes and all classes but the most important thing is that they're discreet. And discretion is not something I would have put high on my list of Brazilian qualities.

With curiosity and some trepidation I approach the entrance of the Panda Hotel (which, given the legendary inability of pandas to mate, seems an odd choice of name), set back from the road in a respectable residential neighbourhood near the Botanical Gardens. The first thing I notice is that there is no foyer of any kind. The only way in is via a security gate, from which a key is handed out and a steel mesh door lifted. I watch various cars, ranging from Mercedes with black glass windows to Golfs and Polos with street atlases on the back shelf, go through the process. Then, accompanied by Luhanna Melloni, presenter of a late-night TV sex show and, I should add, a six-strong film crew, I approach the entrance myself. The mesh gate lifts to reveal a long, murky stretch of underground garage, stretching way into the distance. Lines of carports run along each side. Wooden strips are lowered over the licence plates, an extra level of security after cases of wives being brought in by their lovers and seeing their husband's car already there. At the back of the carport steps lead, past decoratively tiled walls, to a room above. The tariff at the door indicates apartments rentable from 119 reais an hour, about 40, to a Presidential Suite for 360 reais, 125 pounds an hour.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Brazil
  • Chapter: Day 49: Rio de Janeiro
  • Country/sea: Brazil
  • Place: Rio de Janeiro
  • Book page no: 203

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