Wilbert Das’s Insider Guide to Trancoso, Brazil

Wilbert Das’s Insider Guide to Trancoso, Brazil

Read more about Trancoso in SUITCASE Volume 20: Homelands.

Wilbert Das is a Dutch designer who fell in love with a
particular corner of the world. A far cry from the chaotic throngs
of carnival tourists found in Rio de Janerio and miles
away from the modernised capital Brasília, the quiet Bahia beach
town of Trancoso emits a colonial, sleepy charm that is to be

The simple, rhythmic lives of the locals inspired Das’s
pioneering creative movement, which moves away from mass
consumerism. The traditional artisan methods of Trancoso have
shaped his work and led to the creation of his interior brand and
hotel UXUA, where no two pieces are the same.

Channelling the tranquil beach town’s motto, “there are no
strangers in Trancoso” Das takes us on an exploration of family
perfected hot sauces, roaming beach bars and leisurely starlit
dinners which champion the town’s sense of balance and

What’s your first memory of Trancoso?

Tranquility. Total tranquility. I arrived alone in 2004 to this
beautiful village with a sleepy, colonial-tropical vibe, almost as
if it had been forgotten in time. There were only two tourists – me
and a Frenchman.

Describe the moment you knew you wanted to move there?

The first day I arrived I was scared I’d get bored as there was
just so little happening. But by the third day I was hypnotised by
Trancoso’s relaxed rhythm and cancelled the rest of my itinerary
which was meant to take me to the Amazon. I spent the last days of
my trip looking for an old house to buy.

What are you favourite restaurants in town?

My favourite is Aki Sushi, which might surprise but sushi in
Brazil is excellent. I also love Capim Santo,
Trancoso’s oldest restaurant which started as a macrobiotic café 30
years ago.There’s also a really pleasant outdoor, native restaurant
on the Quadrado called Restaurante Vitoria too.

The one dish everyone who comes to Trancoso should try?

Undoubtedly acarajé which are bean fritters, a popular street
food in Bahia. Also moqueca de peixe which is a fish stew, the
official dish of Trancoso. Vistors should try with molho de
pimento, a hot pepper sauce which most families make at home, a
tradition dating back to slaves who smuggled peppers with them on
ships from Africa.

Where would you go for a drink at the weekend?

I’m at the beach frequently, especially on Sunday. But up at the
village I like to visit the simple mobile drink carts set up at the
entrance of the town square in the early evenings. For something a
little more refined, the restaurant Jacaré do
has an excellent cocktail lounge.

Which beach is your favourite?

The Praia do Barra do Rio Trancoso at the bottom of the hill
beneath the church. It’s where the town’s oldest fisherman bar was
and it’s now been restored in a simple way which serves as our
very rustic beach lounge. Locals come here for picnics, as do
fishermen and their families, while Pataxó Indians pass by selling
crafts, often stopping for a swim. It’s a wonderful mix – very

Where would you go to dance / go out?

I only go to parties during the summer and New Year when the
social scene completely changes and every night there are big
parties. The rest of the year “going out” means long dinners,
under the stars
on the historic Quadrado.

Your favourite fact about Trancoso?

The average temperature is around 29 degrees and the ocean is
always warm.

What’s the most magical site you’ve ever seen on the

Every other year in July
we help organise a gathering of capoeira players from around the
world to meet on the historic quadrado, and 400-500 of them perform
in unison in their white trousers with the sun setting behind them
in the late afternoon. It’s quite stunning.

Describe the perfect day in Trancoso

Well most days here are kind of perfect because the things I
don’t appreciate about modern living are totally absent. There’s an
amazing balance in life here. People are keeping busy, full of
work, creative projects, sports, music, dance and countless
romances, and yet they fit these full full lives into days and
nights which feel relaxed, never rushed, walking places instead of
driving, stopping frequently to chat and greet people whose names
and stories they know well.

What’s your favourite Brazilian saying?

“There are no strangers in Trancoso” is an expression I hear a
lot. I love the phrase as it captures the essence here as one of
the most welcoming places in the world. From when the hippies began
arriving in the 70s there’s always been an air of cordiality and
conviviality; no one is ever treated as an outsider. This is
especially amazing today, with the seeming devolution of civility
we’ve witnessed in some of what we used to regard as the most
“advanced” nations on earth.

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