The canga (also known as a sarong), as used in Brazil, has to be one of the most versatile pieces of fabric I have ever come across.
Usually used as something to sit on at the beach in lieu of a towel (big no-no, that towel), it can be so much more: it's something to dry off with, something to create shade with, something to wear as a scarf, a skirt, a toga, a cape, something to hang on a wall, something to bring home to your friends and say, “look what I got you in Brazil!”
It really is beautiful.
Although viewed primarily as a female accessory in Brazil, it is really too awesome not to pick a couple regardless of your gender (gender stereotypes are lame anyways, why should girls have all the fun). They come in any pattern or design you could wish for and can be purchased pretty much everywhere. Typically you will pay between R$10-R$15 for one (and can often negotiate a discounted price for two or more). Purchasing one on the beach will often mean that you're paying a premium – so if you can manage it then get yours in a store off the strand (you can find them all over).
THE CANGA > THE TOWEL
- Very quick to dry
- Less susceptible to remaining sandy
- Can be worn as clothing (without drawing stares)
- Far less bulky
- Can somehow become a sort of satchel (advanced users only)
- Far more decorative than towels
- You can give it as a gift
It really is necessary that you pick one of these up while traveling in Brazil (to not do so would be like returning from New York City without having eaten pizza). Once you do, you will be well on your way to conquering your mastery of Brazil's beach etiquette, and you will find yourself wondering why you ever dragged around a towel in the first place.