Aug 31 2009

Sao Paulo

Dani brought me to Ibirapuera park today, it’s the largest park in the city. In the evening, I visited Dani’s university, Scerna University. Most Brazilians in university work during the day and study at night (from around 7-11). Unlike in US where students study full time and work during the summer. Brazilians work as a trainee in their field of study during the day and this is one of the requirements to graduate college.

Brazilian cooking by Dani’s mum
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Avenue Paulista (Main business district)

There is a restaurant week in Sao Paulo too, just like NYC. Dani made a reservation at one of the restaurant for lunch. But because of bad traffic in Sao Paulo we went to Liberdade instead.
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Liberdade is a place similar to chinatown or I should call japantown instead with restaurants and shops selling oriental food and stuffs.
Melona after lunch
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Sao Paulo has the biggest population of Japanese outside Japan and Japanese migrated here during the early 1900s. Brazilian Japanese here are the third generation and they assimilate well to the Brazilian culture, a little similar to Chinese Malaysian I think. The third generation Brazilian Japanese doesn’t speak Japanese anymore.

Met up with Bomi which I met few years ago in Dresden, Germany. Bomi is super helpful and she is my tour guide for the evening. We met up at the subway station Se which is considered the center of Sao Paulo.
Mr Paulo with the church behind
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The history of São Paulo city proper begins with the founding of a missionary school on January 25, 1554. The school which is at the heart of today’s city.
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Walked around the city for around 3 hours and Bomi showed me around the city center while explaining about the history of the city.

Bovespa
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Showed me around her medical school, the oldest in Sao Paulo.
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Then Bomi treated me for dinner at a Churascuria restaurant. There are all kinds of seafood and meat, it’s buffet style. The waiters keep bringing out meats from all different parts of the cow.
Camera shy
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Seafood on my plate, fish, shrimp, lobster, mussels…
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We cleaned up the food…not really..
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Aug 30 2009

To Sao Paulo

Leaving Rio

Took the 11.30am bus to Sao Paulo. It’s 6 hour bus ride (68 reais). I wished I have more time in Rio since it’s a very nice city with very friendly locals.

I was doing my math about my budget on the bus and I guess I just passed the US$1000 mark around today. I guess I have been pretty tight with my money so far. Almost 4 weeks of traveling, busing from different cities, paragliding, clubbing, eating some good food and I am spending less than if I just stay in NYC.

Arrived in Sao Paulo around 7pm. Sao Paulo is huge, it’s a city with concrete jungle, high rise buildings everywhere. It’s much bigger than New York city with 11 million people living in the city and 20 million in Sao Paulo state. I am doing my second couch surfing here with Dani. Took the metro from the bus terminal to Chacara Klabin station which is close to Dani’s apartment.
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Hang out with Dani and her friends
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at a cafe and have acai, it’s very creamy and tastes just like smoothies. Acai is very common in Brazil and people here eat it like smoothies. In US, there is a big marketing campaign about acai berries and how the berries will cure all kinds of diseases and help people lose/gain weight. It is very expensive in US to buy acai juice but here it is just like any other fruits.

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Aug 29 2009

San Theresa and downtown

Moved to a different hostel Stone of a Beach just for comparison purposes. Took the subway to downtown.

Walked to San Theresa which is an artistic place up on the hill.

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Took a tram up there and the tram is packed like sardines. I just managed to hang on the rail.

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Walked around the city and to Sambadromo which is the place to be during Carnival. All the samba schools will show their best performance here during carnival.

Went to the beach again in the evening. I didn’t take as much pics as I should have since everyone mentioned not to look like a tourist for safety purposes. However, I have not had any problems so far. There are many people playing soccer at the beach and everyone plays soccer so well here.

Leblon is beside Ipanema and Leblon is considered a place for upper middle class. Met up with Bruno I knew from Santiago, Chile at Leblon at night and he showed me around.

Apartments at Leblon are expensive and someone mentioned that some rich drug dealers live here as well. Took a public bus from Leblon back to Copacabana at 3am in the morning but I didn’t feel unsafe at all.

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Aug 28 2009

Favela tour

Rio has around 500 Favelas. The Favelas is right in the city, sometimes just beside a rich neighborhood. Favelas in Rio are run by drug dealers and Favelas have their own laws. Police can’t go inside to the Favelas since it can be very violent.
I was deciding whether to take a favela tour since some people say it’s morally incorrect to pay to see poverty and treating people as objects.
However, I took the Favelas tour (65 reais) anyway to Rocinha which is the biggest Favela in Rio. The Favela at Rocinha has 100 thousands people officially and some say there are as many as 200 thousands residents. The disparity between the rich and poor is Rio is big and
to understand Rio, I guess we will need to understand a little more about the Favela. There is an agreement between the Favela tour program with the local drug dealers and the guide told us that walking in the favela is safer than walking around the city because if someone
tries to pickpocket any tourists, they will be killed by the drug dealers.

We got up the Favela by motorbike.
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Favela in Rocinha
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Favelas in Rocinha has water and electricity, it’s just like any small town with their own community. Saw some people carrying machine guns on the street, they are the drug dealers and we can’t take photos of them.

Met up with Emily and Jahmila again and we went to the Botanical garden. The botanical garden has a wide varieties of plants (more than 7000 plant species) since Rio has great weather

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The area Lapa is the place to be on Friday night. Brazilians love to party and there are many clubs with all kinds of music in Lapa. Met up with Alindro, a brazilian friend I met yesterday at the CS event and we went to Lapa. Brazilians are a friendly bunch, hang out with Alindro’s friends and we went to one of the club with rock music. Brazilian girls are great dancers and we had a good time there.

Even at 3am there are still many people on the street with samba drums playing. The place is 10 times more crowded than lower east side on a Friday night..Lapa is amazing..

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Aug 27 2009

Second day in Rio

Took a bus to Ipanema which is west of Copacabana. There are more local Brazilians at the beach at Ipanema and more tourists and foreigners at Copacabana.
The song “Girl from Ipanema”

Brazilian volleyball without hands

Took bus 584 to Corcovado which has the famous statue of Christ Redeemer. There are 2 ways to get up there, either hike up the hill for 2 hours or take the funicular which cost 36 Reais (around US$18). My leg tells me to pick the second option and also it’s late in the afternoon.


Cristo Redentor

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It’s a cloudy day so the view is not that great.
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The skies clear up on the way down
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Took a bus to the city in the evening walked around downtown. Since the sky turns dark at 6pm it was a little scary at first since Rio can be dangerous and everyone talks about the crime a lot.

Walked around Rua Buenos Aires and there are many shops selling all kinds of stuffs.
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At the hostel, almost everyone is either British or Irish. Kind of tired of hearing british accent everywhere so I figure I need to meet some Brazilians. Found out that there is a Couch Surfing meeting at a bar at Laranjes tonight. Took a subway there and had a fun time hanging out with some Cariocas (locals from Rio). They thought me that 3 things a guy need are Rio is Praia, Cerveja and Gostosa.

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Got a ride back home to Copacabanna from Thiago along with some Brazilians.

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Aug 26 2009

Rio de Janerio!

Arrived in Rio bus terminal at around 1pm after almost a day on the bus.
Rio is the 2nd largest city in Brazil with around 7 millions people. Rio is famous for its breathtaking landscape, its laidback beach culture and its annual carnival.
The weather is warm here and after getting off from the bus, I stopped by an information kiosk to get some info and started to feel the friendliness of Brazilans. The person at the info kiosk is so helpful and spent almost 45 mins telling me all the attractions to visit and things to do. Jorge wanted to go to US to fight MMA, since we both learned Muay Thai before, we cliqued along pretty fast.
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Took bus 126 (2.2 reais) to the hostel Mellow Yellow in Copacobana. From the bus terminal, it’s around 30 mins ride. I got a 24 beds dorm (28 reais) which has the most number of beds I have seen so far.
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Rio is very beautiful, there are beaches, lakes and mountains around the city.
Map of Rio de Janeiro
Rio's map

Walked around the Copacobanna and Brazilians in Rio are called Cariocas. They seem to be a relax bunch.

There is a soccer game tonight at Macarana Stadium, Flamengo vs Fluminese and the hostel is organizing a trip there for 70 Reais. From what I heard, Brazilian soccer match can be pretty rowdy, since the game will only start at 10pm and the subway stops running at midnight so I just tag along for the trip.

Pre game
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Macarana stadium
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Game
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Goal!
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Later I found out that the ticket for the soccer match only cost 15 reais. Dammit, the hostel overcharged us.

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Aug 25 2009

Bus ride to Rio

Taking a 23 hours bus ride to Rio at 1pm today. The distance from Puerto Iguazu to Rio is around 1500km. The bus to Rio doesn’t provide food, unlike the service provided by the bus in argentine and we stopped for dinner and breakfast along the way.

Took the bus from Puerto Iguazu (315 argentinean pesos) to Rio since it’s 150 pesos cheaper than taking a bus from the Brazilian side. Brazilian economy has been pretty strong and the Reais has been strengthening against dollar while the argentinean pesos is weakening against the dollar since the beginning of this year.

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Cama seat which is pretty comfortable
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Aug 24 2009

3 Countries in one day

Iguazu falls is right at the border of Argentine, Brazil and Paraguay. I found a tour at the bus station to Foz Do Iguazu (Brazil) and Ciudad del Este (Paraguay) for 110 pesos. The last I checked is I will need a visa to Paraguay but since the tour mentioned that I won’t need a visa for a day trip so I just sign up for the Tres Paises En Un Dia tour (3 countries in one day tour).

A van picked me up from the hostel at 8am and after passing through the Brazilian immigration checkpoint, the guide drove us to Ciudad Del Este. We just drove through the paraguay checkpoint without stopping. The city is famous for shopping and is the third largest free-tax commerce zone in the world and is the gateway for counterfeit goods and contraband into the South American market. Bought a headphone at one of the stores (US$1.70) for skyping.

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Then we went to Foz Do Iguazu, which is at the Brazilian side. the city is much bigger than Puerto Iguazu. We visited the Iguazu National Park and I heard someone spoke in Taiwanese dialect and approached them. Turned out that the 2 aunties are taiwanese businesswoman. They have lived in Brazil and Paraguay for more than 20 years and owned businesses in these 2 countries. I was told that right now Brazil is giving out permanent residencies to foreigners (once every 10 years) so this might be a good opportunity to move there.

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Hang out with my new met Buddhist friends at the park. The monk actually tried to recruit me and mentioned that I have potential to be a monk.

The waterfalls is at the Argentinean side but at the Brazilian side, we get a better view of the waterfalls. The waterfall system consists of 275 falls along 2.7 kilometers (1.67 miles) of the Iguazu River.
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The tour included a buffet lunch. I ate like a camel so the meal was considered my dinner too. After lunch we stopped by at a place where we can see the 3 borders as well as Parana and Iguazu river.
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The tour was supposed to bring us to see Itaipu Dam, the world second biggest after The three George Dam, but because of swine flu, the road to the dam at the Paraguay side was closed. Swine flu is big news in South America even though we don’t care about it that much in US. I read on Bloomberg about a prediction that swine flu might kill 90,000 americans this year, scary. Story

Took a bus to downtown in the evening to purchase my bus ticket to Rio. First I missed the bus stop and then the bus broke down. Got to the bus station an hour later but fortunately still manage to get my ticket.

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Aug 23 2009

Waterfalls!

A friend provided me a feedback to put larger pictures..so here is it. Feel free to provide comments and feedbacks.

Arrived at Puerto Iguazu at 1.30pm after 18 hours of bus ride. Took another bus to Hostel Inn which is a pretty nice hostel 5km away from the bus station. The concierge advised me that I won’t have enough time to see the water falls since the park close at 6pm. However, I went anyway. Paid 60 pesos for the park entrance fee.

There are 2 major waterfalls, Garganta del Diablo which means the Devil’s throat and Circuito Superior

Picture speaks louder than words and video speaks even louder..

Garganta del Diablo

Circuito Superior

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Aug 22 2009

Ride to Puerto Iguazu

Walked to the bus station at Retiro today to get bus ticket to Puerto Iguazu. This will be a pretty long bus ride of 18 hours (1380km). There are 2 types of seat, Cama and Semi Cama. Cama is sort of like business class and Semi Cama is consider economy. Cama cost 270 pesos and Semi Cama cost 215 pesos. Since I took the first class seat from Mendoza to Buenos Aires which is pretty comfortable, this time I will try taking the semi cama.

Walked around Calle Florida again, it’s pretty crowded on Saturday
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Prostitutions are common in Buenos Aires and there are advertisement everywhere
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Choripan for lunch (5.5 pesos)
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Laura and Alle brought me to Cafe Violatas, famous for pastries. Argentineans have a very sweet tooth and I heard that’s one reason they have many diabetes cases.
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Then tried Mate which is the national drink of Argentine. Similar to tea drinking.
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With Laura and Alle’s 5 months old
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It’s very nice of Laura and Alle to bring me to the bus station.
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Adios Buenos Aires!

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