Finally departing Asia and headed to the Western Hemisphere! However, before I hit up my first destination in South America, I first stopped in LA for a week for my friend’s wedding (from the Bachelor party back in August in Japan). I ended up staying there a few extra days due to an issue with the eVisa from Brazil (their Visa processor sent an email back to me which ended up in Junk Mail). However, from now, it looks like folks from Canada (and a couple other countries) don’t even need to apply online for a Visa. Just wish that was in effect two months earlier! In the end it worked out and I caught my flight from LA down to Sao Paulo, with a brief stopover in Houston for a few hours to visit a friend and check out her deli (best raw roast beef sammich ever!)
While in Brazil, I visited the three major cities: Sao Paulo, Brasilia, and finally Rio de Janeiro. My itinerary is pretty extensive so let’s get to it!
- February 22nd: Landed in Sao Paulo and grabbed an Uber to my AirBnB in the Liberdade area a few blocks from Paraiso station. Had enough time to check out the Museo de Arte Sao Paulo (MASP).
- February 23rd: Headed up to the Museo de Arte Contemporaire (MAC). Wandered over to the Modern Art Museum as well but ended up in the middle of a blocos party! Blocos are neighbourhood parties that revolve around Carnaval festivities. In this case, this unfortunately meant the Oca Ibirapuera was closed as well as the Tomie Ohtake Institute which I tried to get to later. With a bit of free time, I ended up hitting up Beco do Batman (Batman Alley) which is noted for it’s extensive street (graffiti) art. Met up with a friend (who I had first met in Florence and hung out with for a bit in Venice) and she showed me a pretty tasty sandwich place where I was introduced to the Bauru.
- February 24th: First stop was the Museum of Sacred Arts. Ended up at a street fair of some sort where I grabbed lunch before heading to the Historical Museum of Japanese Immigration. Final stop of the day was the SESC on Paulista Avenue where I got a good view of the city from the top floor.
- February 25th: Did some laundry, so didn’t get into the city until the afternoon. First stop was the Mercado Municipal where I managed to finagle some lunch of a giant mortadella sandwich and some deep fried balls of bacalhau (codfish). Took a long walk until I got to the Pinacoteca – an art gallery. With enough time before dinner, I also managed to hit up Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil (there is one in each city) which is a central area for artistic exhibits. Dinner ended up being at the very first Fogo de Chao.
- February 26th: Caught a short flight to Brasilia.
- February 27th: A busy day to check out various Niemeyer architecture. Caught an Uber to the Templo da Boa Vontade (Temple of Good Will) which doesn’t subscribe to a single denomination. Recommend coming with long pants, shoes, and covered shoulders. After, I got myself to the Memorial of Juscelino Kubitschek (who oversaw the building of Brasilia). Just down the road, I headed to the Cathedral of Brasilia and the National Museum. Finally, the only non-Niemeyer architecture of the day, I explored the Santuario Dom Bosco, a surreal purple infused atmosphere due to all the walls being purple stained glass.
- February 28th: Mostly a government building day, I got to check out the Brazilian Congress through a tour (and had lunch there!), and mostly took pictures of other Niemeyer designed government buildings from the outside. My final stop was, like in Sao Paulo, the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil.
- March 1st: Headed to the final city in my Brazil itinerary – Rio de Janeiro! Plenty of warnings from friends and other travellers to guard my possessions and not wander in random places (especially at night). Also, finding a place to stay during Carnaval was quite the experience. Hostel bunk beds were going for more than $100/night and many AirBnBs tried to increase the price after confirmation of booking. I stayed patient over a two week period and finally found a really good AirBnB right on Copacabana beach and for an excellent price.
- March 2nd: Laundry in the morning then headed to the Folia Tropical office to buy a ticket for the Sambadromo Parade. I went back and forth with what kind of ticket I wanted. In the end, I decided on the second Access Group night instead of one of the two Special Nights as 1) a Special Night ticket was about $200 for regular grandstand seats and about $1000 for a camarote seat and 2) Access Group night camarote seat was only $300 and included buffet, drinks, and shuttle service. Got to the camarote around 8pm and was 5th in line to get in. Managed to grab a bite, get a drink, and then planted myself at the front edge of the camarote which is RIGHT BESIDE THE PARADE ROUTE. I had a fantastic time and took pictures for two parades before wandering back into the camarote indoor area for more food and drink. I watched the third parade from an upper level and about halfway through the fourth parade (of 6) I decided to head back to my AirBnB. By then it was about 3am with two more parades to go.
- March 3rd: Recovered from the previous night’s revelries so I didn’t head out until afternoon. The first museum I wanted to hit up was closed so I continued on until the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil where by interesting happenstance, they had a feature exhibition on Dreamworks Animation! I know quite a few friends who would have loved to explore it.
- March 4th: Headed to Sugarloaf Mountain and took the cable car up for a great view as well as marmosets. Had dinner in a traditional cafe and tried some feijoda while listening to live music.
- March 5th: Got to the funicular tram pretty early for the leisurely climb up to Christ the Redeemer – another fantastic view of Rio! Of course, a blocos had to find me (this one was a moving one) right after dinner for one last taste of the Rio party atmosphere.
- March 6th: So long Brazil, it was definitely a hot time! Headed to Argentina where I’ll be meeting up with my brother who is travelling with his family.
So I pretty much used AirBnB to stay throughout Brazil and had no issues in general with any of them.
In Sao Paulo I stayed near Paraiso station in this nice AirBnB private room. The building is a security gated condo (caused me a 5 minute bit of grief one rainy evening). The bed was a bit small for someone of my size, but was comfortable enough and I did enjoy having a private bathroom.
So when I got to the AirBnB in Brasilia, it actually ended up being one of the best hotels in town! Turns out some of the share holders have special units at the end of each floor as private apartments and I ended up in one of those. While there is no kitchen, the units are quite large and comfortable. The building is near two malls with extensive food courts which was convenient.
The final place I stayed in, the AirBnB in Rio, was arguably the most enjoyable. It had a fantastic view of Copacabana beach, private room and bathroom of course, and as a bonus, the old lady that lived there was a fantastic hostess who made me some pan de queso and fruit when I arrived.
I had a great time in Brazil and while the warnings about petty crime exist for a reason, nothing untoward occurred to myself. One of the interesting things I noticed when I arrived in South America was that due to my darker complexion and Mediterranean heritage, I could pass off as Latin. Quite often touts and panhandlers would ignore me when I passed by and instead approached other tourists that were right behind me. Also, by this point in my journey, my shirts were started to get a bit more worn in as well as my shoes and sandals, so there were not many outward signs of wealth. I had already stopped using the travel vest for the most part except for during flights or specific tours where I had to carry specific items with me.
Travel in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro was pretty easy using the Metro systems. In Brasilia I primarily used Uber as the locations I headed to were off the Metro path and buses were unreliable at times. Accessibility wise, the metro systems seemed to be upgrading to be more inclusive.
Now with that extensive itinerary, don’t be surprised with the sheer amount of photos in this random dump!