Published: February 15th 2012February 15th 2012
The Banespa Building
Day 122 Friday 10th
Jumped out of bed and went to breakfast about 7.00am for the last time in Curitiba as we are off to Sao Paulo today. We did the final packing, paid the hotel bill and were out the door and into a taxi to the bus station. In Brazil so far the bus tickets have the platform number so we know where exactly to stand, unlike Argentina that gives you a range so you have to keep an eye open. The security to get on the bus was the same as Foz with us having to show our passports to get on. This bus was very nice with plenty of leg room and the air conditioning running all the time, which is a bonus on a crowded bus on a hot day.
Before we took off the driver gave a talk about the day’s schedule, if only we knew what he was saying. We are now in Brazil so no more Spanish only Portuguese of which we do not know a word, the driver smiled at us and shrugged. We were soon on our way winding through the hills and the green
Buildings and Hotel in Centro
vegetation, we were surprised how much was between here and Sao Paulo we had expected it to be barren. At 12.50pm we stopped at a huge roadside cafeteria/gift shop for lunch the driver indicated to us that we need to be back on board by 1.30pm. My first stop was the ladies which was also huge and looked similar to one in a grand hotel with a round lounge in the centre and extremely clean – I love Brazil. As we entered the food/shopping area we were given an electronic tag which registered all our food costs, we opted for an empadao (like a pie). There were all different counters with different food and drinks, including a self-serve buffet. When we were finished we took the tag to the cash registers and paid all very easy, then back on the bus.
At about 3.30pm it started to rain and it absolutely poured with lightning and thunder I was hoping the driver could see the road. I knew we would be OK because the lady near us had been praying the whole journey with her rosary beads in hand, so she must have been in God’s good books. It eased
by the time we hit the outskirts of Sao Paulo at 4.30pm, but we could see that the huge storm was just behind us so we hoped we could get to the hotel in time. Sao Paulo is the World’s 7th
largest city with a metropolitan population of 18.8 million people which is huge when you compare it to Sydney which has 4.5 million and the whole of Australia has 22.8 million. I had read how the Sao Paulo traffic is perhaps the worst in the world and we were soon experiencing it because from here the bus just crawled, we were stopped more than we were moving and we started to worry how much a taxi would cost from the bus station to the hotel at this speed. We checked the Lonely Planet for the information on the metro train system just in case the traffic did not improve. About 5.45pm we arrived at the station and grabbed our bags and walked inside to buy the tickets to Rio so we did not have to make a special trip out here just for them. We decided to do the Metro which has a stop inside the bus terminal it
cost us R$5.30 (about $AUS 3.00) for both of us a bargain as long as it is not too crowded and we can get on with our backpacks. Not a problem we jumped on the train and I even got a seat so the backpacks could be leant against me with Scott on the other side. It started to fill up as we went along but nowhere as bad as the ones in Buenos Aires, after 9 stops we had to jump off and change trains which was just across the same platform and go another 2 stops. This dropped us off at Trianon Masp station leaving us with about an 800 metre walk to the hotel it was now just spitting rain so we got our legs moving and got to our luxurious hotel. We have gone cheap as this town is quite expensive and surprise, surprise that means we are close to the red light district again, but just about 1km up the road is where all the swanky shops are, so it is pretty good. The area around the hotel is full of bars and nightclubs so it is definitely happening and fairly safe, being Friday night
it is noisy and there are lots of people around. It is sort of ironic that the Lonely Planet claims it is unsafe to walk around most areas of Sao Paulo at night, except of course the red light district, so despite it appearing a little seedy and plenty of working girls around it does actually feel safe.
The hotel we are staying at is way past its glory days, but the bed linen is clean and the room is quite big so I am trying not to look too closely at things, one day when I am not here ask me about the toilet seat. We dropped our bags off and headed out for dinner which ended up being across the road in a modern looking diner, tomorrow we will go further afield. It has been raining on and off since we arrived and not long after we got back to the hotel it started to pour again.
Day 123 Saturday 11th
Not looking forward to breakfast in this lovely hotel, but needed something to get started for the day. It turns out it is not too
Catedral Da Se
bad with fresh fruit, muesli, fresh bread rolls and all the usual suspects, except there is bad coffee and no black tea, but you can’t have everything. The staff of the La Guardia Hotel consists mainly of people in their 90’s who have over the years had all the hospitality beaten out of them. We had the pleasure of being served by each of them over the next few days and we are convinced that they are probably all related and this is a family business. Each morning or afternoon as we dropped off or collected our key they always looked at us as if we had two heads, and had that shock/horrified look on their face as if they were thinking “Oh my god, who are you?”. We did eventually get a smile or two by the time we left, but we felt that perhaps their days at the front desk should come to a close.
We got ready and walked towards the ritzy shopping area on the other side, but on Paulista Ave we stopped at an enormous bookstore it took up most of a shopping centre and was over 3 floors. The bookstore had a huge
NS Do Rosario Dos Homens Pretos
English selection of books and yes we brought 2 more, one a Lonely Planet for Ecuador and a novel. Then it was on for some window shopping I wish it was cheaper to mail things home you should see all the shoe shops. We did not buy anything but had a great time people watching and me clothes watching, this area is similar to Double Bay. After a few hours we walked back to our hotel and only just got in the door when the rain started, we dropped the books off and went in search of a hairdresser for Scott. Well we did not go far just two doors up, we had to wait for about 15 minutes to get in and then Scott had to try and explain what he wanted. As the man was talking I started to answer I think I must have become physic, because I do not know Portuguese. The other hairdresser spoke some English and told us he visited Sydney 18 years ago and then said to me “you speak Portuguese” and said sorry no and then he said “but you understand some”. I hope I keep getting bits of the conversation so
Catedral Da Se
we do not have a laundry mishap like the other day. As we were leaving Nino the hairdresser said if we need anything just come in and see him and he will help us out, he was very lovely. By the way Scott’s haircut is very short but it will only take a few weeks and it will be long again.
As we were leaving for dinner it was just drizzling, but by the time we were halfway up the road it got heavier so we decided to have dinner at the same place as last night. Tonight being Saturday the bars and nightclubs were pumping and people were everywhere having fun.
Day 124 Sunday 12th
Due to a late night raging, well listening to everyone else raging we did not get up till 9.00am. After breakfast we walked up to an Antique market on Paulista Ave which had a mix of old and repo stuff, but there was nothing there we wanted to buy. As with any antique markets, you are often left wondering what are genuine antiques and what are Chinese fakes. Did see a fabulous large
The Banespa Building in the centre
book on the German airship Graf Zeppelin that used to fly to Rio back in the 1930’s, it looked like a genuine period book, but had no price on it and I wasn’t about to get into a pantomime with its owner on its history and price. On the other side of the street was a small craft market which we also walked through but it had the same, same as most markets, but it is always entertaining looking around. After this Scott decided he wanted to check out the big bookstore again, just what we need more books to carry, but it was so crowded that he decided against it. This gave me an opportunity to do some clothes shopping and I picked up a funky T-Shirt. On the way back to the hotel we got some money out of the ATM and then stopped at a café and got a cappuccino which was not too bad, so at least I got my caffeine fix. We stopped at the hotel to put the money in the safe and drop off some odds and ends and then headed out again. This time we walked through a shopping mall most of
the permanent shops were closed but there were more markets with lots of interesting clothes and jewellery. This mall lead out to Rua Augusta which is similar to Darlinghurst in 80’s with mix of alternative people, I think this area would be more interesting at night. We stopped at a café and had a late lunch and just watched the world go by as the rain lightly drizzled.
Headed back to our room to see if the rain would ease but it just didn’t. Because we had lunch, (which we don’t normally do) we opted to skip dinner but just stayed at home, read and watched the world pass by from our hotel window. Despite it being a Sunday night the night clubs and restaurants were pumping till 4am. Thankfully our double glazed windows blocked most of the noise but we still felt like old farts being in bed when there was such an amazing vibe in this town.
Day 125 Monday 13th
Had planned on being up at the crack of dawn but when you don’t have a bus to catch it is easy to sleep in.
For some reason we had one of those starts to the day when you feel you are wading through molasses and can’t seem to get moving. It was nearly 11 by the time we got out the door, which was about two hours later than we had hoped, oh well the best laid plans….
Dropped off our laundry up the road and was shocked that the guy gave us a price by piece of clothing and we ended up with a cost of 44 Reals ($26) for washing which wins the prize as our most expensive yet. Walked up to the Trianon Masp Metro station and joined the workday throng boarding the trains. Had to change trains at Praiso Station and then again at Se Station like we had lived here all our lives. The metro stations in South America are just so easy to use, they are cheap, quick and run about every 5 minutes. They can get VERY crowded but we have found if the train is too crowded, just wait till the next one and sometimes one carriage can be less crowded than the other. Our final stop was at Republica Station, which is in the
Rua Gen Carneiro
centre of Sao Paulo town and the start of our walk around Centro. We spent the day wandering around the town following the suggested route given in the Lonely Planet, and it was a really interesting walk. Our impression of Sao Paulo has always been of very tall blocky high risers but the town does have some really unique old buildings and beautiful spaces. The other impression we have always had of Sao Paulo is of high crime and poverty and this we certainly evident. We only ever pulled out our camera when we needed to photograph something and this was always done discreetly and with the utmost of caution but twice we were warned by locals that we should put our camera away as it might attract “unwanted” attention. Around the town’s main Cathedral we saw large numbers of homeless and a large number seemed “distressed”. We also often felt we were being “cased” but thankfully my surly demeanour kept them at bay and we had no trouble, but I would guess if you didn’t keep your wits about you, things could have been different.
Regardless of this we really enjoyed the day wandering around just experiencing such
a megalopolis, and it is truly an amazing city. We had to stop around 1pm because it started to pour with rain and we initially took shelter under an awning of a building but later moved to a café for a coffee and sandwich. We have discovered that the Cappuccino’s in Brazil have a heavy (if not entire) content of chocolate. We saw some amazing buildings including Sao Paulo’s highest (the 46 storey Edificio Italia), a replica of the Empire State Building (Benespa Building) as well as a very non-descript building that was pointed out by a local that was Sao Paulo’s first “Bauhaus” designed office block that was built in 1938. The Catedral da Se was amazing, but the interior of the Mosteiro Sao Bento church was far more atmospheric and the place seemed to have the most amazing feel about it. We wandered further on to find the NS do Rosario dos Homens Pretos, which is a small church that was built in 1906 by black Brazilians on a site where sacred African religious rites were held. We had sort of imagined this very sacred little church tucked into a corner of the a town park but what we discovered was a little church covered in graffiti and with “working girls” hanging all around it…very odd.
Up the road we came across Galeria do Rock a 5 storey shopping plaza filled with shops dedicated to Sao Paulo’s underground scene such as skaters, punks, metal heads and goths. It had heaps of tattoo shops but the majority was shops that seemed to have been ransacked from Sydney in the 1980’s. There was such a huge collection of great clothing and paraphernalia here that we just wished it was 1987 and in Sydney and we would have blown a dozen pay packets, but somehow now at my age walking around in a sleeveless T-shirt of the Ramones or the Damned just doesn’t seem right. There was also heaps of Vinyl records including a Syd Barret record, which if Ryan doesn’t already have, he would have loved to have…sorry mate I am not about to try and get it home. We both came so close to buying things but restrained ourselves and headed home.
Got the Metro back a different way and picked up our laundry on the way back to the hotel. All our clothes were lovely and clean, and ironed and my T-shirts even had cardboard in them to keep them flat. Such a waste when I just crammed them into my backpack for our move tomorrow.
In the afternoon we wandered across the road to one of the noisy bars that has partially kept us awake over the last few nights. It is run by a guy called Saddam that looks a bit like him and carries about 10 kilos of gold and silver chains around his neck and hands. This place (along with most around here), are big gay hang out points, and it is a great place to sit back with a beer and watch the world pass by. After a few beers we wandered up the road to a local “greasy spoon” for a hearty feed of rice, beans and meat, before heading home and packing. Tomorrow we are off to Rio and the carnival, and we both just can’t believe how fast this trip is going.
We both feel as if Sao Paulo is a one huge replica of Darlinghurst in the 1980’s albeit a lot seedier. The town sure has a hard edge to it and that is most evident as a visitor by the lack of smiles you receive but the people are still helpful and generous and there is a genuine heart to this town. Late in the day as we were leaving town we passed a guy who was passing out meals to the homeless women, and although we don’t know the story behind it, it appeared to be a genuine act of kindness by a local to the less fortunate. We definitely wouldn’t choose to live here but the place is okay.