Moving on: Ilha Grande, Sao Paulo, Foz do Iguaçu
It’s been a while since my last update and during this time I’ve moved several times already and am currently writing this post on the airplane towards Buenos Aires. It’s been quite hectic the last couple of days since I moved to several different places. I had to find hostels and find transport from and to places and to the hostels. From Rio de Janeiro I’ve moved to Ilha Grande (extra destination), Sao Paulo and Foz do Iguaçu. I stayed only a few days at most of these destinations but still enough to see a lot of what the city has to offer.
Rio has been really kind to me, as the first stop on my trip around the world it raised the bar quite high for the other destinations. Not that I’m comparing or anything, but just that I have a lot to look forward to at the other destinations. The last couple of days I stayed with a couchsurfer host who showed me a lot of the local treasures and street food. Can’t even start to name all the things we ate. We ended with a visit to a rather expensive Churrascaria, where we had a mix of meats and Picanha, delicious piece of meat. All in all, I wanna thank all the people that I met in hostels and in CS meetings for making it a great time. I don’t think I would’ve seen so much of the local things if it weren’t for them. You know who you guys are 😉
Ilha GrandeOriginally I didn’t calculate to go to Ilha Grande, but since I had some extra time left in Rio, I figured why not. Besides, it’s on the way to Sao Paulo anyway! Ilha Grande is an nice little paradise island just a few hours away from Rio de Janeiro. The island is a sort of large protected natural park/area/thing with a bunch of unspoilt beaches. You can take boats to visit the several wonderfull beaches or you can hike your way accross the island to one of the beaches. I only had 1 full day to explore some of the island and I didn’t want to spend money on a boat tour so I just hiked to one of the beaches. It was a rather long 3 hour hike one-way, the reward was a large unspoiled beach with roughly 8 people and white crispy (yeah it sounded crispy) sand and clear blue water. The view was marvelous and there was only the sound of the waves and nothing else. No venders or cars around. For not particular reason, I felt really happy when diving into the water and taking a well-deserved swim in the cold water. Just one of those things you feel genuinely happy. 🙂 I can higly recommend anyone to visit the island for at least a couple of days, just so you can enjoy the several beaches and activities on the island. Good mix of adventure and relaxation.
Before I forget, I must tell you guys that the long distance buses in Brazil are sooooooooo comfortable. You have buses where you can nearly recline your seat to an almost 180° line. The busdrivers are still crazy as hell though when driving through mountain passes and everything. I nearly missed my connecting bus from the ferry from Ilha Grande and the bus station. Thank god for the unpunctual Brazilian time management!Anyway, Sao Paulo! For some reason I felt really happy when I arrived at the bus station and metro in Sao Paulo. I’ve been trying to find more Asians during my stay in Brazil but haven’t seen that many around. I dunno, I guess I’m one of those people that feel comfortable with their own kind? But as I mentioned in my other post, Sao Paulo has a large Asian community and I think it was that thought that made me feel more at ease when arriving here. The city itself was really a metropole though. I was wearing my hiker bermuda shorts and a large backpack and daypack on me. I could feel a different atmosphere from the people there. The people seemed more serious and “uptight” compared to Rio de Janeiro. When I strolled around the city the first couple of days, you could see A LOT of huge (modern) buildings, the streets were clean and everything had a more European feel to it. The people were dressed more classy and trendy. People wearing dress shirts and shiny leather shoes. The people were more pale than in Rio too, probably because there are no beaches around in the city. I did like the fact that there was a Japan town here. I could “finally” see some Asians! There are a lot of Japanese immigrants around and a good mix of Korean and Chinese people too. I even heard a couple of Cantonese words here and there. But mainly mainlanders though. Funny thing is that wherever Chinese people are, there are little “galeries” and shopping centers where they sell the same goods that they sell in Hong Kong, such as counterfit watches, bags, electronics. Besides the whole Asian culture, you can also see groups of “Otakus” hanging around the area. For the people that don’t know what otakus are, they are people who are really into anime and manga from japan. So much that they actually dye and style their hair almost like the characters and they even wear t-shirts from the anime. I’m a huge anime/manga fan myself, but I’d never wear anything related to it though. Maybe I’m a closet otaku… Still fun to see. Oh on sundays they have a little Japan market with different food stalls where you can get some Japanese food like takoyaki and other good stuff from Japan. Really worth a visit. Overall, there were plenty of things to do in Sao Paulo, but coming from a metropole myself, the setting of Sao Paulo itself didn’t impress me much. They do have a lot of cultural activities and modern infrastructure within the city. But it all depends what you wanted to do. I did like the fact that they have a strong Asian presence here, but apparently it wasn’t always like this. On the plane I talked to a Cantonese couple living here and according to them, there used to be a strong racial discrimation. Anyway the parties are pretty badass here but it comes with a price. Sao Paulo is one of the more expensive cities in South America.
Foz do IguaçuMy last city in Brazil before leaving for Argentina. I only had 1 full day here to see what I wanted to see, Iguaçu falls. You had the option to visit the Brazilian side or the Argentinian side. The Brazilian side took like 3 hours or so to visit, leaving you some extra time to visit the birdpark or the dam. The Argentinian side took a whole day but you could visit the falls from up close. I choose the Argentinian side, just because I wanted to really see the falls and not just pass by it. It had a nice little tours and paths to several waterfalls around the park and a boatride to the bigger waterfalls. It was an amazing view and awesome experience to get soaked by the water at the foot of the waterfall. We went pretty pretty close to the Devil’s Throat. I think 2 full days would be enough to visit everything there is to visit in Foz do Iguaçu. But being a budget traveler, every one of the touristic visits have a price. Probably why I don’t regret only staying 1 day. I did like the hostel I stayed at, first 8-bed dorm room which was better than the 4 bed one 🙂
When I first arrived in Brazil, I had no idea how to speak Portugese, but on my last day I actually helped out a fellow traveler by translating something from English to Portugese. I know, I’m such a badass traveler who’s speaks fluently Portugese now. Not really…. But it was pretty cool to be able to speak a little bit of Portugese now. I hope that my Spanish will improve too along the way. After spending a couple of weeks in the huge country of Brazil, I can truely say that Brazil is pretty damn “otimo” (awesome in Portugese). The people are AMAZINGLY friendly and always willing to help you out whenever you need. Sometimes even without asking. Before actually coming here I would never think about visiting Brazil, but now I actually wanna come back here for a longer period of time AND with better Portugese. The country is so big and there are so many cool places to visit that 2-3 weeks just isn’t enough. Some people asked me already: “How is Brazil? Do you recommend it?“. I sure do! A lot of people have a sense of danger when thinking about visiting Brazil. I haven’t felt unsafe once when coming here. Maybe a couple of times but as long as you use your common sense and well-prepared, you can really enjoy your stay here. Now let’s see what Argentina has to offer!