Thursday, February 2, 2012


Brazil, Argentina, Peru & Bolivia
10 sector Flights & 5 different airlines.
28 days.

First Row: Lake Titicaca, Machu Picchu, Colorada Laguna
2nd Row: Moray Circles, Salar De Uyuni, Christ the Redeemer
3rd Row: Iguazu Fall, Nazca Line, Uyuni

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Day 1 & 2 - Singapore to Sao Paulo, Brazil (24th & 25th Dec 11)

 Read this book & watched the movie back in 2004. 

I brought this book with me, hoping that I could appreciate it better when I was in South America. I had a better understanding of terms like "Mate", a popular hot beverage in Argentina and other parts of South America. I could also appreciate why Roberto (Ernesto Guevara's traveling buddy) took of his clothes with the intention to swim Lake Titicaca and put his clothes back after realizing that the water was really cold. (I could feel my coldness grabbing my head when I was swimming for a while in Lake Titicaca). 

Doha City, Qatar.
This is the longest flight of my life. A total 31 hours of traveling time (including 8 hours transit time in Doha airport).

Doha City, Qatar
It reminded of the Palm Islands in Dubai (only been to the airport). I am wondering what is the economy of Doha? What are the pillars of its economic? Is it like a ghost town like Dubai with over-construction? Are the middle-east countries able to create more capabilities to boost its economy rather than relying on oil exploration & refinery?

A row of volcanoes.

The barren inhospitable land of Africa.
This is my first time flying across the whole Africa continent. A Barren flat plain of nothingness. No cloud, No trees, No life. What a magnificent sight. Thanks to modern technology, I was listening to Moby's Porcelain and drinking a cold glass of Apple juice while enjoying this view. 
It's good to be alive. :)

My first impression of Sao Paulo, Brazil
The largest city in South America.

This is my first time in a new continent - South America.

Met a kind Brazilian Gentlemen (based in Germany) who gave us an overview of the economy of Brazil. Firstly, I learnt that there is no typical Brazilian look (take a look at the photo below). Secondly, Brazil is a boom town (with commodities prices soaring & the discovery of offshore oil). Thirdly, the income gap disparity is widening. Real Estate property is expensive and its beyond the means of ordinary folks. A fresh graduate pay is around 800 real/month (S$586, US$465), with its GDP per capital around US$11,810 which is around US$984/mth, S$1,240/mth. 

I could not verify his figure. But I remember the McDonald Meal in the city is around 16 Brazilian Real (S$11.72, US$9.32) which is very high compared to its average income. 

Doing a quick calculation:
Brazil: % of Mac Meal to GDP per capita is 0.078%
USA: % of Mac Meal to GDP per capita is 0.013%
Singapore: % of Mac Meal to GDP per capita is 0.009%

This might not be conclusive, but at least, it shows the general purchasing power of average people in the country. Looking at this statistics, it is tough to be an average Brazilian worker.

In the metro. There is no typical Brazilian look - White, Mixed, Hispanic, Black, Asian etc... That's interesting! I was surprised that the metro ticket is one-price for any distance (2.9 Real - S$2.12, US$1.69), in another words, the price is the same irregardless where you alight. So it definitely makes more sense to take the metro if you are traveling further.

Spent my X'mas walking around Paulista Avenue (Business District) of Sao Paulo. Interesting to see hawkers selling food in the business district. 

Day 3 - Sao Paulo & Rio De Janeiro, Brazil (26th Dec 11)

"São Paulo is the largest city in Brazil, the largest city in the southern hemisphere and South America, and the world's seventh largest city by population."

View of the City from Banespa Tower (Free Viewing)

Looks like the HDB flats in Singapore (Public Housing Flats).

Another View

Street of Sao Paulo.
The city gave me a retro/80s feeling and a lot of the buildings looks old and are not well-maintained. 

Advertisement on the street.

The second tallest building in Sao Paulo - 46 Storeys, built in 1965. 
Why ain't they building taller buildings after 1965?

"The Edifício Copan (Copan Building) is a 140-metre, 38-story residential building in São Paulo,Brazil. Construction began in 1957 and, following some interruptions, was completed in 1966. It is one of the largest buildings in Brazil and has the largest floor area of any residential building in the world. The Copan Building has inspired writers, filmmakers, photographers, and other artists from all over the world."

I have to admit that I am not really impressed by the building. By considering that it was built in 1966, it was impressive for that time.

How did they do it??

Sao Paulo Cathedral

Beautiful Girl
(Taken by HY)


Interior of a Cathedral

Japan Town in Liberdade
This is the largest Japan Town in the world. There are more than 1 million Japanese Brazilians in Brazil

Japanese Food!

A friend's mother (whom I saw less than a month ago) had passed on. There was a sense of gratefulness and sadness while I was on the bus from Sao Paulo to Rio De Janeiro. 
Really thankful that I'm alive and has the opportunity to travel. 
Always be grateful. 

Day 4 - Rio De Janeiro, Brazil (27th Dec 11)

"Rio de Janeiro, commonly referred to simply as Rio, is the capital city of the State of Rio de Janeiro, the second largest city of Brazil, and the third largest metropolitan area and agglomeration in South America, boasting approximately 6.3 million people within the city proper, making it the 6th largest in the Americas, and 26th in the world.

Rio de Janeiro is the most visited city in the southern hemisphere and is known for its natural settings, carnival celebrations, samba,Bossa Novabalneario beaches such as Barra da TijucaCopacabanaIpanema, and Leblon. Some of the most famous landmarks in addition to the beaches include the giant statue of Christ the Redeemer ('Cristo Redentor') atop Corcovado mountain, named one of theNew Seven Wonders of the WorldSugarloaf mountain (Pão de Açúcar) with its cable car; the Sambódromo, a permanent grandstand-lined parade avenue which is used during Carnival; and Maracanã Stadium, one of the world's largest football stadiums. The 2016 Summer Olympics will take place in Rio de Janeiro, which will mark the first time a South American city hosts the event. Rio's Maracanã Stadium will also host the final match for 2014 FIFA World Cup. Rio de Janeiro will also host World Youth Day in 2013."

Lonely Planet gave a warning about Rio De Janeiro - you will fall in love with this beautiful city and there would be a strong craving to go back to this city. Indeed, Rio is definitely one of my favourite cities in the world!!! I love the beaches, the scenery and the Samba.

Ipanema Beach.

(Taken by HY)
I read on the guidebook that it is a common sight for locals to jog in their speedo. And if you are wearing boardshort, you are most probably a tourist. Well, there are more people wearing boardshorts than speedo.

Rio is a good place for People-Watching...

(Taken by HY)

Surfer dudes...

(Taken by HY)

Even the security badge is nice too.

The birthplace of the song "The Girl from Ipanema"

Well, one of the best things to do in Rio is lying on the beach, enjoying the sea breeze and listening to the Bossa Nova "The Girl from Ipanema". 
It's PERFECT!!! =)

"favela is the generally used term for a shanty town in Brazil. In the late 18th century, the first settlements were called bairros africanos (African neighbourhoods). This was the place where former slaves with no land ownership and no options for work lived. Over the years, many freed black slaves moved in.

Census data released in December 2011 by the IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) shows that in 2010, about (6%) of the population lived in slums in Brazil. It means that 11.4 million of the 190 million people lived in the country areas of irregular occupation and lack of public services or urbanization - called by the IBGE of "subnormal agglomerations.""

Basically, there are 2 kinds of Favela - those that are controlled by the drug lords & those that have been cleaned up by the police. I visited 2 Favelas, and the living condition is not optimal, but it was not as bad as I had imagined. (I was thinking about the Slums I saw in India - which is really appalling). In recent years, there are major improvement to the amenities in the Favela (Kudos to the government) - Schools, Clinics & Free Wifi!!! Most impressively, the inhabitants are given title deed to own the land. That's legitimate ownership and there is real estate business is booming in favela - sales & rental. It is not cheap to rent a place in the favela - a couple of hundreds of dollars.

Rocinha - the biggest favela in Rio

Playground in Favela

A retail shop in Favela.
This photo encapsulates my impression of Favela - Cramp, Stuffy, Messy but everything is available.

Burger selling for 3 real (S$2.19, US$1.75)
That's really cheap. You can't find such a price in other places in the city.

Kids from the Favela. 

Nice View from the Favela!

Really Nice View!!!

"Sugarloaf Mountain (in Portuguese, Pão de Açúcar), is a peak situated in Rio de JaneiroBrazil, at the mouth of Guanabara Bayon a peninsula that sticks out into the Atlantic Ocean. Rising 396 metres (1,299 ft) above the harbor, its name is said to refer to its resemblance to the traditional shape of concentrated refined loaf sugar."

View of Rio from Sugarloaf.

Copacabana Beach is the one on the top left.
Ipanema Beach is at the top (adjacent to Copacabana Beach)

(Taken by HY)
Christ the Redeemer showed himself in the midst of fog during sunset.

Day 5 - Rio De Janeiro, Brazil (28th Dec 11)

"Christ the Redeemer is a statue of Jesus Christ in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; considered the largest Art Deco statue in the world and the 5th largest statue of Jesus in the world. It is 39.6 metres (130 ft) tall, including its 9.5 metres (31 ft) pedestal, and 30 metres (98 ft) wide. It weighs 635tonnes (625 long,700 short tons), and is located at the peak of the 700-metre (2,300 ft) Corcovado mountain in the Tijuca ForestNational Park overlooking the city. A symbol of Brazilian Christianity, the statue has become an icon for Rio de Janeiro and Brazil. It is made of reinforced concrete and soapstone, and was constructed between 1922 and 1931.

On July 7, 2007, in Lisbon (Estádio da Luz), Christ the Redeemer was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in a list compiled by the Swiss-based The New Open World Corporation. Leading corporate sponsors, including Banco Bradesco and Rede Globo, had lobbied to have the statue voted into the top seven."

This is the 4th new wonder that I have visited (The previous ones include The Great Wall of China, Petra in Jordan & Taj Mahal in India). I also visited Machu Picchu in Peru subsequently. This is the least impressive wonder among the 5 new wonders I have seen. I have seen more impressive monuments that did not make it to the new wonder list - namely, the Potala Palace in Tibet, Ang Kor Wat in Cambodia, Old City in Jerusalem etc... 

The Statue of Jesus Christ


Mystical Christ.
It was a foggy day.

I love the happy expression of the folks.

"Lapa is a neighbourhood in the city of Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil. It is located in the centre of Rio and is famous for its historical monuments and nightlife. Since the early 1950s, Lapa has been known for its lively cultural life, concentrating many restaurants and bars where Brazilian artists and intellectuals used to meet."

A Street full of grafitti
This is the kind of Rio that I had in mind.



"Escadaria Selarón is a set of world-famous steps in Rio de JaneiroBrazil. They are the work of Chilean-born artist Jorge Selarón who claims it as "my tribute to the Brazilian people". In 1990, Selarón began renovating a dilapidated steps that ran along the front of his house. At first, neighbours mocked him for his choice of colours as he covered the steps in fragments of blue, green and yellow tiles – the colours of the Brazilian flag. It started out as a side-project to his main passion, painting but soon became an obsession. He found he was constantly out of money so sold paintings to fund his work. It was long and exhaustive work but he continued on and eventually covered the entire set of steps in tiles, ceramics and mirrors."

Jorge Selarón (The gentlemen in red)

Impressive piece of art.
Impressive passion and determination of the artist.

Tiles from all over the world.

Remember to bring a tile if you visit here in the future.

"Samba is a Brazilian dance and musical genre originating in Bahia and with its roots in Brazil (Rio De Janeiro) and Africa via the West African slave trade and African religious traditions. It is recognized around the world as a symbol of Brazil and the Brazilian Carnival. Considered one of the most popular Brazilian cultural expressions, samba has become an icon of Brazilian national identity. The Bahian Samba de Roda (dance circle), which became a UNESCO Heritage of Humanity in 2005, is the main root of the samba carioca, the samba that is played and danced in Rio de Janeiro."

No visit to Rio De Janeiro will be complete without checking out its Samba scene. I went to Rio Scenarium which was touted to be one of the best Samba club in Rio and top 10 bars of the world (voted by the UK Guardian). And my verdict is "I LOVE IT!!!"

Samba encapsulates the Spirit of Rio!

Rio Scenarium

I love dancing & swinging to the Samba music.
Old folks, young kids, tourists are dancing together on the floor. It is more like a family event where everybody - young and old - dances freely. Everybody was enjoying themselves. I really hope there is such a culture in Asia - it would be fun dancing together with my parents, my aunts, my cousins & my nieces =)