We had always planned to visit Sao Paulo while we were in Brazil, but we weren’t looking forward to it that much because we had heard a lot of negative things about it. Its really dangerous, there is nothing to do, it always rain etc etc. Well I can tell you now that from our experiences none of that is true!
The bus from Rio was supposed to take about 6 hours, but instead took around 7. The journey was actually really interesting, much more enjoyable than a flight of the same length. It was a was a real eye opener as well. The favelas stretch out for miles around the cities, and I can imagine this is where the worst gang problems occur.
The bus itself was great! We went with the company called 1001 and were really impressed. The bus was nicely air conditioned and the seats were very comfortable with loads of leg room, and we were also given a small lunch pack which was a nice bonus.
We had booked our hostel in advance. Hostel World wasn’t letting us book our first or second choices for some reason, so we ended up making a reservation at Sao Paulo Global Hostel. It is awesome! We arrived about 8pm and we were greeted by very friendly and enthusiastic staff, who quickly gave us a tour of the place and showed us to our rooms.
An hour later we were being offered free cocktails because they were “experimenting” with new combinations! The best by far sounds very odd, but was amazing. A mix of condensed milk, vodka and coke. A pretty good welcome, I think you agree!
Like I said before, we weren’t expecting much, so we scanned the map provided by the hostel for places that looked interesting and set out on foot. The first thing we noticed was that in general we felt safer walking around Sao Paulo than we did Rio. Maybe this was because we were in a good area, Paraiso, I don’t know, but the main difference between Sao Paulo and Rio was that in Rio things could very quickly change from being perfectly safe, to a bit dodgy within a couple of streets of each other, where as this didn’t seem to be the case in Sao Paulo, or at least not in the main parts of the city.
The first place we had pin marked to visit was Ibirapuera Park, Sao Paulo’s major park and probably its most popular tourist attraction. It wasn’t too far away so we decided to walk, and I’m glad we did. The walk to park took us past some great buildings. The mix of modern glass fronted buildings and tree lined roads makes for a striking combination.
While strolling along we also stumbled across the Parque Cultural Paulista which is a small park situated in the midst of the futuristic tower blocks. Its worth a visit ad will only take up about 10 minutes of your time but the intriguing architecture and gardens make it worthwhile.
I appologise to anyone in advance who doesn’t have a clue what that heading was about, but those from the UK will understand. Just as we were getting close to the park, we were distracted by a small food market. You know, fruit, veg that sort of thing. In the market there were a number of stalls selling a snack called a Pastel, which I think roughly translates to a Pastie.
They were 3 Brazilian Real each, and consist of a filling wrapped in a thin pastry and fried. They are cooked right infront of you and you recieve them scoldingly hot! Im not joking. We decided to get one of each filling and share. Pizza, Cheese and Meat. The meat was the best by far, with the pizza filling coming in second. A great snack for lunch as long as you are prepared to wait for it to cool down!
Sao Paulo’s equivelant of New York’s Central Park. It is huge! You could quite easily spend a whole day there. The park is filled with museums, sculptures and statues and also is home to two very large lakes, both of which looked like a very inticing escape from the heat!
The park in general is really nice. Like Central Park this seems to be the palce to go for exercise. Locals run, skate and ride bikes around the parks many paths and it is very busy.
After the park we headed towards Sao Bento tube station. The tube is 2.65 Brazilian Real for a single making it cheaper than Rio, but it is just as efficient and easy to navigate. We did notice that the subway was far more busy than in Rio, and you usually have quite a queue to get a ticket.
When you get off tube at Sao Bento the streets are packed and lined with street traders trying to sell you the latest in quality fakes. An unfortunate American guy called Chris who was also staying in our hostel bought a Kingston 128gb usb stick for 30 Brazilian Real. When plugged into the laptop it read “Zero space used, Zero space available”!
The food market was much better. It is situated in an impressive building complete with impressive stained glass windows on every isle. The stalls are varied and good value. We picked up some fresh bread, salami and Brazilian cheese for lunch the next day, but could have quite easily walked away with more if it wasn’t for our meagre budget.
Overall we have been pleasently surprised by Sao Paulo and have really enjoyed our time here. It helped that we have had a great hostel but even still the city is amazing too. I forgot to mention, almost every street is lined with bars and resturants so you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to nighlife!