Sao Paulo: First Impression and Second Chances

After going through a frustrating day today running errands in Sao Paulo (SP), I was really starting to get fed up at the surprisingly difficult language barrier. Surprising because I have always thought it is easier for Portuguese and Spanish speakers to understand one another. I was hoping to just wing it here with my Spanish — bad move!

Just had a discussion with my lovely concierge here at the Intercon. I believe it should be easy for Portuguese speaker to understand Spanish and vice versa. She actually thinks that it is easier to learn English and understand English. Because latin languages are hard in grammar and too many false friends. I actually think the similar grammar structure and latin word roots would make it easier. I welcome your comment and thoughts on this.

Side Note: Demi Lovato is apparently staying at the same hotel this week. Here’s photo of her fans outside the hotel everyday – screaming her name!

Demi Lovato's Fans Outside Intercon
Demi Lovato’s Fans Outside Intercon

First of all, let me backtrack a little bit. I posted this on my Facebook today after a frustrating day at TAM Airlines and Vivo (Mobile Phone provider), and grabbing lunch.

Quote +++++

I dislike Sao Paulo. I cannot wait to get out of here!!!

1. It is quite expensive – a bottle of water USD2, in Barcelona it is USD1.50. Lunch (crappy taste) was USD18 – all charged by weight (expensive vegies). With USD18, I can have higher quality food in Barcelona. Wished I had bought McDonald’s.

2. I walked around on Avenida Paulista – a lot of homeless around. This avenue is like Jakarta’s Sudirman. I did not feel that unsafe, but I did not feel great either. Definitely leave your valuables in the hotel and bring only what you need.

3. Very few people understands Spanish, let alone English. Even Portunyol does not help today. I am exhausted! Though I did manage to be saved by a few people who speaks excellent english at crucial moment. Surprisingly, this includes people in TAM Airlines office (zero english!).

4. I am feeling ripped of by TAM Airlines – they wanted to charge me USD1,115 extra for changing my first leg of ticket (of two). Apparently, April 29 departure is considered last minute and I can only be charged full economy fare. And apparently buying inside Brazil is more expensive. So make sure when you buy online, you do not choose Brazil store. It is still cheaper for me to buy new tickets online and let my original ticket unused.

5. There are only private city tours. The cheapest I found is one recommended by the hotel – USD150 for three hours. I wonder if it is even worth it??? But if I do not do it, what will I do tomorrow???

That is it so far. In regards to SP being a crazy city traffic wise, Jakarta is as bad, if not worse. Thank God I did not skimp on the hotel. It is my haven!

+++++ Unquote

I feel better now though. Chilling a little bit in the hotel room and plans to go out on a nice dinner with a friends help a lot. I feel a bit more positive. I decided to pay for the city tour, as I do would like to learn about Sao Paulo. And my concierge here, Renata, is so amazing in sharing her experiences and knowledge about Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. I, once again, feel much more positive. Things are definitely looking up! After all, after a heart to heart with a friend last week in Spain, a conclusion has been drawn that some things and some people deserve second chances. So here we go!!!!

I consider myself lucky in my opportunities to travel a lot. Usually I am quite excited to see a new place. However I believe that Brazil’s notorious reputation is dampening that excitement. I actually felt apprehensive about going (when I told people about going to Brazil, most mentioned only of the negative stuffs and how they so do not like Brazil or they have friends / relatives who have been robbed in Brazil). So arriving with that mind frame, I found out that it is not that bad. Actually Avenida Paulista (business centre), Jardim, and Itaim areas are quite safe. (Disclaimer: common sense and alertness are still required!!! Avoid walking through parks even during the day alone. Choose busy streets to walk on).

I am staying near Avenida Paulista (on Santos which is one block away). I like it for the convenience, but I still try to walk on Paulista mostly. I had a million errands to run today and everything is here and I walked everywhere. I was alert. No phones were used on the street. Camera usage was quite discreet. I brought only minimal valuables. I did not at all feel threatened. There are a lot of Asians here (the biggest Japanese community outside Japan is here in SP). I could have been a local minding my own business.

The Guarulhos airport is a big disorganized maze like Manila Airport in grander scale. Compared to Guarulhos, Jakarta Cengkareng airport is like Changi. And Changi is paradise. 🙂

The traffic is not as bad or as bad as Jakarta.

Sao Paulo Highway From Guarulhos Airport at 5PM in the Afternoon
Sao Paulo Highway From Guarulhos Airport at 5PM in the Afternoon

SP also has no proper city planning. The city is messy like Jakarta. The only difference is that building here are much older. It is an old outdated city in appearance of the buildings that I have seen so far. Even the shopping centres on Avenida Paulista – the main business area of SP – look like ITC and Mangga Dua wholesale centres in Jakarta. Huh??!

Chinese Area of Sao Paolo - OTW from Airport To Paulista
Chinese Area of Sao Paolo – OTW from Airport To Paulista
Old Buildings on Paulista
Old Buildings on Paulista

But then again, I was told that Paulista no longer has the economic importance as it used to. It seemed that there is a new area where a lot of the multinational companies go to these days near Jardins.  Thus Paulista is left with a lot of government office and a lot of people comes to work from Comunidades.  Thus Paulista is a mix of people from all walk of life.  It would not be a place where you see many hot, groomed women. One interesting building on Paulista is the MASP building (contemporary art museum).

MASP Building

What did I learn about SP and Brazilians so far???

1. Real Estate is expensive. It is difficult for people to afford a place in the good areas. The further out of SP, an area is, the closer it gets to favelas (or diplomatically referred to here as “comunidades”). Some upscale areas per square meter is more expensive that New York Central Park properties. Sounds like Singapore if you ask me. 🙂

2. Brazilians leave home only when they marry.

3. Public Schools are of very poor quality, and private schools are unaffordable to most. Thus, not many people know other languages. Personal note: considering my Spanish is only about intermediate level, and I could understand some Portuguese given the context, I think the lay people are just too lazy to try to understand it. But perhaps, I am being too harsh in making such judgement.

4. I think World Cup here will be chaos. Avoid Brazil unless die-die you must be here and watch it live…LOL (oops my Singlish is coming out).

5. Brazilians are not very hospitable, except for one lady here who really went out of her way to ensure of my well-being unfortunately. She is in Rio de Janeiro while I am in SP. One person, without any consideration and offer for a backup plan, just cancelled on our meeting after I run around to change my air ticket and even bought a new expensive ticket. Now I have to scramble to see if I can get a refund (which turned out to be 30% of what I paid – robbery! I am really starting to hate TAM Airlines right now. I will be flying GOL for the next of my trip. Anyone is familiar with GOL? What a bad taste in the mouth to do any business with such person.

That is about it I guess for the first 24 hour here….the sun will be brighter tomorrow I am sure after a glass of Caipirinha of lychee, paprika, and basil at Unique Hotel Sky Bar and its amazing view to Paulista.

Caipirinha Special One at Sky Bar of Unique Hotel in Jardins
Caipirinha Special One at Sky Bar of Unique Hotel in Jardins
View of Paulista From the Sky Bar of Unique Hotel
View of Paulista From the Sky Bar of Unique Hotel

And this is after an amazing dinner at A Figueira Rubaiyat under an amazing tree and eating an amazing Picanha (rump) steak.

Rump Steak at A Figueira Rubayat
Summus Rump Steak at A Figueira Rubayat (a specialty of the Rubaiyat Farm)
The famous Figueira tree of A Figueira Rubayat
The famous Figueira tree of A Figueira Rubayat

2 thoughts on “Sao Paulo: First Impression and Second Chances

  1. Interesting observations! I knew Brazil has one of the biggest income gaps in the world, but didn’t expect it to be that huge. Seems it’s worse than Cuba – in Cuba the CUC prices are at least still ‘cheap’ by developed country standards.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s