São Paulo

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Sao Paulo is enormous. Just absurdly huge. With 20 million people, it is the largest metropolitan area in the southern hemisphere. To go from the bus station (upper pin on the map) to my hostel (lower pin) on the very clean and highly efficient metro requires one transfer and about half an hour. The blocks are huge, and what would at appear at first glance at a map to be a ten minute walk can actually turn out to be a few mile journey that can take over an hour.

It also turns out Sao Paulo is hilly. Being from Chicago, I often refer to Manhattan as hilly and San Francisco as mountainous, and while Sao Paulo is not as steep as SF, it’s shockingly hilly. Perhaps I overlooked this because Rio is the postcard city, built into and around the hills and hugging the coast. Sao Paulo simply has paved over the hills, and observing the city from above, as a simple google image search will reveal, one simply sees an endless sea of skyscrapers of varying height. Once on the ground in the city, you realize, much like the shocking hilliness of downtown Los Angeles, that the thick sea of buildings actually blocks out the varying topography.

Sao Paulo is also extremely diverse. People from every culture in the world live in this city. It even has the largest population of Japanese people outside of Japan. Anyone can be from Sao Paulo, thus it’s much easier to blend in. On the subway from the bus station to the hostel I talked with a few people (my backpack drew attention and Brazilians are extremely friendly). One kid had just moved here from Belo Hortizonte and was curious where I was going. We could only communicate in Spanish, because I still cannot speak any Portuguese and he knew almost no English. My Spanish and English caught the attention of a girl on the train who was from Manaus, living in Sao Paulo, but had lived in Oregon and spoke perfect English. We talked for a bit and she showed me where to transfer to the next train. The next train was full of hipsters and models and kids with skateboards and could very well have been the L train from Union Square to Williamsburg.

The hostel I’m staying in is amazing. The people who are staying here as well as the locals who run it and hang out here are all really friendly. A group of us went out to a block party last night that actually walks around the city dancing until sunrise. People play music and “bartenders” follow the crowd, pushing wheelbarrows full of beer, cachaca, and mixers. The party wandered through Jardim Paulista and Vila Madalena and ended in a square a few blocks down the hill from the hostel.

There was a crazy thunderstorm today that lasted about an hour. After the storm passed, I wandered the city shooting photos. Although statistically this city is more dangerous then Rio, I don’t feel particularly sketched out walking around with a backpack and taking photos.

The city is just insane. The juxtaposition of new skyscrapers and colorful old houses and storefronts, the hills, the helicopters, the people. I only booked the hostel until Wednesday night, but I’m already thinking about staying through the weekend. If I do, I’ll forgo Florianopolis and fly directly to Montevideo. The flight is actually about the same price as the combination of bus tickets from SP-Floripa and Floripa-Montevideo.

Here are some pictures:

This is the hostel where I am staying.

Down the hill from the hostel towards Jardins.

My corner.

The Brazilians call their payphones “rabbit ears.”

Sometimes an ear is missing…


Lots of bright colors.

The sky here is crazy.

This is a discreet neighborhood entrance to a fancy McDonald’s.

This is the same McDonald’s. I’m not sure why I find this fascinating.

The small streets are buzzing with people, but the big avenues can be strangely deserted.

The garbage is thrown in these cages on the curbside.

Pão de Acúcar (Sugarloaf, like the mountain in Rio) is the largest supermarket chain in Brazil. This one is down the hill from my hostel and reminds me of a Trader Joe’s.

Walking back up the hill towards the hostel.

This entry was written by brett, posted on February 23, 2009 at 6:06 pm, filed under São Paulo, Travel. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.


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