Voting and Running in Sao Paulo

Australia held an extraordinary federal election on 2 July. Citizens on the electoral roll could participate at overseas voting centres prior to election day. Brazil had two centres: Brasilia’s Embassy and São Paulo’s Consulate-General. With a terrible federal government in power, I ensured I exercised my democratic right by visiting São Paulo during the late June early voting period.

Although many tourists enter South America via São Paulo, the continent’s largest city is not a major tourist attraction. Despite this, I enjoy the city and, besides voting, also caught up with fellow runner and Pearl Jam fan, Cleide.

Sao Paulo, Brazil

Union protesters on São Paulo’s main Paulista Avenue had the volume cranked up Continue reading

Sao Paulo, Brazil

Besides Pearl Jam and jet lag, I did manage to see and do a few other things during my time in behemoth Sao Paulo.

With Pablo at Vila Madalena restaurant

With Pablo at restaurant

On my second night, via a mutual friend (thanks Lucy!), I met Pablo, an Argentinean who has lived in Sao Paulo for a decade. Over beef picanha and a strong caipirinha cocktail Pablo provided an insightful introduction to South America, Brazil and Sao Paulo.

Brazilian steak sizzling at table

The picanha (beef) with chopped onions cooking over a flame (top of photo). Diners finish cooking the meat to their liking

Hostel Alice interior wall

An interior wall of the very friendly Hostel Alice, Vila Madalena

With my jet lag and post-trip tiredness, I hardly left Hostel Alice in the first few days. The very helpful and friendly hostel staff (Renata, Denise, Gabriele) and fellow guests (Joana, Marcio, Cassio) made it a home away from home.

ATMs at Sao Paulo’s main Guarulhos International Airport did not accept foreign debit or credit cards so I didn’t have Brazilian Rials for a few days. Luckily, the restaurant and hostel accepted cards. A bank nearby the Vila Madalena metro station appeared to only allow withdrawals up to R$500 (less than AUD$200) – something to consider for fellow travellers to Brazil.

Vila Madalena graffiti

Vila Madalena graffiti

Vila Madalena is a neighbourhood famous for its nightlife, culture and art. Towards the end of Rua Harmonie (the same street as the hostel) is an area full of graffiti art. A trip highlight occured when, while walking on the street, twice in two minutes Brazilians asked me for directions!

Standing in front of Vila Madalena graffiti

On my walk back to the hostel, another local not only knew I was a foreigner but guessed I was Australian due to my hat’s similarity to Mick Dundee’s from Crocodile Dundee.

Woman taking photo of girl in front of graffiti

A woman photographing a girl (her daughter?) in front of graffiti art, Vila Madalena

Steep street, Vila Madalena

Some Vila Madalena streets are very steep

Gelato, Vila Madalena

Always a winner: delicious tiramisu, passionfruit and cherry-chocolate flavoured gelato for lunch

Bromeliads and orchids attached to tree, Vila Madalena

Plants including orchids and bromeliads were attached to many Vila Madalena tree trunks

Painted bin and pole, Vila Madalena

Even rubbish bins are disguised in Vila Madalena

Women holding sign for job, Vila Madalena

Woman employed to hold advertising sign all day

"Australian bread", Sao Paulo

“Australian bread”

On my final evening in Sao Paulo, I caught up with Cleide from the Pearl Jam pre-concert party. The cafe we visited sold selected sandwiches made with Australian bread, a soft, light-brown bun. I don’t know how this bread came to be associated with Australia. I guess Australian bread is widely known in Brazil as the flight I took from Sao Paulo to Belo Horizonte also sold sandwiches made with it. Can anyone solve this mystery?

Theatre sculpture, Ibirapuera Park, Sao Paulo

Next to a lake in Ibirapuera Park with central Sao Paulo in the background

Ibirapuera Park is a major Sao Paulo landmark and, in a city lacking public space, a venue thousands of locals visit every day, especially on weekends. The park contains lakes, pavilions, monuments, museums, a running and cycling track and many other facilities. Keeping up the Australian theme, black swans live in the lakes.

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A sculpture in one of the pavilions

Contemporary art inside theatre, Ibirapuera Park,

Either another artwork or contemporary seating at an Ibirapuera Park pavilion

Hundreds of young people congregated in one area of the park. Amongst them were many young teenage (e.g. 13 to 16 years old) same-sex pairs flirting with and kissing each other.

Street from taxiing plane, Congonhas Airport, Sao Paulo

My plane to Belo Horizonte taxiing metres from the street prior to take-off from Congonhas Airport, Sao Paulo

I will return to Sao Paulo on this trip as there are many more things I would like to see and do including Liberdade (the Japanese district), free architecture and walking tours, the Central Market (Mercado Municipal) and museums and galleries.

My flight to Belo Horizonte departed from a different airport to the one I arrived at. Congonhas Airport is a domestic-only airport located closer to central Sao Paulo than the larger Guarulhos International Airport and my taxi from the hostel to Congonhas cost R$43, far less than a taxi to Guarulhos.

Pearl Jam Live in Concert, Sao Paulo, 14 November 2015

What a fantastic evening!

One of my dreams was to see Pearl Jam play live in South America, the home of their craziest fans. After hearing the band play my favourite song (Rearviewmirror) for the first time at their 2014 Perth concert, my wish for this concert was to enjoy the moment and soak up the atmosphere.

Sao Paulo was the second of five Brazilian Pearl Jam concerts as part of their 2015 Latin American tour.

My Pearl Jam Sao Paulo experience began with an unofficial fan gathering the night before at O’Malley’s pub in central Sao Paulo. There I chatted with other fans, both Brazilian and foreign and shared our pre-concert excitement, including Cleide, a fellow runner and a passionate soccer fan. Coincidentally, that evening Brazil played Argentina in a world cup qualifier in Buenos Aires and loud cheers rang out when Brazil came back to draw the match 1:1.

The pub had an interesting payment system I had not experienced before. Upon entry each person was given a card. Food and drinks were put against that card like a tab. Prior to leaving, each person paid their bill in order to receive an exit ticket. No exit ticket, no exit. My bill totalled R$109 for two pints of stout (R$19 each), a grilled tuna salad (R$31) and the R$40 male cover charge. If I recall correctly, females paid R$30.

Thank you to Dimitrios, a fanatical Pearl Jam fan from Greece who found the venue and created the Facebook event. It was a great night except for the terrible news from Paris flashing up on the television screens.

With other Pearl Jam fans outside Sampa Hostel before taking the van to the concert

With other Pearl Jam fans outside Sampa Hostel before going to the concert

The next afternoon I walked 10 minutes to Sampa Hostel to catch a specially chartered van taking fans to and from Morumbi, the concert venue (40 real). Cheers to Hostel Alice for reserving my place!

Morumbi, officially known as Estádio Cícero Pompeu de Toledo, is one of Sao Paulo’s major soccer stadiums and the home of Sao Paulo FC. My Piste Premium concert ticket gave me access to the general admission section in front of the stage. Arriving after 5pm, I had hours to buy a t-shirt (R$100) at the merchandise stand, enjoy the stadium atmosphere, chat with other fans and watch the crowd build.

Morumbi Stadium filling up with Pearl Jam fans

The Piste Premium general admission section in front of the stage

Vendors carrying eskies wandered the crowd selling water, soft drink and beer

Vendor carrying esky of water, soft drink and beer

Fans wanting to eat or drink didn’t even need to leave their spot in the audience. Both before and during the show, vendors wandered amongst the crowd selling either drinks (water: R$6, soft drink: R$8, beer: R$10) or hot chips (R$12).

The receipt for hot chips

Voucher for hot chips (‘potatoes in cone’) bought at a kiosk

More food and drink was available from kiosks. There, instead of paying cash directly, one had to buy a voucher and exchange it for the items purchased. “Pearl Jam” featured prominently on each voucher and I bet a few fans bought extra vouchers for souvenirs.

As the concert got closer, Mexican waves started in the stands and the sense of anticipation grew

The crowd roars as Pearl Jam enter the stage; the video ends with the first notes of Long Road

After 8:30pm the band entered the stage to a huge roar. Long Road opened the concert followed by Of The Girl and, as I predicted beforehand, Love Boat Captain. Prior to Love Boat Captain, singer Eddie Vedder read out a few words in Portuguese regarding the recent attacks in Paris. Drummer Matt Cameron’s bass drum also featured an outline of the Eiffel Tower.

Lights in the audience during Pearl Jam's cover of Imagine

Fans shine their mobile phone lights during Pearl Jam’s cover of John Lennon’s Imagine

Pearl Jam performing in Sao Paulo

The stage glows

Strong winds and rain hit the stadiums, causing some interruptions. Eddie sang a solo acoustic version of Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town and the first encore break was extended in order to secure loose items, allow the spotlight operators to come down and to protect the stage.

After the rain at Pearl Jam Sao Paulo

After the rain

The audience rocking to the Neil Young cover Rockin’ In The Free World – the couple dancing typify the crowd’s enthusiasm and joy 

Near the end of the concert

Lights on at the end of the concert

The lights are on for the end of the show

Yellow Ledbetter usually signals the end and after this song the band thanked the crowd and said goodbye. However, as it was such a great night the band came back for a final song and third cover, All Along The Watchtower.

Pearl Jam put on a magical night for the ~ 60,000 strong crowd, performing 33 songs over three hours and eleven minutes. It’s very hard to pick favourites from the night but my highlights included Hail, Hail, State Of Love And Trust and Rearviewmirror. The main highlight, however, was the wonderful atmosphere brought about by the crowd and band feeding off each other.

For the full set-list and further fanviews:

The good news I have two more occasions to experience the Pearl Jam-Brazil magic: in Belo Horizonte and Rio de Janeiro. I can’t wait!

Perth to Sao Paulo via Abu Dhabi

I’m writing this from the friendly Hostel Alice in Sao Paulo, the Southern Hemisphere’s largest city and Brazil’s business and transportation centre. Although it’s obvious in hindsight, I didn’t realise Sao Paulo was named after St Paul from Tarsus in modern day Turkey, a town nearby my former hometown Mersin.

My journey from Perth to Sao Paulo took only two flights but an indirect route and long duration (36 hours). Cara kindly dropped my off at Perth Airport and there I boarded the 11.5 hour Etihad flight to Abu Dhabi. Etihad plane at Perth Airport

The Etihad plane taxiing to the gate, Perth Airport

Etihad’s service and modern plane impressed me although their food was average. I loved the provision of noise-cancelling headphones, particularly since I left mine home in the interests of reducing baggage weight and space.

Abu Dhabi International Airport

After touching down at Abu Dhabi International Airport

With 10 hours overnight in between flights, sleep was key. I knew Abu Dhabi Airport had sleeping pods and I went to find them. I guess I already gave off a backpacker vibe because, when asked about the pods, the information desk man showed me a price list to check if I could afford one before pointing me in the right direction.

Interior of Abu Dhabi Airport Sleeping Pod

My sleeping pod interior with the cover closed, Terminal 3, Abu Dhabi International Airport

After eventually finding GoSleep Sleeping Pods, the woman kindly offered eight hours for the price of seven. At AUD 95 (they accepted multiple currencies) for seven hours, I bet many backpackers do indeed choose a bench instead.

Abu Dhabi Airport Sleeping Pod

The open sleeping pod

The sleeping pod room was dark and somewhat noisy but the combination of earplugs and my excellent Hibermate Sleep Mask with Ear Muffs blocked out all noise and light. The six hours of sleep was golden and made this long journey manageable. Although expensive for what it is, I recommend the sleeping pods for anyone who needs a sleep and isn’t claustrophobic.

The view shortly after departing Abu Dhabi

The view shortly after departure from Abu Dhabi

Rivers near the West African coast

Rivers near the West African coastline

The 14.5 hour Jet Airways operated flight for Etihad from Abu Dhabi to Sao Paulo flew over a significant chunk of Africa and the Atlantic Ocean, both firsts for me. The African mountains, rivers and plains looked attractive from the sky and the continent is definitely on my future places to visit list.

When not looking out the window, I spent most of my time playing an addictive arcade game on Etihad’s E-Box entertainment system causing the system to crash twice from overuse.

Waters offshore Brazil contain some of the world’s deepest, most technically-difficult to extract and largest reserves of oil and gas. From the plane I was surprised at number and density of the drill ships, production platforms and support vessels.

First sight of the South American continent

My first ever view of the South American continent (and continental Brazil)

The South American continent came into view indicating my journey end and South American adventures start.

Sao Paulo from the air

This photo provides an indication of how massive Sao Paulo is

Jet Airways plane at Sao Paulo Airport

The Jet Airways plane after landing at Sao Paulo’s Guarulhos International Airport

After landing and going through Brazilian immigration, I was thankful to have prearranged a transfer through the hostel. Luckily Sao Paulo’s infamous traffic behaved itself and the journey into this mega city went smoothly.