Tour do Brasil: São Paulo, Manaus y Rio de Janeiro

What a trip, folks.

I recently returned from a cost-of-living assignment in Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. I was gone for a little under a month and visited five different cities, São Paulo, Manaus, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and Montevideo. It was my first time traveling in this part of the world, and I had a whopping fun time.

In this first of three travel updates this week, I’ll highlight some of my favorite experiences in Brazil. I’ve been trying to take more images while traveling, so I’ll be focusing these three updates around photography.

São Paulo

São Paulo, the world’s seventh largest metropolitan area, is fast-paced, noisy, graffiti-splotched, chock-full of Japanese restaurants and teeming with the vibrancy of a modern, urban Brazil. This is a view from my hotel room, just off of Avenida Faria Lima.

In the early twentieth century, Italian immigrants established a presence in the south and southeast of Brazil. One of their many influences is mortadela, a heat-cured cold cut made from finely hashed pork sausage, deftly spiced and often eaten for lunch.

I spent most of my time working and didn’t capture the kind of ethos I normally seek out in a new city, but I was fortunate and connected with some great people. Kaji, a friend of a friend, took me out to try açaí, a fruit native to Brazil, chock-full of protein and antioxidants. It was served cold, with granola and peanut bits. I loved every bite.

Kaji took me back to his house, where we tried cachaça, a liquor made from fermented sugarcane. It’s the most popular distilled alcoholic beverage in Brazil and this particular brand tasted like a soft whisky, neutral at first but warm and slightly spicy on the way down. We watched a local football game, and I met his parents and sister.

That night, we went out for pizza and beer, and the next day, Kaji’s sister, Juliana, drove me around São Paulo’s various neighborhoods. We ate traditional foods for lunch, darted around various shopping areas and swung by the Football Museum which, much to our dismay, was closed for the day.

A big thank you to both Kaji and Juliana for being excellent hosts! Hope to see you both again.


In Manaus, the weather was equatorial and Amazonian, hot and humid, with the occasional afternoon bout of precipitation. I hired a translator/driver, Luciano, to help with some phone calls and real estate meetings. A few years ago, Luciano was employed by CBS as a production assistant when they were using the Amazon as a set for Survivor. I pressed Luciano for show secrets, but he was too loyal to give anything up.

For lunch one day, we ate the freshwater tambaqui fish with manioc flour, and I sampled four or five different kinds of bananas. To drink, we shared Guaraná, a popular soft drink.

Some of the more popular soft drinks in Brazil are guaraná-flavoured. Guaraná is a climbing plant, native to the Amazonian Basin. Its fruit contains twice the amount of caffeine found in coffee beans. This particular brand of fizz, Baré is only available in Manaus.

Compared to São Paulo, Manaus is quiet. Because it was raining, I missed out on the confluence of the Negro and Amazon Rivers. I did get a chance, however, to walk along the Amazon.

Just down the hill from the Hotel Tropical, Manaus’ Negro River feeds into the Amazon River. Many people use Manaus as a launch pad for Amazonian tourism—fishing trips, tree climbing, jungle lodging and the like.

The Teatro Amazonas is a replica of the Palais Garnier (or Grand Opera House) in Paris. It was built in the late nineteenth century during the rubber boom, constructed with European resources—steel walls from England, furniture from Paris and roofing from Alsace.

Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro is a breathtaking city. I could wax poetic for pages and pages on its landscape, its people, its beaches and bars and nightlife.

I spent most of my time with Gabriel, another friend of a friend that was kind enough to lend me his expertise and language ability around town. Great company, wouldn’t have had nearly as fun of a trip without his help.

Ipanema Beach, the sexiest in the world, home to bossa nova, clean surf and teeny bikinis. Because I got to Rio de Janeiro so early in the day, I was able to catch the last few minutes of a Friday sunrise.

I saw a second sunrise this trip, after staying out all night at Rio Scenarium, one of the coolest event spaces I’ve ever seen. Three floors, live samba music, enough room to hold two thousand people, a cool and funky, antique-rich atmosphere.

Paulinho, my driver and tour guide for the day. If anybody is looking for an apartment to rent in Rio de Janeiro—for the 2014 World Cup, for the 2016 Olmpics, for a few nights in one of the world’s most beautiful cities—Paulinho promises to offer a great rate.

Sugar Loaf mountain presents panoramic views of what locals call the marvelous city. It can be accessed by cable car and is about 5 miles from Copacabana Beach.

Helicopter tours of Rio de Janeiro are a popular way to see the city, its beaches and favellas, or slums. This image was also snapped from Sugar Loaf. In the distance, Christ the Redeemer.

Tourists atop Sugar Loaf take in a scenic view of Copacabana Beach, one of the world’s most famous stretches of sand.

Christ the Redeemer, made of reinforced concrete and soapstone, stands 130 feet tall and is considered the second largest Art Deco statue in the world. It was constructed in the earlier twentieth century and stands as an iconic watchdog over Rio de Janeiro.

A closer view of Christ the Redeemer. Due to its position over the city, the statue endures strong winds and rain and must frequently be restored.

Alright folks, hope you enjoyed. On Wednesday, a similar update from Buenos Aires.

17 thoughts on “Tour do Brasil: São Paulo, Manaus y Rio de Janeiro”

    1. Hey Shane, thanks for the comment. I’ve been using a Canon PowerShot point-and-shoot. When I scrape up enough money, it’s about time for an DSLR!

  1. Which place did you enjoy the most. A drink that has twice as much caffine a coffee beans is crazy. I was making plans to go to Ipanema beach this year hear its simply awesome. But isnt the fas from Rio?

  2. Hi Alan,

    Just randomly popped in here and what a short and sweet description of your trip! I am heading down there for a conference in June and I am looking to stay there for a little bit (10 days!) and I wanted to hit all the places you did. Just wondering if you could pass on your tour guide’s contact! Beautiful job on the photos by the way, take care!

  3. I had a 3 week vacation in Brazil 2 years ago. It’s definitely one of the best place I’d ever been to. I’m starving to go back there after seeing your pictures. Oh well, maybe once I have saved enough money for another vacation.

  4. Sao Paulo, Brazil is truly a wonderful place. There’s no wonder why Miss Universe 2011 was held in Sao Paulo Brazil. I hope I could take another vacation there at the end of the year.

  5. Hi Alan,

    Thanks for this article that you made, and also for sharing your wonderful adventure, and foods.

    When my brother came back here from Brazil, He brought us mortadela and it really delicious.

    Anyway, I want to share this article to my friends who truly admire the beauty of Latin America.

    Once again, Thank you so much. ^_^

  6. that’s very awesome cause 3 weeks vacation in Brazil was so very great experience. i wish i can go there for a vacation only just like you.

  7. Even though I’m not yet go in Brazil, I hear about some tourist destination there. Wish I visit there someday.

  8. Honesty speaking, One of the biggest dream of mine is to go to other countries where there is a tourist destination like Brazil.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *