Eleven thousand and eight hundred sixty two kilometers. Fourteen hours and twenty five minute flight. That’s how far my current home-base, Dubai to my first ever South American destination – Rio de Janeiro.
It’s true that the first time you visit Rio de Janeiro, you’ll find a million reasons to go back. Despite its distance and the return tickets that could cost you your arms and legs, in spite of language barrier, regardless of any hassles, I’ve been looking forward to the day that I could get another chance to visit that impressively stunning Brazilian peninsula again!
I traveled via long haul flight and I only spent seven days in three cities in Brasil.
Rio de Janeiro,
Sao Paulo and
In retrospect, it could’ve been so heart-breaking and noxious to realise that my time to explore and appreciate a country with so much to offer was severely limited. But what to do? I only had two weeks off from work and I opted to travel to few more cities in Peru and Bolivia too. There’s no room for regret in my system, rather gratitude reigns in my being.
My very first destination in my maiden trip to South America left me with a lot of stories and photos to fill this blog, and provided me tons of mementos to put onto my travel journal.
So where did I go in my 4 days and three nights in Rio de Janeiro?
Here’s the sequential list followed by my photoessay about the places I enjoyed in that paradise called, Rio de Janeiro.
- Ipanema Beach
- Escadaria Selaron
- Helicopter Tour over Rio de Janeiro
- Biblioteca Real Gabinete Portugues de Leitura
- Igreja Sao Francisco de Paula
- Maracana Stadium
- Copacabana Beach
- Metropolitan Cathedral
- Sugarloaf Mountain or Pao de Acucar
- Churrasco buffet lunch
- Christ the Redeemer at Corcovado Mountain.
Enjoy the photoessay and let me know what you think!
IPANEMA : MY AIRBNB ACCOMODATION
Rua Sao Francisco Otaviano, Ipanema. Exactly the facade of my AirBnB accommodation (details on separate blog post; link at the bottom of this photoessay).
CHASING SUNSET AT IPANEMA BEACH
Day 1. August 3, 2015. Monday. 5:15PM. Check in at my AirBnB accommodation, then I went to Ipanema Beach and became successful in chasing glorious Brazilian sunset!
Escadaria Selaron or Selaron Steps (aka Lapa Steps) was created by Chilean-born-artist, Jorge Selaron as his tribute to people of Rio de Janeiro. The colourful tiles were sourced from various countries around the globe and was put together in a visually stunning mosaic.
If you want to own the place without photo bombers for your selfies and portrait shots, be there early in the morning. I was there 7AM hence, there was no sight of a single tourist yet. The place is usually packed as it’s a favourite tourist spot particularly after it was featured in the reality travel show on cable TV, The Amazing Race Season 18.
I was looking for the tile that bears anything about our country, The Philippines but I failed. What I saw were tiles dedicated to global music icons – Michael Jackson, Guns N’ Roses and Bob Marley.
And of course, I didn’t leave the place without a souvenir shot.
Since I traveled solo, I relied only from the aid and generosity of random strangers to take my photos. Trust in humanity still works!
Just be extra careful and travel safely always!
NEIGHBORHOOD OF LAPA
Still with empty stomach as I left my AirBnB accommodation too early and skipped breakfast, I strolled around the quaint neighborhood of Lapa. The bars and eateries were obviously still closed at half hour past 7 in the morning. What entertained me were the colourful walls that line the alleys. Those walls proved the written fact that Lapa is indeed the epicentre of graffiti culture in Rio de Janeiro!
Before I hail a taxi cab to go to my next destination that day, I crossed the streets intentionally, and made a pedestrian-in-Rio-out of myself. It was so fun actually!
HELICOPTER TOUR OVER RIO DE JANEIRO
From the colorful district of Lapa, I asked my taxi cab driver to take me to Lagoa where the office and one of the helipads of Helisight is located.
Long before my trip to South America, I learned that Rio de Janeiro is one those cities that’s best appreciated from a bird’s eye view. And so I thought of earning two Brazilian wings. One from availing of helicopter tour over Rio de Janeiro that morning, and the other pair of wings from the pre-scheduled hang gliding at 13:30. However, I didn’t know what happened with the hang gliding part as the person I spoke to, who was supposed to fly with me via hang gliding, did not pick me up from where I was staying. I waited for an hour and he was a no-show. When I arrived at my AirBnB accommodation that night, I read his apologies on my inbox in Facebook with no sited reason. Along with his sorry was an offer to fly hang gliding the next day for free but I denied as I have arranged a pre-paid Day Tour to Sugarloaf and Corcovado mountains. He even offered the same on my next visit to Rio. That guy, I thought had great sense of humor! Hang gliding was really not meant to be. Anyway, at least I was truly happy and content with my very first chopper tour!
For queries about Helisight helicopter tour packages in Rio de Janeiro (and Iguazu Falls which I also availed few days after), kindly visit their website for details. And with regards to the photoessay about my experience, please click links of previous blog posts below.
After that exhilirating chopper tour over Rio, I continued to explore downtown. I set foot to the most stunning public library I have ever been.
BIBLIOTECA REAL GABINETE PORTUGUES DE LEITURA
With FREE ADMISSION, I only signed the guestbook to enter and I immediately understood why such public library with enormous collection of books written in Portuguese, has been regarded as one of the must-visit-places in Rio.
My only regret was the fact that I failed to photograph the entire lobby of the library because its giant chandelier was undergoing repair and was on the floor, surrounded by scaffolding during my visit. Nevertheless, every minute of the half hour I spent there was really worth it!
The interiors of Biblioteca Real Gabinete Portugues de Leitura and the books on the shelves that all appeared eye-candy, seemingly transported me back to the bygone colonial era of Rio de Janeiro.
It also felt like Harry Potter and his friends will appear from somewhere! Hahaha!
Just a street and few steps away from Biblioteca Real Gabinete Portugues de Leitura, my feet brought me to a stunning Catholic church where I heard a mass celebrated in Portuguese.
IGREJA SAO FRANCISCO DE PAULA
I was nearly in tears after seeing how beautiful the church is. I took photos quickly before the Holy Mass started. I sat and prayed silently at one of the pews at the back. At that moment, I couldn’t believe that my dream of traveling to South America has come true. I uttered prayers in my native tongue, I prayed and thanked God, asked for forgiveness, health and guidance for my family back home from our Lord Almighty.
Then I hurried home to my AirBnB accommodation in Ipanema, hopeful to do hang gliding at 1:30PM. But as mentioned earlier, the pick up was a no-show. Instead of feeling low, I decided to explore more parts of Rio. I took a cab then later on, sampled the Metro, to and from the home of FIFA World Cup in Rio de Janeiro since 1950.
THE MARACANA STADIUM
With my spontaneous decision to purchase the non-guided ticket to Maracana Stadium Tour, I only paid 24 Brazilian Reais and went my way via lifts to its 5th, 3rd, and zero levels of the world famous football stadium.
I bought some official FIFA shirts from the souvenir shop of Maracana Stadium; the shirts aren’t for me but for my family. Upon exit, I opted to ditch taking the taxi cab just to experience riding the Metro in Rio de Janeiro. The ramp in front of the stadium on the photo above leads to the walkway to the Metro station. Needless to say, Maracana Stadium is so accessible not only by bus and taxi cabs but more so via Metro from most parts of Rio.
I found the Metro station cheap, fast and efficient. I only paid 3 Reais to get to the station to my last destination for the day.
ENJOYING SUNSET AT COPACABANA BEACH
One of the most luxurious beachfront hotels in Copacabana Beach!
Lazy days and lively nights are usually spent in and along the beach in Rio!
I enjoyed the sunset with 5-reais-coconut drink straight from the coconut shell. Et voila! My second day in Rio was over. Before I retired at my accommodation, I dropped by a pizzeria were I indulged in Portuguese-woodfire-cooked pizza. It tasted uniquely relished with hardboiled eggs!
Have you tasted pizza with eggs?
I dedicated my third day in Rio de Janeiro to an entire Day Tour that I availed online via Viator / Gray Line Tours (kindly read separate blog post regarding my Rio de Janeiro Day Tour; link to the post can be found at the bottom part of this page).
Before coming to Rio de Janeiro, I thought there’s an entire street or avenue devoted to the biggest and most beautiful show on Earth. The annual Rio Carnival! Lo and behold, our guided tourist bus parked inside world-renowned, Sambadrome where the parade is being held during first months of the year (next will be on February 5 and 6, 2016), where 12 Samba schools compete for two nights (6 schools per night) after their almost a year of preparation for their dances, flamboyant and cheerful costumes, festive themed floats and smiles over lively and loud beating of the drums!
Next on our Day Tour’s itinerary was a famous religious landmark in downtown Rio.
With exteriors inspired by Mayan pyramids, its impressive stained glass panels dropping from ceilings and its uniquely conical interiors, the church devoted to Saint Sebastian, hence in Portuguese, its name is Catedral Metropolitana deSão Sebastião, can sit 5,000 people!
CABLE CARS AND VIEWING DECK AT
SUGARLOAF MOUNTAIN or PAO DE ACUCAR
Since we were in a Day Tour, we didn’t need to purchase online tickets for the cable cars or to queue. Our tickets were provided by our tourist guide. The view of Guanabara Bay, Copacabana Beach, Corcovado mountain, Leblon Beach and the stretch of Ipanema Beach looked even more breathtaking in Morro da Urca and Pao de Acucar or Sugarloaf Mountain! (Read detailed blog post on a separate entry that I wrote; link posted at the bottom of this photoessay).
Stomachs were growling at lunch time, we all trooped to downtown via our tourist bus and were treated to an authentic Brazilian dining experience!
CHURRASCO LUNCH BUFFET
Included in our Day Tour package from Viator was a sumptuous Brazilian lunch buffet at a decent and tasteful Churrascaria or steakhouse. Several varieties of tender and seasoned grilled and skewered meat of lamb, pork, beef, turkey, chicken were brought to our table one by one and offered slice(s) to our hearts’ delight! It was one of the unforgettable gastronomic feasts I had!
After lunch, we headed via bus to the highlight of our day.
CRISTO REDENTOR or CHRIST THE REDEEMER in
If we did not take the tourist bus and the cogwheel train en route to Cristo Redentor on top of Corcovado Mountain, options include riding a public bus from any where in Rio and taking a taxi cab up to the Christ the Redeemer from the foot of Corcovado Mountain, or hike or trek your way up via a cemented pathway. Either way, the reward on top was priceless!
Thankful to have seen the iconic statue of Christ from above and up close.
The sight of Cristo Redentor, which is one of the Seven Wonders of the World, didn’t only confirm my presence in another continent, more so validated that everything seems possible once I put my whole heart and soul into my decision. The feeling was surreal, almost indescribable!
Indubitably, I fell in love with Rio!
And when love rules, you’ll find infinite excuses and countless reasons to return and go back.
Well done, Rio de Janeiro, well done!
Eu Te Amo!
You won my heart, Brasil!
This South American Travel Blog Series includes :
- Brasil : My Lovely Home in Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro
- Brasil : Helicopter Tour Over Rio de Janeiro
- Brasil : Cristo Redentor and Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro
- Itinerary of Must Visit Places in Rio de Janeiro
- Brasil : 36 hours in Sao Paulo
- Brasil : Chasing Waterfalls at Iguazu
- and so much more to follow. Please stay tuned for stories and photos from Peru and Bolivia!
“I still believe in paradise. But now at least, I know it’s not some place you can look for. Because it’s not where you go. It’s how you feel for a moment in your life when you’re a part of something. And if you find that moment…it lasts forever.”
(quote from Richard, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, The Beach)