'Sampa walks, and hit-ting-the-town!'
Trip Start May 05, 2011
19Trip End Sep 08, 2011
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Ok, before any of you judge me: yes, I am aware that I blogged just yesterday. But yes, I am blogging again. I swear that I'm not addicted. Much.
The reason I'm at it again is actually very simple: tomorrow, at 5am (6 hours from now) I'm heading off to the Amazon (to Manaus). I am blogging now because 1) I might get lost in the jungle, in which case my hilarious stories would be lost forever. That's not a risk I'm willing to take. 2) I'm not remotely tired. This is a de-stress and pre-sleep sess. 3) Sao Paulo (or Sampa, to those that love it) is awesome. So much has happened in the last couple of days. But it's a million miles away from the sort of experience that I will find in the jungle. In which case it makes more sense to do this now. 4) Cause I said so
So after a seven and a half hour bus journey through beautiful countryside (and after rescuing a few Aussies - preventing them from getting off early in a random Brazilian city) I found myself in Sao Paulo. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was a real city. With a metro and 'everyfink'. But as with every real city, it's not built for tourists. Indeed, it's not built for anyone - taxi drivers regularly get lost in the city, which is a bit of a testament to how crazy it is. Luckily, I found another guest making his way to the hostel who could ask for directions in Portuguese. Unluckily, the person we asked was fairly clueless. Figures! Nonetheless, we found a sign. I've never been so glad to see a lime randomly painted on the side of a building (welcome to LimeTime Hostel, folks).
Despite an ingenious plan to manage my sleep pattern effectively by staying in on Friday night, a few of the guests at the hostel managed to talk me into heading out, to see what Sampa night life had to offer. Feeling totally knackered, I retreated homewards at 2am - which was lucky, beacuse the next morning at 8:30 am, a construction crew started inxplicably demolishing the building next door. With a wrecking ball. The buildings are terraced, so it is fair to say that it was a BIT of a shock! But as I lay there, the room literally shaking, I knew Sampa would be an interesting place: a rude awakening, perhaps, on the Brazilian tourist trail.
The day was spent trapsing around Centro, an area known for its beautiful churches, its historic buildings, and, err...its deprived environs. Sao Paulo is the largest city in the southern hemisphere, with 19 million living within its metropolitan areas. It's an up-and-coming, affluent place. But apparently, the residents of Sampa place little value on all that old stuff. Go figure - it's not Europe.
Sampa is a city that is peppered with art (if art was a flavour, I totally imagine that it would be spicy, but also have a gorgeous Brazilian cream cheese taste. Mmmm...cheese and pepper). Art was everywhere I looked, and that was cool. But I was tired and grumpy, and was only really cheered up mid-morning by wandering into a crazy-huge Brazilian costume shop, where I dodged giant plasic Oscar statuettes and leafed through their catalogue of costumes. Genuinely: EVERY female costume is essentially made up of a bikini top, mini-skirt, and accessories. 'Lady Holmes' ( the accompaniment to Sherlock Holmes) was particularly hilarious.
But Sampa is perhaps MOST famous for its gorgeous food - which I felt obligated, of course, to try - as a passive observer. For lunch, I hit the Mercato, the massive food market housed in a beautiful 19th century building, where I tried the 'Mortadela', a MASSIVE pork sausage and cheese sandwich. It was hideously filling, and soooo good until I added Brazilian mustard to my final quarter, thinking that it bore at least some resemblance to British mustard. It did not. Think a heap load of chillis. Plus a little mustard.
After a hunger-inducing afternoon of walking around Sampa Centro, it was time for yet more food, so I sampled Sao Paulo's world-famous Brazilian (and really delicious) pizzas. Which, annoyingly, properly woke me up. Annoying, because it made me want to go out. I was resistive, 'cos I didn't want to go to the same club as all the other guys in the hostel, and have to pay a 60 Reais (about 24 pounds sterling) entry charge. Fortunately, a rather drunken and very party-keen Brazilian investment banker (who just happened to be coming with us) offered to pay for my entry, and then drink my drinks allowance. How could I say no?!
Having wondered at poverty in Centro (and been rather disturbed by seeing people walking the streets in Dolce and Gabanna, past so many homeless men on the streets), I suddenly discovered the affluent part of Sampa. Perhaps the most incredible club I've ever seen, playing slightly obscure western indie from a few years ago; a gorgeous crowd; dancing; and brilliant decor made this place good. The fact that the bouncers were dressed entirely in white (shirt, suit, shoes AND tie) made it GREAT. Plus, I was accused of looking like Chris Martin ad Justin Timberlake by Brazilians, AND a number of Brazilians (and one Norwegian, repeatedly) told me how amazed they were by my dancing. The ultimate seal of approval! Altogether, a fantastic night.
Today has been fairly chilled: flea markets with odd objects (Nazi and Japanese WWII regalia, anyone? 70s telephones in 17 bright colours?); a walk to a park; a fascinating exhibition on green, sustainable architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art; a considerably wetter walk home (in a tropical thunderstorm); and a relaxed evening have all made it a good second day in Sampa. Now I just have to kill the excitement, kill the lights, and face that 4:45am alarm call for the rainforest (groan)...
Back to y'all in a week or so.