Brazil Pt XII: JJ 3687 GIG-GRU

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After more than three weeks in South America, we would head home from Rio. Ethiopian offered the cheapest flight back to Singapore (915.80 USD) and after they canceled the flight between Rio and São Paulo, they put us on a TAM flight.

We bid farewell to our host and headed to the airport after the end of the earlier matches at 3pm. Brazil’s final group match would kick off at 5pm and we were slightly worried about the availability of taxis during that. Luckily we got a taxi pretty easily and the ride there cost 50 BRL.

TAM Check-in counters at Terminal 2

Despite our early arrival, we were able to check in our bag and get our boarding passes. The agent was also able to add our frequent flyer number (Malaysia Airlines Enrich) to our booking.

Havaianas on sale

There would be a live screening on the air-side and we went through the security really early.

Glued to the screen

Brazil beat Cameroon easily and halfway through the match we decided to explore more of the terminal.

Air-side

Official fan shop with expensive merchandise

Sunset in GIG

Brazilian fans horsing around with accessories

We spent our remaining BRL on some snacks and waited out for our flight. It seemed that domestic gates could be turned into international gates with partitions; while we could visit the official fan shop during the match, we were blocked off later in the evening.

Flight: TAM JJ 3687
Depart: Rio de Janeiro-Galeão (GIG) – 20:45
Arrive: São Paulo–Guarulhos (GRU) – 21:55
Duration: 1h10m
Distance: 209 miles (336 km)
Aircraft: Airbus A320-200
Registration: PR-MBA
Seat: 24F

Boarding was called by zone and we were able to board early.

View from 24F

Welcome World

Loading up the bags

Only service of the flight – pre-departure sweets

On the other side of the aisles, there were TAM GIG-based crew who were positioning to GRU for another (international?) flight. While none of the passengers got meals, the crew were only ones given hot meals during the flight.

Mid-flight

Arriving at GRU – I could spot Etihad and United

Our checked bags arrived safely at the luggage claim and then we headed to find the check-in rows for our Ethiopian flight to Addis Ababa.

Kids posing with Fuleco

Heading up to Departures

Found Ethiopian

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Brazil Pt XI: Random Rio

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This post will document the random stuff in Rio that are not covered in the other posts.

Havaianas

Brazil is the birthplace of Havaianas so naturally the cost is much cheaper than in Singapore. Furthermore, there are lots more designs and different types of customisation are available.

However, different shops set different prices for the same pair of slippers. It pays to shop around and we discovered that the shops around Uruguaiana were cheaper than those at Copacabana.

The place where we found the cheapest Havaianas – near Uruguaiana metro station

Put my new pair to immediate test at Copacabana beach

Metro

Metro was our primarily mode of transport around Rio and each trip cost 3.50 BRL regardless of distance traveled. During the World Cup, there were many signs to guide the users to get to Maracanã stadium.

Rio Metro

Rules on the train

Overpaid US$450 million of public spending – that’s one expensive stadium

Lapa Street Party

Our host offered to bring us to Lapa street party which took place on Friday and Saturday evenings. There were thousands of people out having fun and it was an eye-opening experience for us.

Raizza lamented that the vendors were charging “World Cup price” for the drinks due to the gringoes and it was usually much cheaper to have a fun night out. Nevertheless, we still decided to try caipirinha, Brazilian national drink.

The usual precaution applies here. Beware of pickpockets and don’t wander off to deserted places.

Lapa street party

Lapa street party

Yummy passionfruit caipirinha (15 BRL)

Xtudo – Comfort food after partying

Bacalhau

Ying had a colleague who used to live in Brazil and she asked her if it was possible to bring back some bacalhau. We searched online to find where to get it and it brought us to Casas Pedro.

There were quite a few types on offer and we bought two different types for Ying’s colleague. We managed to communicate with the staff to pack them in such a way that we had no issue while flying with them. The experience felt like going the dried goods stalls in Singapore.

Casas Pedro

Bacalhau on offer

Packing bacalhau

Seen on the streets

Somehow I felt more apprehensive taking pictures in Brazil when compared to Argentina. Perhaps our Malaysian friends’ experience of being nearly mugged had an impact on us.

Shrek & co featured in Visa ad

Phone booth as advertising space

Street art

Comic

Christ the Redeemer seen from Gloria

Brazil Pt X: Food of Rio

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Food in Brazil was generally more expensive than Argentina’s. As we came towards the end of the trip, I got less adventurous and was really looking forward to the food back home.

Our Airbnb host recommended Braserinho for dinner and we decided to give it a try. It was a locals-only joint and it took us some time to order our food.

Braserinho

Decorated for World Cup

Menu

Ordered for two but the serving was enough for 4 (or more)

The food was quite good but there was too much meat for us. It cost 57.50 BRL, a fairly reasonable amount.

Juice stalls are ubiquitous in Rio and we decided to try açaí after the walking tour. It was an acquired taste but Ying grew to love it by the end of our stay in Brazil.

Mister Sucos

Açaí (7 BRL)

Random meal: Fish & chips with rice at Copacabana (31.80 BRL)

We discovered that there were Asian-operated shops selling fried noodles known as yakisoba. Ended up having it a few times.

Yakisoba (15 BRL)

I managed to know of a guy who was coming from Singapore to watch the World Cup and he was kind enough to bring us some Prima Taste laksa la mian. Thanks bro KV!

Laksa la mian with tomato omelette

Ying and I also tried pão de queijo for one breakfast. The taste was too cheesy for me.

Pão de queijo (4 BRL)

Brazil Pt IX: FIFA World Cup Match: Belgium vs Russia

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Belgium vs Russia

The primary motivation behind our trip to South America was to attend a FIFA World Cup match and we were lucky enough to get tickets for a match at Maracanã during the balloting process.

Tickets

Our Malaysian friends were also watching the same match and we arranged to travel to the stadium together. The tickets came with transport instructions and we gave ourselves ample time by setting off two hours before kick-off.

Arriving at São Cristóvão station

Like the other fans, we followed the bright yellow signs directing us to the stadium.

Brazilian fans

Making our way to the stadium

Keep walking

Soon we came to the first checkpoint where security staff checked our tickets. We would stop for several more times before we got to the stadium.

Stadium in horizon

Felt like a carnival

As our Malaysian friends were sitting in a different section, we had to split with them.

Group photo before saying goodbye

Police mascots

Ticket offices

Stadium map

Queuing up to clear security

Russians ahead of us

Excited!

Selfie sticks weren’t allowed in the stadium and we had to deposit ours with a steward.

Steward who would keep our selfie sticks for the match

Post-security

Russian fans

Entrance to hospitality suites

To our seats

Both of us were awed with the stadium.

Maracanã

Finding our seats

Filling up

Teams warming up

Russians warming up

Belgians preferred to be in the shade

We noticed that other fans had the special edition Coca Cola cup for the match and with time to spare, we decided to get one each.

Half an hour to go

Queuing for food

Prices

Coca cola kiosk

No bottles allowed

When we returned, the atmosphere was electric.


Pre-match

Russian fans

Belgian contingent

The Belgians were definitely the favourite for the game as they boasted top players such as Vincent Company and Eden Hazard. In contrast, I didn’t know most of the Russian players and their manager Fabio Capello was probably more famous.


Teams coming out of tunnel


Belgian national anthem


Russian national anthem

Kick-off

The first half ended 0-0 and it was quite a boring match. Both sides were cautious and didn’t create any clear-cut chances.

Halftime wefie

Russian free kick


Mexican wave

73,819 fans

Getting nervous

Getting restless

Free kick to Belgium which came to nothing

Corner

With time running out, I told Ying that we might need to attend another World Cup match in order to witness our first goal. Then out of nowhere, Divock Origi scored with minutes remaining in the match.


GOALLLLL


Belgian celebration after Divock Origi’s goal

The Belgians went mental

Celebrating

The Belgians managed to hold on for the victory and the fans kept singing after the match.

The winning team walking over to their fans

Thanking the fans for their support

MOTM – Eden Hazard

We spotted some Singaporeans sitting in the same area as us and we approached them for photos. Turned out that one of them went to the same secondary school as me. It’s a small world after all!

Singaporeans in Rio

Getting out

Souvenirs for sale

Ain’t cheap

Many fans chose not to keep the cups and we went around to get them as souvenirs.

Full of cups

After collecting our selfie stick, we made our way back to our accommodation. Instead of going to São Cristóvão station, we went to São Francisco Xavier station instead.

World Cup winners 1958, 1962

Photo with Belgian fan

Police on horseback

Belgians dressed as bees

Patrick happy in his temporary home

While the match wasn’t the most exciting, the late goal lifted the atmosphere. Felt sorry for the Russians who was hanging on until then. At least they have the next World Cup to look forward to on their home soil.

Meanwhile, I am thinking if we should go to Euro 2016 in France…

Brazil Pt VIII: Cristo Redentor

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Christ the Redeemer

The Malaysian couple whom we met on the bus between Cuzco and Puno caught up with us in Rio and we arranged to visit the Cristo Redentor or Christ the Redeemer together.

There were a few options to reach there; tram seemed to be the recommended way. However the tickets were sold out for the day that we were visiting and we decided that catching the bus from Largo do Machado metro station was the way to go.

While the ticket kiosk only opened at 9am, there was already a long queue formed up when we joined it at around 8.45am.

Queue to buy tickets

While waiting in the queue, our Malaysian friends were telling about their close shave the previous evening. They were almost mugged by a group of buys in the Cinelândia area but luckily they managed to make the run to a more crowded street. The policemen who were stationed there came to their rescue and escorted them back to their hotel after that. The experience kinda scarred them and I wasn’t surprised that they were hyper-vigilant about the surroundings from then on.

Front of the queue

The ticket and shuttle bus cost 51 BRL each and there was an option of paying with credit card.

After getting our tickets, we joined the queue for the shuttle bus which seemed to depart every 10-15 minutes. The ride up to would take almost 30 minutes and we were glad that we chose this option as there was minimal waiting (around 45 minutes at Largo do Machado) compared to the large queues at the tram station.

Rio below us

After getting off the bus and going through the ticket check, we would need to walk up a couple of escalators and stairs before reaching the platform. The platform was rather small and packed with visitors from all around the world, all trying to take photos of the statue.

Approach from behind the statue

The big guy

Dramatic

Wefie

Patrick doing his best impression

ET

High five

Perfect shirt for visit

The crowd

Belgians

Sitting down gave you the best angle

Let me try…

Good visibility all round

More people are coming up

Birds

There wasn’t much to do/see beside taking photos and all of us were done in an hour. We were in the wrong shuttle bus queue for a while before realising that queue for the bus to Largo do Machado was much shorter. The ride back to Largo do Machado took around half an hour and we were done with the visit by noon.

Queuing up

The crowd kept getting bigger

Queue at Largo do Machado got longer too

We were glad that we chose to go by shuttle bus via Largo do Machado which shortened our waiting time considerably. For tourists who are staying at Copacabana, there’s an option of catching the shuttle buses from there.

Although Cristo Redentor was Rio’s landmark, this probably would be my only visit. There wasn’t anything interesting beside taking photographs of the statue and the entrance fee wasn’t cheap at 34 BRL. Since we had ticked it off our list, there are no incentives for us to visit it again.

Brazil Pt VII: Copacabana & FIFA Fan Fest

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Copacabana

After the walking tour and some shopping at downtown Rio, we hopped onto the metro and headed to Copacabana beach where FIFA Fan Fest in Rio was held.

Cardeal Arcoverde Station was the nearest station to the fan fest and the beach was three blocks away.

Sidewalk

Welcome to Rio

Welcome to Copacabana Beach

Rio 2016

Although it was winter, it was warm enough to hit the beach.

Many vendors going around hawking their wares (taken next day)

Volleyball courts (taken next day)

Copacabana (taken next day)

Hmm… what were they shooting? (taken next day)

Beware of current (taken next day)

We would need to pass through the security to get inside the Fan Fest area and fortunately for us, the crowd wasn’t so bad on that day.

Entrance to FIFA Fan Fest

Other than catching the match, there were many pavilions set up by sponsors to provide freebies and entertainment for the fans.

Pavilions

Us lifting the cup

Queuing up for the short FIFA video narrated by Neymar Jr and Gerard Pique

Neymar Jr

Mexico

Coca Cola pavilion

Temporary tattoo

Brazil of course

Flying fox sponsored by Sony – must be pretty lucky to get to try it

The game that decided if you could try the flying fox

For the kids

We caught the end of the exciting match between France and Switzerland before going around to check out more pavilions.

Happy to be there

Happy to be there

Not going to see this in Iran for sure

I’m a Brahma chopp

Ying’s a Brahma chopp too

FIFA Fan Experience

Trophy experience – didn’t go in due to the long queue

On our way out

We would revisit the fan fest again on our final night in Rio with our Airbnb host. It was much more crowded and I was glad that we had checked out the pavilions already. Portugal and USA played out an exciting 2-2 draw, ensuring qualification for the unfancied Americans.

Revisited it on our last night in Rio

Ying and I thoroughly enjoyed our experiences at the FIFA Fan Fest. While the criticism of it being overly commercialised was pretty valid, the atmosphere was still pretty awesome. It’s definitely something to be experienced first hand and it was the next-best alternative to catching a live match at the stadium.

Brazil Pt VI: Rio Free Walking Tour

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Rio Free Walking Tour

We thought that a walking tour would be a good idea to get ourselves acquainted with Rio de Janeiro. There are two free walking tour operators in Rio: Rio Free Walking Tour and Free Walkers Tour and we picked the former as it started earlier at 9.30am.

The starting point was at Cinelândia metro station, one stop away from our accommodation. We could have walked there if we wanted to.

Like what was mentioned on the website, the guides were at the meeting point with yellow shirts and umbrellas. Tours were offered in Portuguese, Spanish and English. Naturally we joined the English speaking tour led by Fabiana.

Guide for the day

After the usual introduction, Fabiana pointed out the different buildings around Cinelândia. Rio used to be the capital of Brazil so there were quite a few grand buildings dated back to the colonial era.

Theatro Municipal

Palace Pedro Ernesto – Municipal Chamber of Rio de Janeiro

Then we headed towards Selaron Steps, passing by Passeio Público, the oldest public park in Brazil.

Entrance of Passeio Público

We made a right turn after the church which had only one bell tower. Apparently, to avoid paying more taxes, the church chose not to build the other tower so that it would remain incomplete.

Asymmetrical Irmandade Divino Espírito Santo da Lapa do Desterro

After Fabiana told us the story behind Selarón Steps, we spent some time taking photos of it. She warned us not to wander beyond the top of the stairs as the neighbourhood wasn’t really safe.

Lots of tourists

Obligatory picture

Brasil

For the last World Cup

Africa

The next stop was Arcos da Lapa, built almost 300 years ago.

Arcos da Lapa

Not everyone’s fond of Blatter & Co.

We spent some time at a factory-turned-gallery where there were images of the transformation of Rio from its beginning in the 16th century to present time.

Factory-turned-gallery

Evolution of Rio

Next up was Rio de Janeiro Cathedral, built during 1970s. While the brutalist-inspired exterior was pretty ugly to us, the interior was surprisingly nice.

Rio de Janeiro Cathedral

Nice stained glass

Ceiling

Jesus Christ

Reflection of Cathedral

Only one bell tower

We followed Fabiana through downtown Rio de Janeiro and she pointed out some of the buildings en-route.

Downtown Rio

Unique building

Graffiti

Convento de Santo Antônio

Rua Gonçalves Dias – felt European

There was a short stop at Confeitaria Colombo where we could have a snack and check out its interior.

Confeitaria Colombo

Inside the shop

The stuff ain’t cheap

The final stop of the tour was Paço Imperial, the former palace of Brazilian royalty. It wasn’t really grand by any standard and there was a small exhibition of the Portuguese and Brazilian kings who used to live there.

Inside the palace

Exhibition on Brazilian royal family

Statue

We also briefly checked out Traverssa do Comercio where there were a few eating places

The whole tour took more than three hours and covered quite a bit of downtown Rio de Janeiro. We were pretty satisfied with the tour and left a substantial tip for our guide.

To be honest, the area around Carioca seemed quite messy with many street vendors. While we didn’t feel threatened, we wouldn’t hang around the neighbourhood if we did not have business there.

Brazil Pt V: Cozy DoubleRoom with Street View/TV

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As we were visiting Rio during the peak period, we started our search for accommodation as soon as the flights were confirmed in December 2013. Hotels were ridiculously expensive so naturally we relied on Airbnb.

There are lots of Airbnb options in Rio de Janeiro but many hadn’t updated the prices for World Cup then. We shortlisted several options and started to contact the hosts. Raizza was among the first to reply and we wasted no time in booking her place for four nights. It wasn’t cheap at 180 SGD per night but nothing was cheap in Rio during World Cup.

Getting to the apartment was smooth. We ignored the touts and went to the Aerotaxi counter at GIG T1. The quotation given (59 BRL + 3.90 BRL for bag) seemed reasonable and after payment, we were led to a waiting taxi outside the terminal. The driver acknowledged that he knew where we wanted to go and we were soon on our way.

I hoped that he was watching the road instead of the game

Favelas in a distance

Entrance to the building – taken later in the evening

Raizza welcome us at her apartment with offers of beers. She also got us some World Cup souvenirs and this meant that we had no choice but to support Brazil for the tournament. 😀

Special World Cup gifts

The room looked exactly like what was depicted in the listing. The kitchen and the washing machine were also available for use.

Bed – apparently Raizza has upgraded it to a better one

TV in the room

Raizza even prepared a guide ‘Gloria 201’ for her guests and it has many useful information on navigating Rio. She also saved us the trouble of going to moneychangers as she wanted dollars for her upcoming trip. Win-win situation for both sides.

The apartment was located at a very good location and Lapa is less than ten minutes’ away by foot. Raizza and her friend João even volunteered to bring us along to check out Lapa on Friday night. Glória metro station is just round the corner and it took us less than 30 minutes to reach Copacabana. We would also visit the FIFA Fan Fest with her on Sunday evening.

Us at Lapa

At FIFA Fan Fest

It was really a fun stay and we enjoyed ourselves staying at Raizza’s. We definitely made the right choice of accommodation at Rio de Janeiro!

Go Brasil!

Brazil Pt IV: JJ 3186 IGU – GIG

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JJ 3186

After bidding farewell to our hosts, we headed to the bus stop. We intended to take bus 120 to the airport but two went pass without stopping as they were too full.

Fearing that we might never get on the bus, we decided to get a taxi. It didn’t take much to convince the two Russian guys at the bus stop to share the taxi with us and we were at the airport 20 minutes later. The 11km taxi ride was 40 BRL, pretty expensive in my opinion.

The terminal felt rather claustrophobic with the low ceilings.

Check-in counters

Check-in

Check-in

Departures

Shirt selling World Cup merchandise

After getting our boarding passes, we went through the security to reach the holding area. Due to the number of flights departing around the same time, it was heaving with passengers.

TV’s showing football of course

There were a few shops and a cafe selling pão de queijo.

Jewellery shop

Ying and I kept wondering where the strange smell came from.

From pão de queijo of course

We saw our plane arrived and it had a special livery which celebrated 20 years of TAM’s loyalty programme Fidelidade.

Special livery

There was no aerobridge and we could walk from the terminal to the aircraft. We chose to board from the rear door.

Made up of many portraits

20 years of TAM Fidelidade

Tail

Flight: TAM JJ 3186
Depart: Foz do Iguaçu/Cataratas International Airport (IGU) – 13:01
Arrive: Rio de Janeiro Galeão (GIG) – 15:00
Duration: 1h59m
Distance: 734 miles (1,181 km)
Aircraft: Airbus A320-200
Registration: PR-MHS
Seat: 21B

Online check-in wasn’t available for TAM and I got a middle seat for the first time in a long while. The plane seemed to be full.

ABC

DEF

I settled down to my seat and started to rummage through the seat pocket content.

Seat pocket content

Resigned to no window

Safety video played on overhead screen

Take-off

The crew went around to distribute the snack and drinks after we got to cruising altitude.

Snack pack, TAM-style

In-flight meal and drink

With no window, the primary entertainment was the inflight magazine. It had quite a few interesting articles and kept me engaged for most of the flight.

I didn’t know TAM has a female CEO

World Cup Stats

Cycling cultures around the world

Alcohol in Saudi Arabia? Are you kidding me?

All about coffee

Article on parilla featured La Brigada

Recommendations for Rio

TAM Fleet

Pele selling SIM cards

Neymar Jr selling TVs

TAM ad featuring Thiago Silva, David Luiz and Marcelo

It seemed that we always got some awesome neighbour.

Not the first time

Almost there

We were welcomed to the rainy Rio de Janeiro by a row of Coca Cola ads.

Coca Cola in Korean

Japanese

Ad

While the belt for our plane was a generic one, Ying discovered that there was one with World Cup theme.

Our boring belt

Not in use

GOAL

I found out that it was possible to collect our World Cup match tickets at GIG from the website and we were keen to do that to avoid wasting time collecting them.

TAM uses Terminal 2 at GIG and World Cup ticket collection kiosks were over at Terminal 1. After getting assistance from a friendly guy at the information counter, we followed the signs to Terminal 1.

GIG Terminal 2

Avian with GOL in the background, taken along the walkway linking T1 and T2

The ticket collection point at GIG Terminal 1 was well-staffed and one volunteer told us that it would be much faster to use the self-service machines.

Self service machines

Needed the card that I used to pay

Fuleco made sure that we got our tickets