I only spent a couple of nights in São Paulo as I was told there wouldn’t be too much to see. I was told that São Paulo is the business centre of brazil. The same person told me that about 90% of Brazil’s money flows through the city in some way.
Noticeably, on the way to the hotel from the airport, you pass many sex shops, and “love hotels” dotted around the city. My Lonely Planet travel guide told me how the city, a while back, attracted the LA porn industry because of its liberal attitude and the cheap foreign exchange rate. The book went on to say how the American porn industry was ravaged for a short time when one of its actors contracted HIV after having unprotected sex for camera, apparently a much less common practice in Brazil.
In addition to this infamous industry, the city is known as the concrete jungle and you can sort of tell when we were descending from the plane. We passed huge columns of tower blocks, almost until landing when it finally cleared and we hit the airport space. Even though I have been flying to much, the only other cities that I can think of with so many buildings near the airport were Narita in Japan.
I originally came to São Paulo as it was a reasonable distance to fly from Rio and we had recently set up an office there. My company organised for me to give a talk there. Attendance was pretty reasonable considering that the protests going on around Brazil meant that many people were unable to avoid the traffic.
Which is another thing about the city. Traffic, traffic, traffic. Although there is a metro system, it is not very extensive and during peak hours, you have to be prepared to be crushed against other people. London’s tube system prepares you well, although people here are a lot pushier. I had one morning to try it out, taking the metro to a station nearby the Mercado Municipal (city market) apparently well known for fresh produce and other food stuffs. I like seeing what’s on offer – the unusual ingredients, etc even if I’m not going to be cooking.
The market is located in the downtown part. Even with the guidebook and a number of websites, I still found my guard automatically up when wandering the streets because there was so many shady people. Some were simply homeless, and some of them a bit crazy. Others were really out to sell some fake brand goods, or to take you to a place where you can buy them.
The streets leading to the market are also chock-full of many other market stalls selling everything from jewellery, clothes, telephone accessories, you think of it you name it.
I made it to the market reasonably early. I figured I’d skip the hotel buffet breakfast and try to get a coffee and something to eat at the market from the small handful of cafes or stores selling hot food as well as produce to go. There was a whole second floor area with much larger restaurants that I’m guessing caters for a lunch time audience rather than the morning purveyors.
One of the big things to apparently order were the massive mortadella sandwiches. Massively filled with layers and layers of meat (with some variation of cheese or other alternative layers) all within a large bread roll. I’m not a big fan, so I ordered a cheese pastel that turned out to be a rather unhealthily fried pastry, although it was generous, salty and super tasty. Once was probably enough.
One of the other places that I read in the guide book that seemed worth visiting was the area known as “little Japantown” although it’s turning into more Korean and Chinese as other east Asian immigrants move in. The city is well known for its immigration with the largest number of Japanese and Italian immigrants. The result is an explosion of pizza joints and sushi places, in particular the hand-make temaki rolls that you see places devoted to (appropriately called temakerias)
Although I stopped off at Liberdade, “little Japan town” there isn’t really that much to do there as a visitor. It’s interesting to see the different stores, selling almost exclusively Asian wares and the street lamps stylised in a very oriental fashion.
Although there were plenty of churches and museums to check out, the lack of public transportation and not knowing how far some of the sights were made it a bit more difficult for me to want to visit a number of them. Although a very busy city, it feels like you’d want a bit more of a local guide to show you different parts of town.