Reflections on Rio

  Palms on Copacabana Beach 
  Originally uploaded by Pete Kim.

I was in Rio de Janeiro last week.  Some thoughts on the trip:

– On the flight down, there seemed to be three types of travelers.  Brazilian families (most common), outdoorsmen (as evidenced by their t-shirts with pictures of bucks and bass), and businesspeople.  The outdoorsmen turned out to be involved in the oil industry, working on pipelines and oil rigs.  On the way back, the flight seemed to be primarily oil workers and U.S. business and leisure travelers.
– Yes, even in "winter" people wear very skimpy stuff on the beach.
– Everyone I met was very friendly.  My clients were gracious hosts and worked a lot of hours.

Being a tourist
– Set fares are ripoffs.  Go by the meter.  (1) At the Sheraton Rio, a staff member offered a car service to Corcovado and back for R$170.  I politely declined and started walking to get a cab.  They dropped the price to R$100.  I kept walking.  One way for R$50.  I said OK and think I took a bad deal.  (2) Leaving Corcovado for Pão de Açucar, I got in one cab and the guy said R$25.  I asked him to use the meter and he refused.  I got out and he said he would.  The fare ended up being R$12. 
– On my day as a tourista, the morning was quite cloudy.  I visited Corcovado in the afternoon under the premise that the clouds would burn off like in San Francisco.  They did and the views were amazing.  Totally worth it – walk up the steps after you get off the train for some exercise.
– I went up Sugarloaf (Pão de Açucar) at night, given that I had already seen the city from above by day.  Don’t forget that there are two peaks.  Christo Redentor illuminated at night in the distance is pretty cool.
– One night I walked from one end of Copacabana beach (Leme) to the other (Ipanema), around 10 pm.  There was plenty of activity on the beach; a lot of football games, some just getting started.  Tons of people walking and jogging.  Very well illuminated.
– The shops at GIG have standard tourist fare.  Many stores price in USD and charge 2/3x more than what you’ll find in the city.

– I found some of the information and advice in my Frommer’s 2004 Brazil guide to be either badly outdated or far off point.  For example, "later at night drivers start to look on red lights as optional."  Not that I saw.  Most of the prices on tourist attractions were still the same.  Average prices at restaurants were double or triple as listed in the book.  Other advice was spot on, like hold on to as many small bills and coins (i.e. R$1/2) as possible so others don’t have to make change.
– Verizon Wireless?  Total letdown.  My colleague’s T-Mobile device wasn’t so hot either.  The best off were those traveling with AT&T/Cingular.
– Delta Air Lines?  No complaints.  The only thing I’d suggest is that Delta disable the touchscreen on their seat back TVs.  A middle-aged man jabbing at channels over an entire flight is like a two-year old kicking your seat.  And both have no clue.

– If I ever do the Atkins diet, I will move to Brazil while doing it.
– Warm pão de queijo for breakfast is delicious.  A little bit like pierogis.
– Pastéis are tasty as well.  Kind of like crab rangoon.
Farofa – great addition to a meal.  Very unique.  Kind of like corn meal.  Kind of like grits.  But really neither.
Caipirinhas are deceptively strong.  Like a wave’s undertow.
– Restaurants that made an impression:  Porcão and 00.
– There is a McDonald’s on Copacabana beach.  I didn’t eat there.
Great fruit.