Tag Archives: Rio de Janeiro

Favelas in Rio de Janeiro

27 Mar

On Sunday we took a tour of Rio’s famous (or infamous) favelas. Favelas are shantytowns of poor people who build up illegal residences in the hills of Rio. These areas are all controlled by drug lords and provide security for the residents. Favelas are unofficially recognized by the government–the citizens have a vote and access to healthcare, but they don’t pay any taxes.

During our tour of Favela Rocinha, we never felt threatened because the government recently raided the place and eliminated the dealers in this particular favela 3 months ago. The process is called “pacification.” This favela was full of people going about their ordinary business (in this case, buying groceries at the Sunday market). It actually didn’t look too different from regular poor areas in Oakland or Los Angeles, except the housing is much, much denser.

Random facts: our tour guide told us that many famous Brazilian soccer players come from favelas. Scouts visit favelas and pick out kids that show talent, bring them into the city to train. After playing locally, the players end up in Europe where they become rich, retire, get fat, play golf, and enter politics. Example: Ronaldo and Romario. (side note: Jerry told me that Brazilian players go by one name- for example, Pele).

Favelas can pop up overnight sometimes on an unclaimed mountain side.

The favela population makes up 2 million of Rio’s 7 million population.

They are an integral part of Carnaval. They make the costumes and perform in parades. Our guide said the hottest and prettiest girls that perform in Carnaval come from favelas.

The biggest problem in the favela is not drugs, but alcoholism.

There is only one road in and out of favelas. Makes access very controlled.



Everyone has satellite TV. The highest priority for all residents in favelas is to have a big screen plasma tv in order for them to watch soccer games.

Somehow the wires work!






Very narrow hallways.




Escadaria Selaron

23 Mar

Warning, picture heavy post!

Today we subway-ed to the neighborhood of Santa Teresa, where we explored Escadaria Selaron, a series of steps adorned with colorful and unique tiles from all over the world. It was super neat!

I’ll let the pictures do the blogging!








This is the artist/namesake. He still works on this every day! His home is here as well.


That’s him again!


















It was sweltering hot, but Jerry was very patient as I ended up taking pics of almost every tile. There were even more pics than what’s in this post! Some people recommend to start from the top and go down, but that makes no sense to us because you can’t see anything as you walk down, and you’d have to keeping turning around at every landing. Plus I think it is safer to enter from the bottom, there are more ppl around. The top seemed more residential.

I definitely recommend a visit to these steps if you find yourself in Rio. It’s very unique, very Brazil, but at the same time, very universal.

First Impressions: Rio de Janeiro

22 Mar

Unlike most of South America, I’ve seen zero stray dogs! There are quite a few dog owners here, but it could be due to our location, might not be representative of the rest of the city.

Traffic in Rio is baaaaaaaaaad. And I thought LA traffic was bad. Nope, I think Rio is worse. We unintentionally booked flights flying into busy cities (Rio and Buenos Aires) during rush hour. We weren’t in a rush to get to our accommodations or anything but still it sucked to sit in traffic for that long.


Rio is fruit juice (suco) capital! Anybody who knows me well knows that I loooooove fruit, so I am in heaven right now. In the laste 12 hours we’ve had mango, pineapple, watermelon, orange, and coconut juices. Can’t wait to try more flavors. Must do some translations tonight.



Less Brazilians smoke compared to those in Peru, Chile, and Argentina. In Argentina pretty much I was inhaling SHS (secondhand smoke) at least every 15 minutes while out in public and sometimes continuously for even longer (no joke!) and here it’s maybe every half hour so far. I think it’s sad when I see mothers/fathers/pet owners smoke right in front of their child/pet. Makes me wonder how much SHS they are exposed to at home. And in related news just very recently, Brazil will ban the sale of flavored cigarettes. Awesome! Thanks to my old colleagues/Facebook friends for keeping me in the know!

Just when I was picking up my HS Spanish again, we had to switch to Portuguese. For some reason, ignorant me thought that Brazilians would have some knowledge of Spanish. Nope. Wrong again. Traveling is knowledge!

Taxis are metered and very reasonable. Kind of nice to not have to bargain for once. It only cost us $33 to get from the airport to our digs in Ipanema. The ride was at least an hour long! A taxi ride in LA used to cost us $22 for a 10 minute ride from LAX to our old house!

Rio doesn’t have the best reputation for safety. So we’ve taken some extra precautions like leaving our jewelry and watches at our place, and we only carry photocopies of passports on us. We also try to only use our big camera in very touristy areas, such as the Christ the Redeemer statue. We didn’t even bother bringing our camera to dinner tonight. All other times we try to be on our guard and to walk in very public areas. We are staying in a pretty safe and public neighborhood, but better safe than sorry!

I used an awesome iPhone app called Photosynth to create this shot. Basically you take a bunch of pics and the app stitches them all together pretty seamlessly.

We’re here through the weekend and then on Monday evening we’re on a flight to Tokyo!

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