Bus Touring to all places Rio de Janeiro!
Usually when I travel, I plan our days by geography. Whenever I have a city destination in mind, I write a list of all the things I want to see, do eat, etc and then find them on Googlemaps. From there I group 5 or 6 different things a day that are within the same district or region within the city. For Rio, I did the same thing, so our days were basically somewhat had some structure based on area.... But understanding fron yesterday how important knowing Portuguese was, Hanhwa and I booked a bus tour from our hostel that took us to the most picturesque parts of Rio de Janiero: Cristo Redento a.k.a Christ the Redeemer statue in the Tijuca Forest, Santa Teresa neighborhood, Lapa neighborhood including a detour to the Escadaria Selaron a.k.a. tiled staircases where Snoop Dogg made a music video, and Pão de Açúcar a.k.a. Sugarloaf Mountain. It was about 130 Reals or 75USD for a full day, 8 hour trip throughout the city of Rio, with all tickets, transportation, and guide included... Let me just say, THIS WAS AN AWESOME DEAL. For those traveling on a budget, 75 USD may seem like a lot of money, but the cost of you having to either purchase taxis or bus rides to all these places as well as the time lost getting to these places and waiting in line for tickets... 75 USD is a steal. The lines to just purchase tickets for the Christ was ridiculously long. If I took a long 40USD taxi up to top and saw this line, I would be discouraged to even try to get in... The queues for the cable cars that take you up to Sugarloaf, even worse!! I swear the line for that was about a mile long even 40 minutes before closing time.
Christ the Redeemer:
I was really excited to go see the statue since this is the ICONIC symbol of Rio de Janeiro. I expected this monument to be touristy but not THIS touristy... it was lines up the ass. Just to get to the entrance of this place was so hectic and complicated. First you need a ride up the mountain for about 40 minutes (via taxi or bus, but bus may take a couple of hours due to faulty public transportation), then wait in line to buy the tickets, then wait in line to catch a ride in the monument sponsored 15ish seater van, then take a 15-20 minute ride up extremely steep and windy roads, then wait in line to get into the place... and then FINALLY! get through the gates and either take the escalator up or take the stairs up. Stairs is much better, no lines and better views!
Luckily, since we paid for this tour, we did not have to wait in those lines. Tickets were already in our hands and we would get onto the first bus up. It was awesome! But even if I went through all of the waiting in lines and taking rides up to the top, the view... wow... seriously breathless. Going through all of the chaos to the top is totally worth the view. You get a complete 360 view of Rio de Janeiro with scattered mountains and endless ocean. I could not get over how beautiful this city was from up here.. The statue itself was a bit creepy since there are no eyeballs so it just looks like glazed over crazy eyes on Jesus' face... a bit creepy.
The one thing I really disliked about this place was the amount of people... and how rude everyone was... The best view up there is along this tiny little area right in front of the statue... but it is ridiculously crowded with so many people all up in my grill. It only makes sense that if someone is waiting to take a picture after you, you take your picture, move, and let the next person go. Nope, people would just push from the WAY back to get to this spot for photos and/or some people take literally hundreds of photos of themselves without moving for others to have a chance. I was SO annoyed by the tourists here because no one had the decency to give each other respect. There were people all up in all your photos, not even caring if you're in the middle of taking a photo.
So tips for anyone wanting to go visit, bring a lot of patience to deal with others... Also, it is really windy and cold up there, so do not wear a tiny little tank top dress. Gel your hair down in place so you do not get so many hair fail photos like I did... I literally have so many hair fail photos and photos with people's armpits or ear holes or whatever else body part in my photo, that I got frustrated and gave up on trying to take a good photo.
After the Christ the Redeemer statue, we jumped onto the tour bus down windy mountainous roads to a little area named Santa Teresa. The architecture is varied from pink Spanish houses, to mint Dutch buildings, to red German homes, etc. It was such a colorful and artsy part of Rio. Our tour guide talked about the history of the city and pointed out the wild monkeys roaming around the city. They were so adorable!
We were allowed to explore on our own for about 30 minutes, so Hanhwa and I decided to get lost walking along the streets and scout out places that we think we would want to come back to.
Lapa District/Tiled Stairs:
We all hopped back onto the tour bus to drive to Lapa District and the tiled stairs, famously known as Escadaria Selaron. These tiled stairs are what connects Lapa District to Santa Teresa since there are no other pathways between them. This monument has tiles from almost every state and country in the world… I believe the tour guide said that there are 500+ different tiles. It was quite a sight to see! I was really tempted to reenact the Snoop Dogg music video with Hanhwa, but we didn’t have enough time… and there were too many people. SO instead, we had a photo shoot going up and down the stairs. Going up, it is quite beautiful with all the colorful mosaic tiles, going down though... it looked like any staircase. It’s so crazy how different the perspective was of walking up and walking down the stair case.
At around 4PM (the sun sets around 5:30PM), we hopped onto the tour bus for one last time and headed to SugarLoaf Mountain. We made a pit stop at the main stage of Carnaval, which was interesting to see, but not as interesting as if the actually parade was going on. We drove to the entrance and BOY WAS THE LINE LONG. Shit. The last cable car was at 4:30 and there were still hundreds of people waiting in line. Luckily, with the tour, our tickets are already purchased and we did not have to wait in line.
It takes two cable cars and one change of cars on the smaller mountain to get to Surgaloaf. But even on the lower first cable car, the view was amazing. The sun was setting around this time and there were so many colors of deep blues and purples, pinks, reds, and oranges…. This sunset was seriously one of the best sunsets I have seen, comparable to Florence’s and Norway’s sunsets… It was such a grand sight with the mountains scattered along the horizon, surrounded by water, the reflection of the colors from the sky along the water, the lingering fog so characteristic of Rio catching the colors and light of the sky… seriously WOW. Like the Christ the Redeemer attraction, be prepared for it to be cold and windy up there. After one or two hair fail photos, I would just give up haha. This was a great way to end the jam-packed day. Just relaxing while watching the sun go down along this amazing city.
I honestly think that the tour that we took today was an amazing deal. We literally saw all the hot spots of Rio in one day, without having to go through the trouble of figuring out the horrible public transportation and having the convenience of not having to wait in line. Usually I like to go to one or two big monuments in an area a day so that I can experience what is going on specifically for that area and the people. I really believe that walking around and getting lost is an essential part of learning a city and the people. The one part I love about traveling was taken out by being driven around in a tour bus… but I am sure within the next few days Hanhwa and I will have a chance to get lost walking around again.
After the tour, Hanhwa and I were exhausted and starving. We had not eaten the whole time on the tour so we thought of someplace quick and took a taxi... we went to all the iconic Rio de Janeiro places today, might as well try some iconic Brazilian food as well... so we chose All you can eat Brazilian steak house or a churrascaria! We went to a famous, well known churrascaria in Rio called Porcão (also recommended from my Brazilian friend Breno)... It was decorated minimally, a bit more "upscale" for Rio, but not up to par to high end restaurants in the US. There was a salad bar (similar to the ones you see in Fogo de Chao or Texas de Brazil), a sushi bar (this confused me?), and waiters with huge knives and skewers of meat hustling and bustling table to table. Famished by this time, I got super greedy and got basically filled my plate with everything at the "salad" bar... this was not an ordinary sized plate either... nor was this an ordinary "salad" bar. This "salad bar" was filled with meats, cheeses, hot food like shrimps and chicken, bread, rice, veggies, and all sorts of things... not to mention, I also had sushi on my plate from the sushi bar!! I got so greedy and devoured everything so quickly that I barely made room for the Brazilian meat buffet.
We are given a little circle pog with red "Nao" or "No" and green "Sim" or "Yes" to let waiters know if we ready for more meat. The red NO side didn't seem to work so well for us because no matter how full we were, the waiters kept coming to our table to feed us... All the meats were delicious! Some were a bit salty and there was actually one meat that was just BLWEAH *GAG* *barf* but all the other ones were great! I was disappointed in my buffet eating skills because I was pretty much KO-ed 40 minutes in. Sophia - 0, Brazilian All you can eat - 1000. I was just completely defeated. Hanhwa... on other hand... she was a warrior. She ate like there was no tomorrow and I seriously have not seen her happier throughout the whole trip until now while she was eating her bread and Brazilian steak. After a long full day of sight seeing and our bellies full, it was time for a siesta and some after that, beer!
We originally planned to go to a Favela party with a group of people from our hostel, but the group never came back for us… sadness!… so we decided to just drink beers at our hostel with another group of guys. It was a mixed crowd, but a fun one! Fabio was from Minas in Brazil, Gareth from the UK, Jimmy and his girlfriend from Austrailia, Gabriel from Sao Paolo. After a couple of drinks at the Lemon Spirit Hostel Bar, we decided to go across the street to this little local bar that is always BUMPIN’ whether its day or night. It started to pour down raining, but I still had a great time with the company we were with. We would tease each other’s accents… like how Americans say “Waterrrrrr” where as British pronounce it as “Wah-tah.” Once it got more rainy, we ordered more beers “to go” and took them back to the hostel, where we played some drinking games as well as Yousef! The punishments were HILARIOUS and I will never forget that night. It was a low-key night in Rio, but I seriously enjoyed my time with these guys. It’s great to know that no matter where you are from, you can still relate with people from different countries… New friends! Yay!