I really have to say, Rio is amazing! I was here for a day and I loved it so much already! There is something magical about Rio!! Everything seemed very interesting! I felt like I should stay longer in Brazil, there is so much to explore. In my heart, I already knew, I would definitely come back again, despite of the warning from others of how dangerous Brazil is.
Due to the short stay at Rio, I paid to follow a complete tour around the famous attractions in Rio. I was still feeling sleepy when the bus picked me up at 8.10am. However, Rio never failed to amaze me. There were a total of 14 tourists from different countries on the bus. The tour guide spoke in both Portuguese and English. When I signed up for the tour, I did not really read through the itinerary but I knew I was definitely going to Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf Mountain. The whole day tour lasted longer than I expected but it was definitely worth the money!
Christ the Redeemner on Corcovado Mountain
Corcovado means hunchback. It is on that mountain where the statue of Christ was built. It is 39.6 metres tall. Another magnificent fact about this statue is it is situated within the Tijuca Forest National Park, the only urban forest national park in Brazil. The inner part of the statue was made of concrete and was covered by soapstone on the outer layer. The statue was imprinted in my mind when I watched the movie ‘City of God’ and at that moment, I was already excited about seeing this statue when I get to Brazil. It seemed like Jesus Christ is looking over the city. It definitely stood up as one of the new seven wonders of the world! I was also amazed by the view from the top of the mountain! I had never seen anything like this, it was breathtaking and I felt like I could just stare ahead of me forever.
I guess this is the part of Rio I had watched in that movie. Too bad I did not have time to actually walk around that area but on the way up to the Christ the Redeemer, the bus stopped for a few minutes and the guide explained that kids used to be drug dealers but it is getting better now. Looking down from the other side of the mountain, Santa Teresa appeared to be dangerous, yet mysterious. If I ever come back to Rio, I will definitely pop by there.
Estádio do Maracanã
Officially known as Estádio Jornalista Mário Filho and named after the Maracanã neighbourhood in Rio de Janeiro, the stadium was opened in 1950 to host the FIFA World Cup. While I was there, it was under renovation, thus I did not have the chance to see how it looks like inside. From the outside, it looked like a normal construction of a football stadium. Nevertheless, there was a statue at the entrance where we stopped. It was built as a memory when Brazil won the title in 1958. It was interesting to see a Brazilian showing off some stunts with a football just beside the statue. Judging by his body build and skills, I actually thought he was a retired footballer but he turned out to be a normal guy who worked in the stadium. He was kind enough to loan me his football while I was taking photos.
Samba, samba!!! Undeniably, everyone knows, or at least has heard of the world-famous festival in Rio, which is also the biggest carnival in the world! Different samba schools will participate each year and one school holds up to 4000 participants! They start to prepare and practise one year before the performance. These schools will compete among each others. As the parade takes place in Sambadrome, each school has to cross the finishing line in exactly one and a half hour. It is all about timing in order to win. It was not carnival period when I was there, however, there was a tent beside the Sambadrome which displayed variety of colourful costumes. As I was watching a video on the carnival, the tour guide came to me with a pink-feather hat and put it on my head. It was not securely placed on my head so I had to hold it with my hand while taking a photo. When I looked at the photo, the hat looked a bit too big for my head. Haha, it was fun though! I would so love to experience carnival in Brazil!!
Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro
Cathedral of Rio was built between 1964 and 1979 and is situated in the center of the city. Unlike most cathedral, it has the shape of a cone, with a 96 metres internal diameter and a height of 75 metres. When I stepped into the cathedral, my head automatically looked up and it was hard to take my eyes away the four rectilinear stained glass windows which has a length of 64 metres from floor to ceiling.
Before lunch, we stopped at Ipanema Beach to take some photos. This beach is 2km in length while Copacabana Beach is approximately 6km long. I had been here a day before but the view was still stunning when I came back the second time. The waves were quite big, I guess that’s why it is a surfer’s paraside there! There is a look-out-point between Ipanema and Copacabana and it is the best place to watch sunset! I really love the beaches there!
The final destination was Sugarloaf Mountain. The cable cars were built to transport sugar cane across the mountains. It was first built in 1912 and rebuilt later. The glass-paneled cable car goes from the base, to Urca Mountain and further up to Pão de Açúcar Mountain. The speed was surprisingly fast. Although the weather was good, it was really chilly up there. I was almost freezing wearing just a t-top. The view was beautiful. How I wished I was staying there with such a fantastic scenery. The guide introduced me to a Philippino working in a germ store. She was really friendly and has been staying in Rio for 6 years. Unfortunately, I am not into germs or stones, feel like it is a waste of money. However, being polite, I could not say no when she showed me around and also offered a discount if I saw anything I liked. On the way down, I saw two rock climbers on their way up the summit. Maybe one day I will try rock climbing, just hope I am fit enough to do it! When I was on the top, I could see many governmental buildings below and after asking the guide, I was told it belonged to the navy and army. I guess Brazil is the best country to serve the country as a navy or an army because they all have their own private beach near to the accommodation. How wonderful is that!!
By the time I reached the hostel, it was past 6pm as I was the last one to be dropped-off. I quickly went to beach to collect some sand. Once again, the view really amazed me. I sat down by the pavement, looking out the sea and thought “I want to be by the sea and be a beach girl!!!” Rio is really a great place to visit. People had been telling me how dangerous Rio is but I have to admit, I love it there! I guess shit things do happen when one travels but in the end, there is an interesting story to every trip. I am lucky I felt pretty much safe to roam around Rio and experienced a totally different lifestlye! Rio de Janeiro is definitely a MUST visit city!!
I guess the only area within Rio that I missed was Lapa. The tour bus did drive around Lapa but there was no stop for photos or anything, just a very brief explanation of the surrounding buildings. Fortunately, it was Friday night and everyone had been mentioning about the Lapa Street Party since I checked in the hostel. Everyone seemed real excited about it and it felt like everyone was heading there. I went there after 11pm with a Brazilian gym owner, who was also a self-claimed actor, a guy from Quebec and two wonderful ladies from Aus! We took a cab there and four of us had to squeeze at the back. They were talking about their ages and I told them I would turn 28 in another half an hour time. I got a free shot from them. Before we left the hostel, I managed to watch the Lapa Street Party on YouTube, it was not anything as I had imagined. It was more like Petaling Street at KL but with Samba music. When I reached there, it was exactly how it was on YouTube. We pretty much walked around Lapa but I was glad I finally saw the famous Lapa Steps, indeed very artistic and charming. Although it was night time, the artwork caught my attention. People were everywhere on the steps, kissing, drinking, singing, hanging out. Unfortunately, I did not have time to come back and have a look during the day. We continued walking and before I realised, it was past one and a half hour. I was really excited and could feel my body grooving to the Latin music but when we reached the club that the two guys wanted to go, I was already tired and sleepy. However, the ambience there was amazing, it was a great club but I was not in the mood anymore. I had free entrance since it was my birthday. Thank God I was with the Aussies and they had been really nice. We left together as we could not find the other two guys. It was a good birthday celebration!