Monthly Archives: May 2011
I went to Brazil and didn’t tell you for too long. Sorry, Internets. Here’s a short catchup.
Flew into Sao Paolo to do a presentation for work. Getting a Visa to go was an expensive hassle but got it done by shipping my passport and a pile of cash to some dude in New York who carried it to the consulate the next day, waited around to get it approved and added, then shipped it back. I’m not sure how he got it done, but nobody at the immigrations office seemed to have any problems with it so I was good to go.
Met up with a colleague, then went and got checked into the hotel. He is fluent in Spanish and passable in Brazilian Portuguese so we got around OK. Next day we went into the local office and met a bunch more folks. Ended going out with them for dinner that night and a couple of drinks after. We went by a very interesting place called Hotel Unique, which is shaped like a giant wooden boat. Then we went to a rooftop bar from which we could see a large portion of the skyscrapers in the city of 20+ million.
After the work event I headed down to the small city of Porto Alegre, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul. Another colleague lives there and I met up with him. He had a day of activities planned, including a tour around the corporate and university campus, lunch in the eclectic cafeteria and hanging out with friends. Over the weekend he invited me and a lot of friends over to his place to do a traditional Brazilian barbecue (barbacoa). Their way is different because they set the meat far away from the fire and do a slow roast. They use wood, rather than charcoal, so the meat takes on a smokier flavor too. It was absolutely delicious!
Porto Alegre, POA to those who fly in, is a great little city. About 3 million people so not really a metropolis. Rolling hills for a backdrop and gaucho culture similar to that of Argentina. Lots of beef. Churrascorias and things. Some slow roast the meat for a dozen hours or more so it’s very tender and delicious. No sauce or rubs except a sprinkling of salt so it’s just the flavor of the meat. There’s a really fantastic little place called Costela no Rolete you should ask about if you go! There are some hills overlooking the city and they give a magnificent view of the city, river, rolling hills and plains off in the distance. Very nice city. Great weather the whole time I was there.
Some other notes on Brazil:
- A sweetened, carbonated guarana juice is a popular drink here. It’s easy to see why – tasty and refreshing. There seem to be several regional favorites with slightly different flavors.
- In Rio Grande do Sul they’ve got a traditional drink that’s like a chilled yerba mate. It’s pretty tasty.
- Everything is really expensive. A value meal from McDonalds is over $10, and drinks range from $7-8 for a cheap beer to $30 for a draft in a nice bar. Outrageous!
- Lots of local beers. Fine German and Italian beer tradition. One of the best I had was Bohemia. Classic pilsner taste – very clean. I’m not a big pilsner fan but this one was good and great on a hot day at a cookout.
- At the airport the security line goes very fast. Mainly because a strip search isn’t involved but also because they’re well staffed. Don’t have to take off your shoes. Don’t have to remove your laptop. Don’t have to remove liquids. I don’t know what the rules are for size etc. because I didn’t run into any of the limits. And nobody checks your documents when getting on the plane.
- The grocery store has a whole aisle of meat. It’s fascinating.
Out of India and don’t have time (yet) to fill you in on all the details, but here are the high points.
- Attended an Indian wedding (reception) with a Bollywood starlet and the son of a prime minister.
- Toured a wildlife sanctuary. Watched an elephant charge a motorbike. Spotted deer, sambhar, monkeys, bison, lots of birds.
- Was the guest of the house at a resort on a working coffee, vanilla and pepper plantation.
- Had to change plans because of a general strike called by the government of one of the states.
- Had several issues with travel and logistics but wound up where I needed to be without serious incident.
- Ate a hamburger, Chinese and Indian sweets in the same meal.
- Experienced life through the eyes of an Indian family as they live it every day with drivers, family time,
- Learned much more about the politics, languages, cultures and peoples than anyone could be expected to in the short time here.
- Found out the contrast of meanings between TII (this is India) and true Indian Hospitality.
Update: Now posting my experiences.
I keep getting “Please contact iTunes support to complete this transaction.” when I try to buy the Seoul Guide – Lonely Planet application. Hoping to find something to do in Seoul so that app would have come in real handy about now. I seem to have a lot of time on my hands so I guess instead of enjoying my vacation I can instead complain about the seemingly unending problems I have been having giving iTunes money.
First my account got hacked and somebody bought a bunch of gift cards (thankfully PayPal realized it and stopped iTunes from draining my account). Nice job protecting my account there. Either iTunes/Apple was hacked on that one or somebody spent a couple of days trying to guess my password – something you’d think Apple would have caught. Either way, shame on them. Then I had about 2 weeks when I couldn’t buy or update anything and going back and forth over email took forever to resolve anything. That sucked but things were finally resolved and now this issue. Random prohibitions on buying apps with no error, just a request for ME to contact THEM to so I can give THEM money.
Good thing Android and Windows Phone 7 are out there, may force some customer service out of one of the companies. They’ll get my business. Of course you still have to deal with the near-monopoly wireless companies Verizon and AT&T. But that’s a rant for a different day. Another satisfied customer.
I had a layover for about 16 hours in Kuala Lumpur. The first thing I noticed on the bullet train ride from the airport to downtown is how modern the place seems. Especially after leaving India. Even the slums seemed nicer and not quite as numerous. There is light-rail, monorail, and metro buses. Less dust, dirt and construction. Lots of flashy tourist stuff. It’s not as crowded here on the roads, either. And the sound of horns is all but absent!
There’s lots of cookie-cutter buildings, but some very unique ones too. The cookie cutter seem to be high-rise apartments. If you’re familiar with the Petronas Twin Towers then you’ll know at least two of the unique buildings. Some others are scattered across the cityscape as well. I went to visit the towers to go up to the observation area, but they were out of tickets for the day. So get there early.
I ended up walking around in the park behind the towers. It was nice. Lots of young folks hanging out. Lots of old folks walking around. Some playgrounds. A cool place to have sitting in the shadow of that used to be the world’s tallest buildings.
I dropped in on a Hindu or Hare Krishna wedding. I’m not sure which it was, but it was interesting to watch. The video below is just a short part of the whole ceremony. The music was pretty interesting – what you can hear in this clip was not as interesting as what was going on during the rest of the ceremony. This was back in an alley adjacent to a Buddhist temple and a Christian monastery.
I ate at a street vendor. Food I didn’t recognize. Some strange fish or eel or something. It was odd – there was only one bone in it, but a big one right down the center. It was like a t-bone steak with a tail on it. If anyone can identify this ichthyoid I’d appreciate it. The sauce there was very spicy, but it was a slow gradual burn. Nice.
Kuala Lumpur reminds me of Hong Kong. That makes since, because Kuala Lumpur was founded when Malaysia was owned by the British. So there’s obviously a large influence. But it’s more diverse ethnically, religiously and in language. That may just be foreign tourism, but I doubt it.
I ended up the afternoon watching the grey sky lose its color from a place called the Sky Bar on top of the Trader Hotel. By day it’s the hotel’s pool, by night it’s a modern dance club. Pretty awesome concept!
Then I caught a cab back to the train station which took me back to the airport. It was a good day of sightseeing.