“The Monster”: Backpacking in Sao Paulo, Brazil

“The Monster”: Backpacking in Sao Paulo, Brazil

I read somewhere that Sao Paulo was a “monster” and I simply loved that word as a classification of a city. It was always the plan to end my recent South America experience in Sao Paulo, as my final flight to leave the continent would be from there. It quite simply is one of the world’s biggest cities and had to be done.

Life always throws coincidences at you – and on board my ferry to Antarctica was Rodrigo, my new Brazilian mate – from Sao Paulo!!

So I decided to spend 4 nights and 5 days in :”the monster” and Rodrigo was kind enough to host, become my tour guide (even though he was busy working), provide me with a bed, internet access, a local pub (King of Cocktails – which became a nightly hang out for us!) and a bus card for the monstrous bus system. Yes it’s all “monster” in Sao Paulo.

I flew in to Sao Paulo from Recife. Dearer than the bus, but much faster, safer and actually an eye opener. Flying into the monster meant witnessing a never ending skyline of skyscrapers New York and Hong Kong would be jealous of.

So is it a monster? Yes – nail on the head. Not a better word to describe a city with charm as rich as this. Rich is not even a good word either. People sleeping on worn out mattresses by the river is commonplace, even just a few streets away from Rodrigo’s flat.

So in I arrived. It would have been fairly hard for me to find Rodrigo’s flat actually, it was near a big University and even the taxi driver had trouble locating it. It was my final journey of this trip in South America and I was finally in the safety of Rodrigo’s cosy flat. It was amazing being able to stay with Rodrigo. And to think that 3 months earlier I hadn’t even met Rodrigo!

My room for 4 nights and Rodrigo’s building. His flat was on the floor, of a skyscraper obviously. Although some Paulistas probably don’t even class this as a skyscraper.

Paulista – the posh business type area. Rodrigo worked nearby, and I met up with him here after work at Centro 3.

Thanks to Rodrigo I got an in depth look at the monstrous bus system. Any tourist to Sao Paulo must get confused by it and I blagged Rodrigo’s “student card” which had expired and seemed to get away with using it.

The University by Rodrigo’s flat.

Brazil Flags.

Rodrigo’s local pub, and mine for 4 nights. Rei Das Batidas – King of Cocktails. That’s Mateus, Rodrigo’s flat mate and co-worker. We normally drank Antarctica beers in there as it happens!

Antarctica beer – a popular brand in Brazil.

Rodrigo worked here in this attractive building on a corner. I actually thought the streets nearby were quite dodgy when I walked around alone, but maybe it’s just because I was foreign it had that feel to it. Anyway, where he worked was bang opposite the football museum!! Housed inside the stadium of Pacaembu.

The football stadium where I went to the amazing museum – well recommended. Cheap and factual and so good that I will write separately about it. For now, just the photo.

Sao Paulo doesn’t do anything in “bits” or “part form”. Everything is monster. The options are endless – you can get a pizza with 8 different slices if you want. Pizza is beyond question one of the best I’ve tried on this planet. So while we’re on it, Sao Paulo does food in vast quantities and tastes. And it does it well. Here’s a mere sample of what I shoved down my gullet in the monster…

The Fifties Burger. Immense old style US Diner, in a shopping centre that also had Dutch, Australian, Italian, Vietnamese and Chinese food. The milkshake that accompanied was also sensational. This was the first and only time I have experimented with the “black and white” option on my camera.

Coffee and biscuits. Monster style. In fact you just buy the coffee. The biscuits and bread are normally complimentary.

Steak and rice meal with chips, salad and a Cervejo. Yes. the Brazilian are also top beer drinkers. In a nation of football lunatics, topless beaches and samba parties, they’re hardly beer shy. Though it’s mostly lager and for once I didn’t venture to an Irish Pub in search of Guinness. In fact I’m not even sure if Sao Paulo has one. Well it must, it’s a fucking monster remember…

More pizza.

All you can eat buffet. Buffalo Brancos.

Bob’s Burders is the local version of “Burger King” or “McDonalds”. Cheap and cheerful. Excellent.

I’ve tried many beers round the world, but rarely one beginning with “X”. It wasn’t a surprise to learn that Sao Paulo has one. And not only that, a stout. This was the nearest I tried to a Guinness in the monster.

A view of the monster from Rodrigo’s flat.

A view of the monster from the 33rd floor of Edificio Italio. Endless and monstrous and more skyscrapers than could ever possibly be counted.

Downtown Sao Paulo. Though that’s an enigma in itself as there are so many built up areas scattered that everywhere could be downtown. But I think this was where the government buildings were.

Normal road near Rodrigo’s flat.

The sad state of poverty in the monster. Though if I’m totally honesty, I saw much more poverty in Buenos Aires, Caracas, Bogota, Asuncion and Montevideo on my South American trip.

Coffee is also massive there, and the city’s most famous ever resident has his own.

And one thing to remember is I only spent 5 days there (4 nights) and only really touched the tip of the iceberg. The only real way to actually see this monster would be to live there. You haven’t heard the last from me on Sao Paulo even for this visit however, there will be more to come, and who knows, I may return in 2014, when the world’s greatest tournament arrives in the city. The FIFA World Cup. Sao Paulo, I must hand it to you – you are a monster. But a charming one, if a bit scary and daunting.

Footnote – This entire post is dedicated to Rodrigo Godoy Coelho, without whom, my Sao Paulo experience would have been much more muted and much less authentic. I’d probably just have done the normally touristy things and had a beer in the Irish Pub. It was nice to get to the heart of the city through one of my good friends and SP residents.

Population -19 million

Nationalities Met – Brazilian

Nickname of Residents – Paulista

Common nickname for the city – “The monster”

Where I Stayed – Rodrigo’s Flat at Avenida Valdemar Ferreira 168, Apartment 61, near a Shopping Centre called El Dorado (but on the other side of the river)

Number of buses in Sao Paulo – 15,000 (that’s more buses in the city than people to fill the national stadium of Northern Ireland)

Number of bus routes – 1,333 (flip me)

Beers Tried – Antarctica, Sol, Xingu

Number of Great Meals – 7

My Sao Paulo Friends Who I didn’t catch when I was there – Cassiano Monteiro, Lucas Fernandes, Roberta Regina, Persio. (2014 who knows…)

Key Song:


2. ANYTHING FROM R.E.M. album “Monster”, Here’s YOU:




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