Tuesday, August 19, 2008

City of God – Rio de Janeiro, Aug 2008

I was very fortunate to have a business trip to Brazil. Talking about works, I was nervous as I had to meet some of the international top researchers in this industry while I was a total newcomer. Well, finger cross, the meeting turned out to be quite OK. Let’s skip the work part and chat about Rio de Janeiro. The flight was excruciatingly long but the thought of virgin exploration to South America continent made any hassle worth. Brazil is a nation with legendary legacy in samba, football, capoeira (martial art that two people kicking without touching), carnival, racial diversity etc. I just could not wait to reveal the curtain of this country with my own eyes. My total flight time was about 25 hours, with a transit in Paris. The Brazilian timing is 13 hours behind Malaysian timing. The official language is Portuguese, yup, not Spanish.

Aerial view of Rio de Janeiro from the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain.

The hotel I was staying had the nicest location, in front of the Ipanema beach. It was a posh and classical beach. Brazilian are health freak by the way, I had stop counting people jogging along the beach. They jogged day and night, half-naked or bikini style, alone or in groups, with dogs or etc etc. It was a crime to be not exercising and healthy! The waves were gigantic too! I was swept away by the wave, no kidding, I almost shouted for the lifeguard but luckily a big wave swirled me back to the shore. Phew... swimming above the ocean is definitely more dangerous than diving into it. Surfing was another common practice there. Watching the surfers glided through the waves was simply joyful.

Surfer having so much fun with the giant waves.
This is what I called crowded beach (Ipanema) during a beautiful winter Saturday!
Coffee - Brazil has met its reputation. The Brazilian coffee was a lead in its type – moderately strong but smooth and addictable, not those kind of coffee that you would be thirsty and make your pee smell like hell after drinking. Our host also brought me to a very unique restaurant. As a photography geek, I was spell bounded by the elaborated decoration and cultural environment of the restaurant. Its name was Rio Scenarium (www.rioscenarium.com.br), situating in downtown area. It was huge, three-storey high, with extensive spaces of each storey. I would recommend any visitor to Brazil to experience the sensation. It was a converted antique house, full of stylish and camera-magnetic antiques. I really meant FULL, you turned a corner and you see wooden horse, then old-style pharmacy bottles, then statues, then musical instrument, then clocks, then car….. You guess it, I forgot to bring my camera. Don’t scold me, I was crying loudly in my heart. There were also some singers singing mesmerizing Brazilian songs, instrumenting Samba music. Diners came out and performed sporadically, delighting the audiences with their exceptional Samba moves. The vibes were something I could never forget in my life. This was all I had imagined about South America – bits of Latin flavour, pretty and expensive taste of livingstyle, relaxing.

Brazilian coffee motto: One Country, Many Flavours.

Of course, I had been living in bed of roses. There was no such thing as perfect in the world, I had yet to see the ugly side. In fact, Brazil is notorious for its favela where the poor housing area stationed by many drug addicts, perverts and criminals. It was taunting that it occupied quite a lot of area in Rio, either uphill or near the coast. I passed by the area on the way to airport. The lake in front stunk to the max and the houses were nothing more than simple brick build-up from nowhere. Backpackers should definitely avoid these places but ironically, they had favela tour available for curious backpacker. I was so tempted to join the tour but finally dropped the idea after advised by my host. Better to see the famous Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor) statue, one of the new Seven Wonders. Nonetheless, Jesus must hate me because when I ascended to the hill, the fog rushed in and covered the statue. Only several of my photos were clear. Needless to mention, I did not see the aerial view of Rio, what a big let down. In my opinion, I do not think it deserves to be one of the Seven Wonders. Imagine that I took elevator and lift to reach the statue, totally no match with the Giza Pyramid. Equally popular tourist spot was the Sugar Loaf Mountain, which could also offer the swept view of Rio de Janeiro. Rio was certainly something extraordinary, half-moon-shape beach with monolithic granite mountains in between. I believe this is the city with the most accessible beaches (Ipanema and Copacabana) in the world. Double thumb up!

The Rio symbolic Christ the Redeemer Statue, Seven Wonder of The World.

In short, do I like Rio de Janeiro? Hmmm… It’s complicated. Do I want to live there? Definitely NO. Do I like to visit Rio again? Definitely YES. The best beach that I have ever been (Vs Greek island beaches and Italian beaches, yet to comment on Australian beaches).

MET EXPECTATION: Spectacular beaches, machos and chicks, football fans, cool Capoeira dance, diverse races.
CAUGHT OFFGUARD: Soft and polite Portuguese speaker, artistic and cultural, dog lovers (as comparable as European), fatless and healthy food.

Paintings displayed at Hippie Fair on Sunday Morning, Ipanema.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

New Toy – Canon EOS 40D

Eventually, I upgraded my camera gear to Canon EOS 40D, 17 – 85 mm IS USM lens kit (inclusive of UV protective filter and 4GB CF Memory card). For the Canon noob, IS stands for Image Stabilizer and USM denotes Ultrasonic Motor which gives a quieter zooming sound. RM 5200 flew from my bank account but I figured out that I will have so much fun with the new toy for quite some time. Virgin shots were snapped to capture our Malaysian Pride - KLCC Twin Tower. The feeling was somewhat different compared to that of EOS 400D. The camera body is larger, more robust and heavier. Quicker response and quieter shutter, equally pleasing results. I have yet to discover the hidden pleasure. The photos below can be a teaser for you. All photos were taken handheld, photoshop finesse. Enjoy!