Brazil: So Near, but So Far Apart
By Stephen Thompson
Brazil's two largest cities, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, are actually pretty close to each other in distance, but in many other respects they are worlds apart, especially in terms of residents attitudes to each other.
You can get to Río in an hour if you can afford to fly, or if you're a budget traveller, it's only five hours by bus and these leave every hour of the day, and also travel overnight, with reclining seats and blankets.
There's so much to do in Río in terms of leisure and recreation. Everyone knows about the beaches, but there's also hang gliding, rock climbing and trekking. Did you know that Río has the world's largest urban park? Over 100 square kilometres of forest in the middle of the city. In the Tijuca park, you can walk all day and climb thousand metre peaks with stunning views, in tropical forests, without bumping into another human being.
Río still beats São Paulo in terms of culture as well, it has more cinemas and theatres and shows.
So with all with this on offer, it's surprising that many Paulistas have never visited Río de Janeiro. And I'm not talking about those who can't afford the bus fare. I know many Paulistas who travel regularly, both abroad and in Brazil, who have never been to Río.
Take Sandra, for example, my ex-student. A typical Paulista, Sandra loves running and cycling, but she's never been to Río. Last year she went to Cuba because she wanted to have a last chance to experience communism, and the year before she went to Peru where she visited the Inca ruins. She is a Corinthians fan, and enjoys driving. She is not much good in the water; as São Paulo doesn't have a beach, she didn't grow up to be a confident swimmer. Sandra would love Río de Janeiro's leisure opportunities, I can just see her cycling along the beach, but she'd rather die than go to Río de Janeiro
Why do Paulistas hate Cariocas so much? Is it because they put ketchup on their pizza? Is it because they make arrangements and they don't show up? Is it because they say "drop round to my place sometime" when they know you haven't got their address and they don't really mean it? Is it because there are friendly but superficial? Is it because they prefer a bad day at the beach to a good day at the office?
As a friend of both Cariocas and Paulistas, I think they should admit they have a lot more in common than they want to admit. They both love football and going to the beach. They both work to live rather than live to work. So, tell me, why don't Paulistas start taking advantage of the best thing about São Paulo: its proximity to Río de Janeiro. Please write to me and tell me what really annoys you about Cariocas. (And Cariocas, please tell me why you think that Paulistas can never really be cool).
In the meantime, I've finished my writing for the day, and it's Friday, so I'm going to the airport to catch a flight to my favourite city, to relax!
Some useful related links:
http://www.voebra.com.br - cheap charter flights to Río de Janeiro and other cities
http://www.voegol.com.br - cheap scheduled flights
http://www.passagem-em-domicilio.com.br - order bus tickets and get them delivered to your home
NB. These sites are in Portuguese only at present.
Stephen Thompson runs "O Gaucho", a snack bar serving breakfast, juices, smoothies, sandwiches. Galeria 2001, 2001 Avenida Paulista, São Paulo. For an English menu contact email@example.com
To read previous articles by Stephen click the links below:
How to Get Into University in Brazil
The Pleasure of Driving a Car in Brazil
Brazil: The Bairro of Flamengo in Río de Janeiro
Brazil: The Information Technology Law
Managing a Brazilian bank account
Brazils Middle Class Ruled By Political Apathy