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Travel with Hafeez to Brazil V (last part)

Updated on November 3, 2011

Sao Paulo

Sao Paulo

Previous Hub: Salvador and Rio de Janeiro

I arrived at Sao Paulo in the late evening. When I looked around, I saw a blue neon-sign that said “Hotel Novotel” on the other side of the highway. There was a heavy road traffic and it was very dangerous to cross by walking. So I got a taxi and went there but the hotel was full to the brim. When I was returning, the counter clerk of the hotel asked me to wait a little so that he could find a suitable place for me. That is how, I landed in Hotel Esplanada, Largo do Arouche, 414,CEP 01219-010 Sao Paulo, Brazil.

I had a sumptuous breakfast in the morning with fruits, juices, bread, biscuits and tea. The staff was friendly and asked one of their English-speaking acquaintances to come every day at about 10 am to help me in going around. Moreover, they could contact him anytime over the phone and let me talk to him for resolving any matter. His name was difficult so I was asked to refer him as Caesar (emperor of Rome) and that made life easy. The hotel was about 200 meters away from subway, Republica, and so quite convenient and inexpensive to move around.

A vibrant city


For the next three days, I moved carefree. I noticed a large immigrant population especially of Japanese and was told by Caesar that Sao Paulo had the largest Japanese outside Japan. They had their own area known as Liberdade, easily accessible by subway. That was a windfall. The next day, I was there. Like China Towns, it was Japanese Town: the signs were in Japanese, TVs in shops and roadside were blaring in Japanese and foods were Japanese. A tall red arch was erected at the entrance. There were pieces of paper tied to decorative bamboos fluttering in the air. Also there were huge hanging decorations of colored paper with long tails. A stroll down Rua Galvao Bueno was very pleasant amidst pretty Japanese lamps, gem shops and sushi restuarents with Japanese faces everywhere.

Altino aretis
Altino aretis

Bridge Ponte Estaiada Octavio

Since the inauguration, a fully computerized system of LED lights changing colors and patterns, developed by Philips, illuminates the bridge at night.
Since the inauguration, a fully computerized system of LED lights changing colors and patterns, developed by Philips, illuminates the bridge at night.

Pinheiros area and Pinheiros River.

There was lot to see. With transportation so cheap and convenient, I had a hay day. I moved through a nice neighborhood, Pinheiros. Originally a swamp, it had been turned into flat area through massive landfills. It was now full of shopping malls, restaurants and bars with live music. The River Pinheiros had been tamed to a canal. A bridge on this river, Estaiada Bridge, was a fascinating sight. It was cable-stayed bridge, 138 meters high and shaped as an “X” At night, the bridge illuminated to create color effects like those on a Christmas tree.

Downtown was equally interesting, colonial buildings were rubbing shoulder with skyscrapers. It was a fascinating juxtaposition of old and new. Torre Banespa, a lookout on the top of a high rise building, provided a privileged view of the city making it possible to see land marks such as Mercado Municipal, the São Paulo Cathedral , and even the buildings Italia, and CopanHilton.

To be short, “Sampa” (nickname for Sao Paulo) was a vibrant, romantic, wealthy and world renowned mega city.

As ill luck would have it.

For the past four decades in my traveling spree, I never missed a plane or even a bus.

As a routine, I arrived much earlier than the departure time at Guarulhos International Airport on 22nd July, 2005. Clearing immigration, I presented my traveling documents as soon as check-in counter was opened for Alitalia Flight AZ-2020. Looking at my air-ticket and passport, the clerk raised eyebrows and called his senior. After brief consultation, the senior informed me that my transit visa for Italy had expired and so I could not board the plane. That was a shock, a deep blow.

While my Brazilian visa was for one month, my transit visa was for only 10 days, double entry. I was under the impression that OK tickets were only issued by a travel agent when all formalities were complete. Moreover, my travel agent was trusted fellow for the past two decades and had been fair to me. I never believed in Murphy’s Law that ‘If anything can go wrong, it will”. Now I was facing a wall. It was clear that first I would have to go to Brasilia to Pakistan Embassy to have a letter for visa extension both for Brazil and and Italy. This was a nightmare. Since I had my baggage with me, I went straight to Rodoviaria and took a bus for Brasilia about 845 km away.

Italian Embassy

To cut the story short, I got a letter from Pakistan Embassy and returned to Sao Paulo. I stayed in the same friendly hotel.

Next day, I went to Italian Embassy but the people there made lame excuses that their computer was out of order and that I should come after extension of Brazilian Visa for at least a month as they had a lot of backlog in visa processing.

I consulted Caesar and as per his direction, took subway to Barra Funda and walked to a big gray building of Police Federal. In about an hour, I got their stamp but it was extension for only a week and not a month, maybe due to communication gap.

I explored possibility of alternative route. The only airline which suited me was South African Airlines but its pilots were on strike. It reminded me of an old maxim 'When trouble comes they come not in single spies but in battalion form'. The only good part was that I was lush with funds and had no financial problem. The strike ended after two days and I got a ticket for US1,800 via Johannesburg, South Africa and that is how I reached back.

Needless to say that I raised hell and asked for compensation but got only peanut i.e. one way refund from Alitalia roughly $ 400. Further, I got a promise of a free ticket to any place in the world but I could not avail it as it was to be in the dull season and without any reservation.

Have I learned a lesson or two? Yes I have but who knows what happens next. What is moral of the story: Just be prepared for the worst


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    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 8 years ago from South Africa

      What a wonderful trip! Love that pic of the bridge in shape of an "X"! Great Hub, thanks

      Love and peace


    • hafeezrm profile image

      hafeezrm 8 years ago from Pakistan

      It depends upon how you decided what to include and what not to.

      In one way, I have been to almost 70 countries. If you say a minimum stay of 15 days or more, the number of countries would come down to 45. I am still going out. Stay in touch to hear 100 countries visited.

      The main hurdle is visa for each individual country to be obtained from Pakistan.

      An American can start from one place and finish 100 marks in one go.

    • Syed Kabeer Ehsan profile image

      Syed Kabeer Ehsan 8 years ago

      Respected Teacher,

      Very nice to See your concluding hub of trip to Brazil, Sir how many places you been in world, Seriously Amazing and Inspiring Sir.. .


      syed kabeer ehsan

    • hafeezrm profile image

      hafeezrm 8 years ago from Pakistan

      Thanks agusfanani, Peter, Amir and Rufi for your nice comments.

    • Rufi Shahzada profile image

      Rufi Shahzada 8 years ago from Karachi

      Dear Sir,

      This concluding HUB was the master piece of all.

      That horrible incident was really a great trouble, but you have tackled it in a very calm manner.

      You traveled again for 845 KM for Brasilia, you have a great road travelling history too...

      Kind Regards,


    • profile image

      Amir Adam 8 years ago

      Way back 1996, while studying at IBA, in one of the mid terms my instructor questioned about Murphy's law ! I answered as per given in the text book, got full marks... Wow.... but that is not it ! Irony of the fact is that it took almost 14 years to understand it......courtesy "Travel with Hafeez to Brazil V".

      Regards, Amir Adam

    • Peter Dickinson profile image

      Peter Dickinson 8 years ago from South East Asia

      Another great adventure hafeez and one you are not likely to forget. I was interested to learn about the Japanese community. Thanks.

    • agusfanani profile image

      agusfanani 8 years ago from Indonesia

      I like your story very much and the way you face a problem, some people wouldn't know what to do in such a situation .

    • hafeezrm profile image

      hafeezrm 8 years ago from Pakistan

      Thanks Donna and Mike for your comments.

    • profile image

      Mike Schmidt 8 years ago

      I dare say that I had predicted correctly: our friend, Hafeez, has managed tell us a great story, teach a lesson, and even to make us laugh (if only grimly) at his misfortune. A great story, in all ways.

      Of course unexpected and awful things sometimes happen when traveling. Perhaps that's why we call it an "adventure". In fact, I believe, that this is the story of life itself. If we can take a cue from Hafeez, we'll always somehow land on our feet and perhaps even one day be able to laugh at our misfortune. Thanks for the great story!

    • profile image

      donna 8 years ago

      This one made me smile! Through your resoucefulness, you managed to resolve the matter quite efficiently. Kudos to you.