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Travels

Inspirational, Photography, Travels

Beautiful and Emerging Rio

Rio de Janiero is one of the major cities in Brazil and happens to have a lot of global events on it’s plate in the next few years. The Catholic World Youth Day celebration this July, the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and of course the Olympic games in 2016. With millions of tourist coming from all over the world, it is no wonder why this location is one of the fastest growing cities on Earth.

First of all, there are many beautiful things about Rio. There are very touristy things to do and many not so touristy things to do. I feel that explored a good mix of both. However, one thing that I did notice that was completely opposite from what I was reading online and friends is regarding safety. I was probably reading reviews from 2006  or something because despite what many said, I felt pretty darn safe during my time in Rio, even with my camera hanging from my shoulder the entire time. People need to realize that this city is going to be home of some of the biggest international events ever and that the government is going to do everything it can to give the city a safe and fun reputation prior. So, I am going to do my part right now and tell you that Rio de Janeiro is a safe place to visit, especially right now.

When thinking of Rio, many immediately think about one of the seven made man wonders of the world, Christ the Redeemer or Cristo Redentor in Portuguese. Oh yeah, did I mention that Brazilians are super proud of their Portuguese language and culture over Spanish like the rest of South America? They are kind of like what Quebec is to the rest of Canada. Anyways, it sounds absolutely lovely when spoken. Back to the large statue of Jesus. I was told early on that the photos I saw on the internet aren’t necessarily the most frequently observed views in real life. More so to my case right during the summer storm season, a full view clear shot of the wonder was about a 50/50 chance. And to my luck, it was completely covered in clouds on my first day and attempt there. However, being able to see a gigantic shadow in the mist was pretty breathtaking as well.

My photo-op with Christ would have to wait another day. I took to the streets of a neighborhood called Santa Teresa, just a little East of the big city. It was once a high-end place to live but in the last few years, it has transformed into a thriving and lively place for local artists and young travelers. I could definitely see why on immediate arrival. Everything was locked and closed! Apparently 8 AM is way too early for those locals and I found out that things really pick up in the afternoon. Oh well, so I decided to just go for a nice stroll. I was informed that following the rails on the road would ensure a higher chance of safety, so I followed suit for the most part. Lots of color and graffiti work by locals can be enjoyed on almost every wall. The neighborhood consists of a lot of winding roads and hills that take you up and down. There is a very strong bohemian vibe going on as well. But this all made for a very enjoyable walk without too much distraction.

Later on in the day, the artists and restaurants opened up shop. I had one of the most amazing cod fish and rice dishes I ever had at a place called Sobrenatural (Super Natural). They specialize in great seafood and I absolutely loved it. Besides the amazing cuisine, the other great thing about this place is it’s location. This restaurant is right beside the tram rails. Another magical moment was when a light spread of rain started to drizzle down making the colors of the neighborhood pop and become saturated even more.

To view my full photo gallery of Rio de Janeiro, please click here.

Inspirational, Travels

Lavinia Spalding On Travel Writing

This is a very moving TEDx Talk by travel writer Lavinia Spalding. What she does is brilliant. She is an advocate for traveling women and publishes their unique “personal essays”. The most interesting part is that she not only cares for writing technique, grammar, in-depth journalistic details and technical stuff like that. But one of her main criteria is if the writing portrays an amazing story.

Admittedly, I know that I am not the best writer by all means. I don’t have a degree in journalism, english or even arts. If anything, I might be a decent academic, research and research writer. But they are extremely bland and stripped of any emotion. However, this is one reason why I started this blog in the first place. All I want to do is try and share my stories, photographs and journeys with you.

Travels

First stop, Bogota, Colombia.

Landing in Bogota, Colombia and getting my passport stamped officially brought me to my sixth continent. I can also now claim that I have been to all of the “habitable continents” in the world. This just leaves Antarctica…but that is for another story.

Like I mentioned, this was the first stop in my four-country South American adventure. Bogota also turns out to be the homeland of two of my co-workers. Prior to leaving Toronto, they gave a handful of useful tips for my short stay there. However, even before the journey started, a little problem became fully realized. I could not communicate with locals! Out of all the places I have been to in the world, this was the first time where neither I nor the people I went with spoke the native language. The first hurdle came just right out of the airport trying to get a taxi. Luckily, with enough hand gestures and some makeshift Spanglish going on, I was able to find a kind airport staff woman who spoke Spanish, English and Russian and helped translate with the taxis.

With that out of the way, we headed towards La Candelaria. This city is rustic, colorful and charming. It has this old colonial Spanish architecture that is absolutely stunning. I quickly found out that it is really hard to not take any good photographs here. One building would have deep red walls, another would have a bright yellow roof, a little house would have bold blue doors and hundreds of beautiful graffiti art are scatted around the city everywhere.

The Museo Botero (or Botero Museum) is well, a museum featuring the art works of Fernando Botero. He is a famous and world-renowned for his paintings and sculptures of “chubby” people and animals. Best of all, it is an exhibit that is free to the public.

Another great thing about Colombia is their food and more notably, their coffee. I got my much needed caffeine fix from Juan Valdez, which is pretty much the county’s most iconic international figure. On the street, I picked up a bag of the most delicious fried plantain chips I ever had. It had a salty crunch to die for.

Photographing people was one of the major goals for this trip. Things are very different in South America than somewhere like New York City, where some would probably try to sue you for snapping shots of them. The people are very friendly and quite photogenic. As with anyone in a public area, I always hold my camera up to make sure that it gets acknowledged. If I see them really try to shoo me away, then I just won’t got for it. However, I didn’t get any of that because I remained respectful to them and their space.

Even though this first stop was just a long layover, I really enjoyed the vibe I received. The locals were friendly and I felt relatively safe regardless of what others had told me before. Like any new place one visits, you should always be cautious and aware of your surroundings. Bogota was a great place for me to break into the South American mentality and Colombia is definitely a location I want to revisit again for a longer amount of time in the future.

If you would like to see the full photo gallery of Bogota, Colombia, please feel free to visit my archive.

Inspirational, Travels

Back from South America and Inspiration

The above is an episode of Travel+Escapes’ original web series called “New Nomads” featuring blogs such as PlanetD.com and FoxNoMad.com! 

It’s been a few weeks since my last update but I am back from my trip to South America. Over the next month or two, I will be posting regular weekly posts about all the places I was fortunate enough to explore. Overall, I took over 8,000 RAW photos! So much so, that I just purchased a new 15TB Synology NAS unit to store my entire archive into (review coming soon).

The reason why I included a web episode of “New Nomads” here is because on my trip, I met so many of them! I met year-long backpackers from Austria and Sweden just to name a few. As a matter of fact, two of my friends from university are backpacking across the world as we speak. You can follow Ted and Jen at RoadMapsToHappiness.com. One thing that I really enjoy about traveling and especially this adventure is making new connections. I believe this is the first time I’ve ever been to places where I really could not fluently and directly communicate with the locals. However, what I found is that there is definitely more good than bad in this world. Pretty much everyone I encounter was friendly, helpful and kind. There was a lot of Spanglish, notepad writing and hand gestures going on, but at the end of the day, I was able to get around just fine.

South America is officially my 6th continent covered and only Antarctica remains. In a way, I can say that I’ve now travelled to all of the habitable continents on Earth. So, before the onslaught of my in-depth posts comes about, I will just give you a quick overview of the places I went to. The first stop was a long layover in Bogota, Colombia, then Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, then both Brazilian and Argentinian sides of Iguazu Falls, then to Cusco and Machu Picchu, Peru and then finally Lima, Peru.

I cannot wait to show all of your my photographs and tell you about my travels to South America!

Best,

SC

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