My Favourite Spots in Rio – Vol 2

Some of the great spots in Rio, continued.

Mosteiro de São Bento

This is one of the prettiest monasteries I have seen. Build in 1590 by Benedictine monks it is still operational today. The gold-leaf interiors decorate the walls from top to bottom in a majestic but not tacky way. The ceiling is made from jacaranda – one the most precious granite stones in the world. Most importantly, one gets a sense of total peace there. This is a beautiful spot to take a few minutes off from the bustling centre of Rio.

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My Favourite Spots in Rio – Vol 1

We had two weeks in Rio so plenty of time to explore the city. Here are some of the spots I liked, without any order of preference.

Cactus garden in Botanical Garden

I can recommend a visit to Jardim Botânico to anyone who finds themselves in Rio. They cover a large area with different sections where one can see things like Atlantic Forest, orchids and water lilies. We even saw some capuchin monkeys lurking in the trees. And it costs only BRL10 to visit.

My favourite though was an extensive cactus garden they have. I haven’t seen so many different cacti anywhere before. I am really fond of these plants who survive in the minimalistic settings for long time (like years with me and Markus). And they just have this raw beauty and grace in them that pleases the eye.

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Sugarloaf Mountain – Stunning Views over Rio

Our visit to this landmark of Rio happened rather spontaneously after a rainy morning turned into a sunny afternoon. One of the first advices we got after arriving to Rio: If you get few hours of sunshine, use them as they might not last. So we saw an opportunity on the move and grabbed it.

First, I want to say few words about the surrounding area. Next to the Sugarloaf Mountain is a smaller hill called “Morro da Urca” that one must reach before getting to the actual mountain. The classic way to reach the Sugarloaf Mountain (SLM) is to take two cable cars, first to the Morro da Urca and second one leading to the top of the SLM.

The alternative way is to hike to the top of the Morro da Urca and then take the cable car for the second leg of the journey. That is what we did.

We started our journey from the beach at the base of the hills. It is so beautiful there – we only regretted not having time to lie around and enjoy the sun.

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Four Nights in Bangkok

I do apologies for the title, but truth is we don’t have much to report from our stay in Bangkok. We’ve been to Thailand some three years ago, so didn’t feel the pressure to do sightseeing. Instead, we enjoyed the luxury of our five star hotel (which cost us about the same price as our tiny windowless box in Singapore) and spent the days working.

Luckily, we have friends everywhere. Patanon, one of Natalia’s course mates from London, returned home to Bangkok after his year in the UK, so was now happy to show us around some of the better hidden temples.

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First Days in Rio

A couple of days have passed since we arrived here and I can say we are falling in love with Rio. It is a city filled with good vibe, happy people, good food and live music. Not to mention the most beautiful beachfronts we have seen. Prior our arrival we heard many warnings on how it is dangerous it is here for tourists from gun point robberies to scams with ATMs. So we were quite stressed out landing here and taking a taxi ride to Copacabana where we rented a flat through AirBnB. But our fears were quickly dissolved when we met our AirBnB host Guta who is a true Carioca (a person born and raised in Rio) and a very nice person. She told us that Rio is not that dangerous when we just use common sense such as not going on dark side streets and not carrying cameras/phones in our hands and so on. So far we haven’t felt at all uncomfortable and are now enjoying relaxing stay.

Local life in block of flats

We live in a residential building right off the Copacabana beach. The flat we have is very nice – see Guta’s listing. She also has her own YouTube channel. Some quirky little details, do stay here when you visit Rio.

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Travelling in Germany

Just few notes from my experiences about travelling in Germany as I know some of you might be travelling there soon.

Relatively cheap food and drinks

This is one of the first things I noticed after staying a week in Finland. Food and drinks are relatively cheap compared to Scandinavia and London. For example coffee and sandwich are about EUR4, half price what you would pay on average in Helsinki – very nice. Beer price is really low – for good beer it is normal to pay somewhere between EUR2-4 depending on the place. So yes, you don’t need too big food budget in Germany.

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Singapore Zoo – Meet the Animals in their Natural Habitat

Markus and I really love visiting zoos and going out of town to visit one in Singapore was totally worth it – it turned out to be one of the best zoos we have been. They really try and recreate a natural habitat for animals and in many cases one can just walk around and observe animals that are not behind bars like in typical zoo. They also have a great variety of species. I guess being at the equator the natural conditions of many animals are easy to recreate. Please meet some of the animals we met there for the very first time.

Proboscis monkey

This long nosed monkey reminded me so much of Pinocchio. Except that for them the nose is not connected to lying but to sexual attractiveness. The longer the nose of the male monkey the more attractive he is to females. These monkeys are only found in Borneo.

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Singapore Botanic Gardens – Perfect Oasis for Free

One other great thing about Singapore are botanical gardens that are the only ones in the tropics to be UNESCO World Heritage Site. After spending several hours there we could perfectly understand why. The plant variety is incredible and so is attention to detail. Little statues and sculptures emerge in every little corner to complete the picture. They also are free to enter – very nice addition in a very expensive city like Singapore.

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Dresden – a Beautiful City of Baroque Architecture and Funky Art Scene

Few things to mention before getting to Dresden. The convenience of flying within Schengen zone – this becomes even more apparent after travelling outside Europe where we spend many hours queuing in border checks. Now we flew from Helsinki to Prague – so smooth, absolutely zero minutes wasted in clearing immigration. If only people would remember this when they talked about European Union.

Second it is nice to be back to Europe where things are familiar, organised, and predictable. You should have seen the delight on Markus’s face when we arrived at German autobahn and he could hit the gas pedal. The joy of driving over 110km/h. Also seeing an old Trabbi got him quite excited.

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We did our day trip the smart way. We stayed at the cheap “pension” close to the border on Czech side and then drove 45 min to Dresden thus avoiding high accommodation costs in Dresden. Read More »

A Journey in Numbers

Since we’re back in Europe for a couple of weeks, I thought it’s time for small résumé. Being a mathematician, the only way I could think of was doing it in numbers…

5 months on the road

We left London on December 6 and touched down in Helsinki on May 8. It’s not even been that long, but our time in London already feels like a different life in the distant past.

10 countries visited

Namely: Australia, New Zealand, Philippines, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and Thailand. Granted, Hong Kong and Macau are special administrative regions of China, not sovereign countries, but they handle their own immigration, which brings me to my next point. Read More »