Watching the #FIFAWorldCup2014 in Brazil



Never in my wildest dreams would I have guessed that I would be able to travel to Brazil but with a football fanatic living with me, that was exactly what happened last year (but it almost didn't happen).

Months before the World Cup, our friend, T, diligently watched out for game tickets that were sold on the official World Cup website and managed to buy us tickets to four matches. No, they were not to the Final game but we were happy to even get ANY tickets. Tickets bought had seat numbers already printed so there is no need to fight for the best seats at the stadium. Also, all tickets prices are the same except for those that came with the Hospitality package that cost USD hundreds. (We later met someone with those tickets. All he got was a meal, some signed merchandise and priority seats)

T helped us organize everything from booking of flights to hotels for himself, A, an avid photographer friend, hubby and I. The only city I helped book a room through Airbnb was for our stay at Rio De Janeiro.

Our trip started with some drama when hubby checked his passport on the morning of our departure. He realized that he only had his expired passport and his renewed one was nowhere to be found. Not at his parents home and not in ours. We both started sweating cold sweat. My heart sank as there was a possibility that we would not be able to go at all but I started looking for alternative flights to meet T and A at a later date.

Meanwhile, hubby took my advice and went to the Immigration office to apply for a new passport. By the time he gave up hunting for his passport at both homes, it was around noon. We prayed and hoped that with God's help, the officers would be able to process his application in time. It usually takes a few hours if it was done in the morning but since he went in the afternoon, applications are usually only approved the next day. At around 3pm, the officers asked for a copy of his birth cert (which he left behind) and proof of identity. His colleague managed to send hubby whatever he needed by 4pm.

Our flight was at 11.10pm and we had to be at the airport by 9.10pm. I was a wreck by 4.30pm.

At 5.00pm, hubby sent a message to say that he was having his photograph taken and that could only mean one thing. His application was approved!!!

Then he revealed that he had no Brazil Real and we had to make a stop at the money changers which closes at 7.30pm. This is one of those times I felt I could smack him upside down. I packed our cats up, loaded the car with our luggage (of course, hubby hadn't even started packing so I had to do that too) and drove to my in-laws. There, T's friend picked T and I up to go to the money changer while hubby finished up some urgent work. We finally left my in-laws just after 8pm.

Are you exhausted yet? I was beyond exhausted. By the time, we reached the airport, I looked like a train wreck (unlike my usual cool self!). I'm glad to say it was smooth-sailing from there.

PARIS- SAO PAOLO
From KLIA we had a 4-hour transit in the Paris Airport. Not enough time to visit my pretty Paris city, unfortunately. We were greeted by Neymar (well, his billboard photo, anyway) at the Sao Paulo airport the next evening.


I couldn't find a photo of the billboard ad so this will have to do.

The Brazilians were in high spirits and almost everyone and their grandmother was wearing a Brazilian jersey. After a quick check-in at Ibis hotel, we were too tired to do anything but sleep.

WORLD CUP OPENING MATCH
The next day, after a quick stop at a local mall, we headed to the fan base about 20 minutes drive away which, after following fans around the stadium, we found out that the Live Viewing was not at the stadium at all but 15 min's Metro ride away from the stadium! The fans around the stadium were waiting for the Brazil team bus to arrive so they could cheer them on! They lined streets, filled parks, all for the love of their team. Truly amazing!



A public football field where legends start their training?



The three Malaysian amigos who blended right in with the Brazilians. 
The first thing you notice throughout Brazil is the graffiti on almost every surface-
 even on historical buildings


An entertainer on the Metro who left the passengers in stitches

The three amigos at the actual fan site


The place was packed like a can of sardines

 Babies are brought along to enjoy the historical moment

Blending right in




Practising football skills at the Metro station

The next day, we visited the Estádio Municipal Paulo Machado de Carvalho, though this name never caught on and the people kept referring to the stadium as Pacaembu.

 Estádio do Pacaembu



The football hall of fame

 Historical photos from every FIFA World Cup year


A tribute to football legend, Pele



Everyday objects used as footballs



 The first "real food" restaurant at Miski's

The newspaper vendor where we watched a "Live" game

 A flat out A

Sao Paulo at night





SAO PAULO TO BRASILIA

The next day, we flew to Brasilia to stay with A's cousin and her husband who were so hospitable. We had great Malaysian and Brasilian grub the next two days. And the mad shopping for Brazilian souvenirs began. I've never seen a guy shop that much till this day.



 Souvenirs sold by the road side. Love love love the blue skies in Brazil and especially in Brasilia.
The air is fresh and cool


WORLD CUP GAME 1-Swiss vs Ecuador 

A's cousin had to drop us quite a distance from the stadium as the area was barricaded. We arrived at the drop-off point 45 minutes before game time.

 Friendly fully-armed security (PS/ All officers we saw in Brazil had bulletproof vests on.
 Gave us the jitters at first especially with the crime stories we heard about)



 There was a reaaaaaally long queue starting about 2km from the stadium and it was 20 minutes till game time. Everyone was in good spirits, though







 We're in, finally!




















 The famous TV station


Nice handicraft are sold around the TV station





 Brasilia is known for their underpasses and futuristic buildings



 A's cousin's place 

 T picking his jerseys





 The President's home


BRASILIA TO CUIABA
WORLD CUP GAME 2-Russia vs Korea



 While waiting for the game to start we watched a "Live" game at a car wash opposite the stadium



 Despite the huge Taxi sign here, taxis were a rare sight throughout the whole event

A house opposite the stadium


 My deodorant and compact powder got confiscated here. Apparently, they view them as weapons.
Hmmm..smelly bodies and oily faces must be a trend here.

 The futuristic looking stadium in Cuaiba

 The weather in Brazil is so cool that you don't realize you're getting burnt

BACK TO BRASILIA
WORLD CUP GAME 3 -Colombia vs Ivory Coast 
One more game and more good food





 The sea of fans
 Superheroes and costumed characters are a norm




 Flat Brasilia

More underpasses and beautiful pink flowered trees

 The staircase to heaven

 View from the TV Tower 





 A's cousin and me
 A new rap album cover

 Shops are found in every neighbourhood

 Pizza dinner!

BRASILIA TO RIO DE JANEIRO

 Favelas everywhere. The first favelas appeared in the late 19th century and were built by soldiers who had nowhere to live. Some of the first settlements were called bairros africanos (African neighbourhoods). They were the places where former slaves with no land ownership and no options for work lived. Over the years, many former black slaves moved in.

Even before the first favela came into being, poor citizens were pushed away from the city and forced to live in the far suburbs. However, most modern favelas appeared in the 1970s due to rural exodus, when many people left rural areas of Brazil and moved to cities. Unable to find places to live, many people ended up in favelas



 Our cozy apartment in Rio De Janeiro



 The park opposite the apartment
 Our visit to Santa Teresa just before a game. Unfortunately, most of the shops were closed and the place was quiet. We even almost walked into a favela. A shopkeeper noticed us and warned us not to walk any further into the area, thankfully.

 Santa Teresa (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈsɐ̃tɐ teˈɾezɐ]) is the name of a neighborhood in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It is located on top of the Santa Teresa hill, by the centre of Rio, and is famous for its winding, narrow streets which are a favourite spot for artists and tourists.

The neighborhood originated around the Santa Teresa Convent, built in the 1750s on the Desterro hill. At the end of the 19th and early 20th century it was an upper class borough, as testified by its magnificent mansions, many of which are still standing.

Santa Teresa ceased being an upper-class neighbourhood long ago, but it has been revived as an artistic hotspot. It is home to several artists and art studios and galleries. The offer of restaurants and bars is also varied.

WORLD CUP GAME 4- Belgium vs Russia



 Can I help you?



 The Incredibles!




 The Maracana stadium looking like a UFO from a distance. 

 Feira de São Cristóvão. 
A huge market/fair held in a large, open-topped pavilion that looks a lot like a sports stadium. Inside are almost 700 stalls, bars, restaurants, dance floors, stages, shops, beauty salons, you name it. While there are plenty of shops and stalls selling everything from cooking pans to clothes to traditional Northeastern foods and craftwork, the emphasis is on fun and enjoyment and as soon as you arrive you will sense a real party atmosphere. This is where the locals hang out.






Perched atop the 710 meter (2,330 feet) high peak of Corcovado Peak, the statue of “Cristo Redentor” stands with arms outstretched, gazing serenely out over the city. Construction of the statue began in 1922 during the heyday of the Art Deco movement, and the concrete and soapstone statue is considered the largest statue designed in the genre in the world. Most visitors take a vertical cog train to reach the base of the summit. From there, visitors to the monument once had to climb hundreds of steps to reach the top. Today, elevators and escalators are available to shorten the trip.



Grilled butter prawns...yummmm

 Shops close whenever Brazil plays a match

 Copacabana






THE LAST MORNING IN BRAZIL- SUGARLOAF MOUNTAIN

 15-minute helicopter rides are available if you have a few thousand Ringgit to spare


 A rubbish collector picking rubbish from the sides of the mountain

 The gorgeous view from above


Happy after slushies and coffee


 More queues!




 Heavenly


 Back to the beach opposite the Rio de Janeiro apartment



 A practising his football skills


Fluffy and well fed strays in the park

Considering that this was a football-centric trip, I really enjoyed myself and managed to not glaze over during the matches. I enjoyed watching the first match Swiss vs Ecuador the most.

Before the trip, we heard of news of riots from the locals and armed robberies in broad daylight so I was feeling a little apprehensive but I felt really safe when we were there. Police presence was everywhere (perhaps because of the World Cup) and there were no riots (despite some footage being shown on news channels).

5 Top Things to know about Brazil

1. Most Brazilians Don’t Speak English

2. Brazil is Expensive

.. really expensive! We were traveling around Brazil during the World Cup and the prices were definitely inflated, but Brazil is not a cheap country for budget travelers. We spoke to a lot of other travelers on the road, hotel staff, restaurant owners, and locals and the verdict was the same. Prices in Brazil are not quite as high as London, or NYC, or Sydney, but it is pretty close to prices in Toronto, or smaller cities in US, and in Europe. It’s definitely not as cheap as Eastern Europe and not as cheap as most places in Asia.

3. Renting a Car in Brazil May Not Be the Best Option
It’s all good that you can follow the street signs and the map directions, but sometimes if you don’t know the best route to take, your trip that’s meant to take 20 mins drags out to be 1.5 hr drive. And then you’ve got to find a place to park the car, and pay the parking fee, plus of course add the cost of the gas.

4. Brazilians Cuisine is So Much More Than Rice and Beans
They have plenty of meat! Halal food, however, is a challenge to find. We cooked whenever possible.

5. How to Dance Samba, or Salsa…or Something
Brazilian dance, samba, plays a huge role in the culture of this dynamic and vibrant country. Over the years samba has become popular with all classes of people in Brazil and is to this day “a dance that unites the nation”.  

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