That One Time I Haphazardly Jumped On A Bus To São Paulo

In Blog, Brazil, South America, Storytelling by Kay2 Comments

There came a time when I was a little bit tired of the daily routine. Of course, Rio de Janeiro is a city full of things to do, and to say I have done everything there is to do would be an absolute lie, but as a girl with a traveler’s heart I felt that it was time to breathe some new air. After all, Brazil is a vast country, and I have realized recently that I need to take more time to get to know the country as a whole.

So what did I do? I jumped into a bus after my last class on Friday and went to São Paulo, Brazil’s largest and most diverse city. Just six hours away, my bus ride consisted of some energized conversation, a balmy nap, and some pastoral scenery.

Part of the São Paulo skyline.


And then, close to 11 PM, I arrived in the city. Hoping to take a metro to my hostel, I walked towards the metro station only to see a line stretched far from the ticket window. I, of course, didn’t have a ticket yet, so I waited a bit longer than 30 minutes to buy my tickets. Worried that this was how the lines in the city always were, I bought five metro tickets at once. This ended up being a really good idea.

I realized that I really didn’t plan ahead as much as I should have. I ended up having to ask a couple of different people for directions then, finally, after realizing that it was well past midnight at this point, flagged down a cab and told him the address. My hostel ended up being only about 5 minutes away, and as I got out of the cab the driver laughed at me a little bit, flipping through the couple of wrinkled bills I offered him.

That’s what I get for being absolutely directionless.

A Pretty Snazzy Hostel

During my time in São Paulo, I stayed at the fabulous Brazilodge All Suites Hostel, a modern, beautiful, conceptual hostel located in the Vila Mariana bairro of the city. I was lucky enough to have met the owner Simone and her daughter Rafaela while I was there, and they were the sunniest, sweetest people. It was certainly a comfortable stay, despite my odd arrival schedule. (Plus, they had a wonderful breakfast!) when I go to São Paulo again at the end of the month, I will definitely be staying here.

A delicious breakfast to start off my day.


Hang out area outdoors, which was perfect for the perfect weather that greeted me!


Hang out area with a pool table.

While I was eating breakfast, I met a lovely family from Luxembourg (originally from Belgium) and conversed with them for a good while. They were so sweet and well-traveled, and they had lived in the state of Rio de Janeiro before for a while! It was so cool meeting other foreigners living in Brazil, and their son, Nicholas, was absolutely adorable! Of course, I invited them to take a classic Snapdragon photo, to which they quickly and happily agreed.

The wonderful family I met during breakfast.

Welcome to Japan…in Brazil?!

But of course, at this point I realized I was enjoying my time in the hostel so much, I hadn’t even set out to see the city yet! Feeling a strong urge for Japanese food, I set out to see the largely Japanese neighborhood of the city, Liberdade. Just a quick metro ride away from Ana Rosa, our metro stop, it only took about 10 minutes to get there. What greeted me was certainly a surprise!

The neighborhood of Liberdade in São Paulo, Brazil.


Home to the largest population of Japanese people outside of Japan, São Paulo is definitely the place to go for a taste of Asia in South America. Lantern-style lights hung over the streets as market booths selling Japanese-style art, temaki hand rolls, and cheap electronics lined the sidewalks. There were oriental stories and Asian people everywhere! Now I realized just why many Brazilians think that every Asian is Japanese – because the influence of the Japanese in their largest city is HUGE. Beautiful home decor possibilities and gift ideas were standing right in front of me, and I really had to resist buying these pieces for my imaginary future apartment. Oh well…such is the life of a traveler!

The street market in Liberdade, selling all kinds of Japanese-inspired goods.


Japanese lanterns sold at the market – perfect for a college dorm!


Even the banks and official buildings are decorated in a Japanese way!


After walking around for a little while, I heard violin music ringing around the corner. Stopping to look and listen, I found an elderly man playing a worn violin. I dropped a few reais in his case, telling him that I, too, play violin. He stopped playing and asked me to perform something. I was embarrassed – having not played violin in months, my skills were certainly not performance-worthy, and there were a lot of spectators. But, it seemed like a fun crowd, so I finally picked up the instrument after much urging from Sergio, the man who had been playing before.


Me playing violin in São Paulo


Sergio, my new violin-playing friend.

Some of the spectators ended up being some teenage boys, one named Rafael who was learning English. Immediately after I stopped playing, he asked where I was from. We ended up walking around for a while and conversing, and I snapped a photo of them with Snapdragon as well!

Snapdragon with her new friends in Liberdade!

And of course, I sought out some lunch. Finally, I stumbled upon a Japanese garden bordering an overpass and ended up buying a hand roll, or as they call it, temaki. It was a crowded little place, full of both tourists and locals alike, but I thought to myself as I munched on my Japanese food sitting by a koi pond, I guess it’s pretty cool that I am pretty much in Japan…in Brazil. 

My lunch – a salmon temaki hand roll.


Making the temaki right in front of me!


A snapshot of the koi pond at the Japanese garden in Liberdade.

And A Night Out in São Paulo to Top It All Off

Like I mentioned earlier, I met Rafaela at my hostel and after conversing a while in the morning, we decided we would make plans to go out that night in Vila Madalena, the city’s artsy eclectic district. It reminded me a lot of Austin, Texas, with its beautiful graffiti and wonderfully decorated bars, shops, and restaurants. After meeting Rafaela and her friend Kathleen at the hostel, we left for the area.

There was such a fantastic and lively energy here at night, with bars scattered all over the place and young people crowding the streets. We decided on a cute little sit down bar called Seu Domingos, which has delicious bolinhos and snacks as well as drinks. We sat and conversed (in Portuguese of course) about boys, life, friends, and of course, travel. It was actually really nice having the opportunity to sit down with people I had just met and converse as if we had known each other forever.

Seu Domingos


New friends – Rafaela and Kathleen 🙂

After we started to grow tired, we drove home blasting Ed Sheeran and Brazilian rock out the rolled-down windows, soaking in the beauty and tranquility of nighttime in São Paulo. The cool air filled our lungs as we laughed and enjoyed the last bit of this marvelous night.

Thank you to Brazilodge All Suites Hostel for hosting me in São Paulo. As per usual, all of the opinions in this article are 100% my own.

Have you ever been to São Paulo? What did you think? Leave your suggestions and stories in the comments!

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  1. After spending so much time in Japan, I think it would be really fun to visit São Paulo! Def adding that to my list of places to visit now. 🙂

  2. Hey Kay, I just listened to your interview at The Amateur Traveller about living in Rio and I’m delighted with your experiences! Now I’m happier to see that you came to São Paulo and got a glimpse of what is this amazing and huge megalopolis!
    If you ever come here again and you want to chat or get to know some other sides of city, contact me! I would love to meet you! =)
    I was a exchange student at the US too and I know how important it is every experience we have during this time, so I’m available to help if you need something, ok?
    Hugs and keep posting!!

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