Brasilia – a tribute to Oscar Niemeyer and an hour in Singapore

09 May – 13 May 2014

The capital of Brazil, Brasilia (not Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo). I arrived earlyish in the morning, and my CouchSurfing host, Fredson very kindly came to pick me up from the bus station to take me to his place. After a quick shower and a change of clothes, Fredson dropped me off at his workplace, close to the “centre” of Brasilia, with a couple of tips about things to see and a promise to meet me after work. The thing about Brasilia is that there is no real centre, in the way other cities have centres.

Brasilia is a huge, sprawling city,

Huge, sprawling city indeed Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

Huge, sprawling city indeed
Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

built on absolutely nothing in the middle of absolutely nowhere (locals say Brasilia’s odd location was strategically chosen to dissuade discontented citizens from launching an attack on the city). When the then president Kubitschek conceived the idea of Brasilia, he imagined a rich and prosperous city where the common mode of transport would be the personal automobile. Obviously, his slogan for Brasilia “Fifty years of progress in five” didn’t quite come to fruition, as even today, lots of people in Brasilia don’t own any personal automobiles,

Some people don't even have places to stay. Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

Some people don’t even have places to stay.
Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

which has led to Brasilia developing an extensive bus network. Anyway, the point is. Brasilia is not a pedestrian friendly city. My exploration of Brasilia hence had to be spread out over a few days, and on the first, I decided to walk towards the “head” of the airplane (Brasilia is designed in the shape of an airplane, with the body called the Monumental Axis – home to many monuments and office buildings, and the wings being where the residential areas are concentrated).

With odd buildings. Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

Brasilia, of the odd buildings.
Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

It was a long, but thankfully interesting enough walk,

Weird building, thy home is Brasilia! Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

Weird building, thy home is Brasilia!
Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

with lots of quirky monuments to marvel at.

UFO masquerading as the national museum Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

UFO masquerading as the national museum
Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

Massive alien doves. Also masquerading as a museum. Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

Massive alien doves. Also masquerading as a museum.
Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

Brasilia, besides being the capital of Brazil, also stands as a tribute to Oscar Niemeyer, Brazil’s famed, if eccentric architect.

Winner of the strangest church in the world award. Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

Winner of the strangest church in the world award.
Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

Because pillars shouldn't be straight. Or columns. Or anything mankind has ever seen before. Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

Because pillars shouldn’t be straight. Or columns. Or anything mankind has ever seen before.
Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

If there’s an odd-looking building in Brasilia, chances are Niemeyer designed it – as chief architect in the Build Brasilia project, Niemeyer was given practically free reign over most of the buildings and accordingly, flavoured them with his unique touch.

How much oddity can one city hold? Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

How much oddity can one city hold?
Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

Yup. we're weird. Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

Yup. we like oddly-shaped buildings.
Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

The day went by quite quickly,

Brazilllllllll Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

Brazilllllllll
Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

A more normal looking odd building Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

A more normal looking odd building
Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

with the amount of walking I had to do to get the head of the airplane

United, we stand Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

United, we stand
Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

Nice sunny day it was. Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

Nice sunny day it was.
Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

and back

Flags of the various Brazilian states Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

Flags of the various Brazilian states
Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

and that evening, Fredson invited me along for his birthday celebrations with his friends. His friends turned out to be quite a jovial bunch, although I didn’t quite get most of the conversation which was in Portuguese. Still, it was fun (and I forgot to take pictures as usual).

The next day, Sarita, Fredson’s flatmate who works at the Finnish Embassy, invited us to go to a Europe Fair hosted by some of the European embassies, so Fredson and I dropped by for a bit, before I continued with my aimless wanderings. I went to a random park/garden that was huge (like everything else in Brasilia) and wandered around for a while,

Even the parks are dotted with odd sculptures Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

Even the parks are dotted with odd sculptures
Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

feeling quite sorry for the park that was kinda lacking in vegetation due to the hot and dry climate of Brasilia.

Even the trees were sad looking :( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCYcHz2k5x0

Even the trees were sad looking 😦
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCYcHz2k5x0

I eventually

After passing by random buildings Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

After passing by another random UFO
Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

arrived at the huge football stadium where some World Cup 2014 matches were going to be held, and just my luck – there was a match about to be played between two national teams!

It reminds me of the Colosseum in Rome Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

It reminds me of the Colosseum in Rome
Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

I was just standing around, watching the spectators stream into the stadium when a random kind stranger offered me an extra ticket he had. I thought – hey, why not? Especially since I wasn’t going to be around for the World Cup itself.

Not a sold-out match, by any stretch of the imagination Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

Not a sold-out match, by any stretch of the imagination
Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

It turned out to be quite fun, surrounded by ardent fans of a losing team, who kept yelling encouragement and tactical advice to the footballers, and occasionally breaking out into song. That was pretty much the end of my day,

There was a random circus of sorts in a field nearby on the way home Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

There was a random circus of sorts in a field nearby on the way home
Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

and I spent the evening watching the latest episode of Game of Thrones with Fredson and Sarita. TV transcends borders 😉

Unfortunately, I didn't get to go up the TV tower to get a view of the entire city as it was under construction Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

Too bad, I didn’t get to go up the TV tower to get a view of the entire city – it was under construction
Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

Day 3 in Brasilia was time for me to cover the last section of the body of the airplane. Feeling a little more wise (and confident of my bus-taking abilities), I rode the bus all the way to the end of the strip to check out a cute little church there,courtesy of Niemeyer.

A triangle. As a church. Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

A triangle. As a church.
Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

I enjoyed the walk back to the bus terminal, stopping along the way at a monument to Kubitschek

Kubitschek and his wife, immortalized. Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

Kubitschek and his wife, immortalized.
Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

and an indigenous museum,

Pretty cool stuff Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

Pretty cool stuff
Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

Gorgeous colours Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

Gorgeous colours of woven baskets
Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

amongst other things.

Site of the first mass held in Brasilia Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

Site of the first mass held in Brasilia
Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

Lone palm tree Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

A lone palm tree – at the Palacio do Buriti
Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

Bust of a man, in the middle of not-really-anything Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

Bust of a man, in the middle of not-really-anything
Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

Cool tree Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

Cool tree propping itself up
Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

The planetarium where I listened to a lecture on constellations in Portuguese. Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

Near the planetarium where I listened to a lecture on constellations in Portuguese.
Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

More randomness Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

More randomness
Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

Fredson wanted to show Sarita and me the sunset from a great spot he knew of on the other side of the lake, so I headed over to meet them in the afternoon, satisfied with having checked out most of the monuments in the centre strip of Brasilia. The other side of the (man-made) lake was quite beautiful, with lots of space for families to hang out just by the lake.

This is what Brazilian families do Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

This is what Brazilian families do
Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

The sunset was also gorgeous, and it was a good way to end the day.

Sunset! Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

Sunset!
Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

Unfortunately, my tummy decided that I had been having too many good days, and decided to act up on me that night. I threw up my dinner and several bottles of water before settling down for a feverish night. I wasn’t feeling much better the next day, so I lounged around at home for the most part, trying to organize the most important part of my trip to Brasilia – my trip to the Singapore embassy. To cut a long story short, I arranged for my bank to courier the replacement for the credit card I had lost/cancelled in Chile several months ago to the Singapore Embassy in Brasilia so that I could pick it up from there. After a bunch of emails back and forth from Embassy Dude (Darius Lim), I finally managed to set up a meeting with him to get my credit card the next day.

Thankfully, by the next day, my tummy was feeling tones better and I decided to head to the interstate bus terminal to buy my bus ticket to Campo Grande, in Mato Grosso do Sul where I had my next Workaway stint lined up, before heading to the Singapore embassy. Thanks to the meticulous organization of Brasilia into sectors, all the embassies are located in roughly the same area, so I took a detour to the Bolivian embassy, the next country on my itinerary, to check out the visa requirements. That turned out to be quite an unpleasant visit, with the embassy representative informing me that I needed all sorts of rubbishy documents (read: certificate of criminal records, only obtainable from the Singapore Police Department) and 2 weeks processing time to get my visa. Well, there was nothing I could do since I was leaving that day, so I quite dejectedly left and made my way to the Singapore embassy. Sweet taste of home. Well, not really but anyway. I got my credit card (Yay!) and when I explained my Bolivian visa crisis to Embassy Dude, he informed me quite apologetically that other Singaporeans had tried to get the Bolivian visa as well, only to be stumped by the requirement for the certificate of criminal records. He very did very helpfully take my fingerprints for me in case I decided to send them to Singapore and get them verified by the Police Department for them to issue me the certificate, so I left the Singapore embassy with one credit card, and one set of fingerprints, should I ever need to use them.

Home? Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

Home?
Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

Well, my mission in Brasilia finally accomplished, I packed up my stuff, bid farewell to my very nice host, Fredson, and his flatmates and off I went to Campo Grande!

***Bonus! My impressions of Brasilia, written during my stay there.***

Brasilia – My Impressions

I’ve been in Brasilia for three days. These are my impressions

  1. It is a huge city, definitely not built for pedestrians. Public transport, while seemingly comprehensive, is also incomprehensible to the average tourist.

    Which is why everyone has cars...duh! Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

    Which is why everyone has cars…duh!
    Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

  2. It feels like something out of George Orwell’s 1984. Very organized and structured, it’s supposed to be a symbol of modernity and human willpower (to create something out of nothing), but I just get the sense that it’s too rigid, clinical and something rather unimaginative.

    Slabs of concrete are all the rage Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

    Slabs of concrete are all the rage
    Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

  3. Which brings me to my next point – because all the buildings in Brasilia look the same. Apart from some iconic works by our crazed “genius” Oscar Niemeyer, all the buildings are almost exactly the same. In the residential areas, this makes it really easy to get lost. Add in the fact that the streets don’t have names, just numbers, and you have the recipe for lots of lost tourists.

    Building 1 = Building 2 = Building 3 = ... Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

    Building 1 = Building 2 = Building 3 = …
    Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

  4. The city is a tribute to Oscar Niemeyer. If a building looks like it wasn’t mass produced but instead belongs in a sci-fi film, chances are Niemeyer designed it.

    Even his bridges are weird Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

    Even his bridges are weird
    Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

  5. There are no dogs/cats/stray animals on the street. It is so strange. Not many people have pets either, and those who do, keep them very securely leashed. It’s like Brasilia isn’t even part of Brazil, with its numerous strays and people who let their pets run wild.

    Perfect place for dog-walking. Except there aren't any dogs. Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

    Perfect place for dog-walking. Except there aren’t any dogs.
    Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

  6. People are rather odd here. Not that they are weird or anything of that sort, but it definitely is true that people aren’t as friendly here. People seem…more fake.

    But the nuts who put hangers on street signs give me hope. Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

    But the nuts who put hangers on street signs give me hope.
    Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

  7. Everything is expensive.

    Except selfies. Selfies are free. Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

    Except selfies. Selfies are free.
    Brasilia, Brazil, May 2014

Advertisements

One thought on “Brasilia – a tribute to Oscar Niemeyer and an hour in Singapore

  1. Love reading these posts of yours! And happy to see you got back to Singapore safe and sound, I’m back in Finland now too. Hugs!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s