Rio de Janeiro 2020 Day 8-9-10 Flight to Rome and flight back to Singapore, Home Sweet Home

I quickly got into a hot bath (to warm up after a night exposed to the cold rain) and changed into a set of new clothes and went for breakfast at the hotel. It was only one round of food at the buffet and then I was back in the room, sleeping.

Main breakfast
Some fruits

Woke up at around 1030 after 4hrs of shut eye but sat on the bed till it was only 15mins left to check out at 12. Rushed to get a quick bath and packed up before proceeded to check out. Left my luggage at the storage and went out for lunch, at a certain Churrosaria called Braseiro just on the street behind the hotel. Ordered a mixed meat and rice and fries and it turned out too much for me. Had a really full and pretty delicious lunch, and on top of it, made acquaintance with one of customers, a German who stayed in Brazil. He started a conversation with me and we had a nice exchange. I left the restaurant after paying around 100reals and at the start of a drizzle.

On the inside, eating next to the kitchen
Main dish with various meat portions
Rice and fries
Braseiro restaurant

Got my luggage and went to book an uber to the airport for 80reals and since I had spare cash, I paid in cash in which the driver requested that we deal in private which I agreed. Then again I fell asleep until we reached the airport.

Checked in at Alitalia and proceeded to the departures. Bought coffee powder from Brazil (again from Britt shop) before boarding the plane.

Rio de Janeiro Airport
On the inside
Walking through the large retail section
Cute M&M’s in Brazilian outfit
There were 3 levels of airport

The 12hrs flight to Rome was a blur as I slept most of the way there. I managed to catch a movie called Ready or Not that had a really weird plot and continued to go back to sleep.

Flying out from Rio
Arrival into Rome

After 12hours of flying I landed into a very cold Rome and while it was fully possible to go visit the Colosseum just for kicks, I gave up that idea and went to do some designer brand shopping and use the lounge (Passenger lounge) since I was flying business class home.

Rome Airport
I loved the automated gate to speed through the immigrations
Express blue lane
Huge duty free for shoppig
It was my first time here in Rome’s ultra modern airport.
More shopping
Taking the train to the gate
The way to the lounge
Passenger Lounge

The lounge was ok, nothing particularly amazing with simple foodstuff and drinks. Then it was boarding time and seated at the luxurious business class of Singapore Airlines, I felt so indulged! The seats were so much better than the other business class seats I had taken throughout the trip ( they were domestic though but still), the service was excellent and the facilities were just awesome. I caught the Ford vs Ferrari show which was quite nice though I fell asleep a couple of times. Even the stewardess also noticed that I was particularly tired in which I shared about the flight I had previously. But I supposed the nice thing here was the care demonstrated by them that set The Singapore Girl above the rest!

Lounge had a nice design
What I had at the lounge
Ultra huge screen at business class

I set my seat to a full flat bed and sleep most of the journey and it was the best sleep I ever had on a plane. I woke up very much rested and with the breakfast and coffee, I was ready to get back home fresh. I spent the remainder time to jot down my memories from Lima to the last day (as I had been slacking and too tired to do so for the last 2days). We landed 30mins ahead of schedule, calling an end to my first trip to South America.

Fully horizontal converted bed to sleep
Breakfast was fantastic
More fruits
Yoghurt to complete

This trip was planned as a solo trip to the South America as I so wanted to see and visit a new continent and see the 7 wonders like Machu Picchu, in which, my last visit was the Taj Mahal in India many years back. However, there were just too much concerns over travel for a family that it would be easier for myself to go alone. And so I did, timing it within the week where my wife would be more free with her time and also with the carnival parade. I came back home with head full of memories, unforgettable experiences and myths debunked on how dangerous these places were. I will be back and with my family the next time.

Rio de Janeiro 2020 Day 7 – Copacabana beach, Rio de Janeiro day tour to Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf Mountain and Carnaval Champions Parade.

The flight touched down into Rio De Janeiro without much issues and on time. After taking my luggage and withdrawing cash from the ATM (which I did for the last 2 countries since I stored all my USD in the Youtrip card), I walked from the newer modern terminal 2 to older terminal 1 in a bid to search for the airport hotel called Rio Aeroporto Hotel. It was quite a long walk but when I did arrive, the staff told me that they were fully booked and there was another hotel nearby called the Linx hotel that was outside the airport where I could take a shuttle bus from Terminal 2. I made my way back again and thought I am not going spend anymore time there around the airport area and Uber straight to Pestana Rio Atlântica hotel, 30mins ride away, for almost R$40, slightly more than SGD$12.

Flying into Rio de Janeiro
Information board on the transportation options in Rio
Huge duty free store
Rio Terminal 2
Path to Terminal 1
Older Terminal 1
Rio Aeroporto Hotel
Gate at Terminal 2 for Uber pick up

Went to the reception to check in knowing very well that the room would not be ready but tried anyway. Asked if there were days rates available and was informed that they were fully booked too. I could however used the toilets on a certain level to freshen up and change to another set of clothes. At least that was better than nothing so I did just that, at the 2nd level where typically the convention rooms were situated and thus no human traffic at that time. I used the toilet which was not in the best of conditions and returned my bags to be kept at the bell.

Pestana reception desk
Pestana ground floor
Where’s the close button?

I was also asking if the reception could help with receipt of my Carnaval tickets that supposedly were to be delivered today by the ticket company but they confirmed they couldn’t. They would normally agree for other documents but not for Carnaval tickets, with the same explanations that the tickets were of high value. However, I asked them to at least transfer the message to the tickets delivery personnel that they should return in the afternoon since I was going to be out on a Rio day tour in the morning.

I went to the Copacabana beach to take a walk and took some photos in the gloomy day, all the while being a little cautious about my surroundings fearing that someone would mug me from all the stories online. But while I was there, there weren’t even anyone remotely close to me and found that those feelings were quite uncalled for. After a short walk, I went around the area to find breakfast as the one offered by the hotel was for 42reals but it didn’t looked so good and I was not going to have 2 days of that.

Long stretch of sand to my left….
…and my right

Luckily as I walked around, I saw Santa Marta that looked like a bakery store on the outside and while inside, there were tables like a restaurant. The staff inside invited me in and as I looked at the large variety of pastries and confectionary, another staff helped me take order. Got myself what looked like pizza, a tart and an americano for 20something reals.

Pestana hotel front
Inside Santa Marta
A slice of pizza
A fruit tart
And the much needed caffeine
Santa Marta, eat in bakery

I returned to the hotel and went to the bar and pool at the topmost floor to admire the view of the Copacabana beach. Took some photos and then returned to the lobby. It was there that I met the tour guide Monica from Rio Carioca who was 30mins early. I got onboard the bus and while we made our way to another hotel, I fell asleep for a short time.

Panoramic view of Copacabana from the pool
The left side view from the pool level
Top of the hotel pool
Sun loungers with a view
Gym room with a view too

It wasn’t long before we got 4 groups of people including myself, 2 of which were Spanish speaking and 2 English. That meant the guide had to talk about the same thing 2 times in different languages!

The first visit was to the Corvocado, where Christ the Redeemer stood. The guide explained the history of Copacabana beach and its development to where it was today. She also went on to described how the statue became where it was today and how it designed and ended up as it was today. Our bus took us all the way to the top where the ticket counter was. Then the guide went to get the tickets before we went to queue for the shuttle bus (no access to private vehicles) to the top. It was a short 5mins trip up after which we alighted and boarded an elevator to where the statue was standing. Immediately after the exit, the majestic view of the entire 30m tall back of the statue came into view. Another few more escalators up and then there was where it got very crowded! People all over the place were trying to get their photos with/of the Redeemer, one of the New 7 Wonders. I took a few selfies and the guide took some photos for me. There was a good view of the beaches and Sugarloaf Mountain from here but the fog was covering everything and so I couldn’t get a postcard perfect shot.

Normal zoom of the Redeemer from ground level
Super zoom from the tour bus
View from the ticket level
Where the tickets were sold and also the souvenir shop
Tickets to the Redeemer
Shuttle bus that came back from the Redeemer
Direction to boarding of the shuttle bus
An interesting reuse of gigantic old tree trunk
While inside the shuttle bus
Elevator to the Redeemer
Panoramic view of the surrounding from the Redeemer level
Huge statue towering above
The real crowded scene
Another Panoramic view of the surrounding but the clouds…

We met at the bottom of the elevator at the agreed time (after I messed up the meeting place and realized no one was there and went to the right one) and proceeded to board the shuttle bus and take the route back to the ticket office level. From there, our bus brought us to the next location, Sugarloaf Mountain.

Old Aqueduct
Caixa da Mãe D’água – Mother of water box
Location of the train station to Redeemer, at Rua Cosme Velho, 513
This is a TV station with so many satelites
Palácio Guanabara from the bus

It was about a 30mins drive to Sugarloaf Mountain and similarly, we alighted to wait for the guide to get the tickets for the cable car. Then it’s up to the cable car station where a huge gondola would carry like a truckload of people to the first location called Urca Hill and then a second station transfer to the taller Sugarloaf Mountain. The guide led us directly to the Sugarloaf Mountain where the view was simply amazing. We could see the beaches and the Redeemer plus the islands all around. Spent about 30mins there before returning to the Urca Hill where we took a group photo with the Sugarloaf Mountain. There was a Havaianas store but I couldn’t get the size for the model I wanted. That was then the end of the tour, we took the cable car back down to the ground level where some of the groups wanted to be left there to continue on their own tour of Rio while the rest of us shuttled back to the hotel. I bade farewell to the guide upon arrival at Pestana and tipped her 50reals.

Cable car station at the ground floor
Heading to the cable car station to board the cable car
View of the rope to the top
Cable car tickets
Picture of an old cable car
Brasil plant, where the name of the country originated
Panoramic view from the Urca Hill
Walking to the next cable car station to the Sugarloaf mountain
The cable car station to the Sugarloaf mountain
Our ride arrived
Panoramic view of the Copacabana beach
Another panoramic view
And another view
The engineer behind all the amazing cable car
Gears going around all day
View of Sugarloaf Mountain from Urca Hill
Samples of the cable cars now and from the past
And I have the pleasure shaking his hand
Interesting monkey spotted…
while on the way to the cable car

I was able to check in this time around and was given a room on the 8th floor with a partial view of the beach. I guessed the room would have had a perfect sunrise view but the gloomy weather wasn’t letting me have it. I took a bath and went to bed, as the lack of sleep on the plane previously was hitting me.

My room
Small window but a nice wallpaper
View from the window

The next time I woke up, it was when my room phone rang and I was informed over the call that the delivery person had arrived and was at the reception. I went down to sign for my tickets and returned back to the room to leave all these important stuff into the safe before heading out for a late lunch. Found a Bibi Sucos fast food restaurant and ordered the grilled chicken with rice and mixed vegetables and juice for 40something reals. The food was not bad in my opinion.

My carnaval tickets and lanyard
Inside the restaurant
Main meal
With a juice smoothie
Bibi Sucos restaurant

I went to the Havaianas store nearest to the restaurant but there I couldn’t find the sizes as well. However, there was another one just a couple of hundred meters away which was bigger as informed by the staff and went there and got what I wanted! I returned to the hotel and continued to sleep as my helicopter tour that I had reserved with Rio2fly was cancelled due to the weather. I didn’t have anything else and was too tired to go to the beach (and the weather didn’t help!).

One of the many streets at Copacabana
The big Havaianas store

The pick up for my Carnaval parade was at 830pm and I went down just in time as I met the attendant who brought me onto a big 40 seater bus. The bus then travelled some distance before I was transferred to another bus but one with bigger seats. From there, it was the journey to the Sambadrome. We arrived into a really crowded place with so many people turning up for the Champions’ Parade, the last day of the Carnaval. There were many people who came dressed up as well.

My first bus
Change over to another bus
Bus with more spacious seats. Notice the Red Indian headgear
Disembarked and joined a crowd entering the Sambadrome
The entire area had many different decorations
And many stalls lined the area

I entered through the sector 7 entrance and the staff led me to my seat at boxed area with a shelter. There were some people already there in the box but we were all sharing that area.

Panoramic view of Sambadrome

I went out to get some dinner in the form of a burger and a beer for 21reals from the bar and returned to the box to eat. The champions parade had 6 schools each given 1hr to parade through and from the start, I was completely loving the whole atmosphere, with all the singing and the singing along (although I didn’t understand any of the words) and the beautiful synchronised drumming; all the samba dancing to the beat of each parade, both out in the parade walkway and within the viewing areas; I was taking lots of photos of the colourful floats and the costumes!

The only major party pooper was the weather. Right from the start the rain had been merciless and came down continuously, drenching everyone out there in the open. Even for myself who was under the shelter, I also got wet as the rain came in from the sides. However, no amount rain was able to extinguish the fiery passion of these paraders and their supporters, who were out there in the open in full force wearing ponchos and samba dancing the night away! I thoroughly enjoyed the night that lasted all the way till 5am in the morning for the last parade by this year’s champions!

Some photos of the schools – Mangueira in 6th position

Fireworks for the school of the every school’s parade

Salgueiro in 5th position

Beija-Flor in 4th position

Mocidade in 3rd position

Grande Rio in 2nd Position

Champions of Carnaval 2020 – Viradouro

The return back to the hotel was a chaotic movement out of the place as hordes of people were making their way out. Thankfully I was still able to find the meeting place for the bus pick up and then after waiting for a little more, I finally boarded the bus and left the Sambadrome. I fell asleep on the bus and by 6am I was back at my hotel.

Escape Plan to Mexico, Peru and Brazil February 2020

A brief summary on the itinerary

Escape Plan to Mexico, Peru and Brazil:

Total duration 10D9N
Singapore is 13hrs ahead of Cancun, Mexico and Lima and Cusco, Peru and 11hrs ahead of Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
Flight time is 17hrs 50mins on Singapore Airlines from Singapore to Newark, New York. 
Flight time from Newark, New York to Cancun is 3hrs 35mins on Viva Aerobus.
Flight time from Cancun to Mexico City is 2hrs 45mins on Aeromexico.
Flight time from Mexico City to Lima is 5hrs 50mins on Aeromexico.
Flight time from Lima to Cusco is 1hrs 21mins on Latam Airlines.
Flight time from Cusco to Lima is 1hrs 30mins on Avianca Airlines.
Flight time from Lima to Rio De Janeiro is 5hrs 10 mins on Avianca Airlines.
Flight time from Rio De Janeiro to Rome is 10hrs on Alitalia Airlines.
Flight time from Rome to Singapore is 11hrs 50mins on Singapore Airlines.

Early morning flight from Singapore to Newark on 23rd Feb at 1250am and arrival in Newark in the morning at 530am on the 23rd Feb.
Same morning flight from Newark to Cancun on the 23rd Feb at 925am and arrival in Cancun at 2pm in the afternoon.
Flight from Cancun to Mexico City on the evening of 24th Feb at 740pm and arrival in Mexico City at 925pm with a transit of 2hrs 30mins and overnight flight to Lima on the 24th Feb night and arrival into Lima at 645am on 25th Feb morning.
Same morning flight at 910am from Lima to Cusco on the 25th Feb and arrival in Cusco on the at 1033am on 25th Feb.
Flight from Cusco to Lima on the morning of 28th Feb at 1055am and arrival in Lima at 1225pm on the 28th Feb.
Same day overnight flight from Lima to Rio de Janeiro in the night of 28th Feb at 930pm and arrive in Rio de Janeiro in the early morning of 29th Feb at 440am.
Flight from Rio de Janeiro to Rome in the afternoon of 1st Mar at 4pm and arrive in Rome in the morning of 2nd Mar at 7am.
Same day flight from Rome to Singapore in the morning of 2nd Mar at 1050am and arrive in Singapore in the early morning of 3rd Mar at 540am.

Cancun Day 1 - Arrival into Cancun, Hotel Zone visit and Chichen Itza light show
Cancun Day 2 Chichen Itza sunrise tour, Ik Kil Cenote, Marlin beach and flight to Lima
Cusco Day 3 Flight to Cusco, Sacsayhuaman, Cusco City and train to Aguas Calientes
Machu Picchu Day 4 - Machu Picchu morning tour, Sun Gate and Inca bridge
Machu Picchu Day 5 - Huayna Picchu, Machu Picchu museum, Aguas Calientes and train to Cusco
Lima Day 6 Cusco walkabout, flight to Lima and Lima tour and flight to Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro Day 7 - Copacabana beach, Rio de Janeiro day tour to Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf Mountain and Carnaval Champions Parade.
Rio de Janeiro Day 8-9-10 Flight to Rome and flight back to Singapore, Home Sweet Home

This escape plan was planned as a solo trip for a couple of reasons. First, my other half does not have enough leave and so I had to go on my own. Second, everyone has an impression that its not safe to travel to Mexico and South America, so I had to go alone first. Lastly, the itinerary is not very enjoyable due to a lot of time spent on traveling so I had to do it alone. I planned it this way because having flown so far away from Singapore to this part of the world, I would want to clear see all the 3 wonders situated around this region so as to get the best out of my time (unfortunately not money)!

Budget nature: Budget Buster

Costs of living was pretty affordable in these places except for the touristy areas. However, due to how I have planned my itinerary. My choices of accommodations include those that were just next to the sites (like Chichen Itza and Machu Picchu) and flights that were inflexible due to the tight schedule and some of these are expensive. International flights flying from countries to countries were expensive too.

Complexity: Difficult

A lot of time was required to plan this to get the best movement. Flight planning was very challenging as not all routes were available country to country (such as from Cancun to Rio de Janeiro) and as I had chose to redeem miles for 2 of my flights, waitlist created some adjustments to my flights. I even screwed up one overnight flight which I bought wrongly resulted in money going down the drain.

I was also timing my itinerary to be within the schedule of 10 days, to fly off on the midnight of Sunday and to return on the early morning to minimize any impact to family time. Also I was also timing to attend the Champions’ Parade of the Rio de Janeiro Carnaval. In trying to visit the 3 wonders, cater for the long journey to and from Machu Picchu and getting to watch the Carnaval, this is one of the most difficult itinerary I have planned to date!