En route to Argentina from Iguazu

bus to argentina
It’s just so incredible to see the word ARGENTINA stretched so casually across the bus front. I mean, ARGENTINA. What I’ve only heard about, I’m actually going to Argentina. Bursting with excitement inwardly on the bus.
Really bad at remembering details, but basically I caught a bus and got off at Brazilian border, got my stamp, got on the next bus there to Argentinean border, got my Argentinean stamp, baggage scanned and checked, then boarded the same bus.
And then, like that, I had arrived in Argentina.

After some rushing I used my remaining reals and got on a bus to Argentina!! Frankly, the previous information I had read up on the buses and all – I realise I abandon aside when I’m here. There’s so many buses at the terminal I simply go to one and if the timing sounds reasonable I get on. This was departing in 10 minutes- and here I am, on a semi-cama to buenos aires!!!!!!!!!!
My life is so good right now, I think to myself as I place both feet at the feet rester of the bus. I love love love love love love this
I take in the Argentinean skies, the Argentinean trees, the Argentinean roads – I’m being melodramatic of course, they weren’t that much different. Still, I’m in Argentina, and I feel ridiculously happy.

Love overland border crossings, they remind me of the kinds of power that humans can infuse upon imaginary lines. Such a beautiful day, I gape excitedly at this unfamiliar landscape as I stay stuck on the bus for the next 18 hours ~
I stare with wonder as 2 Argentinians boarded. Their dressing, the blankets they held, her hoop earrings – I know I’m other-ing, but it’s very interesting.
Such a beautiful day to roll by the Argentinian countryside!!!! I couldn’t help gaping out of the window as the bus passed by. The cars, the buildings; the trees and the orange fruits on the, the pale blue of the sky peppered with white cotton clouds, the orangey texture of the roads. And then you had the cows nibbling the patch of pale green grass. At the front seat you could see the stretch of roads that lay ahead. Love. Amazing isn’t it, to cross some border and arrive in a different environment. The people, the colour of the roads, the sort of cars and colours you see. I suppose these feelings are augmented by the fact that some Spanish music plays in the background of the bus. It makes me feel like I’m in a movie, except this is my life. That felt pretty great.
We tried to converse; my Spanish is shabby (motivated to study harder and more seriously) but I gathered that he did not know where Singapore was (i showed him picture), he prefers the countryside, because the city is loud and for shopping for young people.
Every now and then these men / boy would board the bus and sell bread or biscuits of sorts. Peanuts. I would love some, but I have 0 pesos on me right now. Traded the last of my reals for the bus ticket.
Argentinian families waving bye bye to the bus
When I awoke this morning the skies were in hues of pink and orange. Slowly the blue started to seep in and the ball of rays gently, quietly lifted itself higher. The road sign pointed ahead, ‘buenos aires’. Good morning buenos aires! I stretch from my seat. Also, scratching my hair because I did not have a shower. (Eeeee, yeah yeah…)

Iguazu Falls

beautiful falls
no thought
it was beautiful
and that pretty much sums up my day, which is great
but which also kinda makes me feel meh, like yeah its a really beautiful place but i didn’t actually take away anything in particular
but its beautiful of course
and im very privileged


Cusco lady. I asked her to help me take a photo, but due to language barriers she proceeded to pose for me. She’s really cute though! Tried to convey my worries for altitude sickness, to which she replied ‘coca leaves’. Yes![images to be uploaded]

Sao Paulo – Couchsurfing host family








I wish I could record every moment down with my eye and store it somewhere – the kids shouting ‘g’ morning! G’ morning!’ around the house in the early morning. Tried to get them to reply ‘I’m fine, thank you’ to a ‘how are you’ while we collapsed into giggles.


Havaianas and how they cost like 3 reals?? They gaped at the price in Singapore. We should do a business together, she said. Well, I have a business partner in Brazil.
I’m disgusted at how I went for the tour and yet my preconceptions of favelas did not budge that much. Her sister asked if I wanted to visit a favela. I replied apprehensively I think I’d better not, it might be unsafe? No! They shook their heads in surprise. It’s not dangerous at all. I said hmm I’m worried there may be guns or gangs or something, and they said no, her sister lives in the favela. I went to take a look – it was better than Rocinha I think, it was an absolutely normal (ugh hate the words I’m using) house. What’s the difference between a favela and a house? I asked. A favela is a house that is on top of or just beside other houses on all sides. What, I should I have known shouldn’t I after the tour?? It then struck me how deeply set the presumptions were still operating towards other favelas. Favela, the word in general, carried these connotations of danger and drugs and gangs when it’s just the normal home of another person!! How can I be so ignorant, even worse, after my tour? It’s always good to be cautious of course, but I hate that this made me realise how that tour was not successful in penetrating the stereotypes I still hold. No wonder the stigma, really.
Ena luiza drew for me a picture. She wants to be a fashion designer when she grows up. I told her to do something related to singapore and Brazil.
Using google translate we passed the phone between us; times like this it’s so evident how technology bridges gaps – cultural gaps, communication, and how important it is for people like me.
In many ways I hope they get inspired to learn English to communicate with the world
And to trigger the desire to travel to Singapore someday
It’s always lovely to have a dream like that
To come so close to Picasso and Dali – I was thrilled
Lesbian couple
Expensive to get married in Brazil people don’t get merrier




















en route to Iguazu
Wow, this was pretty great, I thought as the Pluma bus rode off. Bye Sao Paulo! Caught glimpse of the urban jungle.
Today as I walked past the tall skyscrapers and their interesting shiny architecture I said, wow, Brazil’s pretty developed. See, in that statement lies assumptions about the country, and the homogeneity of a country. Strange how the general impression (or at least my prior impression) of Brazil is less-developed or something. Sao Paulo’s buildings in the city centre and their trees were so similar to Singapore’s. It’s nice to have walked past the more developed parts of a city and the less developed parts, the more central and the outskirts, where Ingrid lives. I could see certain differences in the buildings – the apparent favelas along the outskirts and the dominance of tall buildings in the central business district.
It still, still surprises me to see Japanese people with the Brazilians, speaking in Portuguese, as well as the Japanese words on some buildings. It’s just so different from Rio, I didn’t quite expect this prevalence of Japanese (Asian) epode here. I asked Ingrid if there were class differences amongst the Japanese, the whites, the other colored skins. She said the Japanese were richer in general – why? Don’t know, possibly because of migration I suppose and their presence here for economic pull-factors as expats (??) Don’t know, hmm. Well if you think about it, I doubt you’d see any Japanese living in the favelas. Right? Unsure.
When nearing the central area of Sao Paulo today I thought, this could easily be Singapore, as I snapped a picture. The roads, the planting of trees, the traffic. And then I thought again, well, maybe a paler version. Singapore’s trees were neatly aligned and equally spaced, unlike the ones here where some gaps between the trees were larger than others. I thought about how I once mocked Singapore for their (obsession) with perfection, of even the random details, the roadside trees, Then I realized I appreciated that effort, it did make the roads look neater and pleasant. Also, the evident potholes on some parts of the roads here. Tsk tsk to the things I take for granted.
I guess I should mention that at this point, I have spoilt my camera (digital and polaroid wide), cracked the screen of my phone, and left behind my contact lens solution, c-towner shirt and my spectacles. A little upset at the last (HOW THE * DID I LOSE MY SPECTS LOL WHAT), but I keep telling myself things could be worse, could be much worse. True for sure! Perhaps a greater incentive to hasten my decision to lasik.
I shall think about all that I took away from Brazil –
the tattoo culture it seems. Bianca asked if I wanted to get a tattoo. I have to admit, last night I suddenly felt like I should get one. Here it’s so common, I think within a family at least someone has one. Along the streets on their arms backs, etc. This admittedly matches my geographical imagination. If I did a full -year exchange here, I would probably tattoo something symbolic, Sigh, it’s just been a coulee of days here and my affection for this country has grown quite a bit, I do wonder, at the end, which country I’d feel most acquainted with, and which I’d like best, It wont be a fair comparison of course, because each place is unique, but still I wonder how I’d feel.
would like to reflect more but eyelids closing. should sleep, someone snores from behind me.


I awoke this morning to the sunrise by my side.
Such a beautiful morning. I’m so in love with the world, I think as the bus rolls by. The man who asked about my hiking stick caught my eye and waved from the seat diagonal to mine. I waved back.
Well, these 18- hour bus rides aren’t that bad. It passed so quickly, I didn’t even have time to read or do all that I want to do. Sigh.
I love the idea of departing cities by wheel though. Moving and moving from one spot to another, a tiny figure on the map.
pao de queiso
630pm – 1030am arrived at iguazu



Sao Paulo

Driving along stretches and stretches of graffiti art – a public space for showcasing their art. I suppose it’s quite nice to do a large a big one, kind of like claiming ownership over particular spaces – repainting over old ones and layering and conquering spaces. How dynamic.


I saw Japanese dolls along the walls as well
So beautiful
As you drive along the streets you can see beauty everywhere
I turn my head and I see stretches of art


If I lived in a place like this, would I be more inclined to hone my artistic talent? Perhaps I would. I love the idea of claiming space, painting over it to make my own. Have people walk past my art and appreciate it, even for a split second, in the mundanity of the everyday.
I feel some sort of strange delight seeing Asian people walking down the streets. Asian people! Wow! In Rio I seriously felt like the only Asian.
I saw an Asian man holding the hands of a Brazilian woman. Seeing how uncommon it is (to me), the caucasian-female-asian-male pair, I wonder if it’s the same here, or if they’ve been so integrated they hold no such thoughts when they couple up.
What can I say? What can I say except how immeasurably happy I am, and how I live for such days?




Museum for Japanese
Japanese community
Lanterns that look like Japanese lanterns










Japanese + Blacks look like Bolivians (??)
Lesbians can get married but not in a church
Mixed Japanese Brazilian families don’t necessarily celebrate Japanese festivals
Her surprise at buff or big sized or fat Asians
So funny via they don’t believe I can’t speak Portuguese cause I look like I live in libertadad LOL


En Route to Sao Paulo



Currently on the bus from Rio to Sao Paulo
The view next to me as the bus rolls away further from Rio to the next city. That was fast, but Rio de Janeiro will always, always be special to me – for the reason that I entered the city as That Siangyee, and now I’m leaving as This. I feel the slight change in my mentality – and it is this I love, the slight changes that come about as I hop from places to places, my mind hungering for more conceptions, ideas, notions to challenger my own.
As I sat on the bus this morning, I did not clutch my bag as tightly and as wary of the characters that board the bus and sit next to me. I’m still alert, but I have relaxed a little.
Clutch my bag and its zip for my dear life and keep a safe distance from every character
Day 2: Ok la, maybe there’s a chance I won’t be robbed if I walk super quickly and just avoid the very shady areas.
Day 3: Chey, i don’t think there’s as many robbers as I have imagined it to be? Everyone is just doing their own things going about their daily lives, you think you so big shot meh, so poor who wanna rob you. I mean yes in shady corners possibly but seems like everyone is really just doing their own things. My Day 1 self is lame, even ridiculous. Siao scared until like that.
Of course it’s good to stay alert always, but it calls into question the ways by which I had perceived the city to be, and how it is. I guess if I were to be completely frank I did associate Rio with danger, chaos, homeless kids that take out knives to mug you, groups of children that run towards you and corner you to rob you, people throwing mustard and babies at you to distract you, stuff like that. I suppose these are incidents that have happened, and my subconscious mind projected these to the entire population; it sort of slipped my mind that there’s all these mothers, fathers, grannies and old couples holding hands, things like that (notably, what is my conception of a ‘robber’ then? typical gender and age group…_ It really isn’t as ‘dangerous’ as I had thought it might be, everyone’s been so sweet and lovely and helpful.
Today I dropped 50 reals from my wallet and the man immediately handed it to me. The other day a man brought me to the right bus stop and walked with me for about 20 minutes or so.
I talk to people everyday; in my broken Spanish, just simply listening, nodding, guessing their Portuguese… I guess in many ways, I have slowly eased myself into South America.
Reached Sao Paulo, I guess my first city is officially done. It’s interesting how half a year ago I was looking at these places on the internet and gaping at the fact that I could possibly visit, and now I have.


Rio de Janeiro – Christ the Redeemer











Today was such a beautiful day
I grinned to myself with a grin so wide I probably look maniacal
As the bus passed through the beautiful alleyway I took mental pictures if the doors and windows
The hanging cables against the coloured walls that makes this part of the streets of Rio ever endearing
Week 8 me thinks: it’s funny how these sites are so coveted on my places to go, but when i’m finally there, at one of the wonders of the world, I feel like i take away nothing with meunderwhelming, in some sense; like machu picchu, there was a part of me that couldnt believe i was going there, but when i was finally there, it felt like ‘oh, okay, i see’ and that was all

and then i see, take a couple of pictures and that sums up my day

i should seek more experiential aspects

Rio de Janeiro – Rocincha Favela Tour

Week 8 me: I have all these notes strewn everywhere, hardly sorted in proper sentences; unfortunately I find it pretty tedious to do so now, so I’ll leave them as such in the choppy selves. At least they’re here!!!!!!
Graffiti in Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro
Night with Katia
I was telling her about the Kampong Luong where the people in the fishing village had to shift their houses along with the rising tides; usually the ones who struggle are the poorest.
She says that within the favelas they also have to be careful of the landslides – those who live at the top of the hills get their houses washed away during heavy rains. And these are usually the poorest of the poor. (though, after speaking to those of other Latin American countries i.e. Bolivia it seems like those that live at the edges / higher areas doesnt necessarily mean they’re poorer, just more inconvenienced)
My day 2 self is clearly different – I am no longer freaking out as much as I gently ease myself into the scene of Rio. Still careful and wary of course, but not as jumpy I suppose – wary and firm I suppose.
By the end of day 2 I feel myself easing into the city; I get less and less paranoid with the hours (by that I refer to paranoia – I am wary and alert always)
I guess that’s the thing about travelling alone; you soak in the city slowly and all your emotions get amplified by its intensity.
I’m just going to write down everything

Favela tour with Zezinho in Rocinha

I thought the tour was extremely enriching and educational, calling into question whatever impression I had of favelas.

Community of 250,000 people, 6000 businesses

Only a third of people are registered in the census, so it is not sure how many residents there are exactly. ~ 200.000 – 300.000 people
Ho-sing-ya, that was how they pronounced it. I met Zezinho this morning and another German couple. Took a bus from Copacabana bus stop up into Rochincha. Zezinho assured us several times that we were more likely to be robbed along Copacabana than within the favela; now that I’ve been there I have to agree. I didn’t feel unsafe at all throughout the visit, only at the beginning where my conceptions of a favela triggered fear and I held my backpack tightly. You could take pictures, he said, but not at people directly, nobody likes having a camera pointed at their face.



Jody was our guide of the day. He was a British who’s lived here for several years now. Initially I felt a little disappointed because I was hoping Zezinho would be the guide having lived here longer, but Jody was extremely informative and it was very interesting to hear his story / perspective about why he was living here.



Rocincha is located between two of Brazil’s wealthiest neighborhoods, Sao Conrado  and Gavea


Electricity came 1979 with help of Catholic Church
Illegal hooking allows you to get it free, but since the pacification make people pay for electricity depends on how much you use
Angel graffiti all over rio to represent the people



He lives in Rocinha, he’s born and raised in favela but become quite famous professional graffiti artist


Everything is done by residents – who then teach their sons
Sewage etc – amazing, build yourself bit by bit
Everything done by then bricks etc
Run out of money, continue when you’ve saved more
Build 6 levels high
All built on concrete pillars  6 pillars



one of the schools we passed by.

16 classroom 30 to 40 students
Divided into morning and afternoon class over a thousand students everyday
Public school school uniform
But the government teachers don’t get paid very much – basic reading writing math – he went to this school

Traction scheme – areas where everyone dumps their trash. These guys come in everyday to collect the trash – fills quickly. Before pacification, gang paid – now it’s the government’s responsibility. Everyday rubbish was thrown on the road. Currently the truck that comes to collect these trash is provided from the government


Residents went about their usual everyday duties and occasionally they’d talk to Jody for abit. That’s how I knew he was part of some kind of community? It wasn’t a pretense, it’s like random people / neighbors we passed would say hi and they’d chat for a bit. People were really nice and open, one man shook our hands and pecked a kiss on my fist (haha). The kids hi-fived. It was just very normal <- annoyed at myself when I see this, because what was I expecting
Jody had plans to establish an English school in the next few years – free education for the kids because English opens up tons of opportunities they would get volunteers
It’s significant to critique voluntourism and slum tourism but much of it has to do with how these are being operated I think
Issues of commodification / objectification of poverty- Is it really? Or is it a western-centric view? Has anyone taken a bottom-up approach to ask them how they feel?

Rocinha, the largest favela in Brazil. Drugs! Danger! Poverty and shambles! Or is it? Learnt about their water and waste system, education, economy (50% of the ~ 250,000 residents work within the 6000 businesses of the favelas). Zezinho, tour guide and resident of Rocinha says he wants to reduce the stigma of living in a favela; within the favela there is wifi, kids with Facebook, a pet shop, orthodontist, churches and a ballet school. Some are pretty happy there and don’t necessarily want to leave.

Slum tourism is controversial because of issues of voyeurism / commodification / objectification of poverty. As I walked along the streets the random locals chatted with our guide happily and shook our hands, asked where we’re from, one kissed my fist. I felt safe in the favela and its residents, challenging all that I imagined (existing representations/conceptions) prior to the tour. I can’t help thinking – are these critiques a western-centric view? Has anyone taken a bottom-up approach to ask them how they feel? Head is going to explode with thoughts. Always open to ethical debates!

Water system:
Once a week water buckets filled up to 500litres, with water supply pipes as the linking system. Water is free, provided by the government. 
Average wages 800-1000reals a month
Where the poor looks down on the rich
30-60,000 10 pounds for one space in favela
People’s properties value up now
26 districts

Motor taxis – 3 reals anywhere, motor taxi drivers and their passengers have to wear helmets as part of the regulations

Motor taxis turn off petrol to roll down hill (saves petrol)

Nursery has a long waiting list
People don’t complain about noise
250,000 residents
8 sushi restaurants
50% work in favelas
6000 businesses here
Other 50% leave and wrk in town service jobs hotel cleaners maid drivers beach cleaners vendors
Any line if work that doesn’t require a level f education cause education is Bad
90 reals a month and 20mb speed broadband
30% residents maybe last year 15-20%
Have social media accounts as well
Internet for education
Some people rather have nice home and stay in favela instead of being poor in ipanema
Strong community

Cable tv 40-50 reals a month, 200 channels

people have satellite dishes – government made it cheap in Brazil with the idea that if so it’ll keep people off the streets at night – quite a lot of people support

Different levels of poor
No discrimination internally, only the rich people look down
Guys that hope to pick up the ladies don’t say they live in the favela cause of the associated stigma, that everyone in the favela is going to get shot robbed everyone does drugs and stuff
“People who write these things have never stepped into a favela into their life – guidebooks talk about things they don’t care about”
“We don’t hide the fact that we have problems here”
500 gang members – small percentage
Armed gang members ask why you’re here
They just wanna protect themselves
4 national banks
Building materials
Pet shop
Hairdresser dental no hospital but there’s healthcare
Sex shops even
Zezinho rarely leave here
No fire service but nearby
Less than 1% go on to college or uni must pass entry test and is too difficult for public school system (this applies supposedly to the whole of Brazil)
Social unrest and protests with world cup and Olympics cos billions dollars spent on World Cup stadium and village and not on education!! Brazilian economy 4th biggest but corruption severely stunts its growth
99% can’t leave cos no opportunities
A boy learns English and walks past, “where are you from?” he asks
August September opening English school 2 classes morning and evening free for them
Regustered charity lots of paperwork to be done
Sponsored by friends family and self employed <- comes off your tax don’t give taxman give charity
Going to be opened in England and running here
Over 1000 favelas in rio only 60 are classified
Get gangs away from where tourists go
Non pacified favelas
4 government buildings
Favela 1929 started 1937 this was first proper brick building and oldest though it looks new well maintained Catholic Church
Hotel here!
Water pumping centre
Post office and health centre
Infant school primary school and theatre for education purposes

Taxes people gave to earn a certain amount – 2000 reals – so nobody earns enough to pay the taxes, thus no taxes

Kites symbolic symbol to the gang to see which police or kite
It’s a multi function building
Internet place sound studio theatre come study library
Sad cos library cut down hours it’s open
Less education more guns
Government control it pay the staff
One of the most useful buildings slash the hours sad to fund  the police
“Favelas are not shitholes there’s issues but they have a lot of things there’s a good vibe a good feeling people smiling”
Favelas have a bad reputation ‘I’m making money from the community so what can you give back to them?’
Ross kemp
White guy living here so i guess must be okay can’t be that bad right?
US guys coming in filming documentary
Goodnight Cinderella
The older the favela the more developed
30 years ago then got water
Biggest in Brazil – 85 years old
Zezinho wrote a message in response to the controversy about favela tours that I think is worth sharing here. Lets see what he has to say.
I certainly understand the controversy about slum tours. I am both FOR and AGAINST them. Let me explain this.
I was born, grew up and still live in Brazil’s largest slum or favela. Life is dificult yes, but not impossible. I am proud to live here in Rocinha. I will never leave here, but I do not want to leave here. This is my home. This is my feelings about this issue of slum/favela tourism.
What I like about the tours is the contact I get from foreigners who come here. This interaction helps me to educate people about my life here in the favela. When foreigners come here I feel like my home/favela has value and are worth to be seen. The Brazilian goverment mostly ignores us and helps us very little. We want our voice to be heard. I want to feel that somebody on the outside cares about us and recognizes that we exist. Up until about 5 years ago favelas did not exist on maps. Why was this? Many foreigners come to learn how we create and live in our comunity with little or no goverment involvement. Others come because of the art and culture that exists here. I do not judge why people come, they confirm that we exist.
I started in tourism becase I saw the oportunity to show my favela and help create jobs for others here. We live here, and should be making the tours here. I have heard outsider tour companies exaggerate things or tell outright lies about my favela. They do this becase they do not know and do not live here. I am here to show a social experience not some adrenaline tour. With my work, about 20% returns to volunteers in social projects or start their own programs in the favela. Recently people have contacted me wanting to make projects like a rooftop garden class and another person wants to help bring solar energy here.
My friend Jim Shattuck and I, ran a fundraiser which earned about R$800 Reais ($400 USD), which will go to Tio Lino’s Art School in the Rocinha. Visitors to my favela helped with this project by taking tours! With this we will be able to give 40 children back packs filled with school supplies and provide much needed art materials needed for the art studio.
I was able to help a student, Leandro Lima, realize his dream of being a photographer. After learning that he had his camera stolen (outside the favela), I set aside money from my tours from August to October 2010 and during his birthday party on the 16th, he was suprised to receive this, but he is deserving!
These are people who came on visits here in the favela and in some way help contribute. Is this bad?
What I do NOT like about the tours…the tours made in jeeps or trucks is the worst becase it presents us like a zoo. The tourists have no contact with the locals and this reinforces a sense of possible danger. Tours or visits where the guests walk in the favela are more welcome. There is one company that tells their guests not to interact with the locals if they are approached. This is wrong. The glamorization of violence is another thing that we do not like here. It is as if these companies are trying to capitalize on some kind of excitement. Favelas are not war zones and people need understand that real, honest hardworking people live there, we just make less money.
There are tour companies here who use the comunity to make money but they give very little or nothing back to the community. This is not right. They should contribute something for the betterment of the favela. There are plenty of social projects here who could use help.
I am not ashamed to live in the favela and people should not feel shame to come and visit. All we ask is please do not take photos of us like we are animals and do not have fear if we say hello to you on the street.
If we want to stop or reduce poverty, we need to stop pretending it does not exist. I call it socially responsible tourism. If you chose to tour this type of comunity, try to give something back however big or small. Becase of Tourism we have a Dj School called Spin Rocinha. The dj classes are FREE to all residents of the favela. You can find us on facebook under “Spin Rocinha“…
Slums, favelas and shanties are where 1/3 of the population live in all major cities, serving the needs of mostly the rich. Visiting these places may increase your knowledge and awareness at a much deeper level than visiting a museum or art exhibition. Ignoring poverty is not going to make it go away and those who have more, should not feel guilt. Unfortunately, this world will always have this unbalance of wealth. Sad but true.
Thank you,
Zezinho da Rocinha