Tag Archives: Tourism

If you’re coming to see England in Belo Horizonte, make sure you visit the nearby Inhotim Art Gallery

If you only do one thing during your visit to the 2014 Brazil World Cup in Belo Horizonte, visit Inhotim Art Gallery.

Fruit of the Palmeira-barriguda tree.
Fruit of the Palmeira-barriguda tree.

It’s about a two-hour drive out of the city (it’s only 70km away but traffic takes care of the rest) but it’s definitely worth it. The art gallery/botanical gardens is built within the huge grounds of the former English mining magnate Senor Tim (pronounced “In-yo-cheem” in old Brazilian, hence the name).

The surrounding mountains around Inhotim.
The surrounding mountains around Inhotim.

Dotted around Inhotim are modern art installations of glass, mirror, water, brick and sound buried deep in lush Brazilian forest. It’s a really beautiful place to walk around on a sunny day.

Multi-coloured walls in Inhotim by Helio Oiticica

This huge tree-hugger truck sits forever tipping over in a glass dome structure in the middle of the jungle.

Brazilian tree-hugger truck  tipping over inside a glass dome at Inhotim, Minas Gerais

Paths lead through thousands of different types of flowers and trees as you look for each of the hidden installations.

A tree held up by four others.
A tree held up by four others.

The art installations are really, really cool. Photography inside the galleries is banned but I managed to snap the Cildo Meireles installation below.

Looks like the moon's surface.
Looks like the moon’s surface.

Another installation has you walking across broken glass (you’re wearing shoes).

The Dr. Seuss-style Paxiuba tree, which looks as if it's dancing on its roots.
The Dr. Seuss-style Paxiuba tree, which looks as if it’s dancing on its roots.

A spectacular sound installation called The Murder of Crows has you sat facing fifty different speakers in a dark warehouse as a girl recounts a dream beginning in the warehouse and moving through jungle to a beach.

There are 5,000 types of flowers at Inhotim, including this blue tiger-print flower.
There are 5,000 types of flowers at Inhotim, including this one with blue tiger-print petals.

Another has you in a pitch-black room as a strobe-light illuminates a fountain, making the water look like molten glass.  In another you enter a room with a mirror, but you can’t see your reflection. You can literally step through the mirror, as crazy as that sounds.

What I’m trying to say is that it’s a really cool place.

A few tips: wear a good pair of walking shoes, tickets are 30 reais to enter and the best place to eat is the Oiticica self-service restaurant (where they weigh your plate; it’ll cost about 40 reais for a really nice meal and a drink).

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Behind-the-scenes video tour of Brazil’s $270-an-hour Love Motel “Le Monde”, in Belo Horizonte

Last Friday I visited Belo Horizonte’s most expensive and luxurious “love motel” Le Monde for a behind-the-scenes tour. It’s absolutely not what I expected from a motel, or even a five-star hotel. The level of luxury is astounding.

This drive-in motel on the outskirts of the city is a place where, for just £160 ($270) an hour(!), clients have access to their own private pool and jacuzzi, as well as beds with mirrored ceilings, steam-rooms and sex-furniture. Of the more interesting aspects, the motel offers sex-toy room-service, private underground nightclubs (available for a mere 5,000 reais a night) and retractable roofs (to bathe under the stars).

Above all, it offers absolute discretion for you and your girlfriend, wife, mistress or prostitute.

Have look at the video:

Now, although it may seem seedy to visit a motel for a few hours to have sex, this is an entirely normal act in a country in which one in four Brazilians live with their parents long into their 30’s. Young lovers go there to celebrate their one-year anniversaries, for example.

All of my friends I asked about the motels said they had visited them, often regularly in the case of those with girlfriends and boyfriends. Having a motel to take your lover is crucial when your parents sleep in the bedroom next to you.

The "Japan" themed room at Le Monde love motel.
The “Japan” themed room at the “Le Monde” love motel.

Motels are also legally required to offer the utmost privacy for their clients. Garbage from the room is kept in a closed garage until it’s disposed of in an unmarked truck. Staff deliver food and drink through a network of hidden corridors that run behind the rooms, and revolving cupboards mean staff never even see the client.

The whole transaction, from parking up and entering the room from the garage, to ordering food and then settling the bill, can all be done without any face-to-face interaction.

You could do it completely naked and no-one would know.

The entrance to Le Monde's most luxurious and expensive room.
The entrance to Le Monde’s most luxurious and expensive room.

What’s more, overseas tourists visiting Brazil for the 2014 World Cup are set to be staying, whether knowingly or unknowingly, in these love motels. Ricardo, Le Monde‘s General Manager, confirmed 500 tourists from China, Finland, the UK, the US and Arabic states have all made reservations at his love motel. 

I guarantee they will enjoy their stay there.

This is a high-end luxury motel, and its cleanliness and professionalism reflect that. For my next trip I’ll try and visit the cheapest one I can find and report back on my findings. Love motels get as low as 20 reais an hour here (about £5, $8), so it could get pretty seedy.

An English school in Belo Horizonte really HAS been teaching prostitutes English

I have to admit I was really skeptical when I heard about Brazilian prostitutes taking English classes in order to better haggle in English with foreign tourists during the World Cup.

Seeing these images I’m still fairly skeptical.  The teacher is called Igor Fuchs (for Fuchs sake!).

A prostitute in Belo Horizonte, Brazil attending an English class

I’m all for prostitutes being supported and cared for in what is a difficult and dangerous profession, but realistically, how many words are they going to need to know? It’s not like they’re going to be explaining the entire plot of The Lord of the Rings. The Brazilian prostitutes need to know about six words and a few numbers. All of which can be communicated with hand-gestures.

A Brazilian prostitute learning English in preparation for the 2014 Brazil World Cup

I wrote yesterday about how foreign media should be focusing on real issues, not titillating nonsense that probably isn’t true. Thousands of trafficked children are set to be at-risk during the 2014 World Cup and beyond.

Remember, prostitution is a totally-legal, trade union-certified profession in Brazil. It involves consenting adults. Pimping is illegal, as it should be.

Child prostitution is a huge issue in Brazil. Let’s bring shameful images like the one below to the forefront of the international media and help make sure more work is done to help children in danger.

Child prostitution in the shadow of the Castelão World Cup stadium in Fortaleza, Brazil.
Child prostitution in the shadow of the Castelão World Cup stadium in Fortaleza, Brazil.

If you’d like to know more or donate to a good cause please check out Meninadanca.org, a charity running a school that protects and cares for street-children that have been forced into prostitution.

Also, look out for my short video documentary behind the scenes of Belo Horizonte’s most expensive and luxurious “love motel”, a pay-by-the-hour favourite amongst wealthy Brazilians, and where a huge number of foreign tourists will be staying during their time here at the 2014 World Cup.

“Don’t react, don’t shout and don’t argue.” Sao Paulo head’s armed robbery safety tips for World Cup tourists

Sao Paulo’s head of Civil Police has prepared a leaflet for visiting World Cup tourists for whom being mugged in the street by a robber with a gun “is an infrequent event”, and who “may attempt to react in the wrong way” (ie, fight back and get themselves killed).

Armed robberies in Brazil in which a ladrão approaches you with a gun in the street often end badly if the victim tries to fight back (Youtube link). For the ladrão armed robberies are a high-risk strategy, as they know the police will shoot them dead if they’re caught, so they prefer to make a clean getaway and leave no witnesses. This means shooting the victim dead if necessary. 

As such, the advice not to react, shout or argue is good. I’d also add to keep looking down, and to not look the robber in the eyes too long. If they think you’re trying to memorise their face to describe to the police later, they’ll kill you. 

Some more tips:

1) Keep big bills hidden somewhere. If you need to wander around with a few hundred reais on you, put it in your sock. Hand over the 40 reais you kept in your pocket to keep the ladrão happy. 

2) Don’t wear watches and jewellery, and keep that camera in an old backpack, not around your neck. iPhones are like catnip here for ladrãos – don’t be wandering around playing on yours all day, or it will be swiped.

3) Take taxis and don’t walk around at night. Don’t use short-cuts through alleys and always be aware of who’s around you.

4) Be prepared to leave places pretty fast, and that might mean running. 

5) Don’t romanticise the poverty here. Yes, there are newly-pacified favelas with colourful grafitti, guided tours and cute hostels, but when you arrive you’ll see how ugly the majority of the vast urban sprawl is around the big cities. Guided tours through historically-safe favelas are one thing, entering random favelas without permission is another. Favelas are mini-fiefdoms at the mercy of drug-dealing gangs, and they don’t like strangers. 

With the pound sterling to Brazilian Real exchange rate, 2014 is a great year for British tourists to visit Brazil

Brazilian to English pound exchange is great for visiting British tourists

The Real (pronounced “Hey Eye“) is Brazil’s unit of currency. Last year British tourists would have got three reais to the pound, making Brazil a very expensive place to visit, and easily the most expensive country in South America.

But this year British tourists will see their pound go way further, as every pound now gets you almost four Brazilian reais,  just in time for the onslaught of Brits to the 2014 World Cup.

A big bowl of Açaí costs about £2.50, a pint of beer is £2 in a club and a meal in a nice restaurant will set you back about £8.