Blog, by category: travel
from the desk of travis johnson.
My Hint for Foreign ATM Machines (from 2009/02/09)
I've been meaning to write this tip up for quite a while, but now that I've finally gotten some closure on it, I guess now would be a decent time. While I was in Brazil, there were two ATM machine clusters across the street from eachother, both between the beach and the hostel we were staying at. The CITIbank ATMs were more reliable, but the HSBC ATMs were a bit cheaper. At first, it always seemed worth the small extra, but since I never wanted to get much out at a time, I was racking up the bank charges. Also, several people had been using the HSBC ATM without issue, so I figured I would start using that one instead as well. This worked well the first couple of times, but one of the days I went in to get some cash out, it didn't dispense. Undeterred, I went to one of the ATM machines someone else had just (successfully) used and tried there, and withdrew the money. This time it worked.
Now, the problem was that the first transaction went through as well… it just didn't dispense. So when I tried to call up my bank to dispute the charge, it was hard telling them which withdrawl it was, because they were both for the same amount. They ended up giving me a provisional credit(after some cajoling of the Executive Customer Service personel.. a great hint I picked up from Sharvil). Later, however, the amount was withdrawn from my account, saying that they had investigated and not figured it out. What a pain. About 6 weeks later, HSBC finally deposited the amount back into my account.
Anyways, the main lesson I learned is to try to withdraw slightly different amounts each time so that the customer service rep you talk to can figure out exactly which transaction went sour. I'm not sure if the provisional credit was revoked because they investigated the wrong withdrawal or what, but it would have been nice to know with certainty that I had told her the correct one.
Mugged! (from 2008/08/24)
Friday started off a pretty decent day in Brazil. I finally got comfortable enough with my phrase book to start busting out phrases to the Taxi driver and it ended up making our taxi rides a fair bit more comfortable, quicker, and cheaper. So, there’s one place that Portuguese is coming in really handy, even if it is even just a tiny bit of it. It’s getting a lot more comfortable interacting with the native Brazilians here, probably for all of us, but it was pretty pronounced today, and I was feeling pretty good about it. I had intended to get some pictures at IMPA, so I happened to have my camera today.
Later in the evening, I ended up going for a walk with a new friend I met on the trip, and in the middle of a really great chat about all sorts of stuff, we ended up getting held up by a couple of guys with knives at Copacabana beach around 22:00 or so. Honestly it was really really stupid to be there, and even stupider to be there with anything valuable. So, if you hear people telling you not to go there after dark, heed their warnings, unless you want to learn your own expensive lesson! It really doesn’t feel dangerous at all while you’re down there, because it’s relatively well lit and just not what you’d think of as all that scary, but the truth is that you’re isolated enough for them to get away with basically whatever they want. Again, the bottom line is, heed the warnings and don’t be there that time of night. Failing that, give them what they want–they’re gonna take it anyways. Never carry passports or credit/debit cards unless absolutely necessary(ie, on the way to or from the airport or ATM, respectively). Don’t get caught up in the heat of something and forget your good common sense.
Anyways, basically everything is back to normal now. It was an experience I would have rather not had, but what can you do? Life goes on…
More Updates from Rio (from 2008/08/22)
Sorry for not getting this updated a little bit sooner, but it has been an eventful week sortof. Apparently it’s been almost a week! Time flies, apparently.
Wednesday was pretty standard. More classes, more modeling, more cool climate stuff. IMPA has pretty good coffee for free on supply until 4pm, and all of us Seattlites are pretty much living on it, and on the verge of staging a coup when they try to shut it down. There are currently a bunch of very fun, very loud Irish guys outside the 9-bed dorm room, so everyone in our room is pretty sleep deprived. Hence the coffee addiction. We also finally formalized some ‘cab groups’, or a set of people we’re going to share taxis with for all the taxi rides we’re taking to and from IMPA and other places around Rio.
After the aforementioned somewhat bad sleep, we got up and got on with the day on Thursday. The destination of the day is Corcavado, the statue of Christ the Redeemer at the top of one of the highest mountains in Rio. After taxing to the bottom, Nathan bought us some tickets to ride up the tram. The tram is apparently the safer way to get to the top of the two common ways, the other being to actually walk. Since the area is so deserted it’s an ideal opportunity for muggers looking to rob you, so the train is highly recommended. In any case, the ride is very cool. It feels like you’re going straight up the side of the mountain most of the way, which I guess you are, but it’s a very intense climb, somewhat like a Disneyland ride or something. After getting to the top, you climb a whole bunch of stairs and finally stand next to this HUGE statue. Really truly unlike anything I’d ever seen before. It’s visible from pretty much anywhere with line of sight from inside the city, and it’s downright huge from immediately next to it. It also has gorgeous stones at the base. A lot of people took pictures in the same pose or reaching up towards the statue, but it’s also a great spot to get pictures with the city in the background, or either Copacabana or Impanema beaches. Our cab group left a little sooner than the rest, which ended up being good since one of our cab group members needed to finish a Summer Quarter exam. It was a really good day though, well worth the side trip!
First Couple of Days in Rio (from 2008/08/20)
So Monday morning was really lazy. Some people went to get a volleyball, a bunch went down to the beach again, and I let my sunburn cool off. It was also really warm and sunny, which is a nice change from Seattle! We left for IMPA around 2, got on taxis to get over there, and eventually made it. The taxi drivers are apparently pretty vicious. We took 5 cabs, 3 got charged around 15, one around 20, and one 25. So they try to rip you off.
IMPA was throughly amazing. The area around it was very pretty, and they even had some monkeys. There are apparently large ones and small ones, and we just saw the small ones. Nathan gave us a walking tour, and then we had about an hour and a half of lecture. We talked about how to model the temperature of the earth, taking into account energy balance(ie, input from the sun, reflected light as a function of ice, ice as a function of temperature, etc). The Botanical Gardens(Jardim Botanico) were also quite impressive. We walked all the way from IMPA back to the hostel, around Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, which was pretty interesting.
Tuesday(Aug 19), I went down to the ATM, stopped for some Acai Berry drink around the corner which was very delicious. Fruits here are a whole different world. The pineapples are so sweet and not sour at all, the bananas are much sweeter, everything is delicious. Some of the food here is really cheap. There’s a store with R3. They’re made with cachaça, lime, sugar, and ice. Anyways, we left around 10 for Sugarloaf mountain and rode the tram up to the top. I got a ton of pictures that I’ll have to upload when I get a faster internet connection and time to pare down the pictures to the best few. We also hung out at the hostel most of the afternoon and made it to the beach just about at 4, which it turns out is about exactly when the tide is coming in(ie, the bad time to show up at the beach).
I’m going to try to make it to the beach tomorrow morning, so perhaps I’ll get some pictures of that up!
IN BRAZIL (from 2008/08/18)
I finally made it to Brazil. It was a very long and tiring flight, but I was seated next to a couple of very nice locals that fed me all sorts of useful information. I ended up pre-buying a ticket from the Taxi company, but apparently this is sortof a bad call, because they way overcharge if you don’t have them use the meter. Anyways, not too big of a deal. He took me right up to the hostel, and a bunch of familiar faces were there.
We all decided to go to the beach, but first we stopped off to buy Speedos. Which I really wasn’t too comfortable with, but there’s safety in numbers and you gotta get an even tan, right? Someone went up to find Nathan, and then we stood outside until the the place opened. Once we’d all bought one, we went back to the Hostel to get our towels and stuff, then back the beach, spent a couple of hours there, then headed back to the hostel. I immediately fell asleep for like 5 hours, but woke up feeling a bit better. After that, we went to some cafe, and after figuring out what to do(totally different ordering proceedures), we finally got our water and food, and managed to pay for it and soforth.
After that, a bunch of people went to a Favela Funk Party, but I stayed behind. They definitely are a bit crazy, it’s really packed onto the side of the hills, and they do actually have the armed gaurds and stuff. I’ll have to try to get some pictures at some point, and post them here. We’ve had a pretty good night just hanging at the hostel, it already feels a bit like a new home. Anyways, I’m on a friends laptop so I’ve got to finish up real quick, but again, Hi to all my family and friends kind enough to read this post and those coming, I miss you all already!
In Atlanta (from 2008/08/17)
Well, I made it at least as far as Atlanta. The Boeing 757 we flew in had touchscreens in each monitor that told me I’ve traveled 2326 miles so far. Landing was pretty smooth, and the flight was relatively easy. A bit longer than I’d expected, and a little bit more restless than I’d hoped.
I stopped to get some food immediately on arriving, somewhere called Krystal Hamburger. They have a Sausage Scramble Combo, a cup full of scrambled eggs, sausage, and grits! How awesome.
I did have one little hitch, though. Since my layover is like 13 hours, they wouldn’t print my boarding pass for the Atlanta -> Rio flight. They did say they’d check my bag all the way through, but I guess we’ll see. Here’s hoping…
Final Pre-trip Brazil Updates (from 2008/08/03)
I have been meaning to write for almost two weeks that I’ve got my Visa back from the Brazilian Consulate in San Francisco, which is pretty cool. I saw a picture of it and it looks really sweet. I’m slowly turning into a world traveler! It took about a week inside the consulate, then they FedEx Next Day Air’d it to Memphis, then Spokane, then the Tri-Cities, then Prosser. They dropped it off with Mom.
I finished my Typhoid oral vaccine earlier this week. I felt a little crappy for about an evening, and then kinda leveled off. One of my roommates went to South America and had no ill-effects from the shot, so I’m gonna say that I highly recommend anyone to go that route instead. I also finally got the Hepatitis and Tetanus vaccines today. She warned me it’d hurt and told me to take some asprin, but I passed on the painkillers and have been quite okay anyways–I’ve made it hurt far worse with pushups.
All I really have left at this point is some stuff at work, my math381 project, to move out of Stevens Court, and to pack for the trip. That’s gonna make for a very busy 13 days, though… Wow.
Brazil Tickets (from 2008/06/20)
I’m a little bit late announcing this, but…. I BOUGHT MY BRAZIL TICKETS!
It ended up being like 1300 bucks, and I have a 13 hour layover in Atlanta on the way there…. but I think that’ll be okay. It’s actually enough time that I think I might go in and see the world’s largest aquarium, the CNN headquarters, and the World of Coca Cola.
We’re going to be staying somewhere called El Misti Hostel, and make up about 70-80% of the residents there. It’s right off of Copacabana Beach, which is very, very exciting.