São Paulo/Far East
Far East is a region of São Paulo. With about 2.7 million people, it is the most populous region and the main reduct of São Paulo's working classes, giving the region its nickname "the City of Workers". The Far East is a prime portrait of São Paulo's suburban side, with low level of verticalization, strong presence of migrants from the Northeast, and sadly, also many impoverished areas. The main attractions of the region are Parque do Carmo and the Parque Ecológico do Tietê, which are interesting combinations of popular leisure and preserved nature areas. In the extreme east, the region keeps a hidden gem - the oldest surviving church of São Paulo, the Capela de São Miguel Arcanjo.
The Far East is divided in 22 districts, grouped in 8 subprefectures:
The Far East was originally occupied by farms and industries. During the second half of the XX century, the fast economic growth of São Paulo attracted a large number of migrants from the Northeast of Brazil, who settled mainly in the city's peripherical areas: the Far East, Northwest and Far South regions. The Norheastern migrants and their descendents are now the predominant population in the Far East, although a significant Japanese community, that arrived during the farming era, is still present and remains culturally important to the region, organizing the annual Sakura Matsuri and the Kodomo no Sono bazaar events.
The predominant view of the Far East are the residencial areas - composed of terraced houses, countless 3- and 4-storey buildings (generally government-constructed social habitations), and also some favela's and middle class appartments. However, the region also contains local commerce centers, some industries and even Japanese-owned small farms that survive from the region's rural past, mostly located in the district of José Bonifácio. The two largest parks, Parque do Carmo and Parque Ecológico do Tietê, are unexpected wonders in one of the least visited regions of São Paulo.
Currently there is a lot of perspective for the Far East. There is a lot going on: the gradual return of industries, the construction of the a monorail line in the south part of the region, the recovery of the shores of the east part of the Tietê river, and on top of them, the district of Itaquera was chosen to host the opening of the FIFA World Cup 2014. Together with a new stadium, which will become the home of Brazil's 2nd most popular football team, Itaquera is being remodelled to become a new center of services and business in the East. It is yet to be seen what all of these will end up, but there is at least a big hope that in São Paulo, the time of the East has finally arrived.
By metro and train
The Line 3-Red is the busiest metro line of São Paulo, carrying everyday, along with Line 11-Coral and Line 12-Saphire, hundreds of thousands of workers from the East to the city center. These are the metro and train stations located at each district:
A monorail line, that extends Line 2-Green, is currently under construction. The line will integrate the districts in the south part of the region (São Mateus, Iguatemi and Cidade Tiradentes) to the rail network.
Main accesses to the Far East region are Marginal Tietê (gives access to Parque Ecológico do Tietê), Radial Leste (gives access to the Itaquera district) and Avenida Aricanduva (gives access to Parque do Carmo).
Cycleway Radial Leste (see São Paulo main section) is partly located in this region. The other cicleway is:
There is a concentration of bars and restaurants around Parque Tiquatira, a park between Penha and Cangaíba, surrounded by the lanes of Av. Governador Carvalho Pinto. The environment tends to change with the time or with the day. In the morning or on a working day it is calm, frequented by workers or by families, while in the evening or on a week-end it tends to be the place of encounter of young people. The predominant morning music is "Musica Popular Brasileira", while at night it is more Samba, Pagode, Axé, or Forro.
The Far East Zone of São Paulo has the highest concentration of inmigrant workers coming from the North-East of Brazil. Catering to these "nordestinos" there is a huge amount of traditional bars known as "Casa do Norte", which are often owned and operated by nordestinos as well. Some typical drinks include "açaí na tigela", "caldo de mocotó", "cachaça pinga", and many others, in an environment of Pagode, Forró, Samba, and other Brazilian musical styles, and of people playing "truco" (a card game), "sinuca" (a kind of billiards), domino, or other games. Casas do Norte also often offer traditional foods such as "feijoada" or "zarapatel", sell dry fruits, dry fish or dry meat, and have a very strong tobacco known as "fumo de corda", produced in Arapiraga, Alagoas State. Most customers are men, it is very uncommon to see a woman in a Casa do Norte except when in the company of some of the men. There is always the ubiquitous televisor, on Wednesdays and Sundays invariably offering the transmission of a football match, among the loud yells of the clientele. Casas do Norte are a fine sample of authentic Brazilian atmosphere, unadulterated by tourist adaptations. Therefore, expect almost no one able to speak anything but Portuguese, and rather bad Portuguese at that. Warning: cachaça pinga is a very strong alcoholic beverage that must be tasted with caution. Drinking too much WILL knock down even the most hardened seaman.
In spite of being a huge and populous part of São Paulo, there are almost no real hotels, because most residents are middle to low class workers and very few tourists ever bother to visit the area. What is easy to find is "motels", but they are not comparable to European or North American motor hotels. In Brazil the term "motel" is a sort of euphemism that refers to a place of dubious reputation, which rents rooms for some hours, usually for the practice of activities of doubtful morality. Not an accomodation for travellers.
There are a few cheap hotels in the historic centre of Distrito Penha de França, Rua Comendador Cantinho and nearby streets. There is a permanent police post there, at Praça Oito de Septembro, which may be able to inform on the location of some nearby hotels, but the hotel search should be done under daylight because the streets are not safe at night. Besides, small hotels may not have staff attending at night. Instead of a permanent reception desk, each tenant has a key to the hotel entrance and to his own room.
Persons wishing accomodation for some weeks should better find a "pensão" (a kind of boarding house), which is customarily paid for a full month. They may accept a customer for only a week, at a proportionally higher price. These "pensões" are cheap and exist in various locations, usually at the historic centre of districts such as Penha de França, Itaquera, or São Miguel Paulista. Most tenants are Brazilians who work in São Paulo, having migrated from the North-East of the country. Expect loud Sertanejo or Samba music in evenings and week-ends, and a smell of exotic cuisine.
The last option, and the best one for a group, is to rent a house. They can be found for as little as 300 R$ per month, but a decent "sobrado" will cost 500 or 700, water and electricity apart. There are many small "agencias inmobiliarias" (real estate agencies) that can offer a suitable house. A refundable deposit of some months is often required. Or directly with the owner, looking for signs of "aluga-se" (for rent), but the negotiation has to be conducted almost always in Portuguese. Besides, furniture is seldom included.
The Football World Cup of 2014 took place in Itaquera, beside the station, in a stadium that has become one of the most important in Brazil. These sports events have changed the prospects for accommodation of visitors in the area, with prices rising for the few facilities that exist. However, because of frequent bus and train service to the city centre, most tourists do not need to find lodgings in Itaquera. In fact, it is usually better for the average tourist to stay in or near the city centre, in order to direct his steps to any of the many options that São Paulo has to offer.
The Far East region has a reputation of being dangerous among Paulistanos, but in reality, crime has drastically decreased in recent years, and nowadays, it has pretty much average levels of crime in comparison with the rest of the city.
Still, the region is quite large to be described by average statistics, and pockets of violent crime, as well as areas under the influence of criminal organizations, still exist. São Mateus, Cidade Tiradentes, São Miguel Paulista and Itaim Paulista are known to contain areas like this.
Therefore, if you want really to explore the region, having a local as a guide is advised. This is especially true if you don't speak Portuguese, as finding someone who speaks English may not be easy in the region.
A tourist reaching nightfall while still in the area should not risk to wander aimlessly in the deserted streets. For visitors on a very low budget the best option is probably to take a bus to one of the train stations or to one of the local bus terminals, and thence to the city centre, or a direct bus to the city centre. There are two bus terminals open round the clock and with some night bus service, at intervals of one hour or so.
Terminal A. E. Carvalho, in Estrada do Imperador corner Avenida Águia de Haia, Distrito Itaquera.
Terminal Cidade Tiradentes, in Avenida Naylor de Oliveira corner Rua dos Têxteis, Distrito Cidade Tiradentes.
There are three other local bus terminals in the area (Penha de França, São Mateus, São Miguel Paulista), but they close between 00 Hours and 04 Hours Official Local Time, as it is also the case with the railway stations. The stations and terminals are safe, patrolled by guards. They often contain some snack bar inside and stall vendors at the entrance, though they may be closed from midnight to four Hours. If happening to reach a terminal or station that is closing or already closed, without any more buses or trains to the city centre, just spend the remaining night hours at the entrance, befriending the guards.
It will only be four hours in the worst scenario. Brazilians are helpful people, and realising that You are a foreign visitor and not a local beggar, they will likely allow Your waiting under some protective structure in case of rain. Do not walk away from the guards, as the surrounding streets are often dangerous at night. Once they open the station or terminal, thank them and take the first train or bus bound for the city centre. Do not photograph the facilities or themselves without their permission. They will probably speak only Portuguese.
In March 2015 São Paulo has inaugurated many nocturnal bus lines. The list is here: http://viatrolebus.com.br/2015/02/relacao-parcial-de-linhas-da-rede-noturna-de-onibus/ Although some nocturnal lines have been in existence for years, they were few and far between. The addition of many new lines has been a very welcome help, to passengers who by need or by choice travel at night inside the huge urban extension covered by them.
In 2012 the Brazilian branch of the Spanish Telefonica bought the Brazilian Vivo, one of the main mobile telephone companies in Brazil. Because of the bad reputation that Telefonica has always had (number one in customer complaints of any company in Brazil), it was decided to drop completely the infamous name "Telefonica" and use the name "Vivo" instead. As "Vivo", therefore, the former Telefonica continues telephone operation of fix land lines, and it has also assumed all the mobile numbers that had belonged to Vivo, but it has closed the few public locutories that existed. By law the company is required to keep in operation public telephone booths, oficially known as "telefones públicos" and popularly as "orelhões", due to their form. Many people lack their own telephones and are forced to use booths. The calls are paid by telephone cards bought at news stands, some bars or shops, some railway stations and bus terminals. There are plenty of telephone booths, but poorly maintained.
For Internet access there are many small LAN houses with a few computers rented for one or more hours, and a shorter number of Internet cafés with better resources. These ones are predominantly located at or near shopping centres. Public Internet access is available for free at libraries and at Telecentros that belong to the Local Government, at Infocentros that belong to the State Government, and at some other official institutions such as CEU or Poupa Tempo. This free public service is intended for residents, not for visitors, but in practice they do not really mind to let any person use it, if they have some computer inactive at that moment. However, in their typical Brazilian bureaucratic fashion, all these services will demand to see some identity document of the person wishing to use the computer, and to fill an application form. Even private LAN houses or Internet cafés will request this formality, unheard of in Europe or in North America.
In the general trend to privatisation of services in Brazil, the postal service is operated by the private Correios company, which has several offices in the area (usually in the historical centre of Distritos such as Itaquera or São Miguel Paulista, but not always), and with street post boxes painted in yellow colour. The post boxes can be used for sending letters, post cards, or other postal items of small size, but always with the correct postage or higher. Most of them are collected twice or thrice per week, some are collected daily, except Sundays or holidays. For parcels, printed matter, or other items of bigger size, or in case of not knowing the correct postage for a certain destination, it is necessary or recommended to go to a post office. They have a limited opening time, and they are closed on Sundays or on holidays. Besides, the vast majority of their personnel speaks only Portuguese. Some post offices offer a few minutes of free Internet access, without any bureaucratic requirements.