Welcome to Brazil. On Sunday 12th November 2006, I flew out overnight on business.

It's a 10˝hr flight, a lot more South than West; with Brazil on Summer Time, they are only 2 hours behind England.

This is the view from my room in the hotel in Osasco, a suburb of Sao Paulo. As you can see, the infrastructure is highly developed.

Meet the neighbours... Some of Sao Paulo is decidedly swanky, but the elegant prosperity is cheek-by-jowl with dreadful poverty and a violent underclass. Everyone I met was friendly and generous, but I was woken one morning by a volley of gunshots not far away. High fences and remote-controlled gates are common.

15th November is a national holiday, so I was packed off to the local beach (90km away) for the day.

I am no great traveller and the taxi driver spoke no English, so it was an eye-opener to share the day with Vladimir Filipov, a multilingual Bulgarian software engineer and incorrigible traveller for whom the next place is always better than this.

I know. Memo to self: keep finger away from camera lens! Sorry, I was still learning my new mobile phone.

Rising at 3.30am on Thursday morning to check out and get a taxi to the airport, we flew 500 miles North to Ipatinga for two days of meetings. The San Diego Hotel is rather smarter than its surroundings.

You may think that all Airport Departure Lounges look like the one at Sao Paulo, but things are a bit different at Ipatinga.


Waiting for the plane back to Sao Paolo was a truly memorable evening, complete with that sudden tropical sunset.

Looking down on in central Sao Paulo from my 14th floor balcony at the hotel, things were just warming up for the night. Next morning the place seemed almost dead! The city is enormous and it's roaring economy makes it less sunny than you might expect.

The Blue Tree Tower hotel was top-class and the staff brilliant. Only those who have seen You Only Live Twice will know why I was dubious about the bed!