This was something of a last-minute business trip. A colleague was supposed to be going, but she hit a visa snag which meant I got a day's notice of needing to go in her place.
It was an overnight flight, landing at 5am and with my first meeting at 9am. I'd have no free time at all once the meetings began, so my only time for a little exploration was between arriving at my hotel shortly after 6am and needing to be back there for 9am.
With very limited time to wander, I posted on a photography forum to seek advice of where to go. To my surprise, the answer from locals and regular visitors alike was the same: do not take your camera as I'd be robbed.
I replied that they didn't understand, I took a camera everywhere, including some fairly dodgy places. They responded that I didn't understand: Sao Paolo is not like other places. I didn't realise how right they were until later, but adopted a compromise: I took an old film body and a cheap lens, total value not much more than £100. If someone stole that, they were welcome to it.
Mindful of the advice, I got to my hotel room, emptied my pockets completely, put everything in the safe and headed out with nothing on me but the camera.
This was rush-hour commute time in a busy business district. It was daylight by now, and the pavements were thronged with people. It felt like a very safe place.
I wandered along the pavement, every now and then stopping to take a photo. Every single time I stopped, without exception, there was a hand in one of my pockets! This clearly was a place like no other ...
I asked my contact there about it. He said that the hugely high crime-rate was a function of three factors. First, and most obviously, poverty. Second, the fact that the typical sentence for a violent street robbery was one week in gaol, which the robbers obviously considered an occupational hazard. Third, a highly corrupt police force: it's apparently so blatent that they will take bribes in the form of cheques made out to their name!
But with nothing on me to steal bar a cheap camera, which I certainly wasn't going to fight over - if someone grabbed it, I'd give it up instantly - I had an enjoyable couple of hours wandering the streets.
I was working with a local company, and one of the team there was ferrying me between meetings. We parked about 100 metres from the offices, and walked into the building, my laptop tucked under my arm.
We finished at around 11pm, and I was asked if I had a bag for my laptop. I didn't, and they set about finding one. I was bemused, as the car was literally 100 metres away, but was told that, at night, it would be snatched before we got halfway there. An old sports bag was found.
On the drive back to my hotel, I noticed that the driver slowed for red lights but drove straight through them. You always wonder whether to ask about such things, but I did. I was told that it's actually the law in Sao Paolo that you don't have to stop at red lights after 10.30pm at night "because if you do, someone will put a gun through your window."
Arriving back at Heathrow, I had a shoot for FHM the next day. My one and only one, honest - but hey, it's all experience. I picked up the latest issue from WH Smiths at T1 to find a 4-page feature entitled Sao Paolo: Kidnap Capital of the World. I was glad I hadn't read that on the way out ...