1 day ago
2 days ago
  • Where to feel like one of the family Read more: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-tips-and-articles/where-to-feel-like-one-of-the-family#ixzz2xX4Sh7xp

    With 2014 marking the 20th anniversary of the International Year of the Family, here’s how to kip with clans worldwide.

    Casas particulares, Cuba

    Cuban men sitting in a doorway. Image by Mark Hannaford / AWL Images / Getty Images.

    Cuban men sitting in a doorway. Image by Mark Hannaford / AWL Images / Getty Images.

    The room is a retro revelation: all quirky antiques, faded family photos and leafy plants. A warm breeze teases through the paint-flaked shutters. The table heaves under a mountain of fresh prawns and impassioned conversation about Castro and what’s going on in the soaps. Then the cigars come out… Casas particulares (Cuban homestays), legalised in 1997, provide vital additional income for many locals. For travellers, they provide the best way to stay on the Caribbean Isle: not only cheaper than hotels, casas offer oodles more character, homecooked food and an instant way in to Cuban culture.

    Casas particulares (www.casaparticularcuba.org) are found island-wide.

    Ger, Mongolia

    Homestays in the Gobi Desert? OK, homes don’t really ‘stay’ here: nomads shift their gers (yurts) at the whim of the weather. But some of these felt tents stay put long enough for steppe-roaming travellers to get a night of local living. There are rules: when approaching a ger, call ‘Nokhoi khor!’ (hold the dog!), the Mongolian equivalent of knocking; on entering, walk to the left (on the right is the family area); don’t sit with your back or feet pointing towards the ger’s altar; and when offered some airag (fermented mare’s milk), accept – even if you’d rather not…

    Ger camps open from mid-may. June and September are pleasant; July–August is peak season, though temperatures can top 40°c.

    Coconut plantation, Kerala, India

    A boatman on a river in Trivandrum, Kerala. Image by Andrea Booher / The Image Bank / Getty Images.

    A boatman on a river in Trivandrum, Kerala. Image by Andrea Booher / The Image Bank / Getty Images.

    The Keralan coconut trade is not what it used to be. Prices have slumped and youngsters no longer want to spend time scampering up trees to scrape a meagre living. Luckily, the residents of God’s Own Country are a resourceful lot. With the classic crop failing to raise the rupees, many plantation owners in the South Indian state have opened their colonial-cool doors to passing travellers instead. That means opportunities for intimate stays in often elegant, antique-bedecked buildings, with palms and lushness wafting outside the windows, backwaters burbling nearby and delicious (possibly coconut-infused) curries cooked each night.

    The main airports are at Cochin, Kozhikode and Trivandrum. The Trivandrum Rajdhani Express (Delhi to Trivandrum) takes 41 hours.

    Township house, Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa

    In 1904 the township of Klipspruit was established southwest of Johannesburg to house the black-African labourers that officials didn’t want clogging the city. It grew exponentially, spawning the vast, chaotic melting-pot that is Soweto. Today it’s a fascinating mix: tin shacks and shebeens (pubs) lean near glitzy malls and mansions; there’s a Mandela museum (in Nelson’s former home), memorials to the 1976 student uprising, and even a distinct Soweto substyle of youth dress and lingo. Staying overnight with a local family in their township home is the best way to begin to comprehend this vibrant, tough and tenacious multicultural sprawl.

    Soweto is reached by MetroRail from Johannesburg Park Station. Guided tours are advised for exploring beyond Orlando West.

    Sobe, Croatia

    Jump off a bus or hop off a ferry somewhere along the Croatian coast in summertime, and your first encounter is not with the lapping turquoise sea or fish-grilling tavernas, but a line of sobe-ladies – often wizened old grandmas – touting rooms for rent in their homes. ‘Sobe? You want room? I give good price’, is the staccato call. And they’re not wrong. Although quality and style may vary (look before you pay), sobe are a snip, and can come with kitchenettes, cosy beds and even a surrogate mum for the duration of your stay.

    Arrive in town early for the greatest choice of rooms and the best bargaining position.

    Iban longhouse, Sarawak, Malaysia

    Iban men in traditional costumes in a longhouse. Image by Peter Solness / Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images

    Iban men in traditional costumes in a longhouse. Image by Peter Solness / Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images.

    Things can get cosy in an Iban longhouse. Members of Sarawak’s largest ethnic group (once known for their headhunting proclivities) traditionally live in communal, wonky, wooden structures that might be home to 30-odd families – and a few curious travellers. Many longhouses are secreted away in the jungle, reached only by boat. On arrival, your first port of call should be the tribe’s chief, who will hopefully grant you permission to ascend into the longhouse’s ruai (common area). This is where it all happens: eating, rice-wine drinking, gossiping, dancing… the Iban like to party, so don’t count on much sleep.

    Gifts should be given to Iban hosts, and easily divisible items are best – gifts will be shared among all the longhouse’s families.

    Village home, Otavalo, Ecuador

    There’s no rest for the guest in the Ecuadorean Highlands – not when there’s corn to be picked or sandals to be stitched. Around the traditional town of Otavalo, known for its colourfully dressed indigenous people and (fairly touristy) handicraft market, a scatter of homesteads welcomes travellers, and encourages them get their hands dirty. Rise with the cock’s crow – it’s worth it to watch the sunrise over the nearby volcanoes – then spend the day helping out, feeding the guinea pigs, planting cabbage or learning Andean embroidery. Efforts will be repaid by generous meals (remember those guinea pigs?) and a more authentic Otavaleño encounter.

    Community-tourism operator Runa Tupari arranges homestays and cultural activities in the area; see www.runatupari.com.

    Bedouin tent, Wadi Rum, Jordan

    OK, the convivial camps that dot the Jordanian desert might not be 100% authentic – you’d need to know a Bedouin family well before they invited you to stay overnight. But the tourist versions still provide a starry snap-shot of this Middle Eastern lifestyle, with the welcome addition of flush loos and solar showers. Head out amid Wadi Rum’s weird rocks by 4WD or camel, stopping to meet some real Bedouin for a cup of tea, and spend the night under canvas, snuggled in blankets while a campfire flickers in the sand and a canopy of constellations flickers far above.

    The best months to visit are March to April and October to November; from May to September temperatures can exceed 40°c.

    Bure, Fiji

    A thatched bure in Fiji. Image by Himani Himani / Perspectives / Getty Images.

    A thatched bure in Fiji. Image by Himani Himani / Perspectives / Getty Images.

    There’s not much to a traditional Fijian bure – a simple wood-and-thatch windowless cabin with dark, smoky walls and a packed-earth floor. But when paradise lies just outside, no one’s much concerned with interior decor. These days bures might have a few more amenities, but the rest is unchanged: the South Pacific is just as blue, the beaches as Bounty-ad beautiful. Better, though, is feeling part of the Fijian community. Join the ladies on a market shop, sail out with the village fishermen, learn to cook your catch in a lovo (earth-pit oven) or simply sit and shoot the sea breeze.

    When visiting a village it’s polite to give a gift of kava root to the host. For homestay options see www.fijihomestays.com.

    Couch, worldwide

    Beachside chalet, city apartment, bungalow, cabin, mansion, hovel – any one of these could be home for the night, anywhere on the planet. Thanks to the internet, which means you can now contact a bloke in Uzbekistan as easily as you can the man next door, the concept of couch-surfing has gone gargantuan. The idea is that when you’re travelling you can get in touch with willing locals and stay in their homes for free. In exchange, you exchange: this is about cultural mixing as much as bagging a bargain.

    The best-known free-sleep network is www.couchsurfing.org; similar options are www.bewelcome.org and www.hospitalityclub.org.

    #travel  
    #cuba  
    #india  
    #africa  
    #croatia  
    #ecuador  
    #jordan  
    #fiji  

  • 3 days ago
    4 days ago
  • 5 Tips for Exploring Marrakech’s Souks

    Shoes hanging in a market in Marrakech

    Shoes hanging in a market in Marrakech

    The souks in Marrakech are like an onion: peel back one layer and the next is more intense than the last. Not only are there endless amounts of eclectic items to buy, there is also a wild fervor that floods the marketplace’s tight, serpentine corridors.

    In Northern Africa and the Middle East, souk simply refers to a marketplace, and one of the best examples can be seen at Souk Ablueh and the other markets surrounding Djemma el-Fna in Marrakech. These traditional north African marketplaces are a popular spot with locals and tourists alike, because the stalls are filled with daily necessities to luxurious lamps, silver teapots and pretty much anything else your heart desires, including adventure.

    Adventure? Yep, that’s right. I know it may seem strange using shopping and adventure in the same line, but trust me when I say that’s exactly what visiting the souks is, especially if it is your first foray into Marrakech’s markets. So, to help you get the most of your expedition through the souks, we compiled our essential tips to aid you on your Moroccan shopping adventure.

    Take Your Time

    A lot of people come to Marrakech to do some serious shopping, and in retrospect, I really wish we had done more. Initially, the souks are a bit intimidating and approaching a shop seems a little nerve racking, so if you want to shop, spend the first day just looking around, snapping photos and taking note of everything on offer in the souks. Approach a couple shops to get a feel for the bargaining process. Make the following day your big shopping day, starting small and working up to the big ticket items you want.

    Exquisite lamps hang everywhere in the Souks

    Exquisite lamps hang everywhere in the Souks

    Carry Small Change

    Most of the sellers in the souks will take euros and U.S. dollars along with the Moroccan Dirham so remember to bring plenty of small change. It becomes a lot harder to bargain when you only have large bills. Having change in your pocket is a great way to add a little value to your offer without costing you a lot of money. Keep your money separated as well–sellers are more likely to give you a good deal if you can show them your empty pockets proving to them all you have is a certain amount of money. You don’t want to put all your cards on the table by pulling out a huge wad of bills.

    Bring Something to Trade

    Even something as simple as chewing gum could help get you a great deal. During the bartering process, throw in your item and watch the seller’s face light up. Everyone loves getting a good deal, including the merchants in the souks, and it helps when you can give them something that might be hard to get in Marrakech. Trading also helps alleviate serious bargaining matches and gets a smile from all everyone involved. It’s especially good if you can bring small items, like gum, LCD flashlights and small tools.

    Beautiful crafts are a plenty in the Marrakech souks

    Beautiful crafts are a plenty in the Marrakech souks

    Watch Out!

    Yes, you’ll be enamored by the endless amounts of glittering jewels, teapots and coins. You will likely follow your nose to the wafting smell of pastries and roasting nuts. And without a doubt, you’ll feel like you are in a completely different world and find yourself gawking at wares you only thought existed in a Pier 1 catalog. With that said, please remember to keep an eye out. People aren’t the only ones walking through souks, donkeys also stroll through and motorbikes rush past speeds that seem very unsafe to the uninitiated (you and me). A couple of times I wasn’t paying attention and almost got hit by passing motorbikes. While you’re muttering “oh wow” to yourself, just remember to keep a clear view of what is going on around you, and look out for speeding bikers coming around blind corners.

    Get Lost and Have Fun

    The souks are huge, beautiful and confusing. Don’t get stressed about getting lost, which will likely happen to you. Just remember that you are never truly that far from Djemaa el-Fna Square. It’s strange how it happens, but each time we got turned around, we ended up right back where we needed to be. Wandering around, getting lost and taking it all in is just part of the fun. Enjoy it and know you’ll find your way out eventually. If you get truly stuck, you can always ask the shop owners who will point you in the right direction.

    Do you have a tips or tricks that you use when visiting souks or markets?

    #travel  
    #souk  

  • 5 days ago
  • Santiago: Five Things to do in God’s Office

    On a clear day, Santiago luxuriates in one of the most resplendent settings of any city in the world. It’s framed by spectacular mountains — the white-tipped Andes to the east and the Chilean coastal range to the west. No wonder I was surprised when an acquaintance who had recently returned described it as “a dull hole with poor service and nothing to see beyond two hills”. While pollution and noise are likely to cloud one’s first impressions, Santiago deserves a closer look.

    That Santiago solicits such polarizing opinions is telling — and while the city might not match the romance and grandeur of Buenos Aires— it is nonetheless cultured and quirky. In truth, it’s a bit of an anachronism — very modern and inviting with citizens that exude an old-world charm and humility. The city’s survived the challenges of earthquakes, financial crises, dictatorships and floods to emerge safe, energetic and inviting.

    People in Chile’s provinces are fond of saying, “God is everywhere, but his office is in Santiago.” So what to do if you have a day or two to spend in the Big Guy’s office? Check out my recommendations below!

    1. Plaza de Armas

    A local chalk artist putting the finishing touches on the Virgin Mary.

    A local chalk artist putting the finishing touches on the Virgin Mary. Photo courtesy Daniel Sendecki.

    As with any metropolitan centre in South America, the Plaza de Armas serves as the focal point of the city. The plaza was the midpoint of the Spanish settlement of 1541—and the square once served as a military training ground—hence its name. With time, however, it became the focus of Santiago’s social and commercial life. Santiago’s Plaza is a lively place, with outdoor cafes, local artists, street vendors, buskers, a statue of the local hero and, of course, grand buildings around the square. It’s a great place to people watch while sipping a beer or a coffee on a patio.

    2. Santa Lucia Hill

    Santa Lucia’s curving staircases are beautiful.

    Santa Lucia’s curving staircases are beautiful. Photo courtesy Daniel Sendecki.

    Located in the heart of Santiago Centro, Santa Lucía Hill takes 15–20 minutes to climb and provides a very sweet view of the city unsurpassed inside Santiago—except by Cerro San Cristóbal (see below). It’s frequented by tourists—and lovers! Scattered throughout the park are various murals, statues, lookouts and liplocked couples. With multiple ways to get to the peak, just keep heading upwards and you can’t go wrong! The hill borders Avenue Bernardo O’Higgins in the south, Santa Lucía Street in the west and Victoria Subercaseaux.

    3. Bellavista

    Alrededores de Bellavista, Santiago.

    Alrededores de Bellavista, Santiago. Photo courtesy Daniel Sendecki.

    Described by Frommer’s as one of the city’s most enigmatic neighborhoods, Bellavista “is to Santiago what Montmartre is to Paris”—that is, a popular bohemian quarter. The influence doesn’t end there, however, as Barrio Bellavista is known for French touches in its architecture and culture, too.

    4. Cerro San Cristóbal

    Statue of the Virgin Mary on the top of Cerro San Cristóbal.

    Statue of the Virgin Mary on the top of Cerro San Cristóbal. Photo courtesy Daniel Sendecki.

    According to the locals we met, there is really no view of the entire city that compares to the panorama at the top of Cerro San Cristóbal. Take a ride up in the funicular from Bellavista and make sure you visit the statue of the Virgin Mary at the peak. Arrive half an hour before sunset on a clear day and watch night fall over the city—it’s breathtaking. Named by the Spanish conquistadors for St Christopher, in recognition of its use as a landmark, the hill boasts a 22m statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary donated by France in the 1920s. The statue is partly the work of French sculptor Bartholdi (of Statue of Liberty fame).

    5. Maipo Valley

    The Maipo Valley is a significant wine-producing, surrounding the national capital Santiago.

    The Maipo Valley is a significant wine-producing region. Photo courtesy Daniel Sendecki.

    Vineyards stretch eastward from Santiago to the Andes and westward to the coast to form three distinct sectors of the Maipo Valley, considered the home of Chilean wine. It was here that the first wines were produced in the mid sixteenth century by Spanish missionaries. Some of the most established and respected names in Chilean wine are located in the Maipo Valley, for the simple reason that the original wineries were located, for obvious logistical reasons, within close proximity of Santiago city.

    Conclusion

    Santiago is one of my favourite cities in South America, with a breathtaking location framed by the Andes mountains. The city offers wonderful museums, colourful colonial architecture, appealing day trips—and great food and wine. My only complaint was that I didn’t have more time to spend touring God’s ‘office’.


    Getting There

    Curious to see what it would be like to stay to tour God’s Office? G Adventures runs a number of small group trips in Chile encompassing a wide range of departure dates, and trip styles to cater for different tastes. We’re thrilled at the prospect of showing you South America as you’ve never seen it — check out our small group trips to Chile here.

    #god  
    #travel  
    #chile  

  • 6 days ago
  • Sailing, Cape Horn, Chile
Dientes de Navarino Mountains in Chile by Dimitry B. CC BY 2.0.
Tall ships may look like they’ve sailed straight out of a classic oil painting, but you don’t need to set your DeLorean to 1870 to navigate the stormy seas in one – but you should be prepared to get stuck in on deck, and climbing the rigging is especially encouraged. The Auckland-to-Falklands route around Cape Horn is one of the gnarliest shipping channels on the planet, and you’ll rack up 5400 nautical miles among some of the world’s biggest waves.
You need some crewing experience for Classic Sailing’s Cape Horn trip (www.classicsailing.co.uk), though they organise shorter voyages for those with none.
Read more: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-tips-and-articles/best-adventure-travel-for-2014#ixzz2xX2wRsvE

    Sailing, Cape Horn, Chile

    Dientes de Navarino Mountains in Chile by Dimitry B. CC BY 2.0.

    Tall ships may look like they’ve sailed straight out of a classic oil painting, but you don’t need to set your DeLorean to 1870 to navigate the stormy seas in one – but you should be prepared to get stuck in on deck, and climbing the rigging is especially encouraged. The Auckland-to-Falklands route around Cape Horn is one of the gnarliest shipping channels on the planet, and you’ll rack up 5400 nautical miles among some of the world’s biggest waves.

    You need some crewing experience for Classic Sailing’s Cape Horn trip (www.classicsailing.co.uk), though they organise shorter voyages for those with none.

    #chile  
    #sailing  
    #travel  

  • 1 week ago
    1 week ago
  • Mountain biking, Avoriaz, France
Avoriaz is one of 12 interconnected resorts in the Portes du Soleil region of the French Alps, where man-made bike trails and alpine tracks create a spectacular playground for mountain bikers. The area, which includes Les Gets and Morzine, opens 25 ski lifts during the summer for riders who’d rather earn their thrills the easy way. There are more than 650km of trails in Portes du Soleil, ranging from mellow to OMG. At the end of June the Pass’Portes du Soleil mountain bike festival sees 4000 bikers descend on the region for a 75km race that is mostly downhill. The gondolas close to bikers in September, then the skiers get their turn.
The Rustine School (www.rustine.fr) offers two-wheeled tuition to children and adults. Bikes and full-face helmets are provided.

Read more: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-tips-and-articles/best-adventure-travel-for-2014#ixzz2xX2d4ggd

    Mountain biking, Avoriaz, France

    Avoriaz is one of 12 interconnected resorts in the Portes du Soleil region of the French Alps, where man-made bike trails and alpine tracks create a spectacular playground for mountain bikers. The area, which includes Les Gets and Morzine, opens 25 ski lifts during the summer for riders who’d rather earn their thrills the easy way. There are more than 650km of trails in Portes du Soleil, ranging from mellow to OMG. At the end of June the Pass’Portes du Soleil mountain bike festival sees 4000 bikers descend on the region for a 75km race that is mostly downhill. The gondolas close to bikers in September, then the skiers get their turn.

    The Rustine School (www.rustine.fr) offers two-wheeled tuition to children and adults. Bikes and full-face helmets are provided.

    #travel  
    #france  
    #avoriaz  

  • 1 week ago
  • Beyond Restaurants: Eight Ways to Savor a Local Food Scene

    Eating in a Michelin-starred restaurant or rubbing shoulders with the natives at their favorite beachfront fish shack can give you a memorable taste of a new place — but if you’re looking to experience the full flavor of a local food scene, why not look beyond restaurant meals alone? On your next trip, consider sampling the wares at a farmer’s market, taking a food tour led by a professional chef or even inviting yourself over for a meal at a resident’s home. Read on to check out these and five more ideas for savoring the local cuisine.

    1. Eat in a local’s home.

    It’s the holy grail of foodie travel — getting an invite to eat a home-cooked meal with a local family. And it’s a lot easier than it used to be.

    Several websites can help you organize this type of experience. At EatWith.com, you can browse listings from hosts offering experiences such as homemade tapas and paella in Valencia, Spain, or a “Brasilian family menu” in Rio de Janeiro. EatwithaLocal.com is a similar service that offers both home-cooked meals and “meet-ups” at food festivals and other events.

    A few other sites to try include EatFeastly.com, BonAppetour.com and Cookening.com.

    2. Visit a grocery store.

    If you want to eat what the locals eat, you have to shop where the locals shop — and that’s the grocery store. In some parts of the world, it might not look too different from the spacious supermarkets you’re used to at home; in others, you might find yourself wandering a few dusty dry goods aisles in the shop on the corner. Either way, you’ll get a good idea of what types of foods are the staples of the local diet.

    Keep your eye out for unexpected products like “Let’s Dip Dracula” (a tongue-in-cheek powdered dip mix sold in Romania), octopus ice cream in Japan or fermented herring in Sweden. (Tip: Edible oddities make great souvenirs!)

    What You Can Learn About a Country from Its Supermarkets

    3. Take a cooking class.

    Don’t just eat the local cuisine — learn to cook it! The truly dedicated can take a weeklong culinary vacation, while dabblers can hone their craft in a two- or three-hour workshop. TheInternationalKitchen.com is a good source for both types of experiences, offering single-day classes in Italy, France and Spain, as well as longer vacations in nearly a dozen countries. Bestsellers include the six-night “Culinary Adventure in Umbria” package and the five-night “Cooking in Andalusian Olive Country,” incorporating not just daily cooking classes but also unique local experiences such as truffle hunting, olive oil tastings, and stays in palaces or farmhouses.

    Epitourean.com is another good resource for culinary travel, with offerings across the U.S. and around the world. You may also want to check the website of your destination’s tourist board, as cooking classes are often listed in the sections on local activities.

    4. Browse a local market.

    food market malaysiaColorful and sometimes chaotic, a farmer’s market is an ideal place to find homegrown food products, from fresh fruit and vegetables to artisanal goods like honey or cheese. As you wander the stalls, you can taste samples, chat with farmers and vendors, and pick up a few goodies for a picnic lunch. Eating aside, markets are also fantastic spots for amateur photographers — there are few shots more luscious than a vibrant pile of ripe berries or exotic vegetables.

    Read about one traveler’s experience at a local market in Finding Foodie Heaven in Rennes, France.

    5. Arrange a homestay.

    If you want to go beyond just eating in a local home, you can stay in one as well. Arranging a homestay through a site like Airbnb.com or Servas.org is a good way to live with a local family, eat at their table and maybe even learn to cook a traditional dish or two. (Be prepared to help with the dishes or clean-up in return.) It won’t take long before you feel like member of the family.

    Intrigued? See our guide to homestays and farmstays for more tips and resources.

    6. Find a “food sherpa.”

    The New York Times recently wrote an article highlighting the rise of the food sherpa — “a local expert who brings a hungry traveler to pockets of the culinary landscape that may otherwise seem out of reach.” These experts might be chefs, food bloggers or cookbook authors, and they lead intimate small-group tours to uncovered corners of the local food scene — the specialty market with the best artisanal cheeses, perhaps, or the food truck with the most authentic noodle soup.

    To find your own sherpa, go online and search for food tours in your destination. (The tourist board’s website may be useful here.) The New York Times recommends seeking small groups led by guides who specialize in food (not those who also lead other types of tours) and who offer unexpected stops beyond the stereotypical types of cuisine for which the destination is most famous.

    Photos: 12 Delicious Destinations for Foodies

    7. Arrange a farmstay.

    eggs bread frying pan farmLike the thought of waking up to scrambled eggs fresh from the hen or organic cheese made with the milk of a local cow? If so, you might enjoy a stay on a working farm. Most popular in Europe, North America and Australia/New Zealand, farmstays vary widely — from vineyards and apple orchards to sprawling sheep farms and cattle ranches. As a guest, you can stroll through the pastures or even help out by picking berries, milking cows or learning to shear a sheep. It gives “farm to table” a whole new meaning.

    There are many destination-specific websites to help you find farmstays, such as RuralHolidays.co.nz in New Zealand or EuroGites.org in Europe. See our guide to homestays and farmstays for more tips and resources.

    8. Bring your trip home to your own kitchen.

    Each trip is the opportunity to gather new memories — and new recipes. If you enjoyed a particular dish during your vacation, why not try to recreate it at home? As I wrote in 35 Travel Tips Revealed: Top Secrets of Travel Writers, “After I return from a foreign country, I always try to recreate a local dish in my own kitchen, like Moroccan couscous or Belizean stewed chicken. The smell of the meal will often transport me right back to the place I just left.”

    To learn more, check out Cooking Up a Travel Memory.

    #travel  
    #food  

  • 1 week ago
  • How to go off the grid when you travel Read more: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/themes/gear-and-tech/how-to-go-off-the-grid-when-you-travel/?affil=EML_EDITORIALNEWS_53#ixzz2xX0qQPGS

    Ever yearn to travel old-school style, without the screens, gadgets and multitasking stress? Do away with worrying about chargers, adapters, cables, cases, insuring all your devices, and organising foreign wi-fi plans and roaming. Instead, enjoy the moment, get out of your comfort zone, generate new ways of thinking and build stronger bonds with your family and friends. Naturally you’ll still want to remember your trip, but you can achieve that with a simple checklist: pen, paper, book, film camera.

    Local faces, not Facebook

    Why

    Do you really need to know what your friends and barely-friends are doing while you’re away? Leave behind the need to be validated by their ‘likes’.

    How

    Ask the woman selling mangoes in the market about how the area has changed, or the man at the ferry stop what sights he recommends. If language is a problem, bring a phrasebook, or try universities or bookshops, which often have conversation corners with eager locals who want to practice speaking your language and will share stories about their lives.

    Paper maps, not Google Maps

    Why

    If you have grown used to planning everything with a digital map, you might find that a paper map is actually easier to use. You can personalise it and write on it, it doesn’t take time to load or require the internet, and it can be tucked away and pulled out quickly. Best of all, looking at a larger area gives you a much better idea of where you are.

    How

    Most tourist information booths and some hotels offer free local maps, often with points of interest marked on them. Or you can try wandering around without a map and speaking to locals – you may get lost at times but you may also get to know an area properly and discover some unmapped gems.

    Film cameras, not digital selfies

    Unlike digital, every shot taken on a film camera costs money, so is valued and considered.

    Digital cameras take multiple, deletable, quick-fire snaps that mean you can spend more time seeing the world through the lens than living the experience. When we take shots on a smartphone, our minds seem even further away from the trip, experiencing it for the sake of social media.

    Why

    Taking digital photos has become the experience, and sometimes even the point of the trip. In contrast, film photos let you look back at your trip – there is space between having the experience and reliving it because you have no idea at the time what the photo will end up looking like. There is a certain thrill about collecting your prints from a photo shop (the real thing, not the software) and seeing how they turned out. A surprise great shot is something to pin up or hand to somebody. Even the failed shots are not something to be deleted but are a natural captured moment.

    Higher resolution

    Have you ever wondered how a high-definition Blu-ray disc can be produced from an old movie? It’s because a film that was shown in cinemas 30 years ago is still of a higher resolution than most modern digital movies. The same goes for still photos. The common 35mm film of yesteryear produces shots equivalent to 25 megapixels – double the resolution of most digital cameras today. Film photos just look better.

    How

    Film processing hasn’t disappeared; in most cities you can still turn a roll of film into photos in a day, and sometimes in half an hour. In the same stores you can buy film in different speeds and ISO (sensitivity). To get that Instagram look, Holga cameras can easily add fancy effects, and in a stylish case too.

    Real books, not Kindles

    Why

    A book has a paper-thin display that boots instantly and never has a flat battery. You can take it to the beach, get sand and splashes on it without breaking it, and leave it unattended while you swim with little fear of it going missing. Not something you’re likely to do with an iPad or e-reader. Plus, books have that unique tactile experience – you can easily flick back and forth and know how much is left. And nothing evokes travel memories months later like picking up a book off the shelf and coming across the local bus ticket you used as a bookmark.

    How

    Yes, they weigh more than e-readers, but real books are something you can share, passing on to other people on the road, thus lightening your load. On your travels you can swap one book for another on a book-swap shelf in hostels or book exchanges. Think of that one novel you are reading as personal to your trip, and forget about the stress of a multitasking e-reader or tablet.

    Post real letters, not instant messages

    Why

    Staying in touch with people electronically while abroad is instantaneous but often shallow and rushed in fleeting moments, limited by texting fingers. And your two-line status message might be read by a bunch of people that you have only ever met once.

    So don’t go near Twitter, Whatsapp, SMS, blogs or emails. Give somebody that flutter in their tummy when they hold a real letter from you in their hands, complete with colourful local stamps and your excited handwriting and doodles. Your letter is a little piece of another country and something for your friend to sit with at full attention, not wanting it to end, and rereading it when it does.

    Meanwhile, you’ll keep your head space in the country you’re visiting.

    How

    As with tweets, there is an art to fitting the words onto that postcard or opaque airmail paper – the lighter it is, the cheaper it will be to send. Leave some space for a Par Avion stamp for airmail delivery and ask to choose which postage stamp design you’d like, especially as many post offices now use an uninspiring white label.

    Receive snail mail abroad, not digital likes

    Why

    You can also receive real letters while overseas, to make you feel more connected with home and spur you on for the rest of your trip. It will give you a stronger form of validation compared to a few ‘likes’.

    How

    Poste restante is available in many countries: a local post office will hold mail addressed to you for you to collect, usually for up to 10 or even 30 days. Your friends and family just have to write ‘Post Restante’ on the envelope after your name, followed by the name and address of a post office in your city. In Canada and the USA (for national mail), instead of writing ‘Poste Restante’, the letter should be labelled ‘General Delivery’. In other countries the wording is different and uses the local language, so check with the post office before telling people to start writing you perfumed letters.

    Real music and conversation, not iPods

    Why

    Being plugged into music is a great escape, but it’s just that, an escape from the place you have come to visit. Leave the mp3 player out of your luggage and you’ll find yourself having more conversations, reading more and, probably, sleeping more.

    How

    If you’re a serious music lover, you’ll probably be happier with real live music in the country you’re visiting. And it’s more than just the tunes; you’ll see how people behave in different countries – noisy rock bands playing in Japan often comment on how quiet and attentive the audience is. See and hear it all for yourself.

    Phillip Tang loves etymology, foreign supermarkets and animated GIFs. Follow his sparkling rants and photos on travel, technology and how we humans live @philliptang and on Google +.

    #travel  

  • 1 week ago
  • Why “Tourist” Is a Dirty Word

    tourist couple travelOnce I became old enough to plan my own independent travel adventures, I fancied that if I were smart enough, I could blend in. In Paris, I emulated Audrey Hepburn’s outfits in “Funny Face” and lingered over coffee and croissants like a pro. In Athens, I ordered train tickets with such gusto that I received an enthusiastic response — and had to smile and nod knowingly, because anything not in my phrasebook was all Greek to me. In Tokyo, I confidently boarded each bullet train like a transplant and did my best not to gawk at the sheer number of people, and lights, and people.

    Of course, I was fooling no one but myself, but the attempt to be an American incognito was — and remains — important to me. Why? Tourists are loud. Tourists are paparazzi. Tourists are rude. That’s because, worst of all, tourists are ignorant.

    On one level, “tourist” is just a word that could be used to describe anyone, like myself, who travels to places other than their own for enjoyment. As travel writer Rolf Potts once eloquently put it: “It certainly can’t hurt to retain a sense of perspective as we indulge ourselves in haughty little pissing contests over who qualifies as a ‘traveler’ instead of a ‘tourist’.’” After all, he says, “Regardless of one’s budget, itinerary and choice of luggage — the act of travel is still, at its essence, a consumer experience.”

    To an extent, I agree. I understand it may seem like a silly case of semantics to say my skin crawls when asked to define myself by the “tourist” moniker. But that’s because to me, the word has come to mean something negative, even amateur. Beyond the cliche fashion faux pas (do a Google image search on the word “tourist” and you’ll see what I mean), tourists are a breed, a sect of travelers, who refuse to buy into the place they’re currently in, and to accept that it is … different.

    10 Things You Should Never Wear When Traveling Abroad

    In my view, there is a distinct difference between being new to a country or culture, and clinging to “I don’t know any better” as a mentality and as an excuse. I’m neither Cambodian nor Buddhist, but respect and reverence for a monks’ religious ceremony is something I’d assume would go without saying — and I cringe when I realize my instincts aren’t always shared by other “travelers.” (You know them: the ones with the flashing cameras and flapping jaws.)

    It’s easy to pick up a camera or phone these days and capture everything secondhand — and I’ve been guilty of this in the past — but you become removed from what’s happening. I’ll never forget a group tour of an impoverished Cape Town township in South Africa. I was glad to be exposed to a local way of life, and many of my companions began to take pictures of the children there. I followed suit until it felt so bizarre that I finally had to stop. They were people, not just points of interest on a sightseeing tour. I could never learn what their life was really like in mere hours, but I didn’t want to waste that time by just photographing them. That’s when many of us decided to hand the cameras over and let the children take their own pictures.

    While voyeurism is inherent to leisure travel, I’m also aiming to lose myself (and that includes my one-sided perspective). Despite the vulnerable position of being in a foreign land, I still find faking it (even if you don’t make it) outweighs the doe-eyed sponge you become when you stick to the “I’m just a tourist” routine. You can be more! It doesn’t take any extra time, money or resources. The secret is a little effort: a few words of the language, understanding the currency, adhering to any regional religious restrictions or even stretching your own culinary comforts.

    To me, the debate is less about word choice and more a state of mind. Don’t be a patron at the global zoo — join the wild and wonderful things. Don’t be a tourist — be a traveler.

    10 Annoying Habits of Our Fellow Travelers

    What are your thoughts? Is there a meaningful difference between a tourist and a traveler?

    – written by Brittany Chrusciel

    #travel  
    #tourist  

  • 1 week ago
    1 week ago
  • Singapore: One Flag, Many Countries

    Don’t let Singapore’s small size fool you. Although the city-state occupies a marshy island only half as large as Los Angeles, it’s bursting at the seams with charm, color and character.

    The melting pot of Asia, Singapore is not only multilingual, but multicultural as well. This is perhaps most evident in its ethnic neighborhoods, which quite literally allow you to travel to several countries in the span of a single day.

    Let me show you what I’m talking about!

    Yours truly, taking a dip in infinity pool atop the Marina Bay Sands Hotel

    Singapore’s most conspicuous cityscape is its central business district, centered around the Singapore Marina. With towering skyscrapers, swanky cafés and iconic structures like the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and the Singapore “Merlion” statue, downtown Singapore is like New York City in Southeast Asia!

    Singapore’s Little India. Quite a change, huh?

    After you’ve had your fill of the concrete jungle, hop on to the Singapore MRT and ride it to “Little India” station. Although you’ve been traveling just 15 minutes or so, you’ll feel like you’ve hopped a Singapore Airlines flight to Colombo or Chennai.

    Pull up a colorful seat at any of Little India’s many eateries

    As its name suggests, Little India is where much of Singapore’s Tamil Indian community resides. Centered around the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Hindu Temple, the district is also home to Indian shops, businesses and restaurants. Lunch, anyone?

    Variety is the name of the game in Chinatown.

    Once you’ve scarfed down a few samosas, get back on the MRT and this time, disembark at “Chinatown” station. The largest and, arguably, most lively of Singapore’s ethnic neighborhoods, Chinatown frames the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of China amid a backdrop that is decidedly Singapore.

    Chinatown is a foodie’s paradise, with home-cooked Chinese, Taiwanese and Singaporean specialties, including famous chili crab. After you’ve finished eating, have a stroll through the colorful street markets, which really kicks into high gear around the time the sun is setting.

    Where else in the world can you see a minaret vis-a-vis a huge skyscraper?

    Tired yet? I hope not, because there’s one more neighborhood to go. Well, not so much as a neighborhood as a street — Arab Street, located just a short walk from the “Bugis” MRT stop. You’ll know you’re in the right place when you see the Sultan Mosque towering above you.

    As is the case with Little India and Chinatown, where Arab Street really shines is its food. I personally recommend that you pop into Singapore Zam Zam, a no-frills eateries that could just as well be in Cairo or Muscat. Zam Zam is famous for a dish called “Murtabak,” but you can choose something else from the wall-sized menu if that’s not your style.

    Murtabak wraps savory lamb, chicken or deer meat in an eggy dough, with spicy dipping sauce.

    OK, you now have my permission to be exhausted — you’ve just taken a trip around the world in a few hours! Still hungry for more Singapore fun? End your with drinks and dancing in lively Tanjong Pagar.

    #travel  
    #food  

  • 2 weeks ago
  • Ice Marathon, Antarctica

Antarctica’s Lemaire channel at first light. Image by Ralf Hettler / E+ / Getty Images.
Sidestep marathon-sponsorship inbox fatigue by doing a race so unusual that your friends will have no choice but to sit up and take notice. The annual Ice Marathon takes place in temperatures of -20°C, though the brutal wind chill whipping round your chops can make it feel another 20 degrees below that. It’s an environment so hostile even penguins won’t call it home. Yet to marathon in this frosted world you don’t actually need prior experience of running in extreme cold. You do need to follow advice on what to wear as if your life depends on it, as it probably does.
The 2014 Ice Marathon (www.icemarathon.com) is set for 19 to 23 November but the dates depend on the weather.

Read more: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-tips-and-articles/best-adventure-travel-for-2014#ixzz2xX3FSFZD

    Ice Marathon, Antarctica

    Antarctica’s Lemaire channel at first light. Image by Ralf Hettler / E+ / Getty Images.

    Sidestep marathon-sponsorship inbox fatigue by doing a race so unusual that your friends will have no choice but to sit up and take notice. The annual Ice Marathon takes place in temperatures of -20°C, though the brutal wind chill whipping round your chops can make it feel another 20 degrees below that. It’s an environment so hostile even penguins won’t call it home. Yet to marathon in this frosted world you don’t actually need prior experience of running in extreme cold. You do need to follow advice on what to wear as if your life depends on it, as it probably does.

    The 2014 Ice Marathon (www.icemarathon.com) is set for 19 to 23 November but the dates depend on the weather.

    #travel  

  • 2 weeks ago