Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Anthony Bourdain Shares His Top Five Travel Tips

ANTHONY BOURDAIN- NO RESERVATIONS COLLECTION 6-PARTSeasoned traveler and punk rock celeb chef Anthony Bourdain  (host of the Travel Channel's No Reservations) presents his top five travel tips to avoid travel nightmares and make the most out of your time on the road.

Eat like a local.  Wherever you are, eat what the locals are good at or famous for, and eat where those locals like to eat it. Do not rely on your concierge for dining tips. He’s in the business of making tourists happy. You want the places that make locals happy. Seek out places crowded with locals. Avoid places where others of your kind are present.

Show appreciation.  People everywhere like it when you are appreciative of their food. I cannot stress enough how important your initial reactions to offerings of local specialties are to any possible relationships you might make abroad. Smile and try to look happy, even if you don’t like it. If you do like it, let them know through word or gesture of appreciation.

Visit local markets.  Get up early and check out the central food market. It’s a fast way into a culture, where you’ll see the basics of the cuisine.  You’ll often find local prepared foods at stands or stalls serving markets’ workers.

Travel prepared.  Be prepared to be stuck in an airport for indeterminate periods of time.  Load your mobile device with as many games, songs, apps, and e-books as possible to keep busy during long waits. Also, make sure to pack a battery charger to power up.

Get comfortable.  Remember to bring something scrunchy and long-sleeved, like a sweatshirt. You might need it as a pillow.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Korean government swoops in to help ripped-off tourists

Officials promise to see off the scam artists with "fair and dignified" service 

Namdaemun Market SeoulSome vendors welcome visitors out of a natural friendliness and general love of humanity. Others are plotting something far more sinister…
The Korean government has leapt into action following nationwide media coverage condemning Korean vendors who rip off tourists.
The Chosun Ilbo ran an exposé earlier this month on scams at pojangmachas (covered street carts) which was then picked up and bandied about by scores of media outlets up and down the country.
One of the foreign victims was Japanese tourist Nakamura Haru, who ordered a single kimchi jeon and two bottles of beer, and was told to pay ₩50,000 (US$44) at a Namdaemun pojangmacha. The standard cost for such fare at most pojangmacha is around ₩16,000.
“I couldn’t communicate so I just paid and left, but I didn’t know Korea’s standards were so low,” Nakamura told Chosun Ilbo. He said that he had been “nervous” about entering the pojangmacha, as its menu did not list any prices.
Chinese tourist Qu Fui Han, 31, was also being ripped off at a pojangmacha in Dongdaemun, according to the Korean daily. Qu, who speaks fluent Korean, said the owner yelled at him for complaining when he asked why he was paying four times as much as a Korean customer.
“This is the difference between Chinese and Japanese tourists,” the pojangmacha owner reportedly said. “Japanese tourists don’t complain but the Chinese do.”
In order to “eradicate such practices,” the Korean government will be strengthening the supervision of street vendors, The Korea Herald reported today.
Tourists will also be able to report rip-offs to the police in various languages by calling 1330, the tourism information phone number, as it will be linked to 112, the local emergency number for police assistance.
“We will tackle the issues seriously at the pan-government level to offer fair and dignified services to foreign travelers,” said Shin Yong-eon, head of the Culture Ministry’s Tourism Industry Department.
The government is also introducing a new law to regulate exaggerated advertisements and curb the operations of travel agencies that hire unlicensed travel guides.
Our advice to foreign travelers to Korea?
Don’t eat or drink in dodgy outlets that don’t display prices on the menu, for starters.
And that goes for any country really.

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10 reasons we love Singapore

The real Singapore is more than just laksa or anything involving the word "hub"

Call it "Asia Lite," call it "A Fine City," there's still a lot to love in Singapore. 
Everyone loves to complain about Singapore -- but you’re still here, aren’t you?
There are some very positive reasons why many are choosing to stay, rather than leave, the Little Red Dot.
It’s not just that Singapore is clean, green and safe.
And positivity doesn’t mean a cheesy, clichéd campaign slogan or overstated accolades.
Day-to-day life in Singapore can be pretty good, even if you loath to admit it.

1. Efficiency

Singapore is extremely efficient when it come to matters of business.
We don’t procrastinate or hold lengthy discussions. If it sounds good, just do it.
A building looks ugly? Just tear it down and replace it.
Thinking of setting up a shop? Already signed the lease yesterday.
Wondering when the next MRT train is arriving? Who needs a timetable? They run every five minutes.
Bureaucracy rarely keeps us waiting, and we appreciate that, unless you are waiting for a Permanent Resident application at the moment.

2. Late-night Singapore

Things start and finish late. For the early birds, this does mean it can be a little impossible to do chores before 11 a.m., but it also means no queuing at popular spots.
At 8 a.m. you can have Orchard Road practically all to yourself. Mornings (pre- or -post rush hour) are especially peaceful and calm, perfect for walking the dog, going for a long run or just soaking up the city in relative silence.

3. Anytime, anywhere 

Singapore is still lively after the sun goes down. People are walking in the streets and shops are open for business.
When you’ve forgotten an anniversary or desperately needing a new outfit for a function the next day, long retail trading hours can be critical.
And if you still live with your parents, having multiple places to chill after hours is very useful indeed.

4. The small details matter

Aunty will make sure your food is packed properly.
People take their take-away seriously. Hawker food may be fast, but there’s nothing slap-dash about it. The aunty at the stall will spend almost as long as the hawker himself packing your noodle soup (rejigging the plastic bag, navigating the container, carefully placing the chili packet) so there is rarely any spillage.
Try ordering takeaway in other countries where they forget the chopsticks or the pizza arrives stuck to the lid and you’ll realize these small things matter, especially in the long run.

5. Cheap parking

Unlike many other countries, here you only pay around S$7 for the privilege of driving right up to the restaurant instead of driving in circles searching for a covered and secure car park.
Believe it or not, at Marina Bay Sands, the valet is free (yes, read it again, free) but you determine the gratuity.
It’s safe, it’s easy and it saves dealing with the Saturday night taxi debacle.

6. Reliable service

Yes, hawker aunties again.
They may be rude but they don’t judge the way fine dining staff might.
Especially at the 24-hour places.
Want assam laksa or char kway teow at 7 a.m.? Sure. You’ll still get the same blank, slightly curt expression, no matter what time of day you order or how much extra pork lard you request.

7. Changi Airport

Changi's efficiency never fails to welcome you back to Singapore.
Without a doubt Changi Airport is the best airport in the world. The journey from the plane-to-cab is always within 15 minutes, including collecting your luggage, and with some fun sweets at customs on the way in.
And what about those taxi uncles and aunties? Need we say more?

8. Predictable weather

Singapore’s weather is decisive.
When it rains, it rains properly. No lame drizzle and very few overcast, dreary days.
It’s either bright sunshine and blaring heat, or pouring like the world is about to end.
Either way, it’s always balmy and warm so its much easier to get dressed. The only complication is whether to bring an umbrella or not.

9. It’s an easy city

Too lazy to walk? No cabs in sight? Enlist the help of a trishaw uncle.
We are not ashamed to embrace slothfulness. The vast majority of us hate to move unnecessarily, unless it’s from one end of the buffet line to the other. This makes many things simple.
Need to have an awkward conversation with your boss? It’s fine to email her even though she sits two tables away.
Wearing ridiculously high heels or refusing to show up with sweat patches? It’s perfectly acceptable to catch cabs from one end of Orchard Road to the other.
This is a culture where people love to sit down, eat, talk and do nothing; and really, it’s pretty awesome.

10. A multi-cultural city

In Singapore there’s folks from all walks of life, from all around the globe and all extremes of income.
In one morning you can exchange a friendly banter with the cleaner at the office, share a coffee with your colleague from Malaysia, Japan, India or America and watch your boss roll into a meeting straight from his Lamborghini.
No matter race, religion or country, there are always interesting people to meet and talk with, and give us some perspective on how lucky we, in Singapore, really are.

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Hawaii for beach haters

By Ali Lemer, Lonely Planet

Waimea Canyon State is one of the island's greatest natural wonders with lush green forests that blanket its top.
Waimea Canyon State is one of the island's greatest natural wonders with lush green forests that blanket its top

(Lonely Planet) -- What's the first thing you think of when you think of Hawaii? The foaming-white sea lapping at a golden-sand beach surrounded by palm trees swaying in the breeze? Well, sure -- Hawaii's one of the world's ultimate beach destinations, an island paradise made for basking in the sun sipping daiquiris or hitting the waves to surf some righteous tubes.
But what to do if you're one of those people who just can't stand beaches? (Scorching sunburn, salt in your hair and sand everywhere!) If you're a beach hater, don't dismiss Hawaii just yet: there's plenty to do on the Hawaiian islands where you'll never have to step foot on sand. Here are some of our suggestions.

HAWAI'I (the Big Island)
This dormant volcano's peak is 4205 m (13,796 ft) above sea level -- the highest mountain in the state of Hawaii. (If you measure from its base underneath the Pacific, though, it's 10,000 m (33,000 ft) tall -- making it the tallest mountain on Earth.)
With such a clear vantage point, it's no wonder that its snowy summit is dotted with the greatest collection of astronomical telescopes in the world. The Onizuka Center here offers astronomy displays and nightly stargazing programs to the public.
Experienced mountaineers can even hike 12 miles to the summit through an otherworldly landscape of volcanic cinder cones and ancient archaeological sites.
If you'd prefer to see some live volcano action, head southeast to this unique national park, where Kilauea, the world's most active volcano, has been erupting continuously since 1983.
Outside the park boundaries, depending on conditions the day you visit, you may even be able to see fresh molten lava flowing into the sea (which is slowly but surely making the Big Island even bigger, year after year).
But even if the volcano goddess Pele isn't cooperating, there are still plenty of intriguing sights within the park's confines: hollowed-out lava tubes, steaming craters, tropical rainforest and old lava trails.
Rangers offer guided walks and other activities at the visitor center. For information on volcanic activity, the National Park Service has helpful updates (plus lava cam).

Upcountry Maui and Haleakala National Park
The volcanic soil and sloped pastures of Mt Haleakala have sustained much of Maui's farming and livestock for the past two centuries, and the paniolo (cowboy) vibe is still strong in towns like rustic Makawao.
A drive through the plush pastures of the Kula region will take you past cattle ranches, vineyards with cellar-door sales, goat dairies and a huge lavender farm (with a cafe and gift shop offering lavender versions of just about any foodstuff or cosmetic product you can imagine -- and even those you can't).
If you keep driving you can follow a tortuously winding road up the flank of Mt Haleakala itself, up 3055 m (10,023 ft) to the summit, where you can explore the surreal, lunar-like landscape -- home to unique flora such as the ten-year-blooming Haleakala silversword, which grows nowhere else on Earth -- and stare down at clouds filling enormous volcanic craters below you.
If you can get up early (or stay up late) enough, book a tour to catch the sublime sight of sunrise from the peak; you can also have a van take you and a bicycle up to the top so you can ride -- er, roll all the way down.
This colorful town was once the whaling capital of the Pacific, where ships would dock for supplies, sailors and shore leave. Today the dance halls, saloons and brothels that kept the whalers busy have been replaced by the best restaurants on Maui, art galleries that host free "art nights" every Friday, bars with live music from Irish trad to jazz and, of course, souvenir shops (c'mon, it is Hawaii). Meanwhile, Lahaina's seafaring past is kept alive by the numerous whale-watching cruises that depart from its harbor.

This extinct volcanic tuff cone stands guard over Waikiki, and is O'ahu's signature backdrop. You can hike to the top in about an hour or less -- a paved trail leads 1.3 km (0.8 miles) all the way to the summit, which at 232 m (760 ft) affords some pretty awesome views of Waikiki. (OK, you'll still have to see a beach, but you won't have to step on it. Happy?)
The tragic events of December 7,1941 are memorialized at Pearl Harbor, just a short drive from downtown Honolulu. The USS Arizona lies where it sank, the resting place of over a thousand of the U.S. sailors who died in the Japanese attack.
In 1962 the memorial was opened, with a structure built over the ship that allows you to view its remains poking out of the shallow water below; a marble wall inside is engraved with the names of the honored dead. A visit to Pearl Harbor will leave you with a palpable sense of the history that was made there.

This gigantic chasm at the heart of Kaua'i is one of the island's greatest natural wonders, and its red-and-black-striated lava-rock walls contrasted with the lush green forests that blanket its top is a true sight to behold.
Its name comes from the Waimea River, which runs through the bottom; the canyon was formed by a combination of erosion and the partial collapse of one of the island's shield volcanoes.
Waimea Canyon State Park has lookout points over Kaua'i's stunning Na Pali cliffs, as well as numerous hiking trails through and around the canyon, a wilderness lover's delight.

Helicopter ride over Kaua'i
Way more thrilling than a day at the beach is a helicopter ride over the interior of Kaua'i, most of which is too densely forested and mountainous for wheeled vehicles.
Numerous helicopter companies (most based in Lihu'e) offer up-in-the-air jaunts over waterfall-striped Mt Wai'ale'ale, the island's central shield volcano and one of the wettest spots on Earth, and the sheer-hewn sea cliffs of the Na Pali coast, accessible otherwise only by ocean kayak.

Hansen's disease (leprosy) was introduced to Hawaii by foreigners in 1835, and soon spread through the islands. King Kamehameha V, in an attempt to stop the epidemic, created a law banishing all those afflicted to this remote peninsula jutting out from beneath the towering sea cliffs (the world's highest) of Molokai's north coast, which became the final home for the unhappy exiles.
Around 40 years later, a compassionate Belgian missionary named Father Damien came to visit, and remained with the colony for 16 years, when he died after contracting the disease himself (Father Damien was officially canonized by the Catholic Church in 2009).
The enforced isolation law was finally revoked in 1969; today, only a handful of patients, all senior citizens, remain. You can visit the peninsula to see the village and Father Damien's church and gravesite only by pre-arranged tour -- either flying down to the peninsula (which takes about eight minutes) or riding a mule down a steep, 2-mile (3.2km) route zigzagging across the cliffs.

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Insider Guide: What to do in Barcelona

Spain's second-largest city is a sprawling work of art that holds some of Europe's greatest attractions. Here's how to do it right

what to do in barcelona guideRemember, you're in Catalonia, not Spain. Except when you're in Spain. Heck with it, just call it Barcelona.
Spain's second-largest city is not exactly smug, but it is geared up to show itself off, especially for visitors who want to know what to do in Barcelona.
It wants to be acknowledged as more sophisticated than Madrid, more progressive than Paris and a great deal more efficient than Rome.
It does a fine job of it, too.
Architecturally stunning, from the modernist beachfront sculptures to the melted-effect houses of Antoni Gaudi, this is a city that stimulates the first-time visitor, and still excites those who have been coming back for 30 or 40 years.
Veterans will tell you what to do in Barcelona and how much the city has changed in two decades.
The year 2012 marks an important anniversary: 20 years have passed since the Olympic Games spruced up great swathes of the capital of Catalonia, and gave it so much of its self-confidence.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Top Destinations in the United States

New York City, New York 
The first time you go to New York, go ahead and be a sight-seer—everyone should visit the Statue of Liberty, the Met, Times Square, etc. But on a return trip, pick a neighborhood and go deep. You’ll find hole-in-the-wall bars, great delis, quirky shops… exploring the non-touristy side of New York is an incredibly rewarding experience for a traveler.
New York City
Honolulu, Hawaii
Honolulu is a legendary surfing destination. But even if you don’t know a boogie board from a surfboard, you’ll find a beach here that appeals to you (and, if you want to learn the difference, you can find a great instructor to teach you). Swimming, kayaking, snorkeling, outrigger canoeing or just sunbathing… it’s all available in Honolulu.
San Francisco, California  
Who cares about a little fog (okay, a lot of fog) when there’s so much to do in San Francisco? By day, explore Fisherman’s Wharf and the Aquarium of the Bay, ride a cable car, and stroll around the Presidio; by night, have a fabulous dinner (at a Michelin-starred restaurant or a tiny place in Chinatown), then hit some of the best clubs on the West Coast.
Las Vegas, Nevada
In Las Vegas, you’ll find restaurants run by the world’s finest chefs, opulent spas, and sophisticated hotels… along with penny slots, Elvis impersonators, and indoor Venetian canals (complete with gondoliers). Why come here? Because there is simply no other place on the planet like Las Vegas. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.  
Estes Park, Colorado 

Estes Park Convention & Visitors Bureau 
The valley of Estes Park inspires outdoor adventures. From hiking Rocky Mountain National Park's 350 miles of alpine trails to whitewater rafting the Cache La Poudra River, you’ll find plenty of ways to fill your days. In the winter, elk and bighorn sheep roam around the town, vying for attention with art galleries, museums and the landmark Stanley Hotel, star of Stephen King's "The Shining."

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World's best islands

Santorini, Greece
An ancient island that endured one of the largest volcanic eruptions in history, Santorini feels like no other place on earth. Here, 120 miles southwest of mainland Greece, everything is brighter: the whitewashed cube-shaped houses, the lapis lazuli sea and the sunsets that light up the caldera. (Courtesy Art Kowalsky / Alamy)
Bali, Indonesia
Lapped by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, Bali is but one of 17,500 islands in the Indonesian archipelago; yet even among its colourful neighbours — and even after decades of tourism development — it stands alone in its lushness and incomparable beauty. (Courtesy David Noton Photography / Alamy)

Cape Breton, Canada
Readers love this island in Nova Scotia for its captivating vistas: cliff-backed beaches and forested headlands studded with lighthouses. Local culture commingles Scottish, Acadian, Irish, African and native Mi’kmaq influences and the music scene is an eclectic mix of fiddling played in parish halls to the popular Thursday night ceilidh (kay-lee) dance gathering. (Courtesy Reimar 6 / Alamy)

Boracay, Philippines
Now that even tiny islands such as Koh Samui are becoming mainstream, Boracay may be one of the last little-known Asian beach getaways. The sandy-shored speck is accessible via an hour-long flight from Manila to Caticlan, followed by a 10-minute ferry ride. Go now, before the crowds arrive. (Courtesy Peter Adams Photography Ltd / Alamy)

Great Barrier Reef, Australia 
Though the competition for the best island in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific is steep (consider Bora-Bora, Fiji and Tasmania), the Great Barrier Reef, which unfurls from Australia’s northeastern coast, is by far the champion. The area’s spectacularly cerulean water and vast sweep of coral teems with sea life — baleen whales, leatherback turtles, giant clams and about 400 other species. (Courtesy David Ball / Alamy)  

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