Award-winning curry restaurant in the famous Birmingham Balti Triangle. Widely regarded as the place to go for the best balti in Birmingham. Try the aubergine pakora and any of the house specials. Remember to bring your own beer as its unlicensed.
186 Ladypool Road, Sparkbrook, Birmingham, B12 8JS;
Tel: 0121 753 3120; www.alfrash.com
You can't go to Sydney without sampling (probably several times) the best Thai food outside of Thailand. Thai is to Australia what Indian is to the UK - usually decent, very affordable and everywhere.
For cheap as chips Thai made with the freshest of fresh ingredients, fight through the crowds at Tum Thai in Randwick (up the hill from Coogee Beach).
For more daring Thai with a view, Sailor's Thai, a Sydney institution is a must. The restaurant is not cheap but those in the know head for the more relaxed surrounds and reasonable prices of Sailors Bay Canteen, just upstairs.
Finally, for Thai food mixed with people watching, try Longrain, a bar/restaurant in trendy Surry Hills. The reason why the girl next to you looks like Kylie is proabbly because she is Kylie!
Randwick Tum Thai - 167 Alison Road PH (02) 9326 3261.
Sailors Thai Canteen - 106 George Street, The Rocks. PH (02) 9251 2466. No bookings.
Longrain, 85 Commonwealth Street, Surrey Hills, (02) 9280 2888, www.longrain.com.au
A small little bay with a beautiful sandy beach hugged by gorgeous natural vegetation and an amazing view of Manly. A little cafe provides the perfect lunch or dinner venue.
A great place to beat the crowds.
Get the boat to Manly from Circular Quay. Walk through to the beack and turn right and just follow the bay round to Cabbage Tree Bay.
Cabramatta is the centre of the Asian community in Western Sydney, most notably the Vietnamese. Here you can find the most eclectic array of asian food, from Vietnamese through to Laosian. The cost of eating here is amazingly cheap for the quality of food, too.
Up until recently the area was given a lot of bad press, but people have become to realise that the food and shopping (fabrics, ethnic supermarkets, electrical goods) make Cabramatta a different Sydney experience.
Cityrail to Cabramatta – about 30 minutes.
If you want to know what the Japanese do on a Sunday afternoon, then head off to Yoyogi Park. The whole of Tokyo seems to descend on this wonderful park. Families come for a picnic, unsigned pop bands play inpromptu gigs, theatre groups practise their latest plays and people just hang out letting the world go by! Everything seems to happen in this one place! When I went there a year ago, I felt like I saw the real Tokyo - seeing the Japanese at play.
Don't miss it!
Adjacent to Yoyogi-koen and Meiji-jingumae Stations on the subway Chiyoda Line, and Harajuku Station on the JR Yamanote Line
Often overlooked by western tourists, Manga cafes are a godsend to the poor and weary traveller. At large branches of "Manboo", for example, you can relax in a private booth equipped with a broadband-connected PC, a television, a games console and a comfortable reclining chair, all for a reasonable 200-300 yen per hour (about half that for girls). A vast library of games and comics (the former very often being perfectly accessible to non-Japanese speakers) is provided for patrons to use at their leisure, along with drinks, snacks, and showers for those planning to stick around. Indeed, a good 24-hour manga cafe is a more comfortable, more entertaining and above all cheaper place to spend the night than an overpriced capsule hotel. You can even get a two-person booth if you're travelling with a partner.
All over Tokyo; the best-equipped cafes tend to be found in Shinjuku and Shibuya, but smaller locations are as common as Karaoke boxes.
Probably one of the largest expanses of gadget heaven on planet Earth. Think of anything electronic and you'll find it here. The current sterling/yen exchange rate also means that you'll pay around 15-20% less here (maybe a bit more if you bring your passport with you to get a further 5% off as a tax-free purchase).
On the Yamanote line (and others) two stops north of JR Tokyo station. For a preview of one of the biggest stores go to www.yodobashi.com (Japanese language only unfortunately).
In Tokyo the vast majority of people live in apartments and pets are not allowed or possible. Nekobukero is a response to this. It's a cat petting "house" where lots of Tokyo families and couples go to stroke and play with lots of lovely cats. The set-up itself is worth looking at with cat-themed decor including a cat-shaped TV and a cat-train where some of the moggies spend little holidays away from visiting hands.
There are plenty of toys to tempt the cats with but they also have the opportunity to jump up onto some high shelves to snooze or just to ignore all comers. It's a lovely way to spend a few hours with plenty of people watching points as well as the obvious joy of stroking cats at the top of a Tokyo highrise.
Nekobukero can be found in the Tokyu Hands department store in Ikebukero. (Ikebukero Station) Everyone knows where Tokyu Hands is so ask at the station. Once you get to Tokyu Hands Nekobukero is on the top floor, you enter through the pet department.
Kimi ryokan is a 4-storey, old-style Japanese inn, complete with well-lit darkwood hallways, small tatami mat rooms, and a friendly bearded owner, who is constantly polishing the wooden floors, all in the heart of Tokyo! The rooms may be functional (small), but they are very clean. The shower stalls may be communal, but they appear to be made of marble, whilst the deep wooden Japanese bath on the 1st floor is a must for soothing tired limbs in the evening. Don't forget to take your sake in with you! In 2003, singles cost 4,000yen, doubles 7,000-8,000. Definitely book in advance. They speak English.
Kimi ryokan is in Ikebukuro, 5 mins from the underground stn. Tel. 03 3971 3766.
One of the highest buildings in the skyscraper district of Shinjuku, where you can see views of Tokyo and the area around it, including Mount Fuji (only on clear days in late winter/early spring). The plus point is that this is one of the only things you can do in Tokyo for free. The viewing area opens about 10am and closes about 10pm.
The nearest train station is Tocho mae.
Gues-T House is a backpackers hostel in Azubujuban, SW Tokyo. I recommend it because it gives excellent value for money, and is in a fantastic location for seeing Tokyo.
One night - Y2,900 (c.£15)
Azubujuban Station - exit 4. Head up the road to the left of 'Wendy's' to a cross road (c. 200m). Turn left, and go down the road 'til you get to a park on your left. Look for a coffee bean shop, take a right and the hostel will be on your right, the same side as the coffee bean shop.
Perfect al fresco budget seafood. Try the fried squid, the black cuttlefish risotto or 'little fish' on one of Dubrovnik's best squares. The only trick is beating the cut-throat scramble for tables. An orderly queue is a northern European concept.
Gundulićeva poljana 8, next to the cathedral;
tel: (+385 20) 32 36 82
Clean, friendly, affordable hostel in the middle of St Petersburg. Breakfast included, internet available. Free tickets for the Puppet Theatre next door for guests. Around £13 per night in a shared dorm.
Just off Nevsky Prospekt
Small typical Viennese Beisl in the 9th district. Dunno if it's still on the menu but I used to say I'd choose an endless supply of owner Herbert's Krautsuppe (cabbage soup) as my desert island discs luxury item. Now very popular with the nearby Wirtschaftsuniversität staff as he does an all you can eat buffet. So try and go at the weekend. Classic Viennese cuisine at its best
Reznicekgasse 10, 1090 Vienna, tel.: 0043 1 317 91 40, take the D tram towards Nußdorf and get off at Althanstrasse or Augasse
There are some luggage lockers at Wien Mitte / City Airport Terminal but not as many as you'd think. They're near the McDonalds. Don't rely on being able to deposit your luggage as they might all be occupied.
Wien Mitte station
They are a really cool independent holiday company with three chalets in Chamonix. My friends and I have stayed with them for the last three years and have always had a wicked time!
They offer everything from lift passes and airport transfers to great meals and hot tubs for very reasonable prices.
Sausages filled with molten cheese. Best bought from one of the many Würschtlstände (sausage stands) dotted around the city. Ask for a Käsekrainer hotdog and they take a mini baguette, hollow out the centre, fill it with ketchup and mustard and stuff the cheese-filled sausage in. They're probably heart attacks waiting to happen, the dripping ketchup and mustard are guaranteed to make a mess of your shoes / clothes but they taste amazing, especially late at night
all over the city
It's fast, frequent, well-run, and cheap (about 20 pence for any journey when we were there in August 2005). However, I'd advise travellers to learn the Russian alphabet (at least) as it can be difficult to find your way around the system otherwise. You can't always see the station name from inside the train, and the (Russian) announcements are sometimes not audible. So it's useful to be able to follow the map. You can buy postcards that show the map - handy to carry around if you don't want to bring your guide book. There's a wealth of info on the internet - just type "Moscow Metro" into Google.
Bia Hoi is the ultimate Vietnamese drinking experience. It's basically a keg of beer outside someone's house or shop or whatever, and you go and help yourself to local "brew".
It costs around 1,500 dong a glass (about 7 pence) and you end up drinking with all sorts of colourful locals.
Anywhere in Hanoi, or the rest of Vietnam.
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