Every backpacker knows Bangkok's Khao Sanh Road, but running parallel to it is a much lesser-known alley with all the cheap hostels, bars, restaurants and shops you find on the main drag. Just far less crowded and frenetic.
Find your way to the Khao Sanh road in the Banglamphu area: Trok Mayom lies just to the north. Walkable also from Phra Athit river pier.
I really recommend hiring bicycles to get the most out of an hour in Central Park. Hire from the Loeb Boathouse is $9 for an hour on a "cruiser" which is a bike without gears (or actually brakes, but don't let that put you off!). You will also need to leave something like a passport or a driver's licence as a deposit. There's a good path around the outside of the Park, which is about 8 miles (apparently). There is one awful hill at around 103rd street, but once you're over that (I pushed my bike up), you're away. It's a great way to see all the sights of the park, without taking up an entire day - the full circuit took us about an hour. Finish off with a frozen lemonade from one of the stands by the Bethesda Fountain -you'll deserve it!
Loeb Boathouse, Central Park (roughly in the middle of the Park, at about 72nd Street)
The People's Palace is Glasgow's social history museum. It tells the story of the city through its people, and not just the great and good. You can listen to examples of Glasgow speech, and see a reconstructed tenement 'single-end'. It's also free, like all of the City of Glasgow's 13 museums. Unmissable if you're a resident or expat Glaswegian, and still good even if you're not.
Glasgow Green, Glasgow, G40 1AT; Tel: 0141 271 2951; www.glasgowmuseums.com/venue/index.cfm?venueid=9
Go to Union Station food court for lots of interesting choices. Local businessfolk and politicos eat here, too, so you're in for some juicy eavesdropping. When on the Mall, eat in the basement cafeteria of the National Gallery.
Union Station, National Mall
The Beehive has hostel accommodation and 3 self-catering apartments. I stayed in one of the apartments, which was 60 euros a night, really clean with thoughtful decor. They gave us a little map and a guidebook with the owner's recommendations of what to see and do. They seemed to be genuinely keen to make your stay really pleasant. A treat!
via marghera 8 - Rome, Italy tel.: +39 0644704553 www.the-beehive.com/ near Termini Station
Shared rides are a great way of avoiding public transport when you have baggage, and are relatively inexpensive (US $ 15-19 one way) when compared to taxis. There will usually be a wait of between 15-30 minutes and the ride time into the city is influenced by how many people are sharing the ride. The transport is provided by a six-seater van with space in the back for luggage. Payment up front (before departure) in cash is required, and tipping is optional, though encouraged. You will be dropped at the exact address specified, be it a hotel or residence.
Ask at the transport desk (located in the luggage retrieval area at Newark & Laguardia, not certain about JFK) or book on-line through www.supershuttle.com/.
A party palace of a hostel with clean, modern bathrooms located in the gorgeous (though rowdy by night) Placa Reial just off Las Ramblas. Lots of fun with organised pub crawls and a rooftop bar, Kabul can be noisy at night but is never boring. Good-sized lockers by each bunk and a vending machine selling one-euro beers in the bar. Ace.
Rather than pay expensive taxi or bus fares from the airport, simply get the free shuttle bus from outside the terminal to Howard Beach JKF Airport station on the 'A' line subway train. Then take the subway straight to Manhattan. Cost? $2.
A combined hostel/hotel, the Gershwin is a good option for budget accommodation right in the heart of the Flatiron district. Handy for lots of attractions - a short walk to the Empire State Building. It's also very trendy and attracts a fun bunch of international travellers.
A real Bostonian restaurant, opposite the fake Cheers, in every sense. Supposedly famed for the surliness of the waiting staff, but they were perfectly civil when I was there. It's popular, crowded, and you will probably have to queue to get in. Once inside, expect to be seated at a large table wherever there's a space. It may not be ideal if you're shy and retiring, but it's a great way to meet people if you're not. Good old-fashioned food like Yankee pot roast, cornbread and, of course, Boston baked beans.
340 Faneuil Hall Market Place, Boston; Tel: (617) 227-2038; www.durgin-park.com
For the real American experience, I highly recommend going to watch a basketball game at Madison Square Garden. To feel like a New Yorker, go to a college game where there are typical Americans all around. I got the full atmosphere by eating a super American hot dog, tasty pretzel and a small (which to us is large!) coke! This really is the place to be and I really had a feel for the American lifestyle, free from tourists and full of life.
Madison Square Garden, 4 Penn Plaza, above 34th Street/Penn station. Tel: 212/465-6741
A cluster of parking lots in downtown NYC are transformed on a Sunday to a giant outdoor antiques market, full of trash and treasure and people-watching opportunities.
I got an amazing silver necklace for $25 a few years ago, and there's always a few oddments that are good for people back home who hate tacky souvenirs but expect a gift.
Look for the tourist leaflets - the markets are clustered around 20-something street.
The Link Bus provides a cheap way of getting around Auckland. It runs at least every 15 minutes on a circuit around the outskirts of the city and through the centre. It stops at most of the main central attractions (Sky Tower, Viaduct Harbour, Victoria Park Market, K Road, Auckland Museum, Newmarket Shopping, Parnell, Ponsonby and the Cathedral). If you're going to be hopping on and off, it's probably best to ask the driver for an AucklandPass ($9 - unlimited bus and North Shore ferries) or the flat fare is $1.30. All stops have real-time information to tell you when the next bus is due and there are automatic displays and announcements in the bus which list attractions at each stop. The bus operates in clockwise and anticlockwise directions and the driver will tell you if it's quicker to get to your destination using the bus in the other direction
Stops are clearly marked and the buses are painted silver. The website is www.stagecoach.co.nz/thelink/index.html
Go to the Buddhist Stupa in Bodha, northeast from Kathmandu centre. It's a bit difficult to find, due to Nepal's lack of street signs, but once you're there it's a fantastic spot to watch Buddhist monks go about their usual business and just to contemplate life and the world in general. There's also a great restaurant run by an Italian lady where you can get a huge plate of vegetable chowmein for 15 Nepali Rupees, approximately 8 pence.
Northeast of Kathmandu town centre
I was attracted by the name, and delighted to find a charming yet amazingly cheap hotel bang in the centre of Mexico City. The enormous rooms are centred around an airy atrium, and the hotel bar is perfect for an ice cold Corona after the heat of the city. Far superior to the other 'backpacker' options, with internet access and helpful staff.
Isabel la Catolica 63 (Isabel la Catolica metro)
A place to go and dance tango or just to look at people dancing 'for real'. Unlike most of other tango places, that do shows 'for export', it is rough and ready (in a barely-converted warehouse) and full of young people. Lessons also available, including some for same sex couples.
Sarmiento 4006. Tel 15 5325-1630. Buses: 168-92-151-160-36 Subte A estación Castro Barros y Subte B estación Medrano.
Google map: tinyurl.com/n89zo5
Sometimes, when the mercury is nudging 40 degrees and there isn't space on the beach for a German to lay out a handkerchief, let alone a towel, escape from the heat and clamour of Rio can be a welcome relief. The traditional getaway route for Cariocas is to take the Washington Luis highway to the cool mountain cities of Petrópolis, Teresópolis and Nova Friburgo.
Recently though, some of a more enterprising nature have begun to open up the Serra Fluminense above the oil boom town of Macaé in the north of Rio State. The centerpiece of this area is the sleepy hill town of Sana, a bridging point across the crystalline, cascading waters of the Sana River, guarded by the majestic 3,700 foot Pedra do Peito do Pombo (Pigeon Breast Rock).
The best choices for accommodation in Sana are the town’s charming and inexpensive pousadas. Highly recommended is the pretty Repousa da Sana, with its mature gardens, restaurant serving tasty local dishes cooked in a wood burning oven (ask for the baked trout), shop selling local crafts and its comfy, tastefully decorated riverside chalets.
A big bonus here is that the owner, Antenor Sousa, speaks passable English, a rarity in this part of the world. He is a keen photographer and has spent the last 20 years documenting the town and its surroundings so there isn’t a lot he doesn’t know about the place.
For travelers with an eye on their budget, many pousadas also offer a camping option with bathroom and laundry facilities. From your base in town you can take guided walks to the dozens of waterfalls and natural swimming pools that dot the region, trek up some of Sana’s steepling granite peaks or enjoy a very agreeable couple of days’ pony trekking. There’s also enough rock climbing, abseiling, mountain biking, kayaking and white water rafting to keep the adventure sports enthusiast absorbed for days.
And after these strenuous calisthenics, what better way to wind down than in a hammock on your chalet deck, caipirinha strategically placed at arm’s length, with the calls of roosting flocks of parrots and the chattering of the river lulling you to sleep? Keep a weather eye on your drink though, as the local Micou monkeys, emboldened by human contact, are rather partial to those cachaça-impregnated lemons.
I should point out one small inconvenience. The nearest bank is 12 miles away in Casimiro de Abreu and, as telephones are a relatively new phenomenon in Sana, many of the town’s pousadas, bars and restaurants don’t accept credit cards.
However, carrying cash does not present the safety risks that it does in Rio. You are less likely to be mugged than savaged by a member of the town’s bovine community which outnumbers the human population by some distance, in other words, not very likely at all.
There is no direct public transport link between Rio and Sana. Take an air conditioned coach from the Terminal Rodoviaria Novo Rio to the town of Casimiro de Abreu (the journey last about three hours), from whence you can catch one of the large number of VW Combis that shuttle between Casimiro and Sana. Don't worry when you hit a dirt road as you wind your way up into the hills; the district council in Macaé has plans to pave it but it hasn't happened yet. The Repousa da Sana is about two kilometres before the town centre on your left. Ask the driver to drop you there. There are two websites in Portuguese that you will find useful, the general information site, www.portaldosana.com.br, and the Repousa da Sana's homepage, www.repousadasana.com.br.
It's a 24-hour hot dog and fruit juice joint that is something of a legend. It's cheap - the special is one juicy hot dog with a fruit drink for $1.45, or a single frank for 75 cents - and fast making it the ideal fuel during a pit stop while touring the nearby bars.
2090 Broadway at 71st Street
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