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By Reggie Nadelson for Yahoo! Travel
The secret’s out: many of us break the rules on our vacations — and we have a lot of fun doing it.
OK, fess up. I know you’ve been a dedicated traveler. Determined, you have moved from country to country, seeing the best there is: the baroque beauties of Munich, China’s stone warriors, the Alhambra of Granada. You have tasted fried flies in Southeast Asia and fallen asleep from too much of that heavy borscht in Russia. You’ve scrupulously followed the advice of all the travel guides; you’ve done all the “must do’s,” seen all the “must sees,” and eaten all the “must eats.” As far as traveling goes, you’ve followed all the rules.
But what about [whisper] … the time you ate the cheeseburger in Copenhagen instead of sampling the latest gourmet capital’s broiled bees, or essence of oak, whatever that is? Or when you spent a weekend in Paris not examining Notre Dame’s stained glass but on the back of that handsome young Parisian’s motorbike? Or take my pal, who went to Rio with a girlfriend. Instead of seeing the sights, they spent a week holed up in a great hotel ordering caipirinhas, the fabulous Brazilian cocktails, from room service and listening to bossa nova and … well, I’ll have to draw the curtain here. But they are married now and he makes a fabulous caipirinha.
Blame it on Rio or Blame it on the Alcohol — one couple decided they’d rather look at caipirinhas than Rio’s attractions (Photo: adrivdm/Flickr)
Britain, Ireland, Scotland, Australia, and many others countries speak the English language. But sometimes talking with the locals there can feel as foreign to U.S. travelers as communicating with those in, say, Thailand. To help clear these up, here are a few words that our stateside readers are all familiar with — but that mean something completely different in other English-speaking places around the world.
Relaxation takes form in all shapes and sizes. To some, an afternoon coffee with a pastry eases away the tension better than a full-body massage. To others, being pricked in the back with dozens of needles does the trick. From skin-eating fish to dives into icy lakes, here are some of the varied techniques you can seek out on your next travels.
Japan: Sake Bath
First practiced by Japanese geishas to decrease the appearance of age and skin spots, thousands of Japanese men and women continue to experience the healing effects of the rice wine’s kojic acids, which smooth and hydrate the skin. Sake also contains a healthy mix of ginger and pine extracts that’s proven to relax muscles (or is that just the alcohol talking?) and help breathing. Japan’s Yunessun Spa Resort, 50 miles southwest of Tokyo, invites guests to soak in their giant pool of sake — or try their red wine, coffee, or green tea baths — for an all-inclusive entry fee of ¥2,800 ($28).
Flight: booked. Hotel: reserved. Language podcasts: Completed. What else do you need to prepare before jetting off on vacation?
Most of us would probably never think that feeding pigeons in parts of Venice could get us fined as much as our plane tickets there cost. Likewise, while we always leave a substantial tip after dining at a restaurant in North America, the practice is a foreign concept to many international visitors. Needless to say, very diverse cultural customs abound around the world. Here are a few quirky ones that we love and think are useful to know for preventing cultural mishaps abroad.
Thirty years ago, we wondered if today’s world would have flying cars, hover boards, and a sports almanac that would change the sports-betting industry forever — at least that’s what “Back to the Future” told us. While those things haven’t exactly come to fruition, it seems like the only thing limiting the travel of the future is our collective imagination. Here’s a taste of what travel could look like in the not-so-distant future:
Shanghai, Beijing, and Hong Kong are without a doubt the centers of modern Chinese culture and the focal points around which most travelers will plan their trips to the Middle Kingdom. But these mega-cities represent only one view of the country; for a more balanced look at the whole of China, consider venturing out into the rural areas as well. Luckily, there are great options for nature and hiking within just a few hours of each of the major cities. Shake up your next trip to China by embarking on one of these hikes:
Barcelona has its Sagrada Familia. Sydney has its white-hooded Opera House. And other places? Well, they’ve got steps – lots and lots of them. As the examples illustrate below, epic staircases aren’t just a way to reach higher ground. They can be major attractions unto themselves. From the fabled Ha’iku Ladder in Hawaii, to Norway’s never-ending Flørli Steps, these jaw-dropping ascents aren’t for the faint of heart. But once you get to the top, we think you’ll agree the views more than make up for the effort. Read more
On vacation, we tend to keep different schedules. That’s why, at 1 a.m., with all the regular restaurants closed and the bar having stopped serving food, you may decide you’re ready for dinner number two. Offering unique insight into local culture, late-night eats can enhance your travel experience as much as they can satisfy your craving. For a few bucks, you can fill up on local dishes like tacos, oyster omelets, and crepes, and get a candid glimpse into a city’s after-hours culture. Every country has a specialty; here are the best bites served past midnight in cities all over the world. Read more
We travelers jump at any chance to explore nature, whether it’s a sweaty hike through the Amazon, or maybe an afternoon spent flower-gazing on a mountain in South Africa. This is what travel is all about: seeing all the beauty the world has to offer. But what about sites that weren’t created by nature? Sometimes, they can be just as impressive. Below, we’ve rounded up eight man-made attractions around the world that you can visit for free… Read more
Traveling in Asia, or to an Asian community, this week? You’re in luck. The Lunar New Year, typically falling at the end of January or the end of February, is arguably the most festive and also the most interesting time of the year. Big events like lion dances and firecrackers aside, this is when communities everywhere come alive with cheer and tradition, with good wishes and ancient folklore at top of mind.
While it’s unlikely that anyone would expect a traveler to follow all the customs, we can’t think of a better way to get to know a destination’s culture. Plus, helping to usher in auspiciousness is a great way to delight a kind host or helpful friend. Here’s our guide to the general dos and don’ts – there’s naturally an overlap between the traditions of different ethnic groups and countries – as well as a gift guide for visits and meet-ups. Read more
It might be getting cold outside, but you don’t need to bundle up to enjoy stunning photos of unbelievably intricate ice sculptures and larger-than-life winter wonderlands from around the world. The Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival in northeast China (pictured above) is one of the world’s biggest and most surreal. There, a mini-city of castles, towers, and sculptures galore rise from more than 12 million cubic feet of ice and snow. See photos of some more “cool” sculptures and playgrounds across Europe, North America, and Asia…right here.
Where’s the first place you look when you need a place to stay? A hotel app? A frequently-used travel reservation site? Without question, hotels have an enormous amount of mind share when it comes to lodging – but they’re also costly. In fact, many hotels charge you for extras you may not even use. But a new wave of lodging sites have cropped up, enabling travelers to stay in private homes, house boats, castles, and much more. Let’s take a look at some options for avoiding a typical hotel stay…
You may have heard about the political storm brewing over the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands in the South China Sea. China has recently declared the airspace above these islands as part of the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), meaning that they effectively control the airspace over this Japanese territory. If you’re planning a trip to China, you’re probably wondering what this means for your flight, which will likely pass through the disputed air space. The good news, if you are flying on a U.S. carrier at least, is not much. Read more
Planning a trip to China’s gambling capital? With private, walled-in gardens, public beaches, and historic sites that reference the city’s strong Portugese influence, you’ll have plenty to do, whether you’re hitting the slots or not. The best part: We’re featuring a great deal this week that includes this destination, and saves more than $1000. Not bad. Now, what should you pack for your trip?
With its various reds, yellows, and greens, the oft-photographed Zhangye Danxia landform is known as the eye candy of Zhangye, China. This national geopark is filled with colorful hills and rock formations that look like an artist swept a rosy paint brush across the land. The multi-colored landscape was formed out of reddish sandstone that has eroded over 24 million years into the various mountains surrounded by curved cliffs and unusual rock formations that we see today. Read more
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