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The Perfect South East Coast Road Trip

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Road trips are the most iconic way to travel and with so much diversity, the east coast is the perfect place to start. This guide focuses on Delaware down to Georgia, but you can do the drive any way you like. So what are you waiting for? Get the keys!

Delaware:

After Rhode Island, Delaware is the smallest state. It was also the first to become a state and there’s a lot of pride in that. In fact, one of the first things you see as you enter is the sign saying “Welcome to Delaware, it’s good to be first.” The state has an active LGBT community and Delaware Pride often holds events throughout the year including an annual festival and pageant.

Delaware has several smaller cities, like Wilmington and Dover, but its iconic beaches are what draw travelers to the state. Rehoboth is a great town which prides itself on being LGBT friendly. There are plenty of bars, hotels, and restaurants that are either operated by people in the LGBT community or advertise themselves as being openly supportive. CAMP Rehoboth is a local resource center that helps guide LGBT travelers and provide in-depth information. With no sales tax, the state is also great for shoppers.

Maryland:

Baltimore and Ocean City are fan favorites for good reason: both cities are thriving and progressive communities with plenty of attractions ranging from the boardwalk to the aquarium.

The state’s capital city, Annapolis, is also a progressive haven. Despite its military roots, Annapolis is less conservative than one might think. With a thriving LGBT community, the city comes to life through a combination of nightlife, restaurants, and places to stay. Annapolis is also just a short drive away from Washington DC. Check out Purple Roofs for a list of LGBT-owned and operated accommodations in the state.

Virginia:

Virginia is for lovers so surely, it’s for all lovers. The state hosts a tourism website on which they feature businesses that are self designated as LGBT owned or friendly. There are several larger cities like Richmond, Roanoke, and Norfolk that have plenty of beautiful sights to enjoy.

Nature and wildlife fans would enjoy a visit to Assateague Island. The island and nature reserve are split by Virginia and Maryland and it features herds of wild ponies that wander unrestricted throughout the marshland. Shenandoah National Park, which features gorgeous views of the layered Blue Ridge Mountain Range, is also located in Virginia.

North Carolina:

By the time you reach North Carolina you’re definitely getting into the south, which means warm weather and great barbeque. North Carolina is still undoubtedly conservative but like many other locations it is moving towards a more liberal mindset. Asheville and Raleigh are both progressive havens, especially the former which thrives as a college town. Unfortunately, the state’s legislation has turned away LGBT travelers but the controversial “Bathroom Law” was repealed in early 2017.

For outdoorsy folk, the Smoky Mountains seep into the state in the west and feature amazing hikes, forested paths, and beautiful vistas. The plentiful beaches along the state’s coast attract plenty of travelers during the summer and a trip to the Biltmore Estate is a year-round favorite.

South Carolina:

If you’re looking for southern hospitality, South Carolina is the place to be. With 47 state parks, numerous vibrant cities, and miles of coastline, the state is definitely worth visiting for more than just the tea. Hilton Head Island is a gay-friendly community which offers golf and beach relaxation.

Columbia, the state’s capital, holds South Carolina’s biggest pride festival. Hosted in September, it brings people of all backgrounds together and out on the streets. Meanwhile, Charleston offers a more laid back and historic vibe where you can visit forts and stroll down cobblestone streets. The city’s rustic appeal comes with a special charm and it attracts visitors from all over the country year-round. 

Georgia:

Georgia might have a bad rap for its conservatism but it’s largest city, Atlanta, is commonly referred to as the “gay capital” of the south. There, a liberal and progressive mentality thrives and its openness has attracted millions of visitors over the years. There’s even an official gay travel guide. The city is also filled with important markers for civil liberties.

Outside of Atlanta, Georgia is full of things to do. Stone Mountain, the state’s most popular destination, promises stellar views and is home to a multitude of festivals throughout the year. If you’re looking for a more rural experience, head to The Rock Ranch where you can partake in zip lining, seasonal activities, and even camp in a wagon.

Florida:

Florida as a whole is a favorite travel location. With plenty of cities like Tampa, Orlando , and Miami, there are tons of things to do and whether you’re looking for a wild night out or a trip with the kids, you’re sure to find it here. Further south, the Everglades constantly intrigue travelers with hiking trails, camping, and the occasional warning to watch out for gators. While in major tourist destinations a liberal mindset definitely prevails, although the LGBT community is unfortunately still looked down upon especially in more rural areas.

Other than the obvious major cities, Florida is also home to less popular destinations that all still have open LGBT communities. For a posh, relaxing vacation, head to the Keys. Key West has been regarded as one of the “gayest” destinations by Lonely Planet and St Augustine is another historical city which boasts a great outdoor market and ritzy views.

 

Do you have an awesome east coast travel story or know of any cool places along the way? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

48 Hours In...

48 Hours in Kuala Lumpur

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Why Go?

Kuala Lumpur is a major stopover city and many people break their journey there en route to a final destination. It’s a city that is well-suited to a forty-eight-hour visit and there is more than enough to keep the visitor busy for a couple of days. Kuala Lumpur is truly multicultural. Although distinctly Malaysian, it is also greatly influenced by the Chinese and Indian immigrants who have made the city their home. A variety of other minorities add to the unique character of the city.

Skyscrapers sit next to crumbling traditional buildings. The aroma of delicious street foods tempt passersby. The muezzin’s call to prayer echoes through the streets, while incense wafts from Buddhist temples. In contrast to its spiritual side, Kuala Lumpur is a shopper’s paradise. The city’s commitment to consumerism is evident in its bustling street markets and modern malls, which can be found throughout the city.

Getting There

Kuala Lumpur’s airport is one of the largest in South-East Asia. Opened in 1993, the airport is 45 miles south of the city center. It takes 30 minutes to reach Sentral Station, Kuala Lumpur’s downtown transport terminal by train. By taxi, it takes an hour.

A monorail connects many of the major tourist attractions and the transit network is the most cost-effective and efficient way to get around the city.

Checking In

Kuala Lumpur offers accommodation to suit all budgets. From five dollar dorm beds to five-star hotels and an excellent choice of good value mid-range hotel options in between, finding a crash-pad for a couple of nights shouldn’t be a problem.

Day One

Start your city adventure with a tasty breakfast at the Antipodean Café (20 Jalan Telawi 2, Bangsar Baru). Check out the pumpkin and sweetcorn fritters accompanied by bacon – it’s awesome. The coffee is pretty good too. It’s a contemporary café, with cool red and black décor.

The Petronas Twin Towers are the city’s showpiece http://www.petronastwintowers.com.my. At 451 metres high with 88 storeys, it was the highest building in the world until 2003, when it was overtaken by Tapei 101 in Taiwan. Walk across the sky bridge between the 41st and 42nd storeys and then head up to the 86th floor for incredible cityscape views. Whilst in the building, have a wander around the KLCC Shopping Mall, which is at the base of the towers.

The Petronas Towers, Malaysia’s most iconic building

Next up, head over to Chinatown and take a stroll down Petaling Street. If you are looking for a bargain, you are likely to find it here. From electrical goods to t-shirts and souvenirs, the street is also well known for its wide selection of imitation brands. It’s also an ideal place to sample some mouth-watering street food including the locally popular salted roast duck.

Petaling Street in Chinatown

Just around the corner, you will find Sri Mahamariamman (Jalan Tun H S Lee), the city’s oldest Hindu temple. Intricately designed in South Indian style, it has three shrines and is the main place of worship for Kuala Lumpur’s Hindu population.

Sri Mahamariamman Hindu Temple

Also in the vicinity, Central Market http://www.centralmarket.com.my is chock-a-block with stalls selling Malaysian handicrafts, batiks and artwork. Adjacent to the market is an arts center, where you can watch artists at work. Frequent traditional music and dance shows can also be seen at the center.

For dinner, why not try some authentic Malay cuisine? The award-winning Bijan Bar and Restaurant http://www.bijanrestaurant.com is a slick, chic venue, where you can choose from a range of  Malaysian food. Vegetarian options are available and it is also one of the few restaurants in the city that serves alcohol. The wine list is impressive.

For those wishing to partake in some Kuala Lumpur nightlife, there is a discreet, but fairly active LGBTQ scene. Check out http://www.utopia-asia.com/tipsmala.htm for events and venues.

Day Two

The dramatic Batu caves are situated thirty minutes by train from downtown and easy to reach from KL Sentral. The complex consist of four caves. The main cave has 272 steps leading up to it and is guarded by a giant Shiva statue. Monkeys hang out on the steps, waiting for any scraps which pilgrims may throw their way. Colorful shrines are hidden in the nooks and crannies of the caves. At the entrance, restaurants do a roaring trade in vegetable curries, rice and poppadoms served on a banana leaf.

Hanuman the Monkey God – Statue at Batu Caves

Back in town, The Islamic Arts Museum is a bright modern building, exuding a calm and peaceful aura. There are both permanent and temporary exhibits and Islamic culture worldwide is well-presented. It would be easy to spend a couple of hours appreciating the intricate designs and learning about the art and culture of Islam (Jalan Lembah, Perdana).

Nearby, The National Mosque has a capacity for 15,000 people. The architecture is impressive with soaring minarets and a star-shaped concrete ceiling. A number of reflecting pools and fountains in the grounds are surrounded by lush foliage.

The Lake Gardens are also close to both the museum and mosque, a sprawling area consisting of five different gardens and parks. It’s an oasis in the heart of the city and includes a deer park, a bird park with over 3,000 species as well as butterfly and orchid gardens. Due to the huge size of the area, it rarely becomes too crowded and serves as an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city streets.

Little India of Brickfields, transports the visitor to the sub-continent minus the madness of Mumbai. It’s a vibrant and colorful area and a great place to buy sparkly bangles or even a sari!  Restoran Sri Kortumalai (215 Jalan Tun, Sanbanthan, Jalan Brickfields) serves cheap, but mouth-watering South Indian food.

Little India

After trekking all over the city, it’s time to chill. Head to Sky Bar for a cocktail or two. Situated on the 33rd floor of Traders Hotel http://www.shangri-la.com/kualalumpur/traders/dining/bars-lounges/sky-bar, the view of the Petronas Towers is spectacular and it’s a perfect way to relax and round off your two-day jaunt to Kuala Lumpur.

Originally posted 2017-09-23 21:04:48.

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Letters From Abu Ghraib: Visiting the Middle East

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THE MIDDLE EAST – AUGUST, 29TH 2017 – Most of us know how horrible certain areas of this region can be to our community.  To say that the temperament towards LGBTQ+ people is hostile would be a severe understatement. Unfortunately, this is causing us to miss out on a myriad of fun and magical experiences. This article will share some top attractions from the Middle East (predominantly Dubai ) and give advice on how to remain undetected while visiting the region.  It will also detail the horrors that could happen to our community at any moment if we are not careful.

 

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

 

Boasting a very modern feel for a hot spot most people think is nothing more than picking sand out of your trunks, Dubai houses only the top destinations.  

If you love to shop and play all at the same time there is the legendary Dubai Mall, one of the largest shopping malls on Earth. It is home to some of the top name brands such as Armani, Versace, and Alexander McQueen. There are children’s parks and gourmet restaurants attached, too. The mall even houses its own aquarium containing over thirty thousand species of marine life1.

On the flip side, some may prefer relaxation and leisure over activity. Certainly then, you must check out the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai. JW is a Five-Star hotel in the heart of the city and sports cutting edge technology in its business center and a legendary spa. Bars and a top of the line fitness wing complete the hotel’s elegance2. Interesting trivia: You might remember Tom Cruise climbing up one of the towers in a certain film… from the outside!

 

Cairo, Egypt

 

Perhaps you are one of the people that yearn for a more rugged experience. Look no further than Egypt.  The nightlife may be fantastic, but even more impressive is the Great Pyramid of Giza, only a short distance away. The impressive, massive structure is actually a burial tomb of the ancient pharaohs and is one of the world’s seven wonders3. Be sure to pose by the guardian sphinx for some memorable snapshots. To cool off, take a stroll by the Nile River that runs past the city. Careful though: You must show respect for the Nile’s bounty lest you upset it’s protecting deities Isis and Sebek.

 

Warnings from the Author

 

Low key is the key. With countless news stories showing beheadings, stonings, and even ISIS casting helpless victims off tall buildings, many people ask why no one has stepped in to end these atrocities. The answer is simple: Homosexuality is illegal in most of the Middle East. This is not just a government law, but a religious one, too. If you are still planning a trip to this region, please pay attention to the next section of this article and seek outside resources and/or protection. For more information on what it is like to be LGBTQ+ in this region, it may be beneficial to read Brian Whitaker and Anna Wilson’s book, “Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East” or another similar text4. I know many of us hate hiding who we are and if that is you, there is nothing wrong with that – but I encourage you to rethink your plans. I have a special word of caution for women: If you are travelling with men and they should happen to offend you in any way, do not let native Arabic men/women see any signs of an altercation. Address matters privately and quietly in the safety of your hotel room or living quarters.

 

Conclusion

Again, I urge you to seek additional help from others both inside and outside of the Community.  It only adds to your benefit.  Most importantly, though, enjoy your trip!

 

  1. “Revel In Retail At The Dubai Mall.”  Dubai Corporation of Tourism & Commerce Marketing.  29 Aug 2017.  https://www.visitdubai.com/en/pois/dubai-mall.
  2. “JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai.”  Marriott International Inc.  2017.  http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/dxbjw-jw-marriott-marquis-hotel-dubai/
  3. Encyclopaedia Britannica.  “Pyramids of Giza.”   Encyclopaedia Britannica.  26 June 2017.  https://www.britannica.com/topic/Pyramids-of-Giza
  4. Whitaker, Brian & Anna Wilson.  “Unspeakable Love:  Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East.”  Amazon.com.  2006.  https://www.amazon.com/Unspeakable-Love-Lesbian-Life-Middle/dp/0520250176/ref=sr_1_12?ie=UTF8&qid=1504028713&sr=8-12&keywords=gays+in+the+middle+east+books

Originally posted 2017-09-22 12:50:33.

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TSA: Transphobic (in)Secure A**holes

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Traveling is stressful for everyone, especially when it’s time to go through airport security. People of color, those who speak English as a second language, the elderly, and trans folks are groups of travelers that often face different struggles when interacting with TSA agents than their white, cis, and straight counterparts. Not only are these encounters more frequent and unique, they have higher risk factors and more severe consequences when things don’t run smoothly.

If you aren’t deemed “normal” by the individual TSA agent supervising your line or X-ray station, you may not be able to get on your flight; you may be detained, harassed, and assaulted.

In September 2015, Shadi Petosky faced all of these monstrosities, and recorded her experience on her twitter account. Hida Viloria, a writer and intersex activist, also had a traumatizing experience in 2017. Apparently, little progress has been made regarding the lack of respect, and courtesy displayed by TSA agents.

#NotAllTSA

The Transportation Security Administration is but another example of a federal institution abusing their power, and causing more harm than good. It’s true that not all TSA agents fall under this description, but that doesn’t make the TSA as an agency or going through security at an airport any better. In fact, these “good” TSA agents are the epitome of “apathetic Americans.”

In this setting, the severe concentration of multitudes of microaggressions, coupled with a powerful position, do not yield a positive result.

Symptoms of a Larger Problem

Overcoming an obstacle is always easier when it is broken down into smaller pieces. By addressing individual factors that create the problematic TSA that we have today, we become one step closer to finding a solution. Three key features that intersect with one another can be identified not only in the TSA, but also federal institutions like the police, armed forces, and even corporations.

  1. Toxic Masculinity
  2. Insecurity
  3. Greed

Toxic Masculinity – the Root of Many Problems

According to Huffington Post,Toxic masculinity is built on two fundamental pillars: sexual conquest and violence.” When pat downs turn into groping, and escorting passengers becomes shoving, pushing, and literally dragging individuals, it becomes clear that the TSA stands firmly on both of these pillars.

Once introduced to this level of power, it’s easy for it to get to one’s head.  The National Center for Transgender Equality strongly encourages avoiding confrontations with TSA personnel if at all possible. Like a hard drug, just a taste can leave you craving more. Not only is this problematic, but it can easily become deadly with the simple addition of a baton.

Like a bully finding out their victim won’t be pushed around anymore, TSA agents and police officers feel scared and insecure when they are called out for their behavior. Their power is being threatened. These are the moments that we watch on the news and read about online. These are the moments when innocent people die.

Our Existence is Resistance

It may look like our future is bleak. We are living in dangerous times. Many do not “understand” our community, and with ignorance comes fear – a high-risk emotion, especially when coupled with access to weapons.

It is important to remember that not all violence is created with guns; never has the pen been mightier than the sword than when it is creating legislation.

However, we are not paralyzed; we can remind our senators and representatives of their true employers: their constituents.

Click here to find your senator and representative and how to contact them.

Now more than ever we need to unite as a community. We need to remember that we are magical. We are beautiful. We are a strong, resilient, and courageous community, and we will not let these transphobic, insecure assholes keep us from getting on our flight!


Resources

For a PDF of The National Center for Transgender Equality’s Guide to Airport Security and Rights of Trans People, click here.

If you have been mistreated, or had an unsatisfactory experience with TSA personnel, click here for information on how to file a complaint.

If you have access to a smartphone, consider downloading the app FlyRights. It provides a way to immediately file a report of an incident of discrimination with TSA and DHS when it occurs. Click here for more information. It is available for both iPhones and Android smartphones.

Originally posted 2017-09-21 19:42:36.


Also published on Medium.

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