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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.

48 Hours In...

48 Hours in Brighton

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Why Go?
Fabulous Brighton, located on the south coast of England is an enticing destination for LGBTQ travelers. Quirky, fun and non-conformist, the city is chilled, yet vibrant and happening, making it a perfect weekend jaunt from London.
Brighton is known for its pebble beach and Victorian pier, but there is a lot more to the city than traditional seaside fun. Brighton’s LGBTQ scene revolves around Kemp Town, where a plethora of bars, clubs, hotels and gay-run businesses are based.
The North Laine is the alternative heart of the city. Independent stores, stalls, funky cafes and bars line the narrow pedestrianized streets. Vibrant street art can be found in hidden corners and buskers entertain passersby.
The Brighton Lanes, slightly to the south, are more traditional, but equally as charming. The labyrinth of alleyways and passages formed part of the fishing village in days of olde. Now, the area is home to shops, restaurants, and pubs, including the oldest drinking establishment in the city, the haunted Druid’s Head pub.
As you would expect from the city that discovered Abba (they won the Eurovision Song Contest here in 1975), Brighton is renowned for its live music scene. From brilliant unknown musicians playing in tiny pubs to international superstars, there is a wide choice of music catering to all tastes every night of the week.
The food scene is similarly diverse. You can dine at top of the range restaurants or enjoy Vietnamese or Mexican street food. Vegetarians are well catered for – Brighton is known as the veggie capital of the south.
Getting There
The fastest and easiest way to reach Brighton from London is by train from Victoria Station, which takes less than an hour. It takes twice the time by bus, which leaves from Victoria Coach Station. By car, just follow the signs on the A23.
Checking-In
There are an abundance of LGBTQ-run and gay-friendly hotels and B & B’s in Kemp Town.
Legends Hotel – located on the seafront and also a popular bar and club.
BrightonWave – a stylish and contemporary guest house.
Nineteen – a cool and chic boutique hotel with local art adorning the walls.
Day One
KICKSTART THE DAY WITH BREAKFAST AT BILL’S
Bill’s, located in the North Laine is a great place to fuel yourself up for two days of Brighton fun and frolics.
A converted bus depot, the atmosphere is lively and the decor eclectic. The menu offers a tempting range of breakfasts. All ingredients are locally sourced. The staff members are a friendly bunch too.
A STROLL IN THE NORTH LAINE
Whilst in the North Laine area, why not linger? If it’s Saturday, check out the Upper Gardner Street Market. A diverse array of stalls sell everything from bric-a-brac to vintage clothes and locally made arts and crafts.
Snooper’s Paradise is a Brighton institution, a rambling indoor market specializing in kitsch, antiques and retro items. You could spend hours browsing the indie stores. Alternatively, you could simply sit outside one of the many cafes drinking coffee and watching the characters of Brighton passing by.
HIT THE PUB FOR LUNCH AND A PINT
The Fountainhead on North Road is a good choice of watering hole for a break. Serving gastro-pub grub, traditional ales and organic ciders, it has an open fire for chilly days and outside seating for sunnier ones.
A PARTY PAD FIT FOR ROYALTY
Next stop is the flamboyant Royal Pavilion. Situated bang in the middle of the city, its exotic appearance suggests it would be more at home in Rajasthan. Yet somehow, it seems appropriate in quirky Brighton.
The Pavilion served as a party pad for The Prince Regent, latterly King George II. A notorious womanizer and gambler, his visits to Brighton gave him the opportunity to let off steam from his royal duties.
The interior is decorated in the style of the Regency period and is a fascinating glimpse into the history of that era. These days, the domes and spires of the pavilion are illuminated in bright pink every August for Pride week.
COCKTAIL O’ CLOCK
Opposite the pavilion and just across Grand Parade is Brighton’s LGBTQ hub, the area of Kemp Town. The sprawling Charles St Bar is the ideal spot to start the evening’s proceedings with a cocktail or two. Food and drinks are cheap and the ambiance is chilled.
VEGGIE HEAVEN
For a special treat, make a beeline for Terre a Terre, an award-winning vegetarian restaurant. Many a carnivore have been converted after a visit. It’s a little costly, but a superb dining experience and the food is exquisite.
SING-A-LONG-WITH-A-DRAG-QUEEN
The Zone is a friendly neighbourhood bar with regular drag acts, including the wonderful Sally Vate. After a couple of drinks, you will have made at least five new friends and will be singing along to show tunes at the top of your voice.
DANCE ‘TIL YOU DROP
Round off the night with a boogie at the south coast’s largest LGBTQ club. With two state-of-the-art dance floors, seven V.I.P. booths and a rooftop terrace, it’s the city’s coolest party spot.
Day Two
THE PERFECT RECOVERY BREAKFAST
The Corner is a bistro-style cafe, conveniently located in the heart of Kemp Town. If you are craving a full English breakfast to replace those nutrients after a night of partying, this place will hit the spot.
SEASIDE FUN ON THE PALACE PIER
A short walk along the seafront takes you to Brighton’s iconic pier. A bracing stroll along the boardwalk to the funfair will blow away the cobwebs. Dip into the Palace of Fun arcade to try your luck on the amusements.
A RIDE IN THE SKY
Next up, take a smooth ride into the sky on the world’s first vertical cable car and tallest moving observatory tower. Hopefully, you will be blessed with a clear day and at four hundred feet up, you will enjoy spectacular views of Brighton and the South Downs beyond. There’s a bar onboard, so you can appreciate the spectacle with champagne in hand!
LUNCH IN THE LANES
If all that sea air is making you hungry, head to the Brighton Lanes for some tapas at Ole Ole! It’s an authentic Spanish restaurant run by welcoming Spanish staff. The sangria is sweet and the tapas are tasty! Afterwards, spend the afternoon exploring the intricate maze of narrow streets and unique shops. At weekends it’s usually buzzing with activity and full of atmosphere.
A PUB CRAWL IN KEMP TOWN
Finish off your two-day Brighton extravaganza with a pub crawl in Kemp Town. You will be spoilt for choice – from stylish cocktail bars to traditional boozers. Most of the bars and pubs are LGBTQ run. Have a pint and meet the locals!

Originally posted 2017-08-10 11:27:38.

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48 Hours in Mexico City

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Mexico City is a sprawling metropolis full of color and culture. You could easily spend a month there and still not get to see and experience everything the city has to offer. If you only have a weekend, you can get a taste of Mexico City’s delights, but be warned – you will probably be booking your next trip as soon as you arrive home.

With more museums than any other city in the world, amazing architecture, a scintillating LGBTQ scene, delicious street food and many other attractions, Mexico City is one of the most exciting cities on the planet.

Getting There

Juarez International Airport is located eight miles from Mexico City. If you arrive late at night, it is advisable to take an official taxi to the downtown area. During the day, the metro is a good alternative.

Getting Around

Mexico City’s metro system is extensive and one of the cheapest underground systems in the world. Having said that, it isn’t the most comfortable of transport options during rush hour. Taxis are cheap, but make sure you take one from the official sitio taxi stands or use Uber.

Day One

Start the day with Huevos Rancheros, a classic Mexican breakfast – tortillas, fried eggs, salsa and refried beans. Try Café El Popular (5 de Mayo esq Palmas, just off the Zocalo). It’s a popular spot for both locals and tourists and has a diner-style ambiance.

After a hearty breakfast, head to the charming neighbourhood of Coyoacan. The number one attraction here is La Casa Azul, Frida Kahlo’s house, which has now been turned into a museum. It provides a fascinating insight into the life of artist Frida and her husband Diego Rivera. www.museofridakahlo.org.mx

The garden in La Casa Azul

Afterwards, you could head around the corner to the house where the exiled Leon Trotsky lived the last year of his life. It was there that he was murdered by an assassin in his study. In contrast to Frida’s colorful abode, it is an austere house which has been changed little since Trotsky lived there, but is an intriguing slice of political history.

Coyoacan Plaza is a great place to sample some tasty street food. At weekends, it is particularly lively with food and handicraft stalls. There is often live music, adding to the festive atmosphere. It feels like small town Mexico in the heart of the big city.

Back in Centro Historico, take a stroll around the huge main plaza, the Zocalo, the second largest public square in the world after Russia’s Red Square. There are plenty of museums, shops and cool street art to explore in the surrounding areas.

La Catrina, the iconic skeleton lady

El Balcon del Zocalo is a perfect place for dinner. The restaurant has a rooftop terrace, bestowed with spectacular views of the cathedral and Zocalo. It has an international, Mexican and veggie friendly menu. www.balcondelzocalo.com

For a taste of Mexican style nightlife, head to Calle Amberes at Paseo de la Reforma in Zona Rosa. This area is the hub of the LGBTQ scene in Mexico City. Have a wander and take your pick of the many bars and clubs that line the street.

Day Two

Pasteleria Ideal (Calle 16 de Septiembre 18, Col. Centro) could be the largest and most heavenly bakery you have ever seen. The choice of baked goods, both sweet and savory, are a feast for the eyes and as the name suggests, is an ideal place to grab some pastries. With breakfast and coffee in hand, make tracks to Alameda Park and find a bench to sit to enjoy your first meal of the day and partake in a spot of people-watching. You can’t miss the opulent architecture of Palacio de Belles Artes, the grandest building in Mexico City.

Just across the road (Calle Revillagigedo 11, Cuauhtemoc), check out the Popular Art Museum. Housed in an ex-fire station, this contemporary museum is full of colorful Mexican folk art. It’s fun and quirky and the exhibits range from Day of the Dead skulls and skeletons to vibrant piñatas. www.map.cdmx.gob.mx

Museum of Popular Art – fun and quirky

La Ciudadela is an artisan market (Calle de Balderas, s/m Centro, 06040 Cuauhtemoc). It specializes in Mexican handicrafts from 0axacan fantasy animals to beautifully decorated skulls. Prices are reasonable and you are bound to find something that catches your eye.

Even if you have never considered attending a wrestling match before, lucha libre is a unique Mexican experience and not-to-be-missed. (Arena Mexico,189 Calle Dr. Lavista, Colonia Doctores).  Regular sessions are held on Tuesday and Friday evenings and Sunday afternoons. The atmosphere is electric and whole families attend shouting abuse at the bad guys and cheering for their heroes.  

Round off your time in Mexico City with some tequila shots and mariachi music at a bar on Plaza Garibaldi. The haunting sound of roving mariachi bands echo around the square, as you reflect on two action-packed days in this amazing city.

Tequila shots at the ready!

 

Originally posted 2017-07-29 11:22:36.

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48 Hours In...

Weekly: 48 Hours in the Big Apple – The Greatest City in the World

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Ah, my home town. While there’s no way possible to fit the entire city into 48 hours, I’m here to give you some of the highlights that take you from the Financial District  in lower Manhattan, up to the Upper West Side. And if you’re in the city and need a tour guide, I’ve got you covered there, too! Let’s take a look at what to do in New York when you only have 48 hours.

Friday: 

7:00pm – Get settled into the Hudson at Columbus Circle

This is my favorite hotel in Manhattan, and when I need a stay-cation I always book a room at the Hudson. Their lobby is decorated with vines and chandeliers, and the courtyard is gorgeous. They also have The Library bar, which features signature cocktails, including the delicious Honey and the Bee’s. The rooms are rather small, but they are cozy and have style. Start your weekend by getting settled, then heading down for a cocktail at The Library.

8:30pm – Dinner at Beauty & Essex

Head down to the Bowery and get ready for a real treat! You’ll walk in through a pawn shop to a beautiful open two story restaurant decorated like a speakeasy. You’re going to want to eat everything on the menu but I recommend the tomato soup dumplings with a bacon-cheese dumping, the beef carpaccio, and the sliders. Plus, they have a great wine and beer list, and delicious cocktails. Make a reservation in advance though. This place gets packed, and quick!

10:30pm – Christopher Street for drinks and dancing

Head on down to Christopher Street and Sheridan Square for drinks and dancing the night away. Some of New York’s best bars are all within walking distance, including The Monster, where Dan Daly can be heard tickling the ivories several nights a week for karaoke. Across the street is The Duplex, which happens to be my first gay bar experience in New York City. Down Christopher, you have Ty’s and Rockbar, which are sure to please.

1:30pm – Street Halal

If there’s one thing New York is full of, it’s street food carts. Get yourself the chicken over rice, extra white sauce. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

Saturday :

10:00am – Brunch at Maison Pickle on the Upper West Side

This is Jacob’s Pickle’s sister restaurant, currently housing Jacob’s Pickle’s brunch menu due to a recent fire. Get the open-faced chicken biscuit sandwich covered in mushroom gravy. You’re welcome.

11:30am – Walk through Central Park

Want to go people-watching? Take a long walk through Central Park. You’re bound to see people of every variety in there. My advice is to find yourself a park bench, take a seat, and watch the parade of people and puppies. You’ll find me there, too, I’m sure.

2:00pm – Exploring Greenwich Village

This is one of the most famous parts of Manhattan. Just take a cab or the A train down to West 4th street, get out, and walk in any direction to explore this fun neighborhood. Head over to Magnolia Bakery for some sweet treats, too. Get the banana pudding for sure.

4:30pm – World Trade Center Observatory and September 11 Memorial

If you haven’t been to the 9/11 Memorial yet, it’s worth a visit. The site is so peaceful and great for reflection. In the spirit of rebirth and growth, head up to the One World Trade Center for the observatory. You’ll see a great view of Manhattan, New Jersey, and all five boroughs.

6:30pm – Dinner at Sotto 13

This restaurant in Chelsea is quite cozy and features an American-Italian menu with great cocktails and a fun atmosphere. The wait staff are all very friendly, but definitely make a reservation first.

8:00pm – Catch a show!

You’re not far from Times Square, so maybe catch a show! One of my current favorites it Waitress, a funny and heart-warming story based on the 2007 film of the same name. Or, see one of my favorite actresses, Allison Janney, in Six Degrees of Separation. She’s positively brilliant.

10:30pm – After-dinner drinks at Bourbon Street Bar

Really, you can just walk around Hell’s Kitchen and duck into any of the bars, but I’ve recently fallen for Bourbon Street Bar on 46th St between 8th and 9th avenues.

Sunday:

11:00am – Brunch at The Stand

Seriously, this one is not to be missed, unless you have a flight out of New York that afternoon. $45 gets you unlimited mimosas, Bloody Mary’s, and screwdrivers, plus entrees.

2:00pm – Battery Park before heading out

This is just a fun little part of town and a nice place to have a cup of coffee outside before you head home!

There you have it! A great 48 hours in Manhattan awaits you! Let me know when you’re here!

Originally posted 2017-06-15 03:30:36.

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