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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
48 Hours in Kuala Lumpur
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Bangkok
Bangkok is one of the most dynamic cities in the world and offers a wealth of culture, fantastic shopping opportunities, exciting nightlife and some of the best cuisine on the planet. The Thai baht goes a long way, making the city excellent value for western tourists. For LGBTQ visitors, Thailand is the most tolerant country In South-East Asia. The Thai Tourist Board are promoting Thailand as a destination for LGBTQ travelers with their ‘Go Thai. Be Free’ campaign.
Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang international airports both serve Bangkok. Suvarnabhumi is sixteen miles from the city, while Don Mueang fifteen miles away.
From Suvarnabhumi, there are lots of transport options into Bangkok including an excellent airport rail link, taxi, airport limo, express airport buses and public buses. From Don Mueang, you can take a taxi or a cheap, but slow train to Hua Lamphong Station.
Bangkok is a sprawling metropolis and choosing where to stay can be overwhelming. Accommodation options range from hostels and cheap hotels at only a few dollars a night to glitzy five-star hotels. Here are a few of the areas which are popular to stay in:
Khao San Road – The backpacker’s Mecca, packed with budget accommodation, bars and restaurants.
Sukhumvit – A modern area of the city in central Bangkok with lots of good neighbourhood shopping and restaurants. The transport links are good.
Silom – Close to Lumpini Park and Patpong, the red light district.
Chinatown – Hualamphong Railway Station is nearby, which can be handy and Chinatown itself is a vibrant and fascinating area.
If you happen to be visiting at the weekend, don’t miss Chatuchak market which comprises of thirty-five acres of around fifteen thousand stalls http://www.chatuchakmarket.org. It’s an opportunity to try some delicious street food (check out the mango sticky rice or Thai grilled chicken) and there are bargains galore to be had. It would be easy to spend a day at the market, but with only two days in town, time is of the essence.
Jim Thompson’s House http://www.jimthompsonhouse.com/visitor/index.asp is constructed in traditional Thai style and is also a museum and art gallery. Set in a beautiful tropical garden, it was the home of silk merchant Jim Thompson and is now a popular tourist attraction. It’s a peaceful oasis in the center of the city and also has a lovely café looking out over the garden.
Flag down a tuk-tuk and head to the Chao Phraya River, where you can take a boat across the water to Wat Arun. Otherwise known as the Temple of Dawn, it’s an ornate Khmer-style structure. Climb the steep steps for panoramic views across the city.
To round off your first day in Bangkok, head to Silom Soi 4 in the Sukhumvit area of the city. Here you will discover an abundance of LGBTQ friendly pubs, bars, and restaurants to choose from. For those who want to dance into the early hours, mosey along to nearby Silom Soi 2, where there are some excellent clubs including D.J. Station, Freeman, and Expresso.
After breakfast, arrive at the Grand Palace early to beat the crowds (or at least some of them). This complex of extraordinary Thai-style temples and palaces was built in 1782. Gold painted buildings and intricate mirror and glass mosaics dazzle under the sun. The star of the show is the stunning Wat Phra Kaew, otherwise known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Thailand’s most revered temple.
Take the Chao Phraya Express Boat along the river – it’s cheap and a great way to see the old city. The boat stops off at various locations and it’s possible to hop on and off wherever you want to. Check out Khao San Road, the backpackers’ mecca and a lively area at any time of the day and night. Guest houses, restaurants, bars, market stalls, tattoo parlours and travel agents all vie for trade and it’s an absorbing road to wander along.
After re-boarding the boat, carry on down the river and alight at Ratchawong Pier, the stop for bustling Chinatown. Explore the labyrinth of streets lined with shops selling everything from durian fruit to nodding lucky cats. The sights and smells of Chinatown are an assault on the senses. Dip into temples to light some incense and check out the Thieves market.
If you haven’t satisfied your appetite with all the wonderful street food that Bangkok has to offer, make a beeline for Tealicious Bangkok (492 Trok To, Soi Charoen Krung 49, Bangrak, Bangkok 10500). It’s a lovely little restaurant serving up delicious authentic Thai food using fresh ingredients. Tom, the friendly owner is usually on hand to answer any questions relating to the cuisine. The menu is extensive and there are plenty of veggie options.
To finish off your Bangkok sojourn in style, there’s no better venue than Sirocco Sky Bar. The elegant 63rd floor bar sits on a precipice over the city, 820 feet in air. It’s one of the highest rooftop bars in world. (The Dome at Lebua, 1055 Silom Road, Bangkok 10500). Cocktails are creatively concocted and expensive, but who cares – it’s your last night in Bangkok and the view of the city is phenomenal.
48 Hours in Honolulu
How about sparkling azure ocean, white sand beaches, surfers, hula dancers and swaying palm trees for starters? Throw in the opportunity to enjoy some world-class shopping/dining experiences and a laid-back aloha vibe. There’s no doubt where in the world you are when you hit the hedonistic streets of Waikiki. Before heading out to the other islands, make sure you take a couple of days to soak up the delights of this dynamic Hawaiian city.
All flights arrive at Honolulu International Airport, from where you can take a taxi to Waikiki Beach about nine miles away. The other alternative is a shuttle bus. If you haven’t got too much luggage, you could take the airport bus, which is the cheapest option by far.
Most tourists stay in Waikiki. This is where the beach and most of the attractions are located. They are all within easy walking distance of one another. Honolulu’s downtown area is three miles from Waikiki.
Although it is possible to seek out a bargain, hotels in Waikiki are on the expensive side. One of the most iconic places to stay is the romantic and luxurious Royal Hawaiian Hotel, located on the beachfront. Easily recognisable by its pink exterior, it has been used in many TV shows and movies. At the other end of the scale, check out the quirky Royal Grove Hotel, a great budget option and only a block away from the beach! http://www.royalgrovehotel.com
Before you head to the beach, enjoy a relaxed breakfast at Lulu’s http://www.luluswaikiki.com. While you tuck into local specialties Loco Moco or Longboard Benedict, check out the stunning views of Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach.
Waikiki is probably the most famous beach in the world, and deservedly so. Where better to learn to ride the waves than the birthplace of surfing? If you don’t bring your own board, you can rent one – the waves are perfect for beginners. As well as being incredibly warm, the ocean is the most sublime turquoise you will ever lay eyes on. If you prefer a more sedate experience, rent a sun lounger and simply chill in paradise.
If you can tear yourself away from the beach, check out Waikiki Aquarium, which has a vibrant display of native fish, turtles and two Hawaiian monk seals. http://www.waikikiaquarium.org.
For the ultimate Hawaiian shopping experience, make tracks to Ala Moana Center https://www.alamoanacenter.com/en/events.html, a sprawling mall chock-a-block with stores and restaurants. There are regular Hawaiian music and dance events on the stage and lots of opportunities to buy souvenirs or sample local delicacies.
Make your way back to Waikiki Beach, with a pause at Moose’s (310 Lewers St. Honolulu) for Happy Hour and a bite to eat. The cocktails here are great value. You will soon be feeling the aloha spirit and be ready to hit the beach again, this time to watch the sun sink over the ocean. The torch-lighting and hula show takes place on the beach most evenings, and crowds gather to watch the entertainment in the fading light. It’s a magical time of the day in Waikiki and the atmosphere is mellow as everyone enjoys the vibe and beautiful setting.
If you are in the mood to party, you can’t go wrong at Hula’s Bar & Lei Stand, Honolulu’s longest established LGBTQ venue. It’s a friendly spot, where both locals and tourists congregate. There are views over the ocean and live entertainment most nights of the week. The cocktails are potent and the staff welcoming https://www.hulas.com.
Start the day energetically with a hike to the summit of Diamond Head, the dramatic volcanic crater which overlooks the city. Take some snacks and plenty of water. if you head out early, you will avoid the intense midday heat. The trail is steep and a little uneven, but the hour’s climb is worth it for the sweeping views of the ocean and city skyline.
After building up an appetite on the trail, enjoy a lunch buffet at the famous Duke’s www.dukeswaikiki.com. Duke’s Barefoot Bar is right on the beach and serves up a buffet featuring locally grown produce and an abundance of tempting accompaniments. Alternatively, try the fresh fish dishes or burgers. There is often live music, and a visit to Duke’s is a quintessential Hawaiian experience not to be missed.
After some more beach time, stroll along to the historical Royal Hawaiian Hotel https://www.royal-hawaiian.com and take in the traditional ambiance. Treat yourself to a delicious cocktail at the Mai Tai Bar, a mere few steps away from the sand.
Next up, take the elevator to the Top of Waikiki https://topofwaikiki.com. The revolving restaurant offers spectacular views, especially at sunset. Appetizers and cocktails are available during Happy Hour, which goes from 5.00pm-9.30pm. The perfect ending to two blissful days in Honolulu!
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