Posts

havana colourful graffiti

Havana, Cuba – In 39 Photos

Havana Cuba In 39 Photos

Havana is one of the most photogenic places in the world, with incredible classic cars, crumbling buildings and charismatic people everywhere you look. For me, photos of this incredible place tell the best story, so I’ll keep the words short and let the photos speak for themselves. If you haven’t been to Cuba I urge you go before this historic relic disappears and is developed into a city like any other…

buildings and cars havana havana sign havana street

havana malecon man in havana cuba car in havana street havana taxi malecon

havana church havana bar havana graffiti

bodeguita havana havana buildings  havana malecon fishing havana blue classic car havana tourist souvenirs

havana classic car  market havana colourful street havana band havana men havana graffiti in havana che guevara havana havana man classic car traffic havana painters havana  old man band havana stall havana bike taxi havana havana club rum bar

havana promenade band in bar havana havana square havana colourful graffiti stylish man havana library havana floridita havana  classic cars in havana rooftops over havana

trinidad cuba backpacking photo

Backpacking Photo of the Week – Trinidad, Cuba

This week’s backpacking photo comes from Trinidad in Cuba, a stunning city set in the heart of lush green valleys and a stone’s throw from the coast…

 

trinidad cuba backpacking photo

monk photo burma yangon

Backpacking Photo of the Week – Modelling Monks in Yangon

You might think it’s only the tourists who are snapping away whilst on their backpacking trip but you’d be wrong.

Whilst we were exploring the Schwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Burma, we stumbled across these monks having a right old photo session. Poses, selfies – they were truly going for it!

monk photo burma yangon

Ponte Vecchio

A Backpacking Trip around Florence

Florence is not an easy place for a backpacking trip. Capital of Tuscany, ancient capital of Italy and one of the 3 most famous art cities of the country, together with Rome and Venice, it is what you would easily consider a big “tourist trap”.

But I’m Italian, I’ve been to Florence several times and I’m a travel addict. So I’m happy to share with you some tricks, as I do on my blog and on Gadders, the travel platform I created to help foreign tourists who wish to come to visit Italy.

Accommodation

Hotels are quite expensive in Florence and hostels are very few, but the good news is those few are good quality and at a good price! The city itself is actually small and you can walk around everywhere. Therefore, you just must need to make sure that your accommodation is not in the outskirts and you’re done. You won’t need information about public transports (big issue avoided!)

Must see

I recommend you not to plan a 3 day trip through the whole Tuscany just because in 1 hour you could reach amazing destinations like Siena and Pisa. You wouldn’t really like to leave Florence after one day of marathon sightseeing with the sensation of having missed some of the best bits. To enjoy the city 3 days are necessary and even more for art and museum lovers.

My favourite attractions are:

1.Ponte Vecchio, literally “old bridge”, the most famous upon the Arno river, with its characteristic shops along the 2 sides (but don’t go in if you don’t want to suffer a heart attack for prices!) and the central balcony where to take the classic postcard-alike picture of Florence.

Ponte Vecchio

2.The impressive Cathedral of S. Maria del Fiore, gorgeous inside and outside. But in my opinion above all from the upside. I’m passionate about breath-taking views and a very beautiful one is from the cathedral’s Dome, with artwork of Brunelleschi. Also amazing is Giotto’s Campanile (a little lower but also less hard climbing).

Cathedral of S. Maria del Fiore

3.The L shaped Piazza della Signoria, a real open-air museum, decorated by many sculptural artworks, of which the most famous is the David of Michelangelo. You may ask yourself why such a masterpiece is left in the middle of the square instead of being overprotected in a museum? The answer is that it’s only a copy of the original work. All the statues have a meaning and it is worth taking a guidebook along with you so that you can read more and discover the stories and history.

Piazza della Signoria

4.Boboli garden. This one is not a symbol of the city like the first 3, which are suggested in every travel guide, but it is a really lovely park. It was projected in the past as garden of the Pitti Palace, but today, while the building is a huge museum packed with paintings (i’d say a boring place where, if you only want to walk through all the rooms without stopping, it would take an hour! Art lovers don’t curse me) the park is a relaxing and fresh area where to walk in hot summer days, while admiring the various ancient and contemporary sculptures that enrich its architecture.

What to eat and what to do

The typical dish here is the Florentine steak, a bloody 8cm high and 1kg heavy steak, usually to be shared at least between 2 persons. To find a restaurant I went to Piazza della Signoria, took the narrowest alley, walked about 10 minutes and stopped in a place before getting again to a touristy point. It worked: the meat was very good and not expensive! I tried the experiment again and it was proved. As result I can say that doesn’t matter which restaurant you are in because the quality is generally good, you just need to pay attention with prices!

To end, I think a bit of local-style life must be done. In Florence there are many bars and pubs to chill out at night; the most peculiar thing I tried is a honey-beer in a pub close to train station! But what surprised me the most was the cultural atmosphere you can breathe in the cafès, once meeting points of artists and writers. Like the Giubbe Rosse in Piazza della Repubblica or the hidden Caffetteria delle Oblate where you can enjoy an amazing view of the Cathedral’s Dome.

About the Author

This post was written by Francesco Visconti who has his a travel blog about Italy, gadders blog.

nagoya osu kannon

Off the Beaten Track in Japan’s 4th Largest City: Nagoya, Japan

Nagoya is one of Japan’s largest and most populous cities: fourth after Tokyo, Osaka and Yokohama, and is located directly in between Tokyo and Kyoto, on the Shinkansen (bullet train) line.

So why, when Tokyo and Kyoto draw in the region of five million overseas tourists every year, does Nagoya remain almost unvisited?

How is it that the major guide books have almost nothing to say about Nagoya? How has Japan’s fourth biggest city managed to stay off almost every tourist’s itinerary, off the radar, and so ‘off the beaten track’?

nagoya3Arriving at Nagoya Central Station. No trouble finding a cab

Though it’s true that Nagoya doesn’t offer a lot in the way of “attractions” and “sights” – at least none that can’t be found elsewhere in the country – this mass overlooking of Nagoya by foreigners has created a paradise for those few travellers who do make it here.

Where else could you experience modern life in big city Japan combined with this level of authenticity? While Tokyo and Osaka paint a stylised portrait of contemporary and future Japan, villages such as Tsumago and Magome attempt to replicate historical Japan for tourists, and Kyoto desperately tries to do both, Nagoya remains one of the only places to see real, unadulterated Japan at its best.

As every seasoned traveller knows all too well, destinations with an established tourist trail also tend to bring hassle, unfriendliness and greedy attitudes towards visitors. Nagoya is free from all of that and is the best place to experience the true Japanese sensibility and feelings towards outsiders.

In Nagoya you can see and experience life as the Japanese live it, free from the millions of tourists you’ll find in the other cities.

Japan is a country famed for its long history of isolation, which is exactly what makes it one of the most unique cultures in the world and one of the most interesting places to visit, and while that’s not the impression you get in Tokyo or Kyoto, there is no better place to experience the legacy of Japan’s isolation than in Nagoya.

What to do in Nagoya, Japan

nagoya osu kannon

While it has all the usual tourist sites (such as Nagoya Castle, Atsuta Shrine, Nagoya Port, and the temple and shopping district of Osu Kannon – Nagoya’s answer to the likes of LA’s Venice Beach and Brighton’s North Laine) Nagoya’s real attraction is simply that it is teeming with life, twenty-four hours a day. The budget traveller can give the main sights a miss. Because of Nagoya’s unique zoning laws, or lack thereof, the best place to look for Nagoya’s history is often on its back streets, where you’ll find lonely rice paddies, hidden Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines and a wealth of old buildings that date back to the turbulent Samurai era, all hidden in the cracks between car dealerships, konbinis and supas (convenience stores and supermarkets).

nagoya 1A castle I stumbled across in Nisshin, on the outskirts of Nagoya.

Nagoya is actually the home of three of Japan’s most influential warlords: Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu, without whom the country would not be the place of peace it is today.

The Aichi district is also one of the most notorious areas in Japan for Yakuza. However, contrary to popular myth, the Yakuza often greet foreigners with respect. (I met one.) Both the Yakusa and foreigners have been treated as outsiders in Japanese society and so share a unique bond. If you’re lucky you might even be able to have your photo taken with one. Look out for tattoos and a missing little finger.

Other things to do in and around Nagoya:

  • Experience a tea ceremony.
  • Or try some Zazen meditation.
  • Hit the annual Sumo Championships! (Nagoya is the only place the catch these outside Tokyo.)
  • Dress up like a Samurai!
  • The nearest sand beach is Utsumi, located on the Chita peninsula and accessible via the Meitetsu line.
  • Hang out on the many University campuses! – Nagoya is a huge University town.

nagoya uniHanging out at Nagoya University of Foreign Studies

Food and Shopping in Nagoya

For a cheap bite to eat, or to taste Japan’s take on food from around the world, hit the Osu district. Shops stay open until eight in the evening, so after you’ve purchased those jeans you can relax in the cool evening air with some Brazilian chicken, Turkish kebab, or whatever else takes your fancy.

nagoya osuClothes shopping in Osu

However you spend your stay in Nagoya, don’t miss out on the teriyaki burger at makudonarudosu (McDonalds), or better still, Japan’s own fast-food; a hot bowl of Ramen!

Nightlife in Nagoya

A short walk away is Sakae, the epicentre of Nagoya’s roaring nightlife scene. There is no shortage of restaurants, trendy bars and live music venues. My Bar, Mujica and Shooters are among the best, not to mention Club ID, the largest and most foreigner-friendly nightclub in the city, complete with five floors and a range of music from rock to reggae and hip-hop to hard-house.

Other Nagoya nightlife highlights include:

  • The beer garden on the roof of the Meitetsu building
  • Most drinking establishments in Japan offer nomihōdai (all you can drink) and tabehōdai (all you can eat) deals – sometimes for as little as 890 Yen (£6/$9) per person for two hours!
  • Karaoke! Get a private room for you and your friends and go nuts. These are to be found almost everywhere in Japan.
  • Chain bars like Ogiya (decorated in the old, wooden style) and Hub (a poor imitation of an English pub, but the unofficially meeting point for foreign expats in any Japanese city big enough to have one).
  • Licour Mountain – Fancy a quiet night in instead? Well you can forget about that! Try Japan’s alcohol superstore answer to the humble off-licence. Here you’ll find aisles upon aisles of Japanese whisky, which can be bought in plastic bottles as large as 10 litres!

Located in its central position in Honshu, and all of Japan, Nagoya makes the perfect base for trips to Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Yokohama, the Kiso valley, the Japan Alps, Ise, Kanazawa, Hiroshima, Miyajima, and in fact all the major destinations in Japan! With the new Chubu International Airport and a rapidly expanding subway network, Nagoya is set to only get more popular as a place to go in Japan. My advice? Get there while it’s still relatively off the beaten track!

About the Author

This post was brought to you by Roy Duffield, who has lived, worked and studied in Nagoya and now writes for Holiday-n-Adventure and his somewhat controversial travel blog, Notes from the Road.

Check out more great destinations in Asia on the TBD Asia page

barcelona

Breathtaking Buildings, Beautiful Beaches & Bloated Bellies: Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona is a vibrant, youthful city that combines the pleasures of a city break with the relaxation and beauty of a beach holiday. The city-by-the-sea vibe put out by Barcelona lends the city a chilled-out, almost hippie-ish feel in places. Young people lugging heavy backpacks flock to Barcelona in the summer: for June’s Sonar festival, St Joan’s Night celebrations, Benicassim festival in July, and also simply to enjoy the great atmosphere, people and sights of the magnificent city of Barcelona itself.

barcelona postcard

As a popular backpacking destination, Barcelona offers plenty of reasonably priced hostels and hotels. Of course, you will want to be sure to book into a centrally located hostel. However, bear in mind that some central hostels are more reasonably priced than others. Unfortunately, there are the odd few that prey on clueless backpackers to earn a few extra Euros. Make sure you know the going rate before you arrive, and be sure to search out a short list of ones you’d like to stay in. However, booking ahead of time may not be the best option, as you should allow yourself the freedom to change your plans, and there’s nothing worse than being locked into some agreement when more exciting suggestions come up.

barcelona

Whilst refraining from booking a hostel is wise, there are certain things you should make sure you do book ahead of time. For example, pre-booking airport transfers from Barcelona airport will give you a valuable opportunity to regroup and relax on the way to your accommodation. It will save money, stress and time, especially if you then have to go on a bit of a trek to find a hostel. Get your driver (if taking private airport transfers) to drop you as close to Las Ramblas as possible, as there are plenty of good hostels close to this central location.

Las Ramblas is the busiest, most tourist-centric location in the city. The central strip hosts a daily market, with flowers, birds and souvenir stalls dominating. There is also an incredible food market halfway up, with a staggering, mouth-watering fruit display that is hard to resist. There are many smaller streets snaking off from Las Ramblas, and plenty of great little restaurants, bars, cafes and shops are in bountiful supply if you take the time to explore. These smaller bars and cafes, especially ones near hostels, are great places to meet other fellow travellers. Don’t limit yourself to the main tourist areas though. Make use of Barcelona’s clean, safe Metro system to travel all over the city and to explore. Head to Barceloneta beach for sunbathing, and some excellent seafood restaurants along the promenade, as well as for bars and for the promise of a dynamic life after dusk.

You will certainly want to check out Barcelona’s famous Gaudi architecture, including the Sagrada Familia (no Barcelona break is complete without a visit), Picasso and Dali museums and galleries, and have a look at the jaw-dropping yachts in the marina. Everywhere you turn in Barcelona, you are spoiled for choice, and you are guaranteed to wish you’d booked just a few more days.

Five things not to miss in Barcelona:

  • Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia – the high point of culture in Barcelona, and an astounding piece of beautiful, imaginative architecture. I dare you not to be awed!
  • The Beaches – Barcelona’s beaches are clean, beautiful, fun and lined with some great bars and eateries. They are also a top place to be after dark to hang out with fellow travellers and enjoy a couple of cans of Estrella by a makeshift campfire with a guitar.
  • La Boqueria Market – the indoor food market just off Las Ramblas is absolutely choc-a-block with gastronomic treats, and a real delight for the senses. You may find yourself coming away with enough food to feed the five thousand! Enjoy the bars and restaurants inside, and be sure to get your lips around as many delicious free samples as you can.
  • Museu D’Art Contemporani De Barcelona (MACBA) and Centre of Contemporary Culture (CCCB). Situated in El Ravel district, the MACBA features modern art from the mid-twentieth century onwards, focusing on post-1945 Catalan and Spanish art. The CCCB is one of the most visited museums in Barcelona, hosting a range of temporary exhibitions, concerts, events and a cinema. A bit like the South Bank Centre in London, with less faceless modernist concrete.
  • The Picasso Museum – featuring one of the world’s most extensive collections of the work of Pablo Picasso, the Picasso Museum contains more than 3,500 works. The museum also hosts special exhibitions, as well as seminars and lectures on Picasso and on museological issues by art experts from around the world.

barcelona images

Check out more European destinations here on TBD and other great places to visit around the world on our Facebook page.

azure window malta

Sun Soaked, Culture Filled and Adventure Everywhere: Magical Malta

An often overlooked stop-off in Europe, Malta offers the inquisitive traveller a taste of culture, history and adventure crammed into an easily exploreable island in the sun. Whether you’re a sun-worshipper, adventure seeker, culture-vulture or all of the above, Malta is the ideal destination to indulge in your travel passions. A former British colony, it is steeped in history – you can explore a great number of pre-historic temples, passageways and tombs giving you an insight into life on Malta over 4500 years ago. Why not trace the story of the Knights of St. John, with their legacy visible not only on the famous Maltese Cross but also prominent in the places they inhabited – Three Cities, Fort St. Angelo and Valletta?

malta colourful boats

If exploring discovering Malta’s history first hand isn’t for you then the pleasant climate offers you the chance to enjoy year-round outdoor activities in beautiful surroundings. Why not enjoy a spot of golf at the 18-hole golf course in the Marsa Sports Club about 4km south of the capital, Valletta? Or simply relax by the pool, offered by many hotels on the island. If you’re looking for something a little more high-adrenaline then the countless water sport centres are waiting to take you scuba diving, windsurfing, water skiing or sailing.

valletta streetA holiday on Malta would not be complete without exploring the island’s lively bars and clubs. Malta’s nightlife offers visitors the chance to let their hair down after a day’s sightseeing, adventure seeking or lazing in the sun with clubbers heading to the lively Paceville near St. Julian’s for the action. Travellers wishing to experience a spot of culture in the evenings can visit the 18th Century Manoel Theatre enjoy an organ recital in one of the several baroque churches or visit the International Jazz Festival in July.

Malta’s history as a former British colony means that the island boasts a rare commodity in the northern hemisphere – somewhere English-speaking AND warm! This makes Malta an ideal location for an English language course and Maltalingua’s recently refurbished language school mean that learning English, whatever your specific goals, can be combined with a cultural and relaxing stay on Malta. Maltalingua offers extremely competitive pricing for its English courses, coupled with a team of qualified English teachers as well as the comfort of air-conditioned classrooms and the convenience of a location a short walk from the lively St. Julian’s. Oh yes, and a private roof terrace and swimming pool if you feel the need to top up your tan in between classes!

With the opportunity to learn a new language, explore thousands of years of history and experience culture and nightlife you’ll never forget, Malta is waiting for you…

5 Things Not to Miss in Malta:

  • A walk around Malta’s ‘Silent City’ – Mdina
  • Scuba diving in one of the world’s best places
  • Relaxing in a farmhouse in Gozo
  • Winding through the cobbled alleys of Valletta
  • A trip to the Azure Window, stunning rock formations in the sea

azure window malta

For more information on Maltalingua check www.maltalingua.com

For more fab destinations in Europe to go on your next holiday after Malta see our Europe destinations page…

las vegas

Sin City on a Budget: Las Vegas, USA

If you were to say three words about Vegas, they would probably be gambling, money and madness. But there’s more to Vegas than standing at the blackjack table, and it doesn’t have to be a hugely expensive trip to go and soak up Sin City. Backpacker’s certainly shouldn’t cross it off their list of potential destinations when visiting the USA as there is more than enough to see and do on a budget, without getting (too) involved in the madness of it all.

las vegas

Casinos

Ok, bear with me! I’m not talking about propping up the card tables for 12 hours and losing every last dime. Vegas obviously isn’t short of a casino or 2 and wandering around them all is an activity in itself. With all the different themes, from Venice to Egypt, each and everyone is absolutely mesmerising, with tiny details included to make you feel like you’re in Little Italy or visiting the Pharaohs.  And that’s not to mention the people. I don’t think there is a better place in the world to people watch! With folks from all walks of life, you see the best and worst of them at a casino table as their luck turns on a sixpence. Just don’t get too close. If you do fancy a little flutter, but away from the pressures of the pros and those willing to put their life on it, you could try somewhere like casino.ladbrokes.com to pick up some practice in advance of the real experience.

venetian vegas

‘Shows’

Forget paying hundreds of bucks for Cirque de Soleil tickets, there are plenty of freebies flying around in Vegas to keep you busy for a week. Instead of shows head to the Volcano at the Mirage which erupts every hour from 8pm until midnight. It’s a true visual and audio spectacle, as is the Fountains at the Bellagio which dances around to a variety of musical accompaniment every 15 to 30 minutes. If you’re want your breath taken away and still have full pockets this is for you.

bellagio fountains

Freebies

In most situations people are fairly uncertain about giving their details away. In Vegas you need to bin that habit and sign up for everything! There are freebies everywhere, all you need to do is find them. When you first arrive take some time to trawl through all the free mags and flyers and you’ll find some amazing deals. If someone stops you in the street give them your details. You’ll end up saving a goldmine. This extends to getting this insanely cheap as well. You can go to restaurants and pay $5 for a steak, side and a beer if you have the right flyer, or enter attractions for a fraction of the advertised price.

Hit the Pool

After late nights and lots of drinking you’ll need some down time, and with Vegas’ intense heat, the pool is the perfect place to kick back, shake off the hangover and get ready for the day ahead. When you’re booking your hotel this is a worthwhile consideration, as you might save a few dollars on a cheaper hotel, but if it doesn’t have a pool you’ll spend more time out and about spending money.

Eat and Drink on the Move

You’re in Vegas. Obviously you’re going to have some big nights on the town and soak up everything it has to offer. Instead of propping up the bar in expensive hotels, get some drinks for the street. Everyone out on the strip is suppin’ on something, so why not join in. You’ll save a heap and be able to invest that later on! And I know what you’re thinking, you get free drinks if you’re in a casino gambling right? They’ve well and truly cottoned on to that one – if you’re not throwing enough in their coffers at the table or the slot machines then the waitresses will sail right by you. Tried that one…

There’s just a few tips on how to survive in Vegas on a budget, but there really are countless ways to do it. Beyond the gambling and expensive shows there are deals and freebies everywhere. Keep on the lookout and this can be the cheapest stop on your trip!

5 Things Not to Miss in Vegas:

  • Wander the Strip and take in every piece of madness going on around you
  • Explore the casinos and all their garish beauty
  • Play the slots
  • Enjoy the audiovisual show at the Bellagio Fountain
  • Go and enjoy the Fremont Street Experience

For more great tips on what to do in the US check out our USA Travel Guide.

Murano Island, Venice

Exploring the Magical Islands of Venice, Italy

Many people are drawn to Venice to sail the gondola along the meandering canals, or to discover the renown cultural landmarks, such as Saint Mark’s Basilica and Galleria dell’Accademia. However, if you are a more intrepid tourist, you may wish to explore a little further, and visit some of the fascinating lagoon islands. Here’s a sample of the top islands to see, if your curiosity about Venice extends beyond the city.

Torcello Island

The island of Torcello is among Venice Lagoon’s most popular islands, so after you have arranged your boat transfer from Venice airport to your hotel, this might be a good island to begin with. The island’s main attraction is Santa Maria Dell’Assunta Cathedral, which was built in 639AD. Inside this cathedral, you will discover some striking mosaics from Byzantine times, which date back to the eleventh and thirteenth centuries. These mosaics alone are worth making the journey for. The cathedral is just a ten minute stroll away, once you have arrived at the island by boat. After visiting the cathedral, you can walk along some of the paths, or explore other attractions like Torcello Museum and the Santa Fosca Church.

Torcello, Italy

Murano Island

After catching your boat transfer from Venice airport, and preparing yourself for some sightseeing, you may wish to head to the island of Murano. This island is also very popular due, in no small part, to the main tourist attraction here – observing glass-blowing in action.

Glass-blowing has been done on Murano for hundreds of years, so it is a long held tradition here. Actually, every glass maker in Venice lived on Murano at some point, to guard their trade secrets. You can observe a live demonstration, and there are several glass factories available for you to tour. In addition to the glass-making demonstrations, you can visit the pleasant restaurants, or enjoy some nice walks on this tranquil island.

Murano Island, Venice

Lido Island

Lido is probably the most well-known out of all of the islands, as it hosts the Venice Film Festival every year in September or August. You will pass this island on your boat taxi, while you are travelling to your hotel from Venice airport.

The Venice festival is among the world’s most prestigious showbiz events, and every year top directors and film stars from across the planet come here for the film premières, and for the opportunity to win the big award – the Leone d’Oro. Nicknamed “The Golden Island” because of its’ lengthy sandy beaches, Lido is also the location of the Grand Hotel des Bains – which was the setting for the Thomas Mann novel, “Death in Venice”.

If you just restrict yourself to the city while you are sightseeing in Venice, you will be missing out on a whole range of other great attractions. Once you have taken your boat taxi from Venice airport and arrived at your hotel, try to catch another boat out to at least 1 of the islands above, to discover more of this picturesque area.

Adriatic sea of Lido

Five Things not to Miss in Venice…

  1. Canal Grande – A boat ride along this central waterway will give you a first class view of colourful Venetian buildings and stately homes, along with some of the most recognisable landmarks in the city.
  2. Piazza San Marco – Lined with fantastic (albeit pricey) restaurants and cafés, this square is an ideal location to relax with a coffee, and take in the beautiful scenery of traditional Venetian architecture and the lagoon beyond.
  3. Ca’Rezzonico – Restored during 2001, this fascinating building houses possibly the finest museum in the city, which gives visitors a revealing insight into daily life in grand Venetian homes, towards the end of the Venetian Republic era.
  4. Doge’s Palace – This amazingly lavish Gothic-Renaissance building used to be the official home of Venetian dukes, or “doges”, who ran the city for more than 1000 years.
  5. Peggy Guggenheim Museum – The stunning collection of  sculpture and painting in this renown Venetian museum, is generally regarded as the most extensive and significant modern art collection on the planet. The museum is a splendid eighteenth century palazzo situated directly on the Grand Canal’s banks, and it has a remarkably quiet sculpture garden inside.

Discover more fantastic destinations in Europe on the TBD Europe page, or from around the web on the TBD Facebook page

About the Author

This is a guest post from Steve Laws, a travel enthusiast and the owner of http://costeffectivetravel.com. This website provides top travel information and insight, aimed at inspiring holiday-makers to explore different parts of the world.

For more information, visit the website http://costeffectivetravel.com and check out the Cost Effective Travel Facebook Page

 

Image Credits

The following photos in this post have been licensed under Creative Commons Share Alike 2.0:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/proimos/3410353779/sizes/m/ – Some rights reserved by Alex E. Proimos

http://www.flickr.com/photos/grisha_21/2853496589/sizes/m/ – Some rights reserved by grisha_21

http://www.flickr.com/photos/argenberg/322834501/sizes/n/ – Some rights reserved by Argenberg

kolkata

The Former Jewel of the East: Kolkata, India

Kolkata is a city of contrasts. It is shocking yet charming, decadent yet squalid, degrading yet home to Nobel Prize laureates. It is certainly not for the faint hearted. When you arrive you are met with the familiar sight of streets packed with people and not a spare inch to move in, but the city is friendlier than many of its country’s counterparts, and meeting the locals is one of the best things about a visit to Kolkata.

kolkata

‘Jewel of the East’

Kolkata is India’s second largest city and the capital of West Bengal. It was formally the capital of the British Raj and was the centre of colonial trade in Asia, leading to it being given the nickname ‘The Jewel of the East’. However, that image is certainly a crumbling one, as much of it’s architecture is left to ruin and not maintained anywhere near as well as in other Indian cities. It gives it an almost perverse photographic attraction, but before long will be left as a heap of rubble and forgotten for what it once was.

kolkata india

That said, there are areas of the city which are thriving, not least the new town suburbs which are growing to accommodate new shopping centres for the wealthy portion of the inhabitants. This is where you will find many of the hotels in Kolkata, certainly for those looking at the higher end of the market, though there are backpacker hostels dotted around all over which offer the usual excellent Indian value. Outside of the newly developed suburbs, there is still a raft of slums though in contrast which are unlikely to disappear any time soon.

Kolkata Belly

Unsurprisingly, one of Kolkata’s must do activities is eating the local cuisine. Whilst many might have to battle stomach issues throughout their time in India, it is certainly worth the pain to sample the exquisite local Bengali dishes. Take that opportunity to mix with the locals too, as interaction and discovery with them will make your stay all the more interesting. Like most places in India they are extremely friendly, perhaps even more so here.

Kolkata may not be the ‘Jewel of the East’ that it once was, but it still has plenty to offer visiting travellers. It is the kind of place that you will enjoy more by immersing yourself there any getting involved with local people and activities, rather than visiting places of interest and taking photos. If you’re the kind of backpacker that likes a recognised icon around every corner then this one might not be for you, but if you’re prepared to get your hands a little dirty and put in the time, Kolkata can be an extremely rewarding host.

5 Things Not to Miss in Kolkata

Whilst Kolkata is more about feel than sightseeing, there is still plenty to keep you busy. Below are some of our favourites…

  • Take a walk along Chowringhee Road and start to discover what Kolkata is all about
  • Sample some of the best Indian cuisine you’ll ever taste at local restaurants where you’ll feel like you’re in someone’s front room
  • Head to BBD Bagh and explore the areas of crumbling colonial buildings and religious monuments
  • Visit the Victoria Memorial for beautiful gardens and Kolkata’s version of the Taj Mahal
  • Take a trip to the Keoratala burning ghat, where Kolkatan’s cremate their dead and celebrate their lives.

victoria memorial kolkata

For more great places to visit in India check out our Asia Destinations page or ‘Like’ the TBD Facebook page!