Wednesday, August 29, 2012

#TTOT Round-Up: Up and Coming Travel Destinations

Every Tuesday, it's Travel Talk on Twitter! Each week is a fun, new topic. Join either of the two sessions at 9:30am GMT and 9:30pm GMT to get in on all the fun travel talk!

Just follow the #TTOT hashtag! 

Here's the round-up of this week's #TTOT on "Up and Coming Travel Destinations!"

Q1 via : Name three cities to travel to in 2013
  • : Budapest, Sevilla, and Cape Town you should have already have been to these awesome places, if you haven't what are you waiting for 
  • : Uruguay, Burma and Java
  • : Inca City, Mumbai, and Kathmandu
  • : Raipur, India, Olgii, Mongolia, and Letang,Tibet
  • : Jerusalem, Berlin and Hveragerdi 
  • : Goa (India), Rio de Jainero (Brazil), Porto (Potugal) 
  • : Istanbul, Granada, Morocco
  • : Cape Town, Lima, and St. Petersburg
  • : Saigon, Taipei, Yangon

Q2 via : What motivates you to step out of your comfort zone and discover new destinations?
  • : I travel to convince myself I live in a big planet called "The World", not in a little bubble called "Home" 
  • : Being able to make connections with other people and learning about their culture motivates me 
  • : The knowledge that knowing once out of our comfort zone, the experiences will be life-changing. This is the ONLY way to travel 
  • : A well written article, recommendation from a friend or blogger, but I always stick to intuition. Some places just call my name
  • : Curiosity and that feeling of adventure 
  • : The taste of adventure definitely, cultural diversity, new experiences... The list could go on but anything new 
  • : To travel is experience! You must pack as many experiences into life as possible! So, stepping out of your comfort zone is a must 
  • : A life less explored is a life less lived

Q3 via : Where have you visited that is unappreciated and should be on everyone's list?
  • : New Zealand. It's a popular destination, but the country is so beautiful that more people should visit
  • : Not many people head to the Baltics, but Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia have gorgeous towns and friendly locals - and they're cheap 
  • : Montreal - very cool city 
  • : The Plitvice Lakes in Croatia are definitely worth a visit  
  • : My home country, the Philippines, is often underrated compared to SE Asia countries
  • : Namibia Africa is way under rated
  • : CuraƧao. It is a beautiful island, the food is great, and the people are gracious
  • : Georgia (the country) and western Ukraine 
  • : Edinburgh. A lot to discover in a tiny city 

Q4 via : What destination will never go out of style and why?
  • : South Africa, its just so diverse - wildlife, culture, beaches, history, icons, adventure. You can just keep coming back for more 
  • : Dubrovnik. Hasn't changed for the past few hundred years and probably won't change too much in the future
  • : Rome, it's the eternal city. So classy and beautiful  
  • : Sydney, London, New York, Hong Kong. Because they are the main hubs where people congregate
  • : Bangkok. So often a backpackers first destination. Will always be crazy 
  • : Paris-always one of my favorites-it's such a beautiful city, lots of culture/history, amazing food, and so much to do 

Q5 via : What up and coming destination do you want kept a secret?
  • : Love Oman, beautiful country, lovely people, great diversity
  • : Can we keep Burma a secret for just a little longer - so much to see before it's overrun
  • : Montenegro...shhh...don't get too touristy before I have a chance to visit please
  • : The island of Hvar in Croatia. Take a boat to some of the secluded islands and relax..Shhh 
  • : Cuba. I worry that if/when the US embargo lifts, it'll be all Americanized and lose its charm
  • : While all flock to Goa's beaches, Dudhsagar waterfalls is a hidden gem! It is Goa's best kept secret 
  • : I really think Slovenia and Slovakia are going to be hot in 2013. Both have stunning scenery 
  • : It's been big for budget travelers for a while, but more mainstream are starting to visit Laos. Great place, but don't tell  

And there you have it, "Up and Coming Travel Destinations!"  

Next week's #TTOT topic is: "Travel Confessions!" Submit your questions HERE!

See you Tuesday at 9:30am and 9:30pm GMT for the next #TTOT!

As always, a HUGE travel community thank you to our #TTOT hosts and organizers: traveldudes, , , , , , and !

Have YOU got anything to add to the "Up and Coming Travel Destinations" discussion? 

© Connie Hum 2012

Friday, August 24, 2012

Taipei's Ultracool Shida Night Market

Taiwan is known for its night markets specializing in street food, but at Taipei's Shida Night Market, the focus is on trendy fashion and cute accessories. Even for a non-shopper such as myself, I easily spent two nights exploring and window shopping the back alleys and bustling pedestrian-only thoroughfare. I couldn't get enough of the energy and colorful stalls of Shida Night Market!

The small, yet super-packed Shida Night Market mainly attracts students from nearby National Taiwan Normal University, though it's not uncommon to see families and foreigners trolling the stalls for inexpensive clothing, accessories, and gifts. Many people come out just to enjoy the vibrant and at times, chaotic atmosphere, making Shida Night Market a great place for people watching.

What surprised me the most about Shida Night Market is how upmarket it was. Once home to mom and pops stores, several roads have made way for cute boutique shops and hip restaurants to mark the rapidly gentrifying and diversifying neighborhood. For better or for worse, Taipei is changing and Shida Night Market is a prime example of how the traditional culture of night markets is evolving with the times.

Of course, let's not forget Shida Night Market is still a Taiwanese market at heart. Food stalls can still be found dotted along the streets, most of which can be found serving up traditional Taiwanese fare such as fish balls, fried chicken, oyster pancakes, and even stinky tofu. To cater to the growing popularity of Western cuisine with university students, Shida Night Market also offers coffee shops, burrito stalls, thin-crust pizza, and even a burger joint serving up local microbrews.

Out of Taipei's many famed night markets, Shida Night Market is definitely my favorite. Although it can be stressful at times to maneuver your way through the streets, it's an insightful look into changing urban life in Taipei, as well as a great spot to do some shopping for unique gifts for friends as well as yourself!

To get to Shida Night Market, take the MRT Xindian Line to the Taipower Building Station or the Guting Station. 

Insider tip: For those who still want to experience the nostalgia of old-time markets, head early in the morning to nearby Longquan Market where neighborhood residents still buy their groceries and household items.

© Connie Hum 2012

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

#TTOT Round-Up: On The Water

Every Tuesday, it's Travel Talk on Twitter! Each week is a fun, new topic. Join either of the two sessions at 9:30am GMT and 9:30pm GMT to get in on all the fun travel talk!

Just follow the #TTOT hashtag! 

Here's the round-up of this week's #TTOT on "On The Water!"

Q1 via Most scenic ferry / cruise you've taken?
  • : Galapagos Yacht La Pinta: sharks, marine iguanas and volcanic islands 
  • : Floating down the Ganges in Varanasi, India and seeing the Hindu cremations 
  • : Rhine River cruise in Germany
  • : I'd have to say sailing in the Togian Island, Indonesia. It's awesome to come into a mini archipelago like that 
  • : Definitely sailing around the Whitsunday Islands. Beautiful beaches,even more beautiful reefs
  • : Cruising through the Caribbean is beautiful. The color of the water is just mesmerizing 
  • : Going up the Amazon in Brazil on local ferries, sleeping in a hammock
  • : Yangzte River Cruise, The Three Gorges were just stunning 
  • : Dug out canoe, steered by man who made it, across endangered mangrove creek, to see wild flamingoes, east Kenya  
  • : For something local, the ferry ride crossing Hong Kong Island to Kowloon is pretty special

Amazing view of the Hong Kong skyline on board the Star Ferry

Q2 via What's the most unique form of water transport you've been on?
  • : Fishing boat exploring Tonle Sap Lake - Floating Village, Cambodia. Amazing experience 
  • : A swan shaped pedalo in Newcastle, Northern Ireland 
  • : Water skis 
  • : Mokoro (dug out canoes) in Botswanas Okavango Delta waterways... unique and a little scary 
  • : On the back of a dolphin
  • : A small raft rowed by a monk to get me across Lake Snagov to visit the monastery where Vlad the Impaler is buried
  • : I loved the boat buses in Venice. So strange waiting for a boat bus instead of a bus bus 
  • : Banana boats are really odd - great fun though
  • : A 1960's gin palace formerly owned by Onassis. Crewed her from Turkey to Malta 6 years ago 

Cairo's party boats along the Nile River

Q3 via Describe your favorite water based view
  • : Have to say the amazing sunsets as their colors reflect off the water 
  • : The view landing by seaplane in Victoria Harbor is pretty cool
  • : Quiet beach late at night, with a camp fire next to me reflecting in the lapping waves
  • : Underwater - with awesome visibility, like in OZ and Thailand. Wow. Whole new perspective
  • : Sunrise in Venice from a vaporetto on the Grand Canal after a great night of partying
  • : I love the feeling when you stand on a beach looking out on an ocean and all you can see is sea and sky, especially at sunset
  • : Sunset on the Okavango Delta from the comfort of a mokoro watching the hippos
  • : White sand beach, palm trees, clear turquoise waters, coral reefs, a hammock--Paradise
  • : View of the Bosphorus at night from one of the funky rooftop bars in Istanbul 

The Bosphorus view from MY favorite Istanbul rooftop bar

Q4 via Robyn Boswell What's the best water-based adventure you've had?
  • : Putting my head underwear in snorkel and mask for the very first time in Thailand - nothing could prepare me for the WOW
  • : Swimming with crocs at the Gibb River road in Northern Australia
  • : Kloofing in South Africa! Basically like a hike combined with cliff jumping off waterfalls, and you hike between falls  
  • : Lvoved the Nha Trang floating bar in Vietnam. I felt like the luckiest girl in the world, so free surrounded by mindblowing beauty
  • : Whale watching with humpbacks swimming right beside the catamaran
  • : River Rafting on the Orange River was great fun
  • : Swimming with sharks was such great experience. Must admit, it was nerve racking at first but after awhile it was fantastic
  • : White-water rafting down Nepal's steepest river Bhote Koshi! Insane 

Q5 via What's your favorite way to travel on the water?
  • : Swim / Kayak / Sail. Ways that don't hurt the environment they're using
  • : Jetskis! Favorite way to travel on water
  • : Inflatable boat down a peaceful river - the Cesky Krumlov way
  • : On a yacht being served wine by a sexy man
  • : Diving for sure. A whole new world plus the added bonus of no seasickness
  • : A ferry/boat that has lots of room to lay outside in the sun, but also an indoor area with aircon 
  • : Ferries that are used as public transport in cities! Think Sydney and Istanbul. A nice alternative to the bus 
  • : On one of the fine looking yachts I spotted in Turkey. You know, the one that comes with a helicopter
  • : Has to be sailing, letting the wind take you 

And there you have it, "On The Water!"  

Next week's #TTOT topic is: "Up and Coming Travel Destinations!" Submit your questions HERE!

See you Tuesday at 9:30am and 9:30pm GMT for the next #TTOT!

As always, a HUGE travel community thank you to our #TTOT hosts and organizers: traveldudes, , , , , , and !

Have YOU got anything to add to the "On The Water" discussion? 

© Connie Hum 2012

Monday, August 13, 2012

Sleep No More: An Incredible Way to Spend a Night in New York City

When I stepped through the dark entrance hall of the once abandoned yet gloriously derelict McKittrick Hotel in New York City, I didn't really know what to expect. I had a suspicion my night was going to be filled with awe, discovery, suspense, intrigue, and perhaps even doom, but what I experienced at Sleep No More surpassed any and all expectations. I was simply astounded.

Having a bloody fun time at New York City's Sleep No More

Donning a super creepy mask along with my fellow Sleep No More attendees, we silently wandered and stumbled ghostlike through the old hotel's array of dimly-lit rooms while actors pantomimed a tragedy worthy of Shakespeare. Encouraged to leave our friends behind and experience Sleep No More individually, I bravely ventured ahead, groping my way at times in darkness and at other times chasing characters from one scene to the next down long corridors, up staircases, and into yet another delightfully macabre scene. If a crowd gathered, I chose to hang back deeper into the shadows, peering into dresser drawers and reading personal letters and diaries of the McKittrick's ill-fated guests. There was a thick feeling of illicitness while I did these things, and yes, it was absolutely thrilling!

Attendees peer over an actor's shoulder during a performance of Sleep No More . Press photo, courtesy of O&M Co.

The entire night was like the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure stories I remember reading as a child. If I chanced upon a scene, I could choose to stay and observe the events as they unfolded or continue picking my way into the next shadowy room for whatever else was in store for me. Each choice could lead me to some horrific end, but that's what made it so adventurous and exciting. Protected by my mask, and emboldened by my anonymity, I was no longer the Connie that's afraid of things that go bump in the night (it's true, I'm a huge scaredy-cat). I was invisible. I was fearless. I was daring. I chose to move toward the darkness.

Gazing into a scene of Sleep No More from the outside. Press photo, courtesy of O&M Co.

Because the action takes place simultaneously and throughout the entire hotel, and because participants roam at their own will, no two people have the same experience of Sleep No More. Once all the guests reconvened in the Manderley Bar at the end of the performance, groups instantly gathered to discuss and dissect their night of observances. The atmosphere was electric as people excitedly tried to piece the puzzle together. 

The end result of Sleep No More is an immensely enjoyable yet chilling performance that fully absorbs participants into the very walls of the McKittrick Hotel. It leaves a haunting impression and there's truly nothing else like it. Sleep No More is a definite must for anyone in New York City! And to be honest, once is NOT enough.

Sleep No More is currently scheduled to continue its run through November 2012, though it is very likely the performance schedule will be extended. Tickets are in high demand and many nights are already sold out so book them early! For additional information and to purchase your tickets, visit Sleep No More.

Insider tip:  Book your ticket for as early an entrance time as possible to maximize your time exploring the McKittrick! Trust me, you'll want all the time you can get in there!

*Disclaimer: My night with Sleep No More was sponsored by the company, but all opinions are an accurate and honest view of my personal experience.  

© Connie Hum 2012

Friday, August 10, 2012

My New York City Essential Eats

By now, I'm sure you're all aware of how much I love New York City. The biggest reason I love New York so dearly, aside from my fabulous friends, is the availability of great food that can be found on almost every single street. Despite the many, many options available, I always visit several can't-miss New York City essential eats on every trip back.

Here are a few of my favorite New York City food:

Grilled corn - Cafe Habana, NoLita

Cafe Habana's famed grilled corn

This grilled corn smothered with cotija cheese, butter, spices, and fresh lime is the perfect way to start off your Cafe Habana meal. Although this tiny Cuban diner also makes a strong mojito and serves up an award-winning Cuban sandwich, it's the corn that has me returning again and again. If you're not one for waiting (expect at least an hour during busy dining hours), head around the corner to Habana To Go where you can grab a few select menu items, including (thank goodness!) the grilled corn, over the counter.

Slice of artichoke pizza - Artichoke Basille's Pizza, East Village

Artichoke pizza, fresh out of the oven

This ain't your average New York City pizza! There isn't one thing that sets Artichoke pizza apart from all the other pizza shops, but the gooey cheese, roasted artichokes, fresh herbs, and garlic cream sauce definitely have something to do with it. A slice of Artichoke pizza makes for an delicious and fast meal (trust me, the slices are HUGE). And for a mere $4.50 per slice, it's one of New York City's best food deals. Open until 4am during the week and 5:30am on weekends, you can often find it packed with locals on their way home after a night out in the East Village, which is a sight to see in itself as well!

Deli food - Carnegie Deli, Theatre District

A classic Rueben sandwich at Carnegie Deli

Choosing a favorite deli in New York City is like picking your favorite child; it's near impossible to admit say which one you favor more , but if I absolutely had to choose, Carnegie Deli would be my ultimate love child. I just adore walking into Carnegie's with a group of friends, knowing that we're all going to walk out several hours later a lot happier and fuller, and perhaps even a little bit rounder. The size of their signature sandwiches border on the absurd, making great sharing plates for groups, and perhaps even a nice packed lunch for the next day. I don't have a particular sandwich I always eat so I've been going down the list of Carnegie Deli's extensive menu. I do, however, always start every meal at Carnegie's with a bowl of their matzah ball soup and end with their cheese blintzes (and a side of sour cream and apple sauce, thank you very much). It's a meal of epic portions, but it is SO good!

I never end a meal at Carnegie Deli's without their cheese blintzes

Oh dear. Now I've done it. I've made myself hungry and craving cheese blintzes. Alright, gotta go!

Watch out for my follow-up post: New Discoveries in New York City Food coming soon!

What is YOUR can't-miss New York City food?

© Connie Hum 2012

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

#TTOT Round-Up: Meeting Strangers

Every Tuesday, it's Travel Talk on Twitter! Each week is a fun, new topic. Join either of the two sessions at 9:30am GMT and 9:30pm GMT to get in on all the fun travel talk!

Just follow the #TTOT hashtag! 

Here's the round-up of this week's #TTOT on "Meeting Strangers!"

Q1 via What are some of the most unusual circumstances you have made new friends while traveling?
  • : Got stuck in Elevator in Florence with strangers - ended having drinks on the rooftop celebrating our escape
  • : In Lake Titicaca, a young woman called out to me "Are you from Atlanta?" I was surprised. She said she worked at restaurant I often went to
  • : I was reading the Hunger Games in an airport and a woman asked how Katniss was today. Strange but we ended up talking for two hours
  • : I made some brilliant friends while trapped in a hotel during a typhoon in Vietnam. We were there for 4 days so got pretty close 
  • : Always meet at the market! People have a way of bonding over food  
  • : Some of the most interesting people I've met is meeting people in line for the bathroom 
  • : Switched seats with a mom on a flight. The girl in the seat I moved to ended up being one of my best friends
  • : Mostly through CouchSurfing - sleeping on others peoples couches is really bonding 
  • : Twitter is a kinda weird place to make friends, don't you think? 

Q2 via What was your most memorable meeting of random strangers on the road?
  • : Hitch hiked with a fella who said that he had just escaped from jail
  • : Met a guy in Delhi - that night we had dinner at his house and the next day we flew to Kashmir to hike the Himalayas with his family
  • : Getting a ride in an army convoy in Kyrgyzstan. And then stopping for some live shooting practice 
  • : Traveling on a bus in Nepal and sitting next to a guy that lives a few blocks from me in NYC 
  • : Hitchhiking in Iceland, caught rides with a member of Q4U and a former Icelandic Olympian 
  • : I spent a day as a third wheel with a Nepalese couple on their honeymoon, while traveling alone. They were so sweet to include me 
  • : Assaulted some random English speakers in our little Brazilian town because I missed hearing my own language. Made friends 

Q3 via Where is it easiest to make friends with strangers (transport, accommodation, eateries, activities)? 
  • : My favorite is in the most off the beaten path places. We both look at each other and think, you're here too? Instant friendship 
  • : It's easiest to make friends when participating in same activity
  • : Toss up between accommodation and transport. Being in one area with people opens you up to talking
  • : It has to be buses and trains. There's not much else to do and you can only read for so long
  • : You'll make friends in a snap at a hostel The close quarters with other travelers is a guaranteed good time
  • : Transport is easiest to make contact. We're confined to a space and I sometimes feel a bit bored 
  • : Activities are a great to meet other travellers who are interested in the same things as you are 
  • : Accommodation - Always head for the kitchen. Nothing gets people talking like the food they miss from home 

Q4 via What's the kindest thing a stranger has done for you on your travels?
  • : Had 18 hour wait between hotel check out and going to airport. A couple let us nap at their apartment so we didn't have to stay in heat 
  • : A complete stranger at the next table bought us lunch in Paris as a "welcome to the city" gesture. Classy 
  • : Met a girl on a flight to Ecuador. She ended up letting me stay in her home. Her family took care of me while I had altitude sckness 
  • : A Japanese expat in Bangkok noticed I was a complete skytrain noob. She helped me get on and then we spent the entire day together 
  • : I once peeled a guy's sunburned peeling off his back. Secured our friendship for years 
  • : Friend left iPod in a Pushkar guesthouse and realised on the bus. 5 mins of driving and a motorbike speeds past: owner brought her iPod 
  • : Guy in Texas came to me, said "Know what? Jesus told me to give you a hundred bucks." He did
  • : Got lost in Cuba walking through tobacco fields and the farmer invited me to drink coconut water and showed me how they make cigars  
  • : Got pushed down a flight of stairs at nightclub in Bali, hurt my ankle, and a random guy picked me up and carried me home 
  • : I think its a combination of the little things people do (opening doors, translating, directions) all of those are just amazing 

Q5 via What is your "stranger pick-up line"?
  • : Lost, can you help? Big eyes, hair flip... shameless but works every time
  • : I could be the most memorable mistake of your whole trip
  • : Do you speak English?
  • : Where have you come from/where are you going? Pretty safe opening for fellow travellers
  • : "Can I sit here?"  
  • : We don't now each other yet but we should be friends 
  • : "If you had a like button I'd click it."
  • : If it's a local: "Where's your favorite place to eat?" If not, "Where's your favorite place that you've eaten." 
  • : I see the scenery is not the only thing attractive to look at here
  • : The classic "So, where are you from?"
  • : Guess which country I'm from and I'll buy you a drink, guess wrong and you buy me a drink
  • : "I'm Rich"

And there you have it, "Meeting Strangers!"  

Next week's #TTOT topic is: "Best Travel Tips!" Submit your questions HERE!

See you Tuesday at 9:30am and 9:30pm GMT for the next #TTOT!

As always, a HUGE travel community thank you to our #TTOT hosts and organizers: traveldudes, , , , , , and !

Have YOU got anything to add to the "Meeting Strangers" discussion? 

© Connie Hum 2012

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

#TTOT Round-Up: Travel Games

Every Tuesday, it's Travel Talk on Twitter! Each week is a fun, new topic. Join either of the two sessions at 9:30am GMT and 9:30pm GMT to get in on all the fun travel talk!

Just follow the #TTOT hashtag! 

Here's the round-up of this week's #TTOT on "Travel Games!"

Q1 via What is the best road trip game?
  • : The Name Game: Watch: CairO. OkinawA. ArkansaS. St. SebastiaN
  • : Would you rather! Makes for some interesting convos 
  • : 20 questions without Google because that's just cheating 
  • : 'What am I thinking?' passes the time 
  • : I Spy! Many good things to spy while on a road trip 
  • : Name that tune is our favorite. Music is essential for a good road trip
  • : Punchbuggy, clearly. particularly if one is visiting England
  • : Horse. You shout horse if you see a horse. Minus points if you shout it and it's cow/sheep/postbox

Q2 via Do you have a game you can play with anybody on the road, regardless of language or culture? 
  • : We learned to make origami frogs from train tickets, you can bounce them into a glass. Timeless, language agnostic and for all ages 
  • : Twister- it's a classic and no language needed
  • : Backgammon. Very universal and you don't need to speak 
  • : UNO - Colored playing cards with numbers...everybody knows numbers and colors regardless of their culture and language 
  • : Singing along to old Spice Girls or Backstreet Boys songs. Everybody knows. Even the haters
  • : Thumb war and rock/paper/scissor/lizard/Spock
  • : Card games. A pack of cards can break any language barrier. And ice

Q3 via What are the best game apps? 
  • : Fruit Ninja! Love slicing those fruits and see them splatter on the wall
  • : Maybe Tetris or good old Angry Birds
  • : I'm a big fan of Words with Friends. Scrabble can get really competitive, and pass a lot of time 
  • : Draw Something
  • : Tap The Frog is addictive
  • : You can get Final Fantasy games now as apps. This is heaven for all gamers 
  • : Snake. The greatest phone game of all time 
  • : I'm addicted to Temple Run at the moment
  • : World Flags and Country quiz games, you learn about another country while being inspired 

Q4 via What's the best beach game to play?

Q5  via Favorite games to play all by yourself when traveling solo?
  • : I have two Sudoku books with me for long bus rides when electronics just don't cut it! Endless hours of entertainment 
  • : Guess what arguments are about when you don't speak their language
  • : People watching (and secretly, people judging)
  • : Solitaire 
  • : Take photos of other travelers taking silly travel photos 
  • : Game wise though the Rubix Cube wins hands down 
  • : Making up absurd/fictional stories about people I watch 

And there you have it, "Travel Games!"  

Next week's #TTOT topic is: "Meeting Strangers!" Submit your questions HERE!

See you Tuesday at 9:30am and 9:30pm GMT for the next #TTOT!

As always, a HUGE travel community thank you to our #TTOT hosts and organizers: traveldudes, , , , , , and !

Have YOU got anything to add to the "Travel Games" discussion? 

© Connie Hum 2012

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