Travel

Travel

The Tokyo hotel where guests can curl up with 1,700 good books

Book and Bed is a Japanese hotel that’s taking a very novel approach to hospitality

Book and Bed, a new Tokyo hotel, has created the sort of space that is impossible to leave. It is a cheap and cheerful dorm with a difference: guests’ bunk beds are hidden behind library shelves filled with 1,700 books in Japanese and English.

Sandwiched between teppanyaki and Chinese hot pot restaurants in Tokyo’s north-western Ikebukuro area, Book and Bed was once a Japanese-style izakaya pub. Now, thanks to the Hiroshima-based architects Suppose Design Office, it is an “accommodation bookshop”.

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Travel

Why Haiti deserves visitors

Five years after Haiti was devastated by an earthquake, tourists are returning – to find a raw and fascinating Caribbean country with a unique culture

Long before I arrive in Haiti I get a sense of what the name itself conjures up. There are no direct flights from the UK, so I’ve flown in via the Dominican Republic, Haiti’s conjoined twin on the island of Hispaniola. The tourists on my flight cannot understand why anyone would risk Haiti: “I hope you survive!”; “Will you have armed guards?” and, perhaps the key question, “Why?” But tour operators like the one I’m travelling with, Wild Frontiers, feel that Haiti’s time has finally come, especially with Cuba looking more visitor-crowded and less adventurous than before. There is also a sense that responsible tourism to Haiti could put money where it is really needed.

Hispaniola is shaped like a large canine tooth extracted from the gob of Mexico and thrown into the centre of the Caribbean Sea. Haiti is the western third of it, and I’m arriving on a small plane from the east of the island, gazing out at the mountainous terrain and totting up reasons for Haiti’s unsavoury reputation. So far I’ve got deadly earthquakes, dire poverty, the brutal Tontons Macoutes, the tyrant Papa Doc Duvalier, plus, of course, the zombies – mustn’t forget the zombies. On the plus side, I scribble “fresh fruit”. Then, out of the aeroplane window, the verdure of the Dominican Republic is giving way abruptly to something eroded and bone-like. Over Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, we enter a pall of dust, and the plane bounces and sways before landing. I cross out fresh fruit.

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Travel

Munich city guide: what to see, plus the best bars, hotels and restaurants

Outside Oktoberfest, the Bavarian capital is a graceful city – green in summer, atmospheric in winter, and buzzing with great museums and bars year round

Often portrayed as the strait-laced, industrious counterpart to hedonistic Berlin, Munich tends to steer clear of the limelight. Save for its annual six-million-person beer binge on Theresienwiese open space for Oktoberfest, the Bavarian capital’s reputation abroad remains one of luxury, livability and lederhosen.

Behind the staid and steady veneer, however, lies a thriving younger culture, an embarrassment of world-class museums and galleries, and burgeoning art, student and after-hours scenes.

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Travel

Gay New York: a guide to clubs, bars, drag shows and queer culture

Michael Musto, Out.com columnist and former Village Voice writer, shines a light on the LGBTQ arts, entertainment and nightlife scenes in the city that never sleeps

NYC is a gay-friendly town with a variety of neighbourhoods offering pockets of queer culture and nightlife, each with its own fruity flavour. In the past decade, a lot of the action has left “the big city” for Brooklyn districts such as Williamsburg and Bushwick, but there’s still plenty of adrenaline left in Manhattan to make heat-seeking worthwhile there. The West Village – the hub of the modern gay movement, thanks to the 1969 rebellion at the Stonewall Inn – still bristles with gay bars and drag clubs, mostly unaffected hangouts such as the appealing Pieces, and The Monster, a two-floor nightlife emporium with piano bar on top and disco down below.

Chelsea (the gay mecca in the 90s) was beset by a mass exodus as it became gentrified, though the long-running Barracuda Lounge still provides booze and schmooze, and G Lounge never goes away, thanks to its ambient mini-areas in which to hang with your clique. And Hell’s Kitchen (or HK) is now the gay epicentre, where rents are a little more affordable, thereby attracting swarms of new arrivals who prowl the streets and look for fun on an obsessive basis. (On last count, there were 14 gay bars in the area, without a cap off in sight.)

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Travel

Dead or alive: culture is kicking in Pátzcuaro, Mexico

Pátzcuaro may be one of the best places in Mexico to see Day of the Dead celebrations, but the Purépecha people’s heartland has great art, history and scenery all year round

A firework explodes directly above my head and I don’t even flinch. Even a brief time in Mexico will do that to you – the omnipresence of fireworks is like having a friend who habitually cracks their knuckles. When I try to find out why they started at 6am, carried on throughout the day and kept me awake until midnight, the locals shrug, and say: “Somebody’s always celebrating something.”

I assume Day of the Dead to be the likeliest culprit. The beautifully preserved colonial town of Pátzcuaro is the beating heart of the indigenous Purépecha people and one of the best places to witness the Day of the Dead celebrations. The run-up sees endless street stalls stocked with pan de muerto sweet rolls, chocolate coffins and sugar skulls with icing eyebrows and glittery eye sockets, and visitors are drawn here to experience Purépecha culture, buy their wares and join in with their holiday traditions. But outside popular holidays such as Day of the Dead and Christmas, the crowds have the good grace to retreat, leaving an easily explored pueblo mágico. Pátzcuaro, 370km west of Mexico City in the Michoacán highlands, got its “magico” status owing to all that stunning colonial architecture, its vibrant Purépecha artisan traditions – and dramatic scenery.

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Travel

10 of the best restaurants and street food snacks in Goa

Goan cuisine has been influenced by an exotic blend of sea, spices and foreign invaders – first the Portuguese, then the hippies and lately food-savvy travellers – which means delicious Indian snacks, fantastic fish and modern fusion are all on offer

Goan food falls into the rich tradition of the Konkan coast, happily complicated and enriched over the years by two very different invasions: first the colonial Portuguese and then the hippies. For all that, it’s not one blended cuisine: Konkan Hindu and Goan Catholic have their distinct dishes, the former typified by the heavy use of coconut and fish, the latter by vinegar, pork and beef. Then there’s the international cuisine, sometimes a fusion, and sometimes the legacy of foreign immigrants holding onto their old cuisine. Often, the big-name restaurants on the beach belt get all the attention, but smaller places also deserve praise and attention. As ever look for those with fast turnover and local customers. On the liquid side of things, try the caju feni, made from fermented cashew apples – it’s an acquired taste, sometimes compared to nail varnish, but the quality stuff (usually in the local bars, from jungle distilleries) can be complex and rewarding – and get you very drunk. Tourists drink it with Limca (a fizzy lemon and lime-flavoured drink), those in the know with water and lime.

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Architecture

Readers’ photo competition: October – architecture

The art and history of buildings Guardian readers have visited are brought to life in this selection of images. Scroll down to see the winner, judged by Mick Ryan of fotovue.com. Each monthly winner will have their shot mounted by Point 101 and displayed in an exhibition at the Guardian’s London office. The best shot of the year wins a fantastic Arctic activity and photography trip to Swedish Lapland

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Travel

Uncovering Cali cool in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone

Once a retreat for older, wealthier Californians, the West Coast town is finding its edge, says Elizabeth Day

James O’Mahoney opens the door to the Santa Barbara Surfing Museum wearing a dazzling blue Hawaiian shirt. Although the word “museum” might be stretching it somewhat, we are standing in a room filled with an eccentric collection of surfboards.

O’Mahoney bought his first board 22 years ago and has never looked back. His favourite is a replica of the one used by Colonel Kilgore’s men in Apocalypse Now. The walls are lined with cases displaying memorabilia, including the St Christopher’s Medal worn by Elvis Presley in Jailhouse Rock and the ukulele played by Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot.

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Travel

Northern lights holiday guide

Tour operators are thinking up new ways to marvel at the aurora borealis. We pick their best trips and activities – plus some surprising places to stay

Iceland offers some of the most wallet-friendly options for northern lights trips (apart from less-reliable Scotland). Short breaks to Reykjavik, the world’s most northerly capital, can be good value. Thomson has a new three-night trip, with a northern lights tour and a Golden Circle excursion taking in some of the island’s most spectacular sights, from geysers to waterfalls, for the bargain price of £374pp B&B, including flights, departing 28 February. Because the lights are brightest in the remotest corners of the most expensive countries in Europe, aurora spotting rarely comes so cheap.

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Travel

The world’s best workplace … Glacier national park, Montana

Tour guide David Eglsaer loves the fact that his job lets him spend several months of the year among the stunning peaks of Montana’s Glacier national park

This is one of the greatest backyards ever created – and we get to spend a few months of every year in it. There are no towns inside the park, just five lodges and a few campgrounds. Most employees live in dormitory accommodation in the park: we’re here to help guests experience the park the way Mother Nature intended.

Glacier national park has 700 miles of hiking trails. It’s open all year round, but the bus tours only run between May and September, so many of us work here in summer and then go on to winter seasonal jobs at places like ski resorts.

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Music

The best UK record shops – chosen by experts

As the vinyl revival continues apace, we asked music lovers and experts to nominate their favourite record shops across the country

Since its foundation in 1978, Piccadilly Records has shifted premises at least twice. It’s now in the city’s so-called Northern Quarter, in among hipster-ish shops and cafes that sometimes tip into self-parody, but it’s the same as it ever was: an embodiment of expertise and musical passion in which it’s a deep pleasure to spend distracted hours, among a community of musicians, vinyl addicts, and people for whom life is measured out in release dates. They now bring out an annual Best of the Year booklet that usually sees me right for at least six months. More to the point, every time I go in and give it the old “what should I buy?”, the staff’s suggestions usually stay glued to the turntable for ages.
• 53 Oldham Street, piccadillyrecords.com
Recommended by John Harris

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Travel

Ten amazing food market stalls around the world

Everyone knows markets offer great foodie experiences, but finding top produce needs local knowledge. We asked bloggers and food experts for their favourites – whether you fancy sushi, sausage or chai with a twist

Popular Australian chef Kylie Kwong specialises in casual food with flair, so in 2010, when she decided to add a Chinese street-food stall at Eveleigh Markets to her successful restaurant of the same name in Potts Point, no one was surprised. Asian food is ubiquitous in Sydney, but what sets Kwong’s offerings apart is the emphasis she places on native Australian ingredients like yabbies (local crayfish) and macadamia nuts, which give her dishes extra kick. At the market – which is in a complex of old railway sheds called Carriageworks – food-lovers queue for moreish snacks like pancakes with saltbush leaves, and sticky rice parcels with macadamias and spinach-like warrigal greens. “I am a third-generation Australian and a 29th-generation Kwong,” she says, “so my ‘Australian-Chinese’ cooking style is a direct expression of who I am and what I love.”
• Saturday 8am–1pm, Carriageworks, 243 Wilson Street
Dan Stapleton

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Travel

Bucharest city guide: what to see plus the best bars, hotels and restaurants

Though much of Romania’s capital was bulldozed by the communists, the old town survived and is abuzz with bars, cafes and restaurants

It’s fair to say that Bucharest is unlikely to win any awards for beauty or style, yet the Romanian capital surprises many first-time visitors with its cosmopolitan vibe and energy.

During the period between the wars, Bucharest’s epithet as the “Paris of the east” was accurate, up to a point. However, today’s cityscape is largely one of imposing socialist architecture, the result of former dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu’s savage redevelopment project during the 1980s – the bleakest of communist years for Romanians.

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