Imagine spending all day sightseeing, taking a shower and a nap, and then looking out of the window to see the sky as bright as midday. Your body kicks into overdrive, and the whole day seems to lie ahead of you. The streets throng with people toting guitars and bottles of champagne or vodka; naval cadets and their girlfriends walking arm in arm, and pensioners performing impromptu tea-dances on the riverbank. The smell of black tobacco mingles with the perfume of lilac in parks full of sunbathers. It’s eight o’clock in the evening, and St Petersburg is gearing up for another of its White Nights.

Freezing cold and dark for three months of the year, St Petersburg enjoys six weeks of sweltering heat when the sun barely dips below the horizon – its famous Byele Nochy, or White Nights. Children are banished to dachas in the countryside with grandparents, leaving parents free to enjoy themselves. Life becomes a sequence of tsusovki (gatherings), as people encounter long-lost friends strolling on Nevsky prospekt or feasting in the Summer Garden at midnight.

To avoid disrupting the daytime flow of traffic, the city’s bridges are raised from 2am onwards to allow a stream of ships to sail upriver into Russia’s vast interior. Although normally not a spectacle, during White Nights everyone converges on the River Neva embankments to watch, while bottles are passed from person to person, and strangers join impromptu singsongs around anyone with a guitar or harmonium – chorusing folk ballads or “thieves’ songs” from the Gulag. Those with money often hire a boat to cruise the canals that wend through the heart of the city.

The bridges are briefly lowered during the middle of the night, allowing queues of traffic fifteen minutes to race across. Keeping in lane is entirely ignored, with drivers jockeying for position as if it was a chariot race. By this time, people are stripping off and jumping into the Neva – those too prodigiously drunk to realize go swimming fully clothed.

The White Nights last from June 11 to July 2.

 

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Why party with the masses when you can steal away with others in-the-know at an underground speakeasy, or find yourself a key to the best secret bar in the city? We know them all, but luckily for you, we’re not very good at keeping secrets; here is a BarChick rundown of the best places for speakeasy-style drinking around the world:

001, Hong Kong

Near impossible to find behind the city’s wet market stalls, the unmarked black door which leads you down to this cosy little den of iniquity can only be found by those in the know. Leather and wood interiors make it dark and dingy, but with a hint of luxury. Drinks are expertly made and pack a hell of a punch. If you want a covert meeting place, this is most certainly it.

NOLA, London

Make your way through a pub, around a corner (look out for a small sign on the ceiling), up some stairs and bust in on London’s answer to New Orleans. Music and whisky are what that blessed city is known for, and NOLA has got both in full swing. Antique trombones hang from the walls and if you’re lucky enough to slope by on a Thursday or Friday, you can kick back to some live jazz and blues.

Death and Company, NYC

Here you can sip creative twists on Prohibition cocktails – such as an old fashioned made with tequila and mescal – which are stirred fifty times while you sit at black granite tables under crystal chandeliers and gold flecked walls. Look for the unmarked brown door and the long line leading up to it. Explore New York City >

BYOC, Brighton

This underground speakeasy in Brighton does things a little differently. Book ahead and remember to bring a bottle of your favourite spirit – or whatever you could get your hands on at the off licence ­– then hand it over to the mixologist. Using ingredients from their antique drinks trolley, they’ll mix some damn fine cocktails right at your table. More quirky Brighton venues >

Door 74, Amsterdam

You could walk past Door 74 every day and have no idea that there is a bar in here; this place is the definition of hidden, focused on class, cocktails and character. If you’re planning on finding your way in on the weekend you’ll need to book ahead. Discover Amsterdam >

Bramble, Edinburgh

Hidden down a dark staircase on a quiet Edinburgh backstreet, Bramble may take a bit of loitering to find, but once you’re in it’s worth it. The drinks, mixed using homemade ingredients, show flashes of genius. With cool bartenders and a crowd after fun vibes, this is one boozer you won’t want to leave – not just for fear of never finding it again. More of the best pubs in Edinburgh >

The Union & The Bureau, Copenhagen

Disguised as a townhouse on a residential street, this place has two great bars in one. First off you have to find classic speakeasy The Union – look for the big black door at no.16 – with its dim lighting and bare-brick walls. After you’re settled in and feeling confident, try to get invited to the exclusive Bureau upstairs; it’s the place to be for faultless cocktails and great company.

Little Red Door, Paris

The clue is in the title with this one. Hidden behind a little red door (oh and you’ll need to figure out how to get the key to get in) is one of Paris’s hottest little bars. Art instillations adorn the walls, there are beaten up armchairs to sink into and a killer booze selection to get whet your liquid-appetite. The bartenders are some of the best in the city so always go with their recommendations.

Little Branch, NYC

If it weren’t for the line of people outside you’d never stumble upon this little gem. Creep in behind an unmarked door in New York‘s West Village and descend down rickety stairs to discover a jazz-filled den where bartenders chip away at giant blocks of ice, creating absinthe cocktails that will knock your socks off. Go on an historic bar crawl in NYC >

El Bandito, Liverpool

From the street it looks like any old staircase, but ask the bouncers at Santo Chupitos and they’ll be able to nudge you in the right direction. This tiny bar is no bigger than your bedroom and is known for its killer tequila collection, along with the latest licence in the city (the drinks flow until 5am at weekends). You can be guaranteed it’s where the party is at most nights of the week too. More on Liverpool >

Bourbon & Branch, San Francisco

Prohibition lives on in this speakeasy so put your phone away (it’s a house rule), dress the part and order some of the best drinks in California. The fun doesn’t stop once you’ve found your way into this mysterious place though; there are three other secret bars hidden within Bourbon & Branch waiting to be found. Let the games begin! Explore San Francisco >

Bar Mutis, Barcelona

This speakeasy feels more like a private flat party than a cocktail bar, being hidden in an apartment block and all. Make sure you ring ahead if you want to party with the cool kids, and bring your credit card – it’s definitely not cheap but boy is it worth it. Discover more of Barcelona >

CandelariaParis

To the untrained eye it’s easy to think this tiny taco joint has nothing more to offer than Mexican food and hibiscus water, but you’d be oh-so-wrong. It sure isn’t a storage cupboard behind that little door: take a peek through and you’ll find yourself in a sexy candlelit cave. Explore Paris >

Evans and Peel, London

Only once you’ve passed the detective’s rigorous questioning about your “case” might you be allowed to enter through the secret bookcase that leads to this quirky watering hole. The atmosphere is buzzing and the Prohibition-style classic cocktails are mixed up by real pros. Channel your inner Sherlock, get your case together and get into the role-play at Evans and Peel.

BarChick.com is a guide to the best bars in the world. Follow them on Twitter at @HotBarChick. You can book hostels for your trip with Rough Guides, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

The former French Concession in Puxi, Shanghai, is one of the city’s most beautiful areas. With many streets shrouded by overhanging trees it can seem like a world away from the manic bustle that characterizes rest of the place and its 22 million inhabitants.

Established in 1849 and handed over in 1943, many of the original French-style buildings survive, making the area a relaxing place for a breezy walk in the daytime. It has also become a fantastic nightspot, with some of the best bars in Shanghai offering more underground alternatives to the flashy riverside venues on the Bund or the enormous super-clubs.

You could spend a month exploring the bars in just this area, but in our Shanghai nightlife guide, we’ve chosen the top ten places you shouldn’t miss.

The Shelter

As far as nightclubs go The Shelter is somewhat unique, being based on the site of a disused bomb shelter (hence the name). It’s underground by nature as well as in the literal sense, having garnered a reputation strong enough to attract some of the global dance music scene’s most credible cult acts. The drinks are cheap, it’s always rammed at weekends and it’s open until the sun comes up, making it a must-visit location for night owls.

Address: 5 Yongfu Lu, near Fuxing Xi Lu

Arcade

This small upstairs bar gets its name and vague decor theme from the retro video game emulator customers can play in the bar for free. But this is no nerd-fest: local hipsters flock to Arcade for its reasonably priced cocktails and air of relaxed cool (as well as its invariably pounding dance music), making it the perfect pre-club drinking haven.

Address: Second Floor, 57 Fuxing Xi Lu, near Yongfu Lu

Senator Saloon

The Senator is Shanghai’s answer to the American speakeasy bar. Head barman David Schroeder, an ex-US cop, has gained a reputation as making some of the finest cocktails in the area – his Old Fashioned will blow the ears off the side of your head. Despite the fine cocktails the place has become so popular with young locals that most nights it resembles an enjoyably raucous and friendly pub.

Address: 98 Wuyuan Lu, near Wulumuqi Zhong Lu 

The Chalet

There aren’t many frills to be found at The Chalet – a relaxed boozer loosely based on the decor of a Swiss mountain cottage. It feels more like a fun British bar though, with surprisingly good pub grub on offer, indie rock on the stereo and a fun mix of locals and expats getting drunk. Go there on a Tuesday night for the “happy hour” that runs until 3am, closing with most drinks around half price. The crowds it attracts make it feel like a Saturday.

Address: 385 Yongjia Lu, near Taiyuan Lu

DADA

Every city should have a DADA (in fact Beijing does – albeit a slightly more upscale branch). It’s a small, sticky-floored dive: there’s no cover charge and barely any security and never any queues despite the place always being busy at weekends. This all makes it the perfect location for after-hours debauchery. The music tends to be underground house, there’s table football, and you’ll only spend 25RMB (£2.50) for a bottle of Tiger beer. If you’re staying in the area, you’ll find yourself at DADA again and again – usually from about 2.30am.

Address: 115 Xingfu Lu, near Fahuazhen Lu

Arkham

Helmed by the same owners as Arcade, Arkham is a medium-sized nightclub that borrows some of the same underground cool as The Shelter (being similarly subterranean) but in a much wider open space, making it more of a “hands-in-the-air” experience. Charmingly named promoters S.T.D. attract good international DJ names and an increasing amount of live bands, so check local listings sites to find out who’s appearing.

Address: 1 Wulumuqi Nan Lu, near Hengshan Lu

Tattoo Family

This place has got to be one of the most unusual bars in Shanghai: a working tattoo parlour that had a top-notch cocktail bar added to its downstairs area in October 2013. Harley Davidson motorcycles are often revved outside as the achingly hip local crowd sip great cocktails in the dingy but cool bar area, but there’s still an inclusive – you could even say “family” – vibe. The owner also promises not to tattoo you on the spot if you have a few too many drinks then demand an inking session, which is good of him.

Address: 260 Xiangyang Lu, near Yongkang Lu

El Coctel

There’s often a queue to get a seat in the swish and popular cocktail bar El Coctel, but it’s worth the wait. Some of the best cocktails in Puxi are on offer here, and at weekends it becomes one of the trendiest bars to people watch in as you sip creations such as the Spice Rum Treacle.

Address: Second Floor, 47 Yongfu Lu, near Fuxing Xi Lu

The Retreat

This minute café/bar on leafy Gao’an Road is so intimate it’s impossible not to acquire new friends here. Being owned by a Brit as well as his Chinese girlfriend, Union Jack flag cushions abound, along with paintings of Oxfordshire scenery. It’s a great place in the week for a pre-meal drink or, if you end up there in the early hours during the weekend, perfect for toasting new friendships until dawn.

Address: 101 Gao’an Lu, near Zhaojiabang Lu

Explore more of Shanghai and this vast country with the Rough Guide to China, book hostels for your trip and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. 

Wondering where in the world you can get a gorgeous view served up with your cocktail? Not to worry – Hannah Lodge from BarChick.com has done the hard work for you, rounding up the world’s best bars with a view.

Sky Bar, Bangkok

Sky Bar is the highest open-air drinking establishment in the world, so if you are chasing vistas as well as drinks then this is going to top them all. Perched dizzyingly high on the 63rd floor of The Dome at Lebua, this small, circular, colour-changing bar is high up on any visitor’s list. It’s the ultimate place for a sun-downer; drink in the skyline of Bangkok and the Chao Phraya River with fine vintages and amazing cocktails.

Hula Hula Bar, Hvar, Croatia

This beachfront beauty on the coastline of Hvar is proof that you don’t have to get up high to find a sight to knock your socks off. As the sun begins to sink everyone on the island flocks to the rocks to grab a cocktail from Hula Hula Bar and party as the sun sinks in to the Adriatic. It’s so good that people even moor up from neighbouring islands to catch a glimpse.

Skyline Bar, Venice

Not your typical Venetian drinking spot, Skyline Bar is a swanky cocktail lounge which looks out across the entire floating city and southern lagoon. As Venice’s most impressive bar, it boasts not only a panoramic skyline but also a rooftop pool, just in case you fancy taking a little dip. All those canals may be perfect for some things, but swimming sure ain’t one of them. There’s no better way to spend an afternoon than chilling out, Champagne cocktail in hand, watching the boats float past.

Rooftop Lounge, Venice Beach, LA

There aren’t many places cooler than LA, and the Rooftop Lounge in Venice Beach takes the crown in this town. There are laid back cabanas up on the hotel roof where you can look down at kids shooting hoops, spot bladers whizzing by or just grab some cold beers and hold tight for the sunset through the palm trees below.  This is the best place to get a slice of a real laid back LA lifestyle outside of the 90210 postcode.

Palaphita Kitch, Rio de Janeiro

This bar is a little bit special – it’s like an Amazonian jungle sitting on the shores of Rio’s Lagoa. Partially open-air and with a palm thatched roof over the rest, this is the definition of a place to star-gaze or enjoy a dusk sky. Beautiful by day, but even more impressive at night, torches are lit and the lake reflects its beauty. Settle into a tree-house like platform and get experimental when it comes to your drink: they’ve got over 28 different types of fruit just begging to be charged with booze.

Top Mountain Star, Austria

High above the Gurgler Tal in southwest Austria, the Top Mountain Star shines a thousand times brighter than any other. Seeing is believing with this architectural phenomenon. Safely anchored 3082m up along an incredibly narrow, rocky ridge, it’s the ultimate place to breathe in the mountains. Forget skiing, this place is much more fun (unless of course you have vertigo), and is the ultimate spot for lunch with a view.

Ghostbar, Las Vegas

This sure isn’t a city that’s running low on “wow-factors” but Ghostbar on the top of Palms Casino, with its 360-degree view outdoor terrace and floor to ceiling windows looking down on the Vegas Strip, is something else. You may be keen to try your luck with most things in Sin City but choosing where to get your cocktail fix shouldn’t be one of them. Sure the decor is on the tacky side of swanky, and you might spot some WAGs on those white leather couches, but you’re in Vegas baby – what did you expect?

The Heron Tower, London

With stiff competition for the best skyline scanning spot in the big city, the Heron Tower, near Liverpool St, has got it right by giving us two epic bars to choose from.  If you’re feeling glam and want to drink al fresco go to SushiSamba for fusion cocktails, or if you fancy a 24/7 vista keep going up to Duck & Waffle (sunrise views of London anyone?) where they’re keeping drinks British. Head up the ear-popping lift and just you wait for that view to hit you – when it does, you’ll need a drink with which to toast it. These two very different bars do have one thing in common though – they share an awesome view of the best city in the world.

Hannah Lodge is a writer at BarChick.com, a guide to the best bars in the world. Follow them on Twitter at @HotBarChick.
You can book hostels for your trip with Rough Guides, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Fear, exhaustion, love and mournfulness: these are just a few of the twists and turns I experienced on the emotional rollercoaster that my weekend in Brighton proved to be. Fear, because I watched a strange girl playing music on a handsaw; exhaustion, because I danced for almost four hours solid to possibly the greatest mash-up of blues, swing and jazz; love, because I met and tangoed with Brighton’s very own Prince Charming; and finally, mournfulness, because inside this bizarre vintage sub-culture, I had discovered some of the best alternative things to do in Brighton… and then I had to go home. If this sounds like fun to you, then here’s how to do it:

Photography by Lottie Gross 2013

Browse antiques & curios

Everyone knows The Lanes in Brighton are the top spot for shopping, and this alternative itinerary will not deny you the pleasure. But make sure you head to Snooper’s Paradise and the above cooperative Snooper’s Attic, on North Laine, for a myriad of antiques and beautifully handcrafted vintage accessories. Beware though; you could spend hours in this shop so limit your time (and budget), then move on to the Brighton branch of Beyond Retro for – you’ve guessed it – all things retro. For something a little more special try Hope & Harlequin on Sydney Street, who specialise in bespoke re-creation of event dresses and vintage wedding originals.

Get a new hair-do

A night out in Brighton needs preparation, and what better place to get ready than at the Parlour Rooms on Dyke Road. This quaint little tea room has more than meets the eye: beneath all the scrumptious tea and cake lies a wonderful little vintage salon where 1950s up-dos are the fashion and ruby red lipstick is an obligation. And, if you can fit it in, there’s also a craft workshop where you can make your own accessories, and a lingerie rack full of saucy handmade delicates – this, combined with copious amounts of English tea and a vintage makeover is an afternoon well spent!

Photography by Lottie Gross 2013

Learn to dance

You might think a tea dance sounds a little limp after the weekend so far, but don’t be fooled by the village hall style venue and country-bumpkin bunting. The Ragroof Theatre Tea Dances are regular Sunday occurrences where the members will get you up on your feet and, no matter how two-left-footed you are, spin you every which way during lively jazz tracks. There is tea, cake and champagne to order, and dancing lessons where partners aren’t required – the divine Champagne Charlie is on hand for any single ladies who need a lead. Beware though girls, don’t look directly into those eyes – you may never love again! Each tea dance is themed so be sure to purchase the appropriate attire from some of those excellent vintage shops.

Drink vintage cocktails

For some vintage wine and cocktails head to the Bistro at Hotel du Vin. Using 40-year-old Campari and Martini Rosso, and 1950s gin and Maraschino, the cocktail waiters can mix you a truly vintage Negroni or a perfectly smooth Martinez. If cocktails aren’t your tipple though, try some of the excellent vintage wines recommended to you by one of the 14 in-house sommeliers – their cellar has over 500 wines from around the world so don’t be afraid to ask for advice. (Many of the wonderful reds go superbly with the fillet steak, might I add.)

Image courtesy of Scott Chalmers Photography

Party hard at the cabaret

If you were looking for the definition of quirky, look no further than the Marlborough Theatre’s cabaret nights. A rather unsuspecting pub from the outside, and a relatively average looking bar inside, this venue has a secret stage upstairs where bizarre but hysterically witty musicians and drag queens play the night away for a select few with tickets. You can see the likes of Joe Black, the “gin drinking cabaret darling and acid tongued ringmaster”, and world famous Dolly Rocket, a giant lady with a giant voice, all hosted by the terrific-in-tights Tariq. For an after party, head to The Mezmerist where you can dance ‘til you drop (or until the lights come on) and there isn’t a chart song in sight.

Sleep in style

If the Hotel du Vin suites, with their free-standing baths and four-poster beds, aren’t in your price range then there are plenty of other places to crash after a heavy night. The lovely little Artist Residence boutique hotel has 12 individually designed art-themed bedrooms just a stone’s throw from the seafront, and Snooze Brighton guesthouse is a funky place to rest your head, each of its six rooms created with “equal amounts of flair”.

Find out about these events and more at www.visitbrighton.com.
Lottie Gross is Web Editorial Assistant for RoughGuides.com and can be found tweeting at @Lortusfleur.

If you want to explore more of Brighton, you can buy the Rough Guide Snapshot Brighton for your device for just £1.99, or the Rough Guide to Kent, Sussex and Surrey.
You can book hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. 

In this excerpt from Make The Most Of Your Time On Earth, one Rough Guides writer experiences a memorable three-day music festival.

Afternoon, the first day of Sarawak’s Rainforest Music festival. People are mingling ahead of show time when the famous Malagasy band Tarika will perform. For now though, a local Melinau musician with a hat made of bark and bird feathers strums the lute-like sape as we wander around the site, comprising a dozen small longhouses which open daily for demonstrations of local culture. The music mingles with the screech of tropical birdlife, the scampering of chickens and the sing-along refrains of local children.

As evening progresses, crowds arrive from the nearby city Kuching, primed for the evening’s fun. We first gorge ourselves on a Dyak feast of local delicacies: baked fish in banana leaves, spicy fried pork, rice and a salad dressed in lime and chili. Dusk swiftly becomes night as the festival hits its stride with sets from international folk, jazz and world fusion artists. I’m reminded of WOMAD in the early days, and expect to spot a beady-eyed Peter Gabriel on the lookout for new talent, hunting perhaps an upriver Iban rapper with a fleet of gongs and pipes for accompaniment.

By the time the opening night of the three-day jamboree draws to a close, and with the tropical heat cooled by a refreshing south-westerly, we are on our feet jiving crazily to Tarika lead singer Hanitra’s robust sounds. We have made – or at least bumped into – many new friends from all over the world.

Some have been coming to the festival for years, know the bands and appreciate the attention this little outpost of Malaysian camaraderie gets over this hot, hot weekend. Others, though, confess to not knowing what has hit them – how is it that all this world-class music is being performed in a tiny little jungle enclave at the bottom of a narrow road in a place called the Damai Peninsula?

We head for bed, luckily a comfortable hotel room with a balcony that’s only a five-minute stagger away, to awake not just to a hangover but to the delicious promise of another two days of groovesome beats deep in the jungle.

The yearly festival takes place in the first half of July; check www.rainforestmusic-borneo.com for more details.

 

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Visiting this charming, relatively little-visited region in the north is one of the best things to do in Italy. It has a wealth of attractions and activities to entertain, from majestic cathedrals and castles, to fine food and wine. Here are seven of our favourite highlights of Bologna & Emilia-Romagna:

Bologna’s restaurants: a meal out in the gastronomic capital of Italy is a rite of passage for any true food-lover.

Modena’s Duomo: one of the finest Romanesque buildings in Italy, with some magnificent decoration inside and out.

Parma and its food: Parma is inextricably linked to two great delicacies, Parma ham and Parmesan cheese, both of which can be sampled in the city or in the surrounding region.

Rocca Viscontea: northern Emilia-Romagna’s most majestic castle.

Brisighella’s festivals: this medieval village is known for its truffle, polenta and olive festivals in autumn.

Ravenna’s mosaics: unrivalled both in beauty and preservation, these mosaics are unmissable.

Rimini’s nightlife: the hottest, loudest, wildest and fastest-changing in the country.

You can buy the Bologna & Emilia-Romagna Rough Guides Snapshot Italy for your device here for only £1.99 >

One of South America‘s booming capitals and major cities, Buenos Aires is a seductive and cultured city with an eclectic mix of people and places. Vicky Baker has the lowdown on the newest things to do in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Biking mad

A few years ago, cycling the manic, traffic-packed streets of Buenos Aires seemed borderline insane. But now everyone’s at it. Over 100km of cycle tracks sprang up in two years, alongside a public bike scheme and interest-free public loans for bike-buying. Critical Mass events have swelled, funky artisan bike shops have opened, and some cafes are even offering discounts for those who turn up on two wheels (15% off at La Apasionada for breakfasts and meriendas, or afternoon tea).  And best of all, there are cycle-in outdoor cinema events in Parque Tres de Febrero; stay tuned to festivales.gob.ar for details.

Chic cocktail bars

Although many porteños (Buenos Aires residents) still remain happy with a simple fernet-coca (herbal liquor with Coke – an acquired taste and oddly addictive), times are changing, and inventive cocktail menus are springing up all over town. Most of the current hotspots are in the Palermo neighbourhood, including Rey de Copas, with its French/Moroccan décor and new roof terrace; Frank’s with its speakeasy vibe; call ahead for the password, and the brand new Verne Cocktail Club, inspired by old gentlemen’s clubs. Some are even popping up where you least expect it, even hidden at the back of a flower-and-record shop (Floraría Atlántico).

Keeping up with the Peruvians

While the rest of the world plays catch-up on Peruvian food and starts belatedly dishing out awards, Buenos Aires sits back smugly, knowing that it has this trend well and truly in the bag. Going out for ceviche here is like going out for a curry in London. The city has everything from the cheap, family-orientated joints in Abasto (home to many Peruvian immigrants) to its own branch of Astrid y Gaston (the original one in Lima was just voted best restaurant in Latin America). And it’s a scene that continues to move forward with new openings, such as Mullu, taking forward the city’s love of Peruvian-Japanese fusion food. See, that’s how far ahead of the game Buenos Aires is – they’re post-Peruvian already.

Alternative shopping

Soaring inflation and restrictions on imports have seen costs in the clothes and shoe market rocket. Those used to shopping in the EU or US will be shocked at the prices on the high street. The answer? Avoid the high street – that’s what many Argentines are doing. Try the pop-up ferias (markets) that are promoted on social networks (search for “feria Americana Buenos Aires”) or even on signs on trees. Alternatively, if you want to check out some local clothes designers, try buying straight from their studio. Some have decided keep their own costs down by not opening a shop and those savings are passed on to customers, although you sometimes need to book an appointment. Try Jungle Vi.ai.pi for bags, Bimba Vintage for second-hand finds, or Maison Abbey for female fashion.

Back to the 90s

As late as the 1990s, the now-buzzing Palermo area was a nightlife desert. Legend has it that the only bar everyone went to was a particularly seedy and hedonistic place. Oh, and it was staffed by dwarves, from bouncers to strippers. It turns out that was true and, not only that, now it’s back. Still going by the same name, Nave Jungla held a one-off party at Salón Irreal in August. Body paint, eccentric crowds, and some x-rated shows made the city’s infamous Club 69 drag parties look like an ambassadors’ afternoon tea. Will there be more? Apparently so. Will it move beyond a crowd of nostalgic 40-somethings and become more PC? That’s yet to be seen.

Explore more of Buenos Aires and Argentina with the Rough Guide to Argentina. Book hostels for your trip and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Ask anyone on safari what they love about the African bush and many mention the mesmerizing night sky – and one of the best ways to view it is from the comfort of a “star bed” at Loisaba Lodge in northern Kenya. If the weather is fair, you can wheel these handcrafted wooden four-posters out onto the deck of your cabin and sleep under the stars. The beds have mosquito nets and are on a raised platform (fitted with a bathroom, a thatched dining area and a fire pit) and are available in two locations: the first is a 20min drive from the main lodge in one of the eastern valleys overlooking the “Kiboko” waterhole; the second a 40min drive from the lodge on the banks of the Ewaso N’giro River, where guests are hosted by members of the local Koija community.

Loisaba Lodge itself is on a 250-square-kilometre private ranch and wildlife conservancy on the edge of the Laikipia plateau. The game here is excellent – there are elephants, giraffes, antelopes, buffalo, Grévy’s zebra, kudus, dik-diks, wild dogs and some big cats. Guests who stay at the star beds have access to all the facilities at the main camp – so after a day in the bush, you can return for a dip in the cliff-top pool, followed by dinner in the shady garden and then a doze under a thousand stars.

All profits from the Loisaba Lodge go towards conservation of the Loisaba Wilderness area and to fund community health and education projects with the neighbouring Maasai tribes. For prices, activities and bookings see www.loisaba.com; +254 (0) 623 1072.

 

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Shinjuku isn’t for the faint-hearted. But if you’re new to Tokyo and want a crash course in crazy, it’s the first place you should come to. Sure, Asakusa has more history and Roppongi has better nightlife, but neither can compete when it comes to dealing out high-voltage culture shocks.

On the west side of Shinjuku station, which heaves with commuters and the smell of strong espressos, things are typically well-ordered. This shimmering business district is home to some of Japan’s tallest skyscrapers (as well as more than 13,000 bureaucrats) and there are enough high-rise megastores to have you craning your neck in disbelief. It’s a hardworking part of the city, where success is measured by the number of hours you spend at the office, and exploring it for the first time feels like stumbling through an ultra-efficient city of the future. But cross to the other side of the train tracks, and things couldn’t be more different.

Here, chaos rules. Under the hot neon lights of Kabukichō, in the eastern part of Shinjuku, you’ll find stand-up noodle bars snuggled next to strip joints and love hotels. Huge video screens pump noisy adverts into roadside bars, Blade Runner-style, and street hawkers skulk in the shadows by jazz clubs and theatres. To escape these guys, who’ll try anything to get at your yen, head to an all-night karaoke bar where you can croon until your sake-soaked vocal chords feel like they’re on fire. Or squeeze down the oddball alleyways of the Golden Gai district, which attracts artists, musicians and filmmakers with a ramshackle heap of more than 250 bars – each with its own unique theme. Chances are, you’ll still end up singing the night away.

When the morning sunlight starts to extinguish Shinjuku’s nocturnal glow, you can take a stroll through the cherry blossom trees of Shinjuku Gyoen – Tokyo’s finest park – and give yourself a well-earned pat on the back. Consider yourself initiated.

Shinjuku’s railway station is served by the Tokyo Metro, Toei Subway, and several inter-city lines.

 

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