As the only democracy in the Chinese speaking world and the most progressive city for LGBTQ+ rights in Asia, a legacy of artists and activists have worked to make Taiwan’s capital a place where culture, progression and creativity thrive.

Now, a new wave of resident creatives are re-energizing the city. Cutting-edge art galleries stand next to traditional teahouses, and basement club techno still murmurs in the streets as local markets set up their fare with the sunrise. Affordable, safe, efficient and exciting, this sea of glass, concrete and palm trees is an urban explorer’s dreamland. For travellers looking to unearth Taiwan’s underground scene, here are eight tips for discovering cool Taipei at its best.

1. Don’t stop drinking coffee

Taiwan’s celebrated tea culture can be traced back more than three hundred years. Home to some of the world’s best greens and oolongs, tea here is both a science and a philosophy, a remedy for body and soul.

While you’ll find no shortage of old-school teahouses, the same spirit of craft and pride has been applied to Taipei’s third wave coffee scene – and the results are glorious. Interesting cafés are popping up everywhere in the city, from over the top chemistry lab-esque B Coffee & Space in Da’an to the award-winning baristas and Scandi-inspired minimalism of Fika Fika in Zhongshan.

Whether you spend the day shooting espresso or sipping cups of siphoned single-origin brew, you’ll quickly discover why Taipei seems set to become the world’s next hub of café culture.

coffee 1

photo by Colt St. George

2. Tap into the city’s creative scene in Zhongshan and Dongmen

Taipei was named World Design Capital 2016 for a reason. Everyone from young architects to underground record labels seem to be embracing a new “made in Taiwan” pride that’s at once trendy and distinctly Taiwanese. The neighbourhoods of Zhongshan and Dongmen are perfect for testing the waters.

While the main streets may feel a bit commercial, amble the historic back lanes of Zhongshan district and you’ll discover well-curated vintage shops like Blue Monday, cute design boutiques and stylish records stores like Waiting Room. Taipei Artist Village – an arts institution and residency open to local and international creatives – is also worth popping by.

Dongmen is even more gratifying. While the upscale main streets boast everything from craft bubble tea to the latest in Taiwanese interior design, hit the quiet residential alleyways and you’ll find quirky art cafés, craft beer bars, dusty Chinese antique shops and good old fashioned Taiwanese comfort food spots like James Kitchen on Yongkang Street.

3. Sample the street food, especially stinky tofu

Be it in London, New York or Berlin, street food has become undeniably, and often tragically, hip. Forgo the pomp, faux-grit and absurd prices of the latest in questionable Western street food trends and rejoice in Taipei’s affordable authenticity.

From notable night markets like Ningxia and Liaoning to nameless back alley daytime stalls serving dishes perfected over generations, there’re an overwhelming variety of delicious local dishes to sample. Fatty braised pork on rice, oyster omelettes, beef noodle soup, dumplings and shaved ice piled high with fresh fruit are good for starters.

However, your ultimate quest should be to conquer the infamous chòu dòufu, or stinky tofu. It smells like a rotting corpse, but possesses a flavour profile of such intense complexity most hardcore foodies call it sublime. Others spit it up immediately.

asia-700610 (1)

Pixabay / CC0

4. Give vegetarianism a try

If you’re a vegan or vegetarian having trouble finding meat-free eats, keep an eye out for restaurant signs with enormous, glaring swastikas. The symbol is associated with Buddhism in China long before it’s appropriation in Europe and marks the restaurant as entirely vegetarian.

There are loads around the city, selling delectable Buddhist meals at ridiculously cheap prices. Many are buffet style, where whatever you’ve stacked on your plate is paid for by weight. The selection is usually too vast to try all of in a single go, which will keep you coming back for more.

5. From dilapidation to design: check out the city’s former art squats

Maverick Taiwanese artists were the first to recognize the potential of Taipei’s abandoned industrial buildings, squatting and staging illegal performances in these derelict-turned-creative spaces. Though authorities were quite resistant to their presence initially, after much protest spaces such as Huashan 1914 Creative Park and Songshan Cultural and Creative Park have become governmentally protected cultural centres.

Today these spaces are generally buzzing with life, hosting a plethora of fun adult and family events in on-site galleries, concept stores, cinemas, studios, concert halls and more. While governmental commercialization of these spaces has blunted their cutting-edge origins, they still feel undeniably special and worthwhile.

taipei street 3

photo by Colt St. George

6. Lose yourself in Taipei’s nightlife

Home to a thriving underground scene, Taipei’s nightlife and music scenes are simply awesome. From indie garage rockers like Skip Skip Ben Ben, to techno, noise and experimental hip hop, putting the effort into exploring Taipei’s underground sounds will reveal an entirely different dimension to the city and provide opportunities to mingle with the artists who are making it happen.

Revolver in Zhongzheng is a laidback and friendly institution that throws everything from metal to indie nights, while F*cking Place (though the club doesn’t use an asterisk) is definitely among the city’s coolest dive-bars – with the added bonus of ridiculously cheap beer. For techno and electronic parties get to Korner, a subsection of well-known club The Wall. Pipe and APA Mini are also great venues for live music.

7. Not feeling the party? Try a reading rave

With a vibrant population of artists, intellectuals and activists perhaps it’s no surprise that print still holds a special place in Taiwan. The popularity of Eslite in Dunnan branch, Taipei’s massive 24 hour bookstore and one of the world’s only to keep such hours, speaks for itself. Curl up in this beautifully designed booktopia and join the locals as they pore over pages all night long.

On a smaller-scale, keep an eye out for the artisanal stationery shop Pinmo Pure Store, Gin Gin Store (the first gay bookstore opened in Greater China) and hip new bookish concept stores. In this respect, Pon Ding is an absolute standout – a friendly, three-story collaborative creative space housing art, independent publications, quality magazines and pop-up events. Of course, they’ve also got a brilliant café.

inside pon ding 1

photo credit: Pon Ding

8. Get back to nature

Every once in a while you need to leave the urban grind behind and unwind in the natural world. Thankfully, nature is never far off in Taiwan.

The high speed railway from Taipei can have you beaching on the island’s subtropical southern coast in less than two hours, while verdant mountain trails and popular surf breaks are easily accessible by bus. If you’re feeling adventurous, delve further into the mountains to experience the colourful cultures of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples.

But whenever you find yourself recharged and craving that big-city buzz it’s a quick train trip back to the creative playground that is Taipei.

EVA Air, a Star Alliance member, flies daily from London Heathrow to Taipei, offering passengers award winning service and a choice of three cabin classes: Royal Laurel Class (Business Class), Elite Class (Premium Economy) and Economy Class. Featured image: Pon Ding. See more of Taiwan with the Taiwanese tourist board

Hailed as one of the world’s greatest storytellers, Roald Dahl’s tales have been translated into 59 languages and he has sold more than 200 million books worldwide.

He is everywhere these days: from school set texts to the award-winning stage version of Matilda The Musical enthralling audiences on Broadway and in London’s West End. There’s Twit or Miss, an app based on the Roald Dahl characters, and Steven Spielberg’s Hollywood take on The BFG (2016).

Roald Dahl smoking a cigar – 100 yearsRoald Dahl, December 1971

But our focus is on Wales, primarily Cardiff, where Dahl was born to Norwegian parents. The natural landscape of Wales inspired the backdrops to his stories and provided him with a wealth of treasured childhood memories. Here are five places around Cardiff and beyond to uncover the man behind the madcap characters and timeless stories.

Llandaff

Dahl spent his early childhood in the Llandaff district to the north of Cardiff and attended Llandaff Cathedral School from 1923.

It was here, aged just seven years old, that he and a bunch of friends came up with “The Great Mouse Plot”, a harebrained scheme to leave a dead mouse in a jar of gobstoppers at his local sweet shop to scare the miserly manager, Mrs Pratchett.

Llandaff cathedral, CardiffLlandaff Cathedral by michael kooiman on Flickr (license)

“We all have our moments of brilliance and glory, and this was mine,” Dahl later wrote in his first autobiography, Boy. He thought he had got away with it, too, until Pratchett reported the boys to the school and the headmaster canned them as punishment. Today a blue plaque marks the site of the former High Street sweetshop forever associated with The Great Mouse Plot.

The Norwegian Church, Cardiff

Dahl’s Oslo-born father, Herald, had come to Cardiff to seek his fortune in the late nineteenth century and established a successful ship broking business, Andresen and Dahl.

Cardiff’s Norwegian Church, established in 1868 by the Norwegian Seamen’s Missions, was a beacon for expat families and the young Roald was christened here in 1916. Today the building is known as the Norwegian Church Arts Centre and hosts regular events. There is a small plague inside to remember Dahl and the Dahl Gallery – exhibiting photographs and paintings from local artists – is located upstairs.

The nearby public plaza at the heart of Cardiff Bay, home to the Senedd (Welsh Assembly Building) and the Wales Millennium Centre performance centre, has been reverentially named Roald Dahl Plass.

Norwegian Church Arts Centre, formerly Norwegian Sailors' church, now an arts centre, Cardiff Bay, Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom

Cardiff Bay

Dahl would have set out from the docks of Cardiff Bay for boarding school in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, in 1925. He would travel to and from school in an old steamer ship and suffered from terrible homesickness for his house and family in Wales.

He faked an acute appendicitis during his first term at school and was sent home across the Bristol Channel. He later wrote in Boy, “I felt so wonderful at being away from that dreaded school building that I very nearly forgot I was meant to be ill.”

The kindly Dr Dunbar in Cardiff’s Cathedral Road soon realised he was faking but gave him a note for a couple of days off school.

Cardiff bay CCRestored by Ben Salter on Flickr (license)

Tenby, Pembrokeshire

The family moved to Bexley in Kent in 1927, while Dahl was still at boarding school, but this wasn’t the end of his close connection to Wales. The Dahl family spent every Easter holiday in the stately Pembrokeshire resort of Tenby, West Wales, and always stayed at the same cottage, The Cabin.

In the book My Year he describes fondly how he and his family “had donkey rides on the beach and long walks with the dogs along the top of the cliffs opposite Caldey Island … we adored Tenby.”

The Grade I-listed property remains in the ownership of the Dahl family to this day and is still available to rent as a holiday home. It boasts fantastic views across Carmarthen Bay to the Gower, while a blue plaque commemorates the treasured Dahl connection.

Great Britain, Wales,Tenby, boats moored in harbour of old seaside town

Dahl 100 events

The final festival programme is still under wraps but amongst the highlights revealed so far are a Dahl-themed concert at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff, an exhibition of illustrations by principal Dahl artist Quentin Blake and a programme of outreach events across the country by Literature Wales to share Dahl’s stories.

There will also be a section devoted to Dahl at the Hay Festival in Hay-on-Wye in May next year and workshops as part of the annual Cardiff Children’s Literature Festival next spring.

The main event, however, is City of the Unexpected, a Cardiff-wide installation of productions produced by National Theatre Wales and Wales Millennium Centre in September next year.

It’s like Dahl himself said: “Many wonderful surprises await you!”

More information on events can be found on RoaldDahl.com or at VisitWales.com. Explore more of Wales with the Rough Guide to WalesCompare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, find tours and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

That’s right. Those days of buying a nylon jumpsuit and turning your house into a makeshift obstacle course are over. Thanks to a crowd-funded project set up by three visionary twenty-somethings, you can now play the cult nineties gameshow The Crystal Maze for real in London. We sent Rough Guides editor Greg Dickinson along to don a bomber jacket and bag some crystals, and asked him how he got on.

In case anyone missed out on this slice of cultural history: in ten words, what happened in The Crystal Maze TV show?

Yelling instructions at friend locked in room solving puzzle for crystals, while bald host plays harmonica.

That was sixteen but we’ll let you off. How true is the experience to the TV show?

Pretty damn true. Like on the TV show, there are four fantastically constructed zones (Aztec, Medieval, Future, Industrial) and contestants are forced to jog, crawl and climb between tasks. Jumpsuits have been replaced by brightly coloured bomber jackets that you’ll want to nick (or buy afterwards for £60), and the epic theme tune from the show plays throughout.

Sadly, eccentric ex-TV host Richard O’Brien wasn’t available to run proceedings, but there are foul-mouthed Maze Masters to lead you around the course.

Crystal Maze, London, gameshow

What do you have to do in these tasks?

They’re all recreations of actual tasks from the TV show: from navigating a maze blindfolded, to crossing a room full of lasers, to solving a poker table murder mystery. There are hatches or TV monitors looking into each room, so you can yell conflicting instructions to your sweating teammate as the Maze Master shouts “thirty seconds left!”.

Dare I ask, what happens if you lose a task and don’t get out the room?

Fear not. It’s not quite as brutal as the TV game show, where task losers would be “locked in” for the entirety of the show. If you don’t manage to escape the room in time, you are left to complete another smaller puzzle while your teammates jog to the next task. If you don’t complete the puzzle, that’ll cost one crystal thank you very much…

… and one crystal equals five seconds in the giant crystal dome finale. Are you keeping up?

What happens in the giant crystal dome finale?

Well this is the best bit. Just like in the TV show, there’s an enormous crystal (an exact replica of the TV version, no less) full of golden tickets. The Maze Master yells “Start the fans please!” and the tickets are blown around. You then have to catch as many as you can in your allotted time and cram them in a box.

There are four teams, although you only see the competing teams during the finale, and the team that collects the most golden tickets wins.

CRYSTAL_MAZE_PREVIEW_276

What do they win?

Nothing.

Well this sounds like a hoot anyway. Do you have any top tips for people doing The Crystal Maze?

  1. Communicate! When solving a puzzle, you’re essentially chucked in a room and don’t know what on earth is going on. Amid everyone shouting instructions, try to pick out the voice of your most trustworthy and level-headed friend.
  2. Listen to your Maze Master. Some of the tasks are really difficult, and your master will give clues when you get stuck.
  3. Don’t be tempted to cheat in the giant crystal dome at the end. If you scoop tickets off the ground and put them in the box, you’ll be disqualified.
  4. Play to your strengths. The task categories are physical, mental, skill and mystery. When you’re talking tactics in the pub beforehand, decide who is going to specialise in which category.
  5. Don’t have too many drinks in the pub beforehand.

The Crystal Maze experience lasts 90 minutes. It costs £50pp on weekdays and £60pp on weekends.

Wherever you go in downtown Shanghai, you’ll be struck by international influence both past and present. From the leafy avenues of the former French Concession to the modern malls on Nanjing West Road, this is a city that grew up with globalisation.

For a different – and less crowded – take on cosmopolitanism, head to the suburbs. Hidden among the city outskirts are six European-style towns. These novel developments are a result of a 2001 plan to relieve population pressure in the city centre, by building new suburbs on the outskirts. It was hoped the European motifs would help attract Shanghai’s middle and upper classes, but deserted streets in some of these areas suggest it takes more than quirky themes to pull residents away from central Shanghai.

If the city’s population growth catches up with its relentless construction, though, these offbeat enclaves are unlikely to stay quiet forever. Here are a few of the most intriguing.

Tie the knot in British Thames Town

For a very British experience, ride the Shanghai metro to Thames Town. Almost everything here, including the clambering ivy, the man-made River Thames and the church modelled on its Bristol counterpart, is disconcertingly English.

It’s this very Englishness that makes touches of Chinese life stand out all the more: the red-coated guard on an electric moped, the ladies with purple permed hair and their similarly coiffured poodles, the countless couples who travel here for wedding photography.

Though it’s known officially as Thames Town, perhaps the place is best summed up by the name of a local language school: Li Yang Crazy English Town.

Thames Town, Shanghai, ChinaImage by Joseph O’Neill

Spot the statues in a quiet German Town

Architectural firm Albert Speer & Partner (Speer’s father was Hitler’s chief architect in WWII) based their design for Anting New Town on modern German residential districts. The result may indeed be modern, but the empty streets suggest it’s not very residential. It is, in fact, a bit of a ghost town, with only one in five properties being inhabited.

As well as rows of yellow and red apartment blocks, the development includes the German Football Park – a small pitch where real players have been substituted for plastic statues.

In the central square, too, statues dominate. Friedrich Schiller and Johann Wolfgang van Goethe stand with an air of gravity that suggests that they are in a town with more than one open bar.

German beer, and Taiwanese sausages, are on offer in the restaurant opposite the literary figures, and you won’t need to queue to place your order.

Anting German Town, ShanghaiImage by Joseph O’Neill

Get back to nature in Swedish Luodian

Luodian North European New Town is inspired by Sigtuna in Sweden. Like Luodian, Sigtuna sits on the banks of a Lake Malaren. The Chinese version of the lake is a popular spot for camping and barbecues, and is probably more frequently used for wedding photos than its Swedish counterpart.

Away from the water, statues of naked Scandinavians pose outside northwest Chinese noodle shops. With titles such as Vitality, these scantily-clad artworks fit right into Luodian’s natural, outdoors theme.

Lake in Swedish town ShanghaiImage by Joseph O’Neill

Shanghai Meets La Mancha in Spanish Fengcheng

You’ll need the adventurous spirit of a knight-errant to discover Spanish Fengcheng. The 600 year-old town is a bustling jigsaw of hotpot restaurants and clothing stores, and even many locals haven’t noticed the Spanish influence.

But Spanish influence there is, and you’ll know you’ve found it once you spot the three windmills. The adjacent bridge is decorated with stone-carved pictures of scenes from Don Quixote.

Rising up from the river running under the bridge is a sculpture that may well be the Lady of La Mancha; she aims a level gaze at a housing compound with unmistakeable white-washed walls and red-tiled roofs.

Pretty street in Spanish town in ShanghaiImage by Joseph O’Neill

Take a cruise in Italian Pujiang

To many, Shanghai’s Breeza Citta di Pujiang sounds more Italian than it looks. Architects Gregotti Associati International aimed for a rectangular grid layout, and architecture defined by simplicity and clean lines.

The result is a modern hybrid of Italian design and Shanghai suburb, with wide streets and long canals that are popular with both anglers and canoers.

Wander far enough from the populated apartment blocks and you’ll find a deserted Venetian-style canal, where a disused gondola floats eerily.

Italian style town in ShanghaiImage by Joseph O’Neill

Go Dutch in Gaoqiao

Most emblematic of Holland Town (Gaoqiao) is the windmill that stands on an island in the Gaoqiao Port waterway. To one side of the windmill, a faded sign advertising wedding photography clings to the wooden walls. Though the photography agency is gone, the pretty views across the water are still here.

Gaohe Road, the main thoroughfare, has little open aside from a gym and a martial arts centre. The rows of narrow houses, in colours from asphalt grey to faded orange, are topped by an array of turrets and gables.

At the northeaster end of Gaohe Road, past Shanghai Renjia and the closed St Michael’s Catholic Church, are a few riverside benches from where you can enjoy a panoramic view of this picturesque Dutch town.

Holland 1Image by Joseph O’Neill

Explore more of Shanghai with the Rough Guide to ShanghaiCompare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to buy travel insurance before you go. 

A long layover is no longer something to dread, thanks to a number of airports which are upping their game when it comes to entertainment between planes. So what’s on offer? Everything from dog therapy to miniature horse hugging to butterfly gardens. Here’s our rundown of the best airport amenities around the world:

1. Toast to your next flight at Munich airport’s brewery and beer hall, Germany

Thanks to Munich Airport’s Airbräu – the largest brewery inside an airport – you can raise a toast to Bavaria’s capital moments after stepping off the plane. At the world’s first airport brewery there is traditional music, potted chestnut trees, lederhosen-wearing waitresses and enough space for over 1000 people. There are outdoor and indoor seating areas, and if you’ve got time to kill, it’s worth signing up for one of the brewery tours.

2. Calm your nerves dog therapy at Denver airport, USA

If you’re a nervous flyer, resist a pre-flight tipple and opt for some dog love instead. Denver airport’s Canine Airport Therapy Squad (which somewhat confusingly, is referred to as CATS) comprises 28 therapy dogs who roam the airport, searching for nervous flyers in need of a furry hug.

All of the animals have been trained and certified by the Alliance of Therapy Dogs and are well looked after. Our favourite is Ani, a shaggy Saint Bernard, while PJ, a perky-eared Alsatian, comes a close second – even if we’ve got a sneaky suspicion that he’s actually an undercover sniffer dog.

Huge St Bernard taking part in Canine therapy at Denver airport

3. Explore an aquarium at Vancouver’s airport, Canada

Vancouver Airport has two aquariums – the larger 114,000 litre-tank contains 5000 creatures, including urchins, rockfish and eight species of starfish, while the smaller 1800-litre tank is dedicated purely to jellyfish.

The tanks are pretty hi-tech affairs too, with 18 different lights that work in harmony to create artificial sunrises and sunsets.

The majority of the creatures come from nearby waters, including Howe Sound, Tofino, the Gulf Islands and the Sunshine Coast.

4. Slide to your connections at Singapore’s Changi airport

Singapore has been named best airport in the world for the fourth year running at the Skytrax’s World Airport Awards (the aviation industry’s version of the Oscars) and it’s not hard to see why.

There are rooftop pools, cinemas and social media trees, but our favourite feature is the 12m-high slide which allows you to whizz between the floors of Terminal Three.

With potential speeds of up to six metres per second, you’ll have fewer excuses available should you miss your flight.

Singapore airport slide, Changi airport

5. Get back to nature at Zürich Airport, Switzerland

Only half of the sprawling site owned by Zürich’s airport is actually used for its buildings, with the rest being an untouched habitat for a number of rare plant and animal species. Although you can’t just turn up and explore (the conservation area is between runways) it’s possible to request guided tours four weeks in advance.

And if you’re on a long stopover and your sports kit in transit, don’t panic – the airport offers hourly rentals of inline skates, bicycles and hiking poles.

6. Get a history of Aviation in San Francisco’s international terminal, USA

Got time to kill at San Francisco International Airport? Then head over to the airport’s aviation museum, which opened in 2000. Exhibits span the past century and include everything from pre-war Pan American Airways’ route maps to luggage labels from the 1950s and flight officers’ cases from the 1930s. Even the location is fascinating – it’s housed within a recreation of a 1930s airport passenger terminal.

San Francisco aviation museum in San Fran airport

7. Drink gin direct from the distiller in London Gatwick Airport, England

In early 2016 the world’s first airport-based gin distillery opened at Gatwick Airport. At the heart of this North Terminal bar is a fully functioning gin still, capable of producing 12 litres per batch. Ingredients used in the house speciality, Nicholas Culpeper London Dry Gin, include Chinese cassia bark and angelica root from India.

The bar even has its own in-house expert – Matthew Servini, a world renowned master of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century gin recipes.

If you decide not to imbibe, you can opt for a full English breakfast, served with a side order of gin-cured smoked salmon, of course.

8. Get your best horse whisper on at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky airport, USA

The directors at this American airport may well have caught wind of Denver’s therapy dog scheme (see above) and decided to up their game.

Miniature ponies (they’re about the same size as an Alsatian) have been soothing frayed nerves at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport since the start of this year, and the horses now visit twice a month.

The ponies are apparently less flighty than dogs and more responsive to humans. And just to be clear, they can’t be ridden, although we rather like the thought of a horseback airport transfer.

Horses in Cincinnati airport, USA

9. Visit a tropical butterfly garden in Singapore’s Changi Airport

It’s perhaps unsurprising that the world’s first airport butterfly garden can be found at the award-winning Changi Airport. This tropical habitat contains 1000 butterflies of over 40 different species.

The enclosure features an enormous range of flowering plants and a six-metre waterfall; head to the educational areas to watch the fluttering insects being fed.

And if butterflies don’t do it for you, you can relax in the sunflower garden or the cactus garden instead.

10. Meet a dinosaur at Chicago O’Hare International, USA

One of the world’s largest mounted dinosaurs can be found at this Chicago airport, and it’s a brachiosaurus, in case you were wondering. For years the creature could be found inside the main hall of Chicago’s Field Museum, but he made the move to the airport when Sue the Tyrannosaurus rex arrived on the scene. The brachiosaurus was taken apart prior to the move and reassembled, piece by piece, in-situ.

Compare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to buy travel insurance before you go.

No, it’s not a click-bait headline – it seems the latest in travel tech is indeed a pair of vibrating shoes. They’re called “Sneakairs“, made by budget airline Easyjet, and are a pair of trainers that are designed to help you navigate your way through a new city using vibrations.

Suspend your disbelief for a moment and let us explain… Syncing the trainers to a navigation app on your smartphone, the shoes guide you to your destination using a series of vibrations that communicate different instructions: go left, go right, you’ve reached your destination.

The idea, apparently, is to “help customers explore new cities with ease, enabling them to take in their surroundings without getting lost.”

We’re not entirely convinced, perhaps because we love maps – old, new and digital – or maybe because it just seems like a step (no pun intended) too far. What do you think? Let us know below…

Would you let these vibrating shoes show you the way?

Forget about virtual-reality roller coasters, the future of theme parks just got a whole lot raunchier.

Developers in Brazil are planning to build an adults-only park, where traditional rides will be replaced by the likes of penis-shaped bumper cars, an erotic ghost train and a 7D vibrating cinema.

Unlike the comparatively chaste Jeju Loveland in South Korea, Erotikaland will lean towards the outrageous, even featuring a “sex playground” complete with a labyrinth, ferris wheel and water slide, according to the New York Times.

But while the owners warn the park definitely won’t be a “place for nuns”, don’t think all rules will go out the window. Any guests wanting to “take things to another level” will be shepherded to a motel down the road (run by the same group).

Raring to test it out? You’ll need to wait until 2018, although unsurprisingly local opposition is already growing.

Header image via Pixabay/CC0

Do you dream of trekking through the Amazon, marvelling at Easter Island‘s moai or gorging on steak in Buenos Aires – or have you done it all already? Either way, this quiz is sure to spark your wanderlust. We’ve picked nine famous places in South America. Can you identify them all?

You’ve seen them, travellers oblivious to their actual surroundings while absorbed in a smartphone navigation app. Perhaps they’re appraising their latest selfie or texting friends back home as oncoming traffic swerves to avoid them.

In Germany they’re known as “smombies”, a portmanteau of “smartphone” and “zombie”. True to their name, smombies have become an epidemic, causing delays and serious accidents by crossing streets and tram tracks unawares.

But the Bavarian city of Augsburg is taking preventative action. The Guardian reports that city officials are embedding experimental traffic lights directly in the pavement. The hope, of course, is that smombies walking with their heads down won’t cross streets when they see red lights flashing at ground level.

So far, no accidents have been reported at any of these new crossings.

What do you reckon, is this an overreaction or has our addiction to our phones got out of control?

You’ve heard the one about not sticking your chopsticks straight up in rice, right? (It resembles funerary incense sticks).

Honestly? Don’t fret. Because let’s face it; you’ve got bigger problems than antiquated cultural faux-pas. Like how to actually order and eat a table-full of delicious Chinese food in a regular, everyday, non-touristy Chinese restaurant – in China. Here, Thomas O’Malley gives us a step-by-step guide.

1. Start early

First things first, aim to eat earlier than you might be used to. Many Chinese diners sit down for dinner at around 6pm, and it’s not uncommon for restaurants to be winding down by 9pm. But if you do miss last orders, it’s not the end of the world – chances are there’s a 24-hour McDonald’s around the corner.

2. Embrace a new ordering system

Typically in China, one person – the host – orders (and pays) for everyone, which is why usually only one menu will be given out by the server. And you can almost guarantee the menu will be beefier than a telephone directory, because restaurants in China pride themselves on the ability to make dozens, if not hundreds of dishes.

Restaurant staff expect to dawdle while you flick through the menu, choosing dishes as you go (and taking suggestions from your fellow diners). Of course, it’s up to you how you split the bill, but giving just one person ordering duties is more efficient than everyone taking a turn, especially as you’ll be sharing the food.

Chopsticks, China

Image via Pixabay/CC0

3. Know your place (in the menu)

In a typical jia chang cai (family-style) restaurant, menus start with the house specials (often the fancy banquet dishes like whole seafood, spicy hot pot or Peking duck depending on the region), followed by cold salad dishes, meaty mains, stir-fried vegetables, soups, and at the back, staples like noodles, rice, steamed bread, dumplings and desserts.

It all depends where in China you are eating, of course!

In Beijing and the north, expect hearty roast lamb and duck, starchy noodles and lots of garlic. Chillis and the mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorn rule in central Sichuan (try the hot pot), while southern Cantonese food like dim sum, seafood and roasted meats will already be somewhat familiar if you’ve dined in Chinese restaurants in the West. Not to mention the southeast Asian flavours of Yunnan, Guizhou rice noodles, Hunan dry-pot dishes…

Despite the mind-blowing diversity of regional cuisines across China, there are some common dishes that most restaurants will know how to cook. Try these tasty (and foreigner-friendly) standards: jidan chaofan (egg-fried rice), xihongshi chao jidan (stir-fried tomatoes and eggs), gongbao jiding (diced chicken with peanuts and dried chilis), and pai huanggua (a cold salad of cucumber and garlic).

Sichuan noodles, China

Sichuan noodles via Pixabay/CC0

4. Learn how much to order

A good rule of thumb is to order one dish per number of diners, plus soup and rice. (This is why dining in big groups is more fun – you can munch more and the cost per person is lower.) The concept of starters, mains and desserts doesn’t apply, so order everything at once.

For a table of six, plump for a couple of cold salad dishes, three to five hot ‘mains’, a vegetable, soup, and rice or noodles.

5. Master the art of balance

Part of the reason one person assumes ordering responsibilities is because a successful Chinese meal is the art of balance and harmony on the table: hot and cold, colour, nutrition, complimentary tastes and textures. That’s the theory, anyway. Or just get a fist-full of grilled lamb skewers and ice-cold beer and to hell with it.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, yin and yang refers to how different foods generate hot or cold energy in the body. Cucumber is yin, or cold, for example, while chili peppers are yang, or hot. A good Chinese meal should be a balance of yin and yang foods.

Make sense? Well this won’t: lobster is yang and crab is yin. Let’s call the whole thing off.

Spicy tofu, China

Spicy tofu via Pixabay/CC0

6. Get the basics down

Dishes are served in the middle of the table for diners to attack ‘family-style’; only rice is served individually. Just keep grazing away at those central dishes until you can graze no more.

At formal banquets you’ll have two sets of chopsticks – one to transfer food from the communal dishes to your bowl or plate, and one to eat with. But mostly you’ll just get one set. They are your friends. Treat them well. (And avoid those wasteful disposable ones.)

If a dish is too salty, eat a little of it over your plain rice to balance the seasoning. You’ll usually get dark vinegar and chilli oil on the table to add a sour or spicy note (often to noodle soups). Pro tip: the two link up to make a zingy dipping sauce for steamed or fried dumplings.

Dim sum, China

Image via Pixabay/CC0

7. Settle up with ease

When you’re ready to settle up, don’t be shy; it’s a fairly common practice to raise your voice to get the server’s attention. “Fuwu yuan” (waiter/waitress – or ‘xiaojie’ in the south) is heard every few minutes in ordinary restaurants.

And last of all, you might be pleased to know that, outside of hotels, tipping isn’t part of the culture at all.

Explore more of China with the Rough Guide to ChinaCompare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to buy travel insurance before you go.

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