Features // People

Tucking into a hangi feast
Tucking into a hangi feast

A suitably reverential silence descends, broken only by munching and appreciative murmurs from the assembled masses – the hangi has finally been served. Pronounced “hungi”, this traditional Maori meal, similar to the luau prepared by the Maori people’s Polynesian kin in Hawaii, is essentially a feast cooked in an earth oven for several hours. It can’t be found on…

Witnessing the power of the haka, New Zealand
Witnessing the power of the haka, New Zealand

Few spectacles can match the terrifying sight of the All Blacks performing a haka before a test match. You feel a chill down your spine fifty metres away in the stands so imagine how it must feel facing it as an opponent. The intimidating thigh-slapping, eye-bulging, tongue-poking chant traditionally used is the Te Rauparaha haka,…

Eight facts about British travellers
Eight facts about British travellers

We’re tweeting mad, blessed with a hint of thriftiness and we don’t trust our friends as much as strangers – this week’s World Travel Market Industry Report revealed the following interesting facts about UK travellers: 1. 39% of UK travellers will only consider short haul holidays next year With the UK’s aviation tax increasing again…

Take a dawn laughter yoga session in Mumbai, India
Take a dawn laughter yoga session in Mumbai, India

As dawn breaks in India’s largest and noisiest city, there’s a hubbub on Chowpatty beach that sounds altogether stranger than the car horns, bus engines and tinny radios that provide the usual rush-hour soundtrack. Standing in a circle on the pale yellow sands of the beach, a group of men and women are twirling their…

Puerta Cerradas: eating with locals in Buenos Aires
Puerta Cerradas: eating with locals in Buenos Aires

Think Argentina is all rump steak and raunchy – not to mention randy – gauchos? Then it’s time to discover the latest craze in buzzy Buenos Aires as puertas cerradas are revolutionising the city’s eating habits. “You get together in their living room and talk to all these people you’ve never met while the home owner is cooking…

Listening to Gnawa music in Essaouira, Morocco
Listening to Gnawa music in Essaouira, Morocco

It’s midnight in Essaouira, and a castanet-like rhythm is drifting over the ramparts on the steely Atlantic breeze. Tucked into a courtyard is a group of robed musicians playing bass drums, reed pipes and qaraqebs, metal chimes which are clacked together in the fingers. Their leader, the maalem, plucks a three-stringed gimbri lute. Singers in…

Hanging out in the Jemaa el Fna square, Morocco
Hanging out in the Jemaa el Fna square, Morocco

There’s nowhere on Earth like the Jemaa el Fna, the square at the heart of old Marrakesh. The focus of the evening promenade for locals, the Jemaa is a heady blend of alfresco food bazaar and street theatre: for as long as you’re in town, you’ll want to come back here again and again. Goings-on…

Visiting the Pueblos Mancomunados, Mexico
Visiting the Pueblos Mancomunados, Mexico

Pine forests, wild mushrooms and a sunrise above clouds: not what you might associate with Mexico, better known for beaches, colonial cities and Aztec ruins. The mountains of the Sierra Norte, two hours’ bus journey north of Oaxaca, are home to a cluster of villages, a semi-autonomous community known as “Pueblos Mancomunados” (meaning “united villages”),…

Floating through Xochimilco, Mexico
Floating through Xochimilco, Mexico

Spend a few days in the intoxicating, maddening centro histórico of Mexico City, and you’ll understand why thousands of Mexicans make the journey each Sunday to the “floating gardens” of Xochimilco, the country’s very own Venice. Built by the Aztecs to grow food, this network of meandering waterways and man-made islands, or chinampas, is an important gardening centre…

Jungle boogie in Sarawak, Malaysia
Jungle boogie in Sarawak, Malaysia

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…

Joining the party at an Iban longhouse, Malaysia
Joining the party at an Iban longhouse, Malaysia

It’s always polite to bring gifts to your hosts’ house, but when visiting a Sarawak longhouse make sure it’s something that’s easily shared, as longhouses are communal, and nearly everything gets divvied up into equal parts. This isn’t always an easy task: typically, longhouses are home to around 150 people and contain at least thirty family apartments, each one’s…

Spellbound in Laos
Spellbound in Laos

The pace of life is deliciously slow in Luang Prabang, but if you opt for a lie-in you’ll miss the perfect start to the day. As dawn breaks over this most languorous of Buddhist towns, saffron-robed monks emerge from their temple-monasteries to collect alms from their neighbours, the riverbanks begin to come alive and the…

Learn how silk is made in Laos
Learn how silk is made in Laos

Holding the tiny cocoon in your fingers, it’s hard to imagine it contains a fibre of silk that will be 800m long when finally unravelled. And when you consider 100,000 silk worms are being cultivated here at Vang Viang Organic Farm, you’re effectively surrounded by 80,000km of silk – enough to circle the earth twice.…

11 loos with great views
11 loos with great views

White, sometimes stained floor tiles and a plain, usually graffitied grey door: I think we can all agree, this is an accurate description of your average toilet – pretty boring, no? Have you ever been having a tinkle, twiddling your thumbs and thought to yourself: “You know what this toilet needs? A good view!” Well,…

Bedouin camping at Wadi Rum, Jordan
Bedouin camping at Wadi Rum, Jordan

This excerpt from Make The Most Of Your Time On Earth sees one intrepid Rough Guides writer experience a night to remember… My Bedouin guide settled forward over his ribaba, a simple traditional stringed instrument. As he drew the bow to and fro, the mournful, reedy music seemed to fill the cool night air, echoing…

Hanging out in Shinjuku
Hanging out in Shinjuku

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…

The World Outgames, Antwerp
The World Outgames, Antwerp

From synchronised swimming to same-sex dancing, the World Outgames is an Olympic-style competition with a difference – it’s one of two sporting competitions held by the world’s gay community. In August Antwerp played host to the third ever World Outgames, and Rough Guides writer Michael Turnbull went along to discover more about the city’s LGBT community. The…

Follow Jesus to Nazareth, Israel
Follow Jesus to Nazareth, Israel

Secreted away in the souk quarter behind the Basilica of the Annunciation, in a maze of streets too narrow for cars, lies the Fauzi Azar Inn – a 200-year-old mansion that has been converted into the most welcoming place to stay in Nazareth. Centred on an arched courtyard, its ten adjoining rooms are decked out…

Watching the hurling at Croke Park, Ireland
Watching the hurling at Croke Park, Ireland

The player leaps like a basketball star through a crowd of desperate opponents and flailing sticks. Barely visible to the naked eye, the arcing ball somehow lodges in his upstretched palm. Dropping to the ground, he shimmies his way out of trouble, the ball now delicately balanced on the flat end of his hurley, then…

Ten things to do in Tokyo for free
Ten things to do in Tokyo for free

With sublime sushi, soaring skyscrapers and vending machines that churn out everything from eggs to ice cream, Tokyo is the planet’s most mind-boggling metropolis. Wandering its neon-lit streets can easily eat up your time, and put serious pressure on your wallet. But as this round up of the free things to do in Tokyo shows,…

Dancing flamenco to the gypsy beats, Spain
Dancing flamenco to the gypsy beats, Spain

With Diego El Cigala cleaning up at the Grammys, Catalan gypsy-punks Ojos de Brujo scooping a BBC Radio 3 World Music Award and Enrique Morente jamming with Sonic Youth in Valencia, the socio-musico-cultural phenomenon that is Spanish flamenco has never been hotter. Like any improvisational art form (particularly jazz, with which it often shares a platform), it’s most effective…

20 Facts about Turkey you never knew
20 Facts about Turkey you never knew

You probably didn’t know Turkey’s real name, you might have been confused about which city is the capital, and you probably thought tulips came from the Netherlands. It turns out, you were probably wrong. There is a lot more to Turkey than meets the eye – between the beaches and bustling markets lies a wealth…

Meditating in the Himalayas, Nepal
Meditating in the Himalayas, Nepal

People have looked to the mountains for spiritual consolation for millennia. “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills,” say the Psalms, “from whence cometh my help.” For Nepalis, the link is especially powerful. The Himalayas are where the Hindu gods go to meditate and replenish their tapas, or spiritual “heat”, and the Buddhist…

An Arranged Marriage in Tajikistan – via MMS
An Arranged Marriage in Tajikistan – via MMS

Driving through the city of Panj, Tajikistan, Rough Guides writer Kiki Deere meets an ex-Soviet-soldier-turned-teacher who has discovered a new way of arranging a long-distance marriage. Our heavy-footed driver swerved to avoid a series of large rocks that had crumbled from the mountainside above. A muddy crimson river swept through the valley below: the Panj,…

Hunting for bargains in Budapest, Hungary
Hunting for bargains in Budapest, Hungary

One result of Eastern Europe’s economic transformation is that shopping is no longer a voyage into the unknown. Familiar international brands fill the malls, and local crafts lie hidden behind shelves of mass-produced souvenirs. Luckily, a parallel culture of flea markets and craft fairs is still going strong, and if you happen to be in Budapest over the weekend…

Great Rivers of the World – The Mekong
Great Rivers of the World – The Mekong

Over 4000km long, the Mekong – derived from the Khmer “Mae” meaning “big”, “mother”, or “boss” – is the 12th longest river in the world, flowing from Tibet, through China, Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Navigation remains tricky along the Mekong as many rapids and waterfalls pose a risk to those who choose…

Classical drama at Epidavros theatre, Greece
Classical drama at Epidavros theatre, Greece

There’s no better place to experience classical drama than the ancient theatre at Epidavros, just outside the pretty harbour town of Nafplio in the Greek Peloponnese. Dating back to the fourth century BC, it seats 14,000 people and is known above all for its extraordinary acoustics – as guides regularly demonstrate, you can hear a…

Hot coals for Constantine, Greece
Hot coals for Constantine, Greece

In a handful of sleepy farming villages in northern Greece, the fire-walking ritual is an annual celebration of a thirteenth-century miracle, when locals rescued icons from a burning church – without being burned themselves. By nightfall, the towering bonfire in the main square has dwindled to glowing embers. Every light is put out and all…

Champagne tasting in Epernay, France
Champagne tasting in Epernay, France

Champagne is an exclusive drink, in all senses of the word, what with its upmarket associations and the fact that it can be made only from the grapes grown in the Champagne region of northern France. The centre of champagne production is Épernay, a town that’s made much of its association with the fizzy stuff, and where all…

Follow in the footsteps of kings at Bath Spa, England
Follow in the footsteps of kings at Bath Spa, England

For almost twenty years at the end of the last century, Britain’s most famous spa town had no thermal baths. The opening of the new Thermae Bath Spa in 2006, at the centre of this World Heritage City, was therefore a watershed in Bath’s history. Once the haunt of the Roman elite who founded the…

Meet the people of Cuba
Meet the people of Cuba

With his sticking-out ears and Groucho Marx moustache, Lucio Parada Camenate makes an unlikely revolutionary hero, but as the face of Fruit Passion, his mugshot appears on juice cartons across the world, wherever Fair Trade products are marketed – much to the evident amusement of his colleagues, who tease him mercilessly for being famoso. Lucio…

Land of the midnight son, Cuba
Land of the midnight son, Cuba

It’s a sweltering Saturday night in Santiago de Cuba, and the entire barrio seems to be packed into La Casa de las Tradiciones. A mist of rum, beer and sweat fills the air of the much-loved club, while dozens of pairs of feet pound the flexing plywood floors. The wail of a trumpet rides above…

Following the Oyster Trail in Galway, Ireland
Following the Oyster Trail in Galway, Ireland

A canny bit of marketing may lie behind the origins of the Galway International Oyster Festival, but Ireland’s longest-running and greatest gourmet extravaganza continues to celebrate the arrival of the new oyster season in the finest way possible: with a three-day furore of drinking, dancing and crustacean guzzling. Just after midday in Eyre Square, Galway’s…

Chasing cheese in Gloucester, England
Chasing cheese in Gloucester, England

Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling, an organized bout of cheese chasing down a grassy mound in Gloucestershire, is one of Britain’s best-known festivals, and possibly its most bizarre – a totem, somehow, of a country of eccentric and long-established events. It’s certainly in the best spirit of British amateurism: anyone can enter, and all they have to…

Things not to miss in India
Things not to miss in India

From the white, snowy tops of the Himalayas, to the greenery of Kerala and then the sands of Goa, India is a hugely diverse, intense but addictive country. It has deserts, rainforests, rural settlements and big cosmopolitan cities – some will love it, and a few will hate it, but with such variety there is…

Visiting the last panama hat wearers, Ecuador
Visiting the last panama hat wearers, Ecuador

Panama hats, as any Ecuadorian worth their salt will tell you, don’t come from Panama. Authentic Panamas – or sombreros de paja toquilla, as they call them locally – are only woven in the Andean country, from the straw of the toquilla plant, which grows in the swamps near Ecuador’s central coast. The origin of the misnomer comes from…

Canoeing down the Dordogne, France
Canoeing down the Dordogne, France

Have you ever fancied paddling in speckled sunlight past ancient châteaux and honey-hued villages, stopping off for a spot of gentle sightseeing and ending the day with a well-earned gastronomic extravaganza? If so, then canoeing down the Dordogne river in southwest France is just the ticket. For a 170km stretch from Argentat down to Mauzac…

The least friendly countries for tourists?
The least friendly countries for tourists?

Whether you’re on a weekend away or a month-long adventure, being made to feel unwelcome by rude or unpleasant locals can make or break a holiday. So, if you don’t want to be shunned by waitresses and dismissed by taxi drivers, then Pakistan and Russia are apparently not for you. Following an HSBC poll on the…

Living with the locals in rural Myanmar
Living with the locals in rural Myanmar

As tourists start flooding into Myanmar (Burma), Melanie Kramers dives into the deep countryside to live like a local and discovers a beguiling mix of past and present. Hand-rolled cheroot clamped between her teeth, the elderly woman stares hard at us and issues a guttural grunt. While it sounds like the kind of grumpy growl…

Try a Buenos Aires tango, Argentina
Try a Buenos Aires tango, Argentina

When it first emerged in the city’s brothels and slums sometime in the 1890s, the world’s sexiest ballroom dance, the tango, horrified the genteel residents of Buenos Aires. Some of the city’s more liberal-minded upper-class youths fell in love with tango, though, and brought it to Paris, where the dance’s characteristic haunting melodies, seductive gazes…

Great Rivers Of The World – The Nile
Great Rivers Of The World – The Nile

The Nile is often associated with bad puns and Egypt, but the world’s longest river actually stretches over ten countries and assumes a variety of identities along its 4,130 mile course. Taking in (deep breath) Sudan, South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and of course Egypt, it’s a magnificent stretch…

Ten things to do in Sydney for free
Ten things to do in Sydney for free

Thanks to the stratospheric rise of the aussie dollar, Sydney has now leapfrogged New York and London as one of the world’s most expensive cities. Almost every street seems to have a concept wine bar or Masterchef-style restaurant popping up and even scuzzy old Kings Cross has cleaned up its act. Yet while “Sydders” can…

Ten things to do in Hong Kong for free
Ten things to do in Hong Kong for free

Don’t be put off by the high-rise hotels and glitzy boutiques; Hong Kong can still be explored on the cheap. From wandering through sub-tropical forests to seeking out cultural shows in the dense urban jungle, you’ll find that some of the best things to do in Hong Kong are free. Visit the zoo Hong Kong’s…

Ten things to do in Dublin for free
Ten things to do in Dublin for free

Dublin is no longer the budget-sapping city it once was. These days, it’s possible to while away a weekend in its leafy parks, crumbling churches and relic-packed museums without spending much beyond food and accommodation – and, of course, the occasional pint of Guinness. Watch hurling An ancient sport resembling a pumped-up mishmash of hockey,…

Ten things to do in Copenhagen for free
Ten things to do in Copenhagen for free

Surrounded by sea, peppered with sleek and striking architecture, and populated by an attractive, laid-back bunch of Danes, Copenhagen tops the table for being Europe’s most relaxed city. But this enviable lifestyle comes at a cost – it’s also one of the most expensive cities you’ll ever come across.  With food and drink at eye-wateringly high…

Ten things to do in London for free
Ten things to do in London for free

Visiting London, it’s hard to imagine Britain is gripped in a double-dip downturn. Lamborghinis continue to roar down Bond Street, new restaurants pop up each week and the East End appears to be entirely populated by espresso-sipping hipsters, with not a jellied eel in sight. However long you spend in the capital, follow these tips…

On the road again – travel thoughts from Simon Reeve
On the road again – travel thoughts from Simon Reeve

Bestselling author, TV presenter and insatiable traveller, Simon Reeve has visited more than 110 countries in his time. Drawn to far-flung, mysterious and often troubled places, he is an expert at chronicling the lives of the people he encounters along the way. He is best known for the BBC series Tropic of Capricorn, Tropic of…

Looking for the true Timbuktu
Looking for the true Timbuktu

Timbuktu has long been a mythical and compelling place, a punchline for many who never knew it really existed, and its recent problems are just the latest in a long line of ups and downs for the Malian city. Richard Trillo recounts the place’s fascinating history and reflects on his own experiences there before asking…

Seven days in the warm heart of Africa
Seven days in the warm heart of Africa

Of all the sights, sounds and sensations stamped in my mind from my week in Malawi, one stands out above all others: Everlasting’s laugh. Our brilliantly-named driver was guide, companion and entertainer over several hours and countless bumpy miles around this sliver of sub-Saharan Africa, and his protracted guffaws were a law unto themselves. Oscillating…

Indulging in a Welsh tea feast in Patagonia
Indulging in a Welsh tea feast in Patagonia

By Shafik Meghji In 1865, 153 Welsh men, women and children boarded a tea-clipper, the Mimosa, in Liverpool and set out on an 8,000-mile journey to what they hoped would be their Promised Land. Fleeing cultural and religious persecution in the UK, the pioneers wanted to create a “little Wales beyond Wales” – a place…

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