value Tag

santiago, chile, free tour, city tour, south america
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Hitting the streets of Santiago

Santiago city tour, Chile A light spray of spittle erupts from Felipe's mouth. His eyes are animated, his hands moving wildly and his voice booming across the crowd. As he tells stories of Chile's fight for independence, his mood lifts with the jubilation of victory. When he discusses the difficulties of life under Pinochet, his tone softens in respect for those who went missing or were killed. And as he explains the recent student riots in the city, there's a muted anger in the way he talks. Felipe is an actor and today Santiago is his stage and we his audience. Every day Felipe guides a free tour of Santiago - sometimes two - in exchange for tips. It's a system that's been adopted in cities all across the world. The one in Sydney uses to stop at my old office and point in the windows at us. I'd been meaning to...

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27 February
hostel inn iguazu, argentina, best place to stay in iguazu, puerto iguazu
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Is this a hostel or a resort?

Hostel Inn, Puerto Iguazu, Argentina It said it was a hostel but the first thing you see when you arrive is the enormous pool. And not just any pool – there’s a volleyball net stretched across one part of it, there are deckchairs arranged around one side, and on the other side there are tables shielded from the sun by huge umbrellas. Where are the smelly backpackers fighting for some leftover pasta? Where is the smell of stale alcohol and cigarette butts still hanging in the air from last night’s party? What is this, a hostel or a resort? Every time I had mentioned that I was heading to Iguazu, fellow travellers had recommended staying at the Hostel Inn Iguazu on the Argentinian side. It had led to a rather repetitive but still vaguely humorous conversation: “Where should I stay?” “At the Hostel Inn Iguazu.” “Yeah, but which one?” “The Hostel Inn Iguazu!”...

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18 January
Best things to do in Austin Texas
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The best things to do in Austin

The best things to do in Austin, Texas Austin is a city with its own identity. It’s part-Texan but also part-funky. There’s plenty to do if you like music, the arts, sport or just relaxing. Make sure you give yourself enough time to chill out and enjoy the atmosphere of one of the coolest cities in the south of the USA. Here are a few of the best things to do in Austin. Music on Sixth Street Sixth Street is the heart of Austin. Dozens of bars feature live music with small-time musicians giving a taste of their style, fun cover bands that get the crowd dancing and big international acts that make an effort to put Austin on their touring schedule. You’ll pay a cover charge for the better-known bands but it’s generally free to walk into the other bars and check out a few songs from the up-and-comers. There’s always something...

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06 November
Boston-2011-97_web
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Things to do in Boston

After a quick visit to Massachusetts, I've put together a short list of things to do in Boston. The city is quite compact and tourist-friendly so it's possible to pack a lot into a day if you've got some commitment! One of the most enjoyable things is walking around and getting a feel of the city, which is a lot more European than some of the other US cities. Although, a word of warning, it can get bitterly cold! Freedom Trail This is the most popular tourist attraction in Boston and it’s a must for any traveller who wants to understand a bit about the city and its place in American history. The trail is a path through the city that takes walkers past important sites. You can do it yourself for free or you can do a guided tour. The best place to start is at Boston Common and follow the...

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12 October
new york, times square, pretzel vendor, where can i get a pretzel in new york
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The pretzel man’s the bread-winner

Surrounded by the throngs of pedestrians, the horn-tooting traffic and the flashing jumbo screens of Times Square, Chris quietly goes about his work. He’s claimed his territory on the corner of 43rd Street, marking it with the smell of pretzels as much as the trolley he sells them from. The streets of New York are filled with street food. On almost every corner you can buy nuts, kebabs, hot dogs and plenty more. Many of the vendors are young (and most are immigrants) but Chris is a bit of a pretzel veteran and has been at his trolley for more than a decade. We get chatting when I stop to buy a bottle of water from him. 20 years ago, he tells me, he moved from Greece to New York. “I also wanted to go to Canada or Australia but I got a visa for America first so I came here”, he...

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04 October
Best things to do in Beijing. Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, The Forbidden City, Lama Temple, Temple of Heaven, Snack Street, shopping, restaurants
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The best things to do in Beijing

What are the best things to do in Beijing? Beijing is one of the most exciting cities on the globe. It’s the capital of the world’s new superpower and, although it’s being heavily-influenced by its transition to a modern world city, it hasn’t let go of heritage or tradition. A great way to get a sense of the city is to walk through the streets and watch life take place around you. Having said that, it’s not a city where you can walk all day and see everything you should. It’s a big city and you’ll need to use transport and have a good idea of where you want to go to. Here are some suggestions for the best things to do in Beijing, that’ll help you plan any trip there. Tiananmen Square The outside world still associates this site with the pro-democracy protests and deaths of 1989 but for Beijingers it is the heart...

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27 September
Panjiayuan Market
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Market economy

Best shopping markets in Beijing, China Here’s a little fact for you: China’s economic system is called a ‘socialist market economy’. I’m sure the academics who study global finances know what that means and would love to bore you for hours explaining it. Sadly, I am neither an economics academic nor do I have the time or the inclination to bore you for hours. So instead I thought I would give you a look inside what we shall refer to as the ‘market economy’. And by using such a delicious little pun, I am referring to the markets that pop up at Panjiayuan in Beijing every weekend. Jade jewellery, bronze buddhas and marble Maos – it’s all for sale in these warrens of trinkets, antiques and art. There are apparently about 4,000 shops in the market, which has a dedicated area for Buddhist statues and a separate space for books. In the main market,...

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30 August
Khao San Road
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Khao San Road blues

Do you remember that scene early on in The Beach? You know, the one where Richard is in a dingy room of a backpacker hostel in Bangkok? (By ‘Richard’, I mean ‘Leonardo DiCaprio’, for those who are more familiar with the critically-panned but cultishly-adored movie than the amazing Alex Garland novel.) It’s a room that many travellers would dread to stay in – humid, dirty and somewhat claustrophobic in its heat and poverty. But there is also something toxically-appealing about it for the young adventurer because it represents the promise of a new world, a place without boundaries where the dinginess is seen as a portal to limitless depravity and uncontrollable perturbations. This is Khao San Road, the home of the backpacker hordes of South East Asia. For years it’s been the base camp for travellers making expeditions to outlying parts of Thailand or into neighbouring countries like Laos or Cambodia. But...

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22 August
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Value travel

  Australians always knew there were a few good reasons to travel overseas. Turns out there’s one more! For a moment, let’s put aside the surging Aussie dollars (thank you protectors of the Greek economy), cheap airfares and cultural adventures. Now we have a study of the cost of Australian hotels and they are, in my humble (for the sake for the sake of the argument) opinion, ridiculously expensive! The details are all outlined here on news.com.au And the international comparisons are here on the original press release at Expedia.com.au. Now, for some expert analysis, though. I tend to use beer as an indicator of an economy. It’s fraught with problems because of the various taxes that different countries have. But it is a bit of a constant in my life. Even now, I’m drinking several litres of Chang as I write this post at a restaurant in Thailand. Each of those 640mL bottle of Chang is...

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30 June