Jessica Marati is a freelance writer and consultant specializing in sustainability, social enterprise, ethical fashion, cultural exploration, and travel. As a writer, she has journeyed to nearly fifty countries and reported on subjects ranging from surf culture in Costa Rica to meditation in Thailand to fashion weeks in Paris and Milan. She currently makes her home in Manhattan’s Lower East Side and blogs regularly at http://toutlemon.de.
Just select the month, indicate your preferred average maximum temperature and hours of sunlight, and boom: the pink dots indicate where you should go. A search for destinations with temperatures between 16 and 40 degrees Celsius (60.8 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit) and six to 12 hours of sunlight in February yielded seven options: Seville, Spain; Las Palmas, Canary Islands; Rabat and Marrakech, Morocco; Gabes, Tunisia; and Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt. The application also allows you to post your map on Facebook and Twitter so your friends can weigh in.
By many measures, Hong Kong is one of the most expensive cities in the world.
But for every five-star hotel, luxury boutique and gourmet restaurant, there's a budget room, quaint flea market and cheap dimsum stand waiting in the wings. In fact, apart from high accommodation costs, Hong Kong is a great destination for budget travelers, with its cheap public transport, vibrant street food scene and plentiful sights and attractions. Even if you're low on cash, there is never a shortage of things to do. Here are seven of the best free (or nearly free) ways to experience Hong Kong on the cheap.
Take the Star Ferry across Victoria Harbour.
Some call it a commute; others call it a bargain way to cross one of the world's most scenic harbors. The Star Ferry has been shuttling people across Victoria Harbour for more than a century, with its most popular route connecting Central Terminal on Hong Kong Island to Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon. The view from either side is breathtaking.
Fares run between HK$2 (US$0.25) and HK$3.40 ($0.44), depending on what day you're traveling and whether you're sitting on the upper or lower deck.
As travelers, we often enter communities, take photographs and then leave, content with the moments we have captured on film.
But what happens when a photographer returns and shares his photographs with their subjects? That's what Flickr user Bernard-SD did after a recent trip to the Chang Le Village in Yunan Province, China. After snapping his images, he printed them to photographs using a Polaroid instant mobile printer, then distributed them to the people of Chang Le. On his Flickr feed, Bernard shares how one farmer couldn't stop smiling after seeing photos of himself and his grandchildren. The farmer was so moved that he invited Bernard to his house for a home-cooked lunch of homegrown mushrooms, squash and vegetables.
It's a touching story, and hopefully one that can inspire a greater connection with the people we photograph.
By now, most New Yorkers are over the thrill of winter's first snow and eager for a little sunshine.
But if a tropical vacation isn't in the cards right now, head down to The Rink at Rockefeller Center in midtown Manhattan on Wednesday, January 16, where the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau will be holding a free tropical ice skating party to celebrate its new "Hello Sunny" marketing campaign.
"Tropical ice skating" might seem like an oxymoron, but Fort Lauderdale will certainly try. Look forward to beach balls, breezy music, swimsuit-clad ice dancers and an on-site "Beach on Wheels," with models tossing out inflatable beach balls and distributing free sunglasses. There will also be free ice skating, including skate rental, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. – a great chance to save on the regular $30 cost of admission.
And in case all the palm trees and beach umbrellas fail to distract you from the fact that it's actually 35 degrees, a trip to Florida will also be raffled off.
Ever dream of flying in a glass bottom jet? That technology may not yet be available, but Delta Air Lines' new iPad app might just be the best simulation.
The Fly Delta app for iPad was released yesterday as part of Delta's new $140 million commitment to technology, which includes upgrades to its website, mobile apps and airport kiosks. The app includes new tools to ease the travel experience, from booking your flight to advance check-in to figuring out what's next on your itinerary.
But the app's most exciting feature is the "Glass Bottom Jet," which allows passengers connected to Delta's in-flight Wi-Fi service to view visuals of the ground below the aircraft, enhanced with maps, social networks and Internet content. Read about the history of Mount Rushmore as you fly through South Dakota, check out photos of the Grand Canyon over Nevada or reach out to friends as you pass their homes. For geography geeks, it's a pretty nifty way to pass time in flight.
An improved Fly Delta app for iPhone was also released yesterday, which includes iPhone 5 support and integration with Apple's Passbook feature. An improved Android app is scheduled to be released later this year.
In the hierarchy of Japanese sumo wrestling, the Makuuchi Division is the best of the best. Here, Makuuchi competitors participate in a traditional ring entering ceremony, where they perform a series of actions similar to the moves they use in competition. Flickr user Luke Robinson captured the climax of the ceremony in today's Photo of the Day, taken at a sumo wrestling tournament at the Fukuoka Kokusai Center in Fukuoka, Japan.
Each evening at the stroke of 8 p.m., Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour is illuminated with a cacophony of dancing lights and laser beams, accompanied by a blaring soundtrack of synthesized music. It's the Hong Kong Tourism Commission's Symphony of Lights, a wonderfully tacky celebration of the city's energy, spirit, diversity - and luminescence. The nightly spectacle includes more than 40 buildings on both sides of the harbour, earning it the Guinness Book of World Records title for "World's Largest Permanent Sound and Light Show."
Best part? The show is absolutely free.
The most popular spot to view the Symphony of Lights is on the elevated Tsim Sha Tsui promenade, in front of the Hong Kong Cultural Centre on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong. Get there early, or you'll be left jostling with tourists eager for the perfect camera phone shot. A different vantage point can be had from Golden Bauhinia Square on Hong Kong Island, from which you can catch the action happening on the Kowloon side of the harbour.
Leave it to Dubai to ring in 2013 right. The city's magnificent New Year's Eve fireworks display illuminated the world's tallest building, the iconic Burj Khalifa skyscraper, stretching more than 2,716 feet into the city sky. Sparks flew from the base all the way to the spire of the building as the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra performed in perfect synchronicity. It's a spectacle fit for ushering in a new year.
They're memorable travel experiences, sure. But they're also experiences that strike anxiety into the hearts of heights-fearing travelers, like myself.
So when faced with the prospect of a thrill-inducing funicular railway ride to the top of Hong Kong's famous Victoria Peak, I decided to take a pass. Though the Hong Kong Peak Tram hasn't suffered any fatal accidents in its 124 years of operation, I wasn't ready to take any chances if I didn't have to. Plus, the bus was cheaper.
"The Hong Kong Story," a permanent exhibition at the Hong Kong Museum of History, isn't your standard collection of artifacts. Chronicling more than 6,000 years of natural and cultural history, the massive exhibition occupies eight galleries across nearly 23,000 square feet, with more than 3,700 static and interactive exhibits. The endeavor took more than six years and HK$200 million (US$25.8 million) to complete. And with admission at just HK$10 (US$1.30) per person, it's a bargain way to brush up on your Hong Kong history, while beating the oppressive afternoon heat.