Experiences

Swim With Whales – Yes or No?

Posted on May 20, 2013 | Comments Off on Swim With Whales – Yes or No?

Scuba Diving produced For and Against stances on whether you should swim with whales – both sides are worth reading. Tell us your view.

http://www.scubadiving.com/article/news/should-you-swim-whales

Responsible whale and dolphin encounters take place on the water, not in it

By Regina A. Asmutis-Silvia 

Whale and dolphin-interaction programs, from touching and feeding, to swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving in the cetaceans’ environment — be it captive or wild — are increasing in range and popularity. An understandable love for whales and dolphins might encourage the public to want to get close to them. However, while understanding the reasons why the public is keen to engage in such activities, we have several serious concerns about these practices.

Swimming with wild whales and dolphins is, potentially, an exhilarating and unforgettable experience. Sadly, it’s very difficult to ensure that the encounter takes place on the whale’s terms and is not an intrusive or stressful experience for what are, after all, wild animals. While there are responsible and thoughtful operators, sadly it’s also true that in some locations, wild whales or dolphins are harassed and repeatedly disturbed by boats, which tend to drop swimmers, snorkelers and scuba divers in the water as close as possible to the animals. Research indicates that, in some areas heavily targeted by commercial swim tours and other human activities, dolphins are actually leaving their traditional habitat in favor of quieter areas. There is concern that disruption to feeding, resting, nursing and other behaviors can have a long-term impact on the health and wellbeing of individuals and populations.

Another consideration is the safety of both scuba divers and cetaceans. Whales and dolphins are large, powerful animals and if not treated with respect, they are capable of injuring people in the water — either accidentally or on purpose, if they feel threatened. Like all animals, cetaceans are protective of their young.

Cetaceans have also been injured by boat propellers and by thoughtless behavior from swimmers, including damage to dolphins’ sensitive skin caused by scratches from jewelry. Two-way disease transmission is also a possibility. Finally, in some areas, swim-tour operators offer cetaceans food, encouraging them to remain in the vicinity of swimmers. This practice might encourage “begging behavior,” causing the cetaceans to neglect their normal foraging activities.

The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society has funded research into the potential impact of swim tours upon wild whales and dolphins. Until we are satisfied this activity does not represent a risk to both swimmers and cetaceans, our policy is to recommend that the public opt for a solely boat-based trip — one that does not involve entering the water. We urge the industry to work toward a regulation system that ensures these concerns are no longer an issue.

Regina A. Asmutis-Silva is the Senior biologist and Vessel Strike Program lead for WDCS-NA (www.wdcs.org). Regina also serves on federally appointed Take Reduction teams reducing cetacean-entanglement risks.

Whales actively seek out interaction with divers and snorkelers

By Mike Ball 

Mike Ball Dive Expeditions has been swimming and diving with minke whales for more than two decades, and has worked with scientific teams to study whether the interactions are adversely affecting the whales. This will be our 16th year working with the James Cook University Minke Whale Project research team, headed by Dr. Alistair Birtles.

It was recognized very early on that the minke whale encounters were not an occasional happening but a regular occurrence. Minke whales will follow us to and from dive sites, or appear from nowhere when the vessel has been at anchor overnight. The whales will swim with our snorkelers and divers, sometimes from a distance, but usually making very close repetitive passes. Research conducted by the JCU team shows that minke whales voluntarily seek out this interaction.

The Minke Whale Project team studied not only the behavior and biology of the minke, but equally the sustainable management of a “Swim With Minke” program. Best-practice guidelines and briefings have evolved around the findings of the research studies and input from the nine permitted operators in Queensland. Ultimately, after a comprehensive 15-year study, no reason has been found for us to discontinue this activity.

What’s more, our encounters are carefully conducted. Participants hold onto a line trailed from the stern of the vessel and are given a thorough briefing beforehand with simple but nonnegotiable rules, such as 1.) no letting go of the line; 2.) no duck diving; 3.) no swimming toward the whales; and 4.) no flash photography. These rules might sound restrictive, but by simply abiding by them, our snorkelers have better, safer encounters. The whales very quickly establish their comfort zone, which allows them to approach on their own terms. Some of the whales come to within a few feet of snorkelers, presenting their bellies and even spy hop. While appearing more reserved, the whales will still approach scuba divers. (Divers are not permitted to enter the water within 100 feet of a whale.)

The same individuals return year after year, some with calves in tow, and seem as curious about us as we are of them. For this particular species of whale, and after 20 years of interaction, there is no question in my mind that this program has proved to be sustainable.

Mike Ball is the owner of Mike ball Dive Expeditions (mikeball.com). For 40 years, Mike has been an innovator of diving services on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and the Coral Sea.

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Unknown wonders: Christmas Island

Posted on May 20, 2013 | Comments Off on Unknown wonders: Christmas Island

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Christmas Island is a shelter for cultural and environmental diversity. Flickr/Hadi Zaher

Australia is famous for its natural beauty: the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru, Kakadu, the Kimberley. But what about the places almost no one goes? We asked ecologists, biologists and wildlife researchers to nominate five of Australia’s unknown wonders.

Christmas Island is a dot in the Indian Ocean. Like any isolated island, it is peculiar. But here this peculiarity is especially pronounced. It has a strange history, an odd culture and a remarkably distinctive biodiversity. Unfortunately, it is now best known to Australians simply as an entry point for refugees. Remoteness has that effect, of distorting truth and value.

Christmas Island is small (about 135km2) and little-populated (about 2,000 permanent residents). It has been settled only since the 1880s; for much of the period since then it was administered by the Straits Settlement (Singapore), with inclusion as an Australian territory only since 1958. Phosphate mining was the reason for its settlement, and has persisted as the main (sometimes only) industry ever since, leading to loss of about 25% of the Island’s rainforest area.

 

Christmas Island: a dot in the Indian Ocean, but important nonetheless. Photo by John Woinarski

 

Reflecting that history, its ethnic make-up is now mainly Chinese and Malay (arising from workers imported as “coolies”). The small community is remarkably vibrant and tolerant: there can’t be any other place in Australia with two public holidays per year celebrating Christian holy days, two for Muslim holy days and two for Chinese festivals.

The call to prayer rings out over the community from the small mosque; everyone is welcome at the Chinese festivals.

Christmas Island is old. It is a volcanic seamount island, rugged and isolated, rising more than 4km from the deep sea floor, with the nearest land being Java, about 360km distant. Over the long period of its isolation, these features have crafted a unique environment. It is characterised by high levels of endemism for many groups and idiosyncratic ecological structuring.

Most of its reptiles, native mammals, and terrestrial birds occur (or occurred) nowhere else; and nearly 200 invertebrate species are considered endemic. There are very few areas in Australia (indeed, in the world) that can match such narrow endemism.

 

Very few regions in the world can match Christmas Island’s narrow endemism, including the Christmas Island Frigatebird.ChrisSurman/Christmas Island Tourism Association archives

 

It is also a haven for seabirds, recognised internationally for such significance. It is the only breeding site for the threatened Abbott’s Booby and Christmas Island Frigatebird, and for the exquisitely beautiful golden-coloured subspecies of White-tailed Tropicbird (which graces the Island’s flag). These seabirds and others soar and float above the settlement, and nest in and around it. Fringing the Island is a rich coral reef, and its clear warm waters are home to more than 600 fish species, with regular visits by Whale Sharks.

These values would readily meet World Heritage criteria. But, except among some twitchers, keen to visit to build their Australian bird lists, these attributes are little known to most Australians. Instead, Christmas Island’s nature is known, if at all, mainly by reference to its land crabs. In staggering abundance, diversity and ecological potency, these are indeed remarkable.

Christmas Island is a haven for many species, including the threatened Abbott’s Booby. Christmas Island Tourism Association archives

 

The endemic Red Crab is the most conspicuous, with a population of at least 40 million. It is the Island’s ecological lynchpin, engineering the forest structure and productivity. It is everywhere; but spectacularly so in its annual breeding migrationfrom forest to sea, when the forest floor, roads and gardens become moving masses of crab: one of the world’s great animal migrations.

 

Perhaps Christmas Island’s most conspicuous creature: the Red Crab. JustinGilligan/Christmas Island Tourism Association archives

 

There are many other land crab species present, but none more strangely charismatic and enigmatic than the Robber (or Coconut) Crab, the world’s largest terrestrial invertebrate. This species, growing up to four kilograms, was formerly abundant on many other islands, but has been greatly reduced or lost from most places, and Christmas Island now represents its major stronghold.

For the Robber Crab and other species, laws, large areas of retained native vegetation, limited human population, and a large national park (comprising 63% of the Island area) offer unusual levels of protection. But problems for Christmas Island’s biodiversity are more insidious and deep-rooted.

Christmas Island’s Coconut Crab is the largest terrestrial invertebrate in the world. Flickr/BlueBec

 

Reflecting the dominance of the phosphate mining industry over its settled area (and consequential disregard for its natural values), the Island has had little or no quarantine or biosecurity system. It has been the fate of most islands worldwide, with impacts often pronounced and fatal because of small island size (and consequently small and tenuous populations of endemic species). Once the isolation that has moulded the biota is breached, that biodiversity may be doomed.

Now, the Island supports nearly as many introduced as native species, and the introduced species include many of the world’s most pernicious invaders.

The most problematic is the Yellow Crazy Ant. Fuelled in part by resources provided by super-abundant invasive scale insects, it forms immense supercolonies within which all Red Crabs (and much other biodiversity) are destroyed.

Invasive Giant Centipedes, Giant African Landsnails, geckoes and Wolf Snakes compete with or consume native species.

 

Christmas Island’s native species, including the iconic Red Crab, are threatened by introduced pests. JustinGilligan/Christmas Island Tourism Association archives

 

Such loss in turn disrupts the narrowly-based ecological functionality, leading to “invasional meltdown” or ecological collapse. The most recent manifestation of this collapse, in 2009, was the extinction of the Christmas Island Pipistrelle (reducing the original complement of five endemic mammal species to just one species known to have persisted). Others will follow: the Christmas Island Forest Skink is known now from only one individual, eking out its solitary existence in a cage.

These problems are being addressed, by intensive and extensive baiting which temporarily reduces the number of crazy ants, by captive breeding for two endemic reptile species now almost lost from the wild, and by research that aims to find more enduring and effective methods for control of some of the pests and weeds. But the challenge is immense.

This is a most remarkable isolated world. In such a small place there is so much that is unique, inspiring and wonderful. It has existed little changed for millions of years; but its natural environment is now dissolving at a rapid rate. It will bring you much delight and sorrow.

Read the whole series here.

 

The stunningly beautiful Golden Bosun’s elegant form graces the Island’s flag. Until recent control efforts, its many nests in and around the settlement had been heavily predated by cats and rats. Tony Palliser/Christmas Island Tourism Association archives

 

 

Map of Christmas Island Google Maps
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10 things to know before visiting Morocco

Posted on May 20, 2013 | Comments Off on 10 things to know before visiting Morocco

Writers, rock stars and eccentrics flocked to Tangier's cafés in the first half of the 20th century. Cliffside Café Hafa, overlooking the Strait of Gibraltar, was a favorite hangout of Tangier's most famous expat, Beat writer Paul Bowles.

 Writers, rock stars and eccentrics flocked to Tangier’s cafés in the first half of the 20th century. Cliffside Café Hafa, overlooking the Strait of Gibraltar, was a favorite hangout of Tangier’s most famous expat, Beat writer Paul Bowles.
By Lara Brunt, for CNN
May 8, 2013 — Updated 0945 GMT (1745 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Cafés are where Moroccan men socialize, gathering to drink sweet mint tea
  • Cumin is used to flavor everything from tagines to mechoui
  • Train company ONCF operates one of the best train networks in Africa
  • Morocco’s souks teem with hagglers, hustlers, mule-drivers and motor scooters

(CNN) — Rainbows of color, spice-market smells, an urban orchestra of sounds: Morocco can be overwhelming at first.

Lying 13 kilometers, or 8 miles, from the coast of Spain, the North African country mixes Middle Eastern magic, Berber tradition and European flair.

Tourism has more than doubled since 2002, to nearly 10 million visitors in 2011. King Mohammed VI wants to increase the annual visitor numbers to 18 million by 2020.

The royal ruler’s strategy is underpinned by infrastructure development, making traveling around the country even easier.

Add to this a program of ongoing social, political and economic reforms, and Morocco is one of the most moderate and peaceful countries in the region.

Cafes dominate life in Tangier

Cafes are the key place to socialize, for Moroccan men at least. They gather to drink sweet mint tea and watch people as they go about their affairs.

The northern port city of Tangier has a history of literary bohemianism and illicit goings-on, thanks to its status as an International Zone from 1923 to 1956.

The Interzone years, and the heady decades that followed, saw writers, rock stars and eccentrics flock to the city’s 800-plus cafés.

Two must-visit spots: Cafe Hafa (Ave Hadi Mohammed Tazi), overlooking the Strait of Gibraltar, was a favorite hangout of Tangier’s most famous expat, Beat writer Paul Bowles.

Smoky and slightly edgy, Cafe Baba (1 rue Sidi-Hosni) is the coolest spot in the Kasbah. A photo of Keith Richards, kif-pipe in hand, still adorns the grimy walls.

Most mosques are off-limits to non-Muslims

Nearly 99% of the population is Muslim, and hearing the muezzin’s melodic call to prayer for the first time is a spine-tingling moment.

While very few Moroccan mosques are open to non-Muslims, one exception is the towering Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca (Blvd Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdallah; +212 522 22 25 63).

Located on a promontory over the Atlantic Ocean, the mosque was completed in 1993 and can hold 105,000 worshipers inside and out.

Tradition and technology sit side by side, with colorful zellij (mosaic tiles), intricate stucco and carved cedar complementing the retractable roof and heated flooring.

If you can’t make it to Casa, Marrakech’s 16th-century Ali ben Youssef madrassa-turned-museum (Pl Ben Youssef; +212 524 44 18 93) is open to all and also features impressive Islamic design.

Multilingual Moroccans will put you to shame

Arabic is the official language, but you\'ll also hear French, Spanish, Berber and various dialects.
Arabic is the official language, but you’ll also hear French, Spanish, Berber and various dialects.

Moroccans switch languages mid-sentence, reflecting the cultures — Berber, Arab, French and Spanish — that have crisscrossed the country.

Arabic is the official language, and you’ll hear the Moroccan dialect, Darija, spoken on the street.

French continues to be widely spoken in cities; foreigners are often addressed in this first. Spanish is still spoken in Tangier.

There are also three main dialects spoken by the country’s Berber majority: Tashelhit, Tamazight and Tarifit.

You’ll be able to get by with English in the main tourist hubs, although “La, shukran” (“No, thank you” in Arabic) is one phrase to master.

Don’t get stuck in Marrakech

Marrakech is justifiably popular, but there’s so much more.

Fez tops the list for its maze-like medina, fabulous foodie scene and annual Festival of World Sacred Music.

For a slice of the Sahara, there’s the desert town of Merzouga, near the impressive Erg Chebbi sand dunes, accessible via camel treks.

Active types can hike between Berber villages in the High Atlas or head to the blue-hued Andalusian town of Chefchaouen to explore the Rif Mountains.

Beach bums will love laid-back Essaouira and Sidi Ifni on the Atlantic coast, while surfers often head south to Taghazout.

For quiet contemplation, Morocco’s holiest town, Moulay Idriss, is hard to beat. Plus, you’ll have the nearby Roman ruins of Volubilis pretty much to yourself.

If you don’t like cumin, you may starve

Cumin is one of the main spices used in Moroccan cooking. This pungent powder is used to flavor everything from tagines to mechoui (slow-roasted lamb).

Cumin is used as a condiment on most Moroccan tables, along with salt and chili. It’s also a popular natural remedy for diarrhea.

“Cumin has anti-parasitical properties, so if you’ve got an upset tummy, a spoonful of cumin knocked back with water will help,” said food guide Gail Leonard with Plan-It Fez.

Trains are cheap, comfortable and reliable

First class train travel in Morocco is affordable and worth it. Just be prepared to share your food.
First class train travel in Morocco is affordable and worth it. Just be prepared to share your food.

Train company ONCF operates one of the best train networks in Africa, making it the easiest way to travel between cities.

It’s worth paying extra for first class, which comes with a reserved seat and A/C.

First class carriages have six-seat compartments or open-plan seating. Stock up on snacks, or buy them onboard, as it’s customary to share food.

When it comes to traveling to smaller towns and villages, buses and grand taxis, usually old Mercedes sedans that can seat six (at a squash), are best.

Couscous is served on Fridays

You’ll see it on every restaurant menu, but traditionally, couscous is served on Fridays, when families gather after prayers.

This is because the proper (not packet) stuff takes a long time to prepare.

Coarse semolina is hand-rolled into small granules to be steamed and fluffed three times. It’s pale in color, deliciously creamy and served with vegetables and/or meat or fish.

Bread is the staple carb and is served with every meal, except couscous.

It’s baked in communal wood-fired ovens, one of five amenities found in every neighborhood (the others being a hammam, or bathhouse; a drinking fountain; a mosque and a preschool).

Riad rooftops rock

The traditional Moroccan house (riad) is built around a central courtyard with windows facing inwards for privacy.

They’re decked out with elaborate zellij, stucco and painted cedar and are easily the most atmospheric places to stay.

While Moroccans tend to use their rooftops as clotheslines, a riad roof terrace is the place to be come sunset.

In Marrakech, Italian-designed Riad Joya (Derb El Hammam, Mouassine Quarter; +212 524 391 624; www.riadjoya.com) has prime views of the Koutoubia Mosque minaret, while five-star La Sultana (403 rue de la Kasbah; +212 524 388 008;www.ghotw.com/la-sultana) overlooks the Atlas Mountains.

Top picks in Fez are the bohemian Riad Idrissy (13 Derb Idrissi, Sieje, Sidi Ahmed Chaoui, +212 649 191 410; www.riadidrissy.com) and its suntrap terrace, while Dar Roumana (30 Derb el Amer, Zkak Roumane; +212 535 741 637; www.darroumana.com) has sweeping views of the world’s largest living medieval Islamic city.

When you hear balak!’ watch out

The narrow streets of Morocco\'s souks are filled with hagglers, hustlers, mule-drivers and motor scooters.
The narrow streets of Morocco’s souks are filled with hagglers, hustlers, mule-drivers and motor scooters.

Morocco’s souks are not for the faint-hearted. The narrow streets teem with hagglers, hustlers, mule-drivers and motor scooters.

Rule No. 1 is to step aside when you hear “Balak!” It means there’s a heavily laden handcart or mule bearing down on you.

You’ll inevitably get lost, as maps don’t usually include the warren of small alleys that make up the medina.

A guide can help you get your bearings and fend off touts, but be aware that anything you buy will have his commission built in to the price.

Alternatively, taking snaps of landmarks with your smartphone can help you find your way back to your accommodation.

It’s not weird to be bathed by a stranger

There are plenty of posh hotel hammams, but nothing beats a visit to a no-frills public bathhouse.

Spotting the entrance can be tricky, as most signs are written in Arabic. Look for a shop selling toiletries or a mosque, as these are usually nearby.

It’s advisable to stock up on black olive oil soap, ghassoul (clay used as hair conditioner), a kiis (exfoliating glove) and a mat to sit on. Visitors need to take their own towels, comb and flip-flops.

Women strip to their knickers (no bra), and men wear underpants. Then you’ll be steamed, scrubbed and pummeled until you’re squeaky clean.

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Orion Farewells Sarina Bratton

Posted on May 19, 2013 | Comments Off on Orion Farewells Sarina Bratton

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Fittingly, it was on an Orion voyage along Australia’s Kimberley Coast that the crew of Orion had a chance to say farewell to the founder and guiding light of Orion Expedition Cruises: Sarina Bratton. Orion was very much the creation of Sarina’s and its remarkable rate of returning passengers showed how well she developed the niche of Luxury Expedition Cruising in Australia. Now Orion is part of National Geographic/Lindblad and it remains uncertain how much of the Orion – and Bratton – legacy will carry over to the US-based operation.

Here are some photographs of Sarina on Orion for her farewell voyage.

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36 Hours in Las Vegas

Posted on May 18, 2013 | Comments Off on 36 Hours in Las Vegas

Isaac Brekken for The New York Times

Clockwise from top left: Yoga Among the Dolphins; Spa & Salon at Aria; Hyde Bellagio; and the Neon Museum. More Photos »

By ELAINE GLUSAC
Published: May 9, 2013

From a tourism perspective, Las Vegas is ever the chameleon. New restaurants, shows, clubs and hotels are constantly reinventing Sin City with the aim of getting repeaters back to the tables. Big construction projects continue, and there are currently two competing Ferris wheels under construction on the Strip. But lately, developments have eschewed kitschy copies of foreign landmarks like an Egyptian pyramid in favor of celebrating Las Vegas’s own swinging style, as indicated by two new downtown museums. Yes, traffic still snarls the Strip, but a new terminal at McCarran International Airport has eased congestion for fliers.

FRIDAY

3 p.m.
1. Buy or Browse

Las Vegas shops make up a parade of high-end global brands designed to tempt high rollers. The Crystals at the CityCenter mall (3720 Las Vegas Boulevard South; crystalsatcitycenter.com) fits the mode with swimsuits from Eres, clothing from Stella McCartney and accessories from Porsche Design. But the center, with sharp and soaring angles, designed by the architect Daniel Libeskind to resemble a quartz crystal, has an artistic side too. Pick up a free CityCenter Fine Art walking tour brochure from the concierges at Aria and Vdara, the two neighboring resorts, for a self-guided tour of the public art collection in and around the building, including a sculpture by Henry Moore; “Big Edge,” a stack of boats wired in a web, by the artist Nancy Rubins; and several ice pillars that slowly melt each day, only to be refrozen each night, from the designers of the Bellagio fountains.

6 p.m.
2. Prix Fixe Perch

Since Wolfgang Puck arrived in 1992, celebrity chefs have flocked to the Strip. But most local observers agree that the food scene didn’t really improve until the French guys arrived — the chefs Joël Robuchon and Guy Savoy, principally, who showed up in 2005 and 2006, respectively. Their namesake restaurants remain bastions of formality, but L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon (3799 Las Vegas Boulevard South; mgmgrand.com), the 33-seat à la carte restaurant next door to Joël Robuchon in the MGM Grand, offers a more affordable meal and relaxed setting. Reserve a seat at the black granite bar to watch the executive chef, Steve Benjamin, and his team prepare dishes like quail stuffed with foie gras ($47) or steak tartare with frites ($41).

9:30 p.m.
3. Circus Circuit

Move over, showgirls. Cirque du Soleil dominates the Strip show scene with seven shows up and running right now; its eighth will be the highly anticipated “Michael Jackson One,” opening in June at Mandalay Bay. The new “Zarkana” (3730 Las Vegas Boulevard South; cirquedusoleil.com) at the Aria Resort & Casino loosely follows a magical ringmaster visiting a haunted theater with trapeze artists, jump ropers and strongmen thrown in. The adults-only “Absinthe” at Caesars Palace (3570 Las Vegas Boulevard South; caesarspalace.com/shows/absinthe.html) offers circus arts under an outdoor big-top tent along with tightrope walkers, a chair-balancing act, some nudity and lots of risqué humor.

SATURDAY

8:30 a.m.
4. Downward Dolphin

Las Vegas is a multitasking kind of town. It’s only fitting, then, that while you practice yoga, you should be able to watch dolphins. That’s the combination offered in the hourlong Yoga Among the Dolphins ($50) at the Mirage Las Vegas (3400 Las Vegas Boulevard South; mirage.com). Students adopt yoga poses in a subterranean room with glass windows looking into the dolphin pools in Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat, housing several curious bottlenose dolphins who peer through the glass at you while you hold your Warrior I position. Class concludes with a free smoothie and, if you’re lucky, a chance to see the dolphins in training from the pool deck on your way out.

11 a.m.
5. All That Glows

Before the Strip’s Eiffel Tower replica and pseudo Manhattan skyline, Las Vegas marketed itself via neon signs. The Neon Museum downtown (770 Las Vegas Boulevard North; neonmuseum.org), which opened an expanded campus in October, celebrates the showy signage in a collection of more than 150 pieces, most still vibrant though not operational in their resting place in the outdoor “Neon Boneyard.” Enter the former motel-turned-museum-lobby, to sign up for a guided tour that departs every half-hour ($18). Casino castoffs include signs from the Golden Nugget, Binion’s and the defunct Stardust and Moulin Rouge; a bright yellow duck that once advertised a used car lot; and a “Free Aspirin & Tender Sympathies” sign used to market a gas station.

12:30 p.m.
6. Made Men

Another downtown newcomer, the year-old Mob Museum (300 East Stewart; themobmuseum.org), covers a more notorious aspect of Las Vegas history. Occupying a 1933 former federal courthouse and post office where one of the anti-Mafia Kefauver Committee hearings was held, the Mob Museum lays out the history of organized crime across America with interactive exhibits, including the chance to simulate firing your own tommy gun. Eventually it narrows its focus to Las Vegas, where a number of crime syndicates funneled their energies after legal crackdowns elsewhere. The tour through the three-story building thoughtfully offers the squeamish a chance to opt out of some of the more graphic galleries, featuring photos of mob hits, and winds up in a theater screening a documentary, narrated by the author Nicholas Pileggi, on Hollywood’s fascination with gangsters.

2 p.m.
7. Go Fish

When the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas opened in late 2010, it doubled down on dining, luring chefs better known regionally than nationally to open restaurants. The results have been delicious, but one particularly stands out as a mandatory lunch spot: Estiatorio Milos (3708 Las Vegas Boulevard South; milos.ca/restaurants/las-vegas). A spinoff of the Greek seafood-focused restaurants run by the chef Costas Spiliadis in Montreal, New York and other cities, Las Vegas’s Milos serves a three-course prix fixe lunch ($22.13) that manages to be relatively healthy in a town that equates fine dining with excess. In the sunny room overlooking the Strip, start with the grilled octopus (an extra $10), move on to the grilled whole bass with lemon and olive oil and finish up with the walnut cake. You’ll still be ambulatory for the next stop.

4 p.m.
8. Dip or Strip

Poolside clubs known as day clubs have become the afternoon indulgence du jour at hotels up and down the Strip, primarily patronized by the trim and toned under-30 set. At Aria Resort & Casino Las Vegas, you can party with the bikini-clad, water-gun-armed crowds at Liquid Pool Lounge (3730 Las Vegas Boulevard South; lightgroup.com/las-vegas/daylife; admission varies). Or seek serenity in the 81,000-square-foot Spa & Salon at Aria (3730 Las Vegas Boulevard South;arialasvegas), the largest and newest spa facility on the Strip with a whopping 62 treatment rooms. Spa-goers have access to the well-equipped fitness center as well as heated stone beds, a salt room designed to improve respiration, a steam room, a sauna and an outdoor pool (though it overlooks Liquid and can be anything but tranquil during club hours). Big spenders can splurge on spa suites that feature private whirlpools ($40 an hour, three-hour minimum, plus required spa services). Treatments range from traditional therapeutic massages (from $110 for 25 minutes) to the more exotic Thai poultice massage ($200 for 50 minutes).

8 p.m.
9. Omakase Hour

The chef Nobu Matsuhisa and partners recently opened their own hotel-within-a-hotel in a separate tower at Caesars Palace Hotel & Casino. Anchoring the Nobu Hotel just off the Caesars casino floor is the largest branch yet of Nobu restaurant (3570 Las Vegas Boulevard South; nobucaesarspalace.com/restaurants.html). Cushion-like fixtures that hang above the dining room like U.F.O.’s emit flattering light. Single-sex party packs tend to gather in circular banquettes, solos slide in at the sushi bar and couples dominate the tables in between. The vast menu encompasses tiradito (Peruvian raw fish salad) and ceviche, wagyu steaks and brick-oven-baked chicken, skewered meats and, of course, sushi. For easy ordering, go straight for the greatest-hits signature omakase menu ($125) featuring a succession of dishes from salads to dessert including the chef’s famous miso black cod.

10 p.m.
10. Club House

There are limitless places to party in Las Vegas, where one-upmanship drives an escalating cycle of openings. For drinks overlooking the dancing fountains at the Bellagio resort, the year-old Hyde (3600 South Las Vegas Boulevard South;hydebellagio.com), designed in sleek style, morphs from sunset cocktail calm to late-night bash, drawing the young and the beautiful. It’s got new competition from the just-opened Hakkasan Las Vegas Restaurant and Nightclub in the MGM Grand (3799 Las Vegas Boulevard South; hakkasanlv.com). The 80,000-square-foot hybrid sprawls over five levels. Three of them are devoted to nightclubbing, with spaces of varying moods, from an intimate lounge to an outdoor pavilion and a main dance floor overlaid by a weblike cage. A roster of well-known D.J.’s including Calvin Harris, D.J. Tiësto and Steve Aoki have signed on to perform multiple dates over the summer.

SUNDAY

10:30 a.m.
11. Muscle Bound

To the city that sells itself on wish fulfillment comes the latest in dream drives, the American Muscle Car Driving Experience. The company World Class Driving (4055 Dean Martin Drive; worldclassdriving.com/muscle/drive-muscle-cars-las-vegas) currently stables a series of classic car models including the Mustang Shelby GT500 and the Dodge Challenger SRT8 that are new issues of retro models and designed to appeal to your inner teenager. Traveling as a caravan, drivers can take them to the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area (State Road 159;redrockcanyonlv.org), 23 miles west of the Strip, for a 30- or 50-mile drive (from $299 a person). The posted speed limit is 50 m.p.h., but as the director of operations Darren Strahl said on a recent test drive, “We put the ‘what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’ rule in effect.”

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A version of this article appeared in print on May 12, 2013, on page TR9 of the New York edition with the headline: 36 Hours | Las Vegas.
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World’s top five lighthouse hotels

Posted on May 18, 2013 | Comments Off on World’s top five lighthouse hotels

Few buildings capture the public's imagination quite like lighthouses. But as an increasing number of these towers become automated, the live-in lighthouse keeper may soon be a thing of the past.

By Sheena McKenzieCNN
May 9, 2013 — Updated 1442 GMT (2242 HKT)
Few buildings capture the public’s imagination quite like lighthouses. But as an increasing number of these towers become automated, the live-in lighthouse keeper may soon be a thing of the past.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Lighthouses illuminate world’s most dramatic coastlines, capture imaginations
  • Rise of automated lighthouses could see an end to lightkeeper
  • Many lightkeeper cottages now converted into overnight stays

(CNN) — For centuries, lighthouses have illuminated the most treacherous coastlines in the world, offering a beacon of hope to sailors in the depths of darkness.

But as an increasing number of buildings become operated by automated lights, the live-in lighthouse keeper may soon be a thing of the past.

Many of these historic towers and adjacent cottages — often perched on dramatic and remote shores — are now being converted into unique overnight stays.

From the set of the 1980s TV show Fraggle Rock, to a 19th century guesthouse on the Hudson River, here are our top five lighthouse hotels.

Child’s play

If St Anthony’s Lighthouse in south west England looks familiar, then it means you were probably a fan of 1980s Muppet Show spinoff, Fraggle Rock.

The British version of the children’s TV program was set at the pretty lighthouse in Cornwall, home of the show’s Captain and his faithful dog Sprocket.

Today, guests can stay in the adjacent two-bedroomSally Port Cottage, featuring a sunlit observation room overlooking the swirling English Channel.

But be warned, the lighthouse is still fully operational, with an electronic fog signal kicking into action on really murky nights.

Dutch art deco

If you’re after some impressive panoramic views, then Harlingen Lighthouse, located just 70 miles northeast of Amsterdam, is not to be missed.

The light went out in 1998, and today guests can stay in the renovated art deco building located in the heart of the historic Harlingen Habor.

Read: Graffiti artists turn abandoned liner into psychedelic canvas

Walk up the spiral stairs to the top, and you’ll find the giant light has been replaced with a table-for-two, offering sweeping views of the small fishing town.

“For centuries, sailors’ eyes were fixed on this spot,” said Piet Beuker, Harlingen Lighthouse keeper from 1970 to 1998. “Now the roles have been wonderfully reversed — the beacon has become a lookout point.”

Hudson hideout

It’s hard to believe the secluded 19th century Saugerties Lighthouseis just two hours drive from bustling Manhattan.

The picturesque redbrick building sits on a spit of land around half-way up the Hudson River, surrounded by rolling hills and overlooking glassy water.

Built in 1869, the charming lighthouse became automated in 1954 and was largely left to decay until a campaign by local residents put it on the National Register of Historic places.

Now the roles have been wonderfully reversed — the beacon has become a lookout point
Piet Beuker, former Harlingen Lighthouse keeper

It was finally restored to its former glory in 1990, with guests able to stay in the innkeeper’s quarters, wander around the on-site museum, or stroll along the surrounding nature trails.

Down Under wonder

For many of the first European immigrants arriving in Australia in the 19th Century, the first glimpse of their new home would have been of the treacherous Cape Otway coast.

Read: The family of acrobats living aboard 12-meter yacht

After surviving the journey to the other side of the world, many ships were wrecked on the steep cliffs just outside Melbourne.

Overlooking the rumbling Southern Ocean, the Cape Otway Lightstation, built in 1848, is the oldest surviving lighthouse in the country.

Today, guests can stay in the nearby lightkeeper’s cottages. Located on the dramatic Great Ocean Road, the cottages are a 90-minute car journey to famous rock formations, the Twelve Apostles.

Island retreat

Nestled on a tiny land bank in San Francisco Bay, the East Brother Light Station is a bit like staying on your own personal island.

Guests can take a ten-minute boat ride from San Francisco to the historic lighthouse, which has been shining its light across the bay for more than 130 years.

The bed-and-breakfast guesthouse includes views over the glittering city skyline, Mount Tamalpais and the Marin coastline.

When not soaking up the ocean views, visitors can also enjoy fishing trips and wildlife walks.

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A bus tour of Pope Francis’ Buenos Aires

Posted on May 18, 2013 | Comments Off on A bus tour of Pope Francis’ Buenos Aires

New 'Pope' tour of Buenos Aires launched
Passengers on the first tour of Pope Francis associated sights Photo: Getty Images
Telegraph.co.uk

Friday 17 May 2013

The Papa Tour of Buenos Aires includes stops at the pontiff’s childhood home, the plaza where he played football, and the school he attended.

The three-hour bus tours are being offered by the country’s Tourism Ministry, and while it had anticipated taking fewer than 100 people each week, on just two tours, more than 5,000 have already signed up to take part. It has since adjusted its schedule to meet the demand.

The 43-seater bus made its first foray onto the streets of Buenos Aires yesterday. A total of 21 sites were visiting, many in the Flores neighbourhood, where the pontiff was born.

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“Jorge Mario Bergoglio [now Pope Francis] was born in Flores – on calle Membrillar (it’s house no 531, by the way, for the true pilgrims) – in 1936, when the area was favoured by the middle classes for its fresh breezes wafting in from the pampas.

“Like many residents he grew up supporting the local football team, San Lorenzo de Almagro (pictured below), whose nickname is The Saints. Their rivals, Independiente, are known as Los Diablos: The Devils. The stadium, El Nuevo Gasómetro, is just round the corner from the priest’s house.”

Another stop on the inaugural tour was the Metropolitan Cathedral, where he used to say mass as archbishop.

“There has been a church at this spot since Buenos Aires was founded in 1580,” said Chris Moss. “The current cathedral dates from the 18th century, though the façade is a harsh-looking 19th-century Neoclassical affair. The national “Liberator”, José de San Martîn, is buried there.”

The bus also called at St Joseph’s Basilica in Flores, where Jorge Bergoglio had a spiritual awakening that led him to the priesthood as a child.

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World’s 10 weirdest medical museums

Posted on May 18, 2013 | Comments Off on World’s 10 weirdest medical museums

An Amsterdam family's collection of medicine and anatomy includes so-called mermaid fetuses and preserved conjoined twins among its 10,000 or so items.

An Amsterdam family’s collection of medicine and anatomy includes so-called mermaid fetuses and preserved conjoined twins among its 10,000 or so items.

By Bryan Pirolli, for CNN

May 16, 2013 — Updated 0635 GMT (1435 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Medical museums around the world display grotesque curiosities related to niche medicine, pathology, anatomy and cultural trends
  • International Museum Day is May 18
  • Curios include two-headed dog, one-eyed creatures, preserved conjoined twins and brains infected with mad cow disease

(CNN) — With its vast array of freaky specimens that seem to belong in some haunted manor, Philadelphia’s 150-year-old Mutter Museum may be the gold standard in medical museums.

But it’s not alone.

Museums dedicated to niche medicine, pathology, anatomical curiosities and cultural trends keep visitors fascinated and appalled with their educational and grotesque displays.

Whether it’s an oversized parasite, a diseased organ preserved in formaldehyde or a historical look at the outrageous medical practices of yore, there’s bound to be an address to discover some sort of unnerving discovery even in less traveled destinations.

In honor of International Museum Day on May 18, here are the world’s weirdest medical museums.

Bart’s Pathology Museum, England

A university collection started in 1879, this exclusive medical oddity exhibit is part of the Queen Mary, University of London.

It’s open only for special soirees and events that fill up quickly. It’s even hosted a pop-up cake shop by Eat Your Heart Out bakers.

The nearly 5,000 specimens include various objects pulled from human bodies over the last 150 years — toothbrush in the esophagus, anyone?

Also on display: the dissected body parts of assassin John Belingham among other relics dating to the 1700s.

Bart’s Pathology Museum, Robin Brook Centre, West Smithfield, London; +44 20 7882 8766; open for select events at the moment

Berlin Museum of Medical History at the Charité, Germany

Just 1,800 specimens of the museum\'s original 23,000 survived World War II bombings.
Just 1,800 specimens of the museum’s original 23,000 survived World War II bombings.

Snippets of Germany’s medical history find a home in this restored 19th-century building that houses 1,800 of the 23,000 original specimens that survived World War II bombings.

The oldest artifacts include bladder stones from the 1700s. Other curios include a 60-pound megacolon from a patient who died in 1960, an 18th-century birthing chair and various tumors alongside forms of other disease.

The museum also traces the darker side of German medicine, including how the National Socialists used science to justify their horrific actions toward race purification.

Berlin Museum of Medical History at the Charité, Charitéplatz 1, Berlin; +49 30 450 536 156; Tuesday-Sunday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Saturday 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; €7 ($9)

Choowondang Korean Medical Museum, South Korea

Opened in 2008 in a thriving medical center dating from the 1800s, this museum details the history of Korean medicine.

Items including medical chests and documents are on display, giving insight into the development of Eastern medical practices.

The adjoining clinic launched just after the Korean War broke, which was when the Yoon family moved their practice south from North Korea.

A main feature of the building is the herbal-production lab with gleaming metal drums shining through the glass walls.

Choowondang Korean Medical Museum, 153-1, Nakwon-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea; +82 2 3672 2005; Monday-Wednesday, Friday 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m., Thursday 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.; ₩2,000 ($2)

Fragonard Museum, France

Horses, monkeys and human fetuses are on display.
Horses, monkeys and human fetuses are on display.

Originally an anatomy collection for veterinary students begun in the 1700s just outside Paris, the curiosities-filled Musée Fragonard opened to the public in 1902, closing in the 1990s for renovations that lasted until 2008.

Skeletons and anatomical displays fill the rooms, but the main event is in the cabinet of unsettling specimens.

The skinned bodies flayed by expert 18th-century anatomist Honoré Fragonard are some of the most renowned yet unsettling specimens in Europe.

Horses, monkeys and even human fetuses are on display, showing all of the gory innards that our skin (fortunately) covers.

Fragonard Museum, 7 avenue du Général de Gaulle, Maisons Alfort, France; +33 143967172; Tuesday-Wednesday 2 p.m.-6 p.m, Saturday-Sunday 1 p.m.-6 p.m.; €7 ($9)

Ibn Sina Academy of Medieval Medicine and Science, India

Named after a 10th-century Islamic philosopher and physician, this museum takes a glimpse into medicine across the Middle East and Asia.

Its modest but ancient collection includes artifacts from Greco-Arab doctors and medical manuscripts dating to the tenth century.

Unani drugs and some dusty-looking tools are on display alongside a large array of busts of then-famous scientists, few of whom will be familiar at all.

There are also handmade antiquated clay and mud molds showing the GI and respiratory systems.

Ibn Sina Academy of Medieval Medicine and Science, Tijara House, Dodhpur, Aligarh, India; +91 571 3290275; Monday-Saturday 9 a.m.-2 p.m., Sunday 4 p.m.-8 p.m.; free admission

Meguro Parasitological Museum, Japan

Skin-crawling, skin-burrowing creatures aplenty here.
Skin-crawling, skin-burrowing creatures aplenty here.

Celebrating its 60th birthday this year, the Meguro Museum started out when Dr. Saturo Kamegai began exhibiting parasites to raise public awareness after World War II.

His 72 specimens evolved into one of the most intriguing medical museums in the world, with two floors dedicated entirely to thousands of skin-crawling (and burrowing) parasites.

An impossibly long Diphyllobothrium nihonkaiense, or tapeworm, is on display.

Those who want to keep the experience alive can purchase a T-shirt with the creature printed on it, more or less where it would be living inside of you, feeding parasitically.

Meguro Parasitological Museum, 4-1-1 Shimomeguro, Meguro-ku, Meguro, Japan; +81 337161264; Tuesday-Sunday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; free admission;

Museum of Human Disease, Australia

This educational museum helps you to “know your enemy,” presenting more than 2,000 examples of human diseases past and present.

Among the samples are a 19th-century tuberculosis lung, an ovarian tumor featuring teeth and hair and brains infected with mad cow disease.

Largely geared toward students, welcoming nearly 10,000 a year, the museum is the only one of its kind in Australia open to the public.

Opened in 1960, the museum continues to update its collection.

Museum of Human Disease, Ground Floor Samuels Building, UNSW Sydney, New South Wales, Australia; +61 29385 1522; Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; AU$11 ($11)

Museum Vrolik, Netherlands

This medical and anatomy museum is just one of many trippy experiences in Amsterdam. The 10,000 oddball items from the Vrolik family’s collection dating to the 1700s include one-eyed creatures, preserved conjoined twins and so-called mermaid fetuses.

The 16th-century bladder stone the size of a human fist is especially painful to look at, but no more than the pathologically deformed bones or corset livers.

Museum Vrolik, Academic Medical Center, Meibergdreef, Amsterdam; +31 20 566 4927; Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; free admission

Paul Stradin’s History of Medicine Museum, Latvia

Two heads aren\'t always better than one.
Two heads aren’t always better than one.

Latvia doesn’t scream medical tourism, but this museum’s hodgepodge of items started by Latvia’s greatest surgeon and medical historian is worth a visit.

Dr. Paul Stradins started the collection in the 1920s. It includes, among other things, both a two-headed canine and the dog named Chernushka, who was launched into space aboard Sputnik 9, and survived.

The museum houses more than 203,000 items, with dioramas including a recreated medieval pharmacy and town that explores healing techniques of the Middle Ages.

Paul Stradin’s History of Medicine Museum, Antonijas iela 1, Rīga, Latvia; +37 167222665; Tuesday-Saturday 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Thursday 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; 1.50 lats ($3)

The Maude Abbott Medical Museum Osler Collection, Canada

A varied collection of about 150 organs dating to the late 19th century is the major draw at this Canadian academic museum. The only problem is that you can’t visit it — yet.

The museum is, for the moment, exclusively online, featuring detailed images and information for the collection, but McGill University is making room for a physical exhibition to showcase the extensive array of innards, skeletons, autopsy log books and pathological specimens.

Many of the organs come from across North America, but are primarily from local Montreal hospitals.

The Maude Abbott Medical Museum Osler Collection, Duff Medical Building, Room B4, 3775 University Street, Montréal, Quebec; collection only available online at the momen

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101 Best Restaurants in Asia 2013

Posted on May 18, 2013 | Comments Off on 101 Best Restaurants in Asia 2013

101 Best Restaurants Asia

TheDaily Meal celebrates the most exemplary epicurean endeavorsin Asia

Asia’s 101 Best Restaurants

First came The Daily Meal’s 101 Best Restaurants in America, then101 Best Hotel Restaurants Around the World and 101 Best Restaurants in Europe. Now, The Daily Meal continues its culinary tour of the world with its first-ever roster of the 101 Best Restaurants in Asia.

See 101 Best Restaurants in Asia 2013 Slideshow

It would have been easy to name 101 excellent restaurants in China alone, or in Japan, or Hong Kong, but we wanted to represent as wide a geographical area as possible, discovering lesser-known gems in other corners of Asia as well as recognizing the best establishments in more familiar places. Thus, our list includes restaurants in 11 countries — Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam — plus Hong Kong and Macau. China has the most entries, 28 in all.

We offer choices in 25 cities — not just capitals like Beijing, Seoul, Taipei, and Tokyo, but smaller municipalities, too, among them Danang (Vietnam), Unawatuna (Sri Lanka), and Bintan (Indonesia). We’ve included plenty of showplace dining rooms in grand hotels, but also places in unlikely locales, like two in Tokyo: Sushi Saito, a seven-seater in a parking garage, and Sukiyabashi Jiro, a celebrated 10-seat sushi bar down in the subway.

In choosing our 101 best, we called upon more than 50 experts who either live in Asia or spend time there frequently — restaurant critics, food and lifestyle writers, and bloggers with wide restaurant-going experience — supplemented by The Daily Meal’s well-traveled editorial staff, and asked them to help nominate a short list of 202 places, then evaluate the selection and vote for their favorites, country by country (meet The Daily Meal’s panelists).

We further asked our panelists to vote by region in four categories: Cuisine, Style/Décor/Service, Value, and Don’t Miss. From innovative menu options to plating and presentation to freshness, quality, and taste, panelists evaluated each restaurant’s cuisine and voted only for the restaurants which they believe to be extraordinary, whether showplaces for avant-garde culinary techniques or simple venues specializing in noodles or dumplings. They also rated the overall dining experience, from the restaurant’s interior design and dining room ambiance to the skill and efficiency of the service. In the Value category, panelists selected the restaurants that offer the best meals in each price category, defined as the price per person for a meal, food only: budget ($25 or less); moderate (between $25 and $100 — and yes, by Asian standards, that counts as moderate); and pricey but worth it for a splurge ($100 or more). Finally, we asked this question: What restaurant or restaurants should a visitor to each city in our survey absolutely not miss — which, that is, are essential to the culinary identity of each place?

Every restaurant, then, had the chance to be voted on up to four times in the survey. The percentage scores from each category were weighted. With 50 percent, the greatest weight was assigned to our “Cuisine” category. Our “Value” and “Style/Décor/Service” categories had equal weight with 19 percent each, and the remaining weight, or 12 percent, was assigned to “Don’t Miss.”

We considered restaurants offering the cuisines of their own regions, of course, but also those that serve the food from other parts of Asia (we found excellent Thai food at Baan Aarya in Indonesia, for instance, and excellent sushi at Sushi Oyama in Shanghai). And of course, we included a number of the great restaurants offering classic French, authentic Italian, imaginative East-West fusion, and other cuisines of the world. We did not discriminate according to location; no town, island, or enclave was off the table (see the entire 101 Best Restaurants in Asia list).

Slideshow: 101 Best Restaurants in Asia 2013 Slideshow

Four restaurants from The Daily Meal’s inaugural 101 Best Hotel Restaurants Around the World are also honored here, including three in Hong Kong — Felix at The Peninsula Hotel, Lung King Heenat the Four Seasons, and Man Wah at the Mandarin Oriental — along with Orient Express at the Taj Palace Hotel in New Delhi.

The dining options in Asia today are seemingly endless, from street carts to night markets to cosmopolitan cafés to the domains of European and American celebrity chefs. This has by no means always been true. Sushi bars, for instance, barely existed before the 1920s, and really became ubiquitous around Japan — and then around the rest of Asia and the world — only after refrigerated shipping became common in the last third of the 20th century, allowing fresh fish of sushi quality to be sold almost everywhere.

In most Asian countries, in fact, there isn’t a long tradition of restaurants in the modern Western sense — which, among other things, helps explain why there are so many European or fusion places on our list. Another factor, though, has been the rise of the so-called Four Asian Tigers — Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan — whose economies skyrocketed in the latter half of the 20th century, and the increasing Westernization (and accumulation of private wealth) in China, all of which helped create a customer base for restaurants offering sophisticated French or Italian dining. At the same time, provincial, often humble mom-and-pop places remain the norm in vast parts of Asia, and continue to provide some of the best food and most authentic flavors of their regions.

Arguably the most dramatically changed culinary landscape is that of China, which has the most restaurants on the list with 28, 21 of which are in Beijing. As the country opened up after 1989, chefs began to arrive from other countries, eager to serve the people in this vast new marketplace. The 2008 Beijing Olympic Games only stimulated culinary creativity, and soon a who’s who of culinary luminaries, like Daniel Boulud and Joël Robuchon, were setting up shop in Beijing, Shanghai, and beyond. Today, it is possible to find not only great Chinese food in the country but also first-rate sushi and Thai and Vietnamese food, as well as representations of French, Italian, Spanish, and other European cuisines that are as good as anything anywhere in the world.

Any list like this one is bound to stir disagreements among discerning diners; even our own staff was divided on which restaurants should make the final cut.

 

After checking out The Daily Meal’s 101 Best Restaurants in Asia, share your compliments and critiques in the comments section below — or on Twitter using the hashtag #bestrestaurants — and let us know what places you think should have been included, or should have been left out.

If you have dined at any of these restaurants, pin your favorite photos on The Daily Meal’s Eating & Dining Pinterest board.

Which restaurant made it to the top of the list? Its identity — and its signature dish — might just surprise you.

101 Best Restaurants in Asia 2013

101. Baan Aarya (Bintan, Indonesia)

100. Kitcho Arashiyama (Kyoto, Japan)

99. Karaiya (Beijing)

98. Jia 21 Hao (Beijing)

97. Agua (Hong Kong)

96. Bao Yuan (Beijing)

95. Mandarin (Ho Chi Minh City)

94. Sirocco (Bangkok, Thailand)

93. Long Beach Seafood Restaurant (Singapore)

92. Three Guizhou Men (Beijing)

91. Friends the Restaurant (Phnom Penh, Cambodia)

90. Hutong (Hong Kong)

89. Man Fu Lou (Beijing)

88. Petrus (Hong Kong)

87. My Humble House (Beijing)

86. Hiroshima (Taipei, Taiwan)

85. Jing’An Restaurant (Shanghai)

84. Ramen Santouka (Hokkaido, Japan)

83. Don Alfonso 1890 (Macau)

82. The Chairman (Hong Kong)

81. The Courtyard by Brian McKenna (Beijing)

80. Hajime (Osaka, Japan)

79. Garuda Padang Cuisine (Jakarta, Indonesia)

78. Camões (Macau)

77. Sushi Mizutani (Tokyo)

76. La Cocotte (Taipei, Taiwan)

75. Restaurant Guy Savoy (Singapore)

74. Seventy-two Beef Noodle Restaurant (Taipei, Taiwan)

73. Iggy’s (Singapore)

72. Hatsune (Beijing)

71. Hoi An (Ho Chi Minh City)

70. Osteria de Angie (Taipei, Taiwan)

69. Nihonryori Ryugin (Tokyo)

68. Felix (Hong Kong)

67. Transit (Beijing)

66. Bo.lan (Bangkok, Thailand)

65. Sawada (Tokyo)

64. Mozaic (Bali, Indonesia)

63. Nicholini’s (Hong Kong)

62. Ishikawa (Tokyo)

61. Goga (Shanghai)

60. Quintessence (Tokyo)

59. Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet (Shanghai)

58. La Maison 1888 (Danang, Vietnam)

57. The Drawing Room (Hong Kong)

56. Liqun Roast Duck (Beijing)

55. Orient Express (New Delhi, India)

54. Farmer’s Original Handmade Hamburger (Busan, South Korea)

53. Cépage (Hong Kong)

52. Sushi Oyama (Shanghai)

51. Yat Lok Restaurant (Hong Kong)

50. Nonzero (Taipei, Taiwan)

49. Noodle Loft (Beijing)

48. Koju (Tokyo)

47. Ojangdong Hamheong Nengmyeon (Seoul, South Korea)

46. CUT Singapore (Singapore)

45. Yung Kee (Hong Kong)

44. Alameda (Beijing)

43. Tu Hsiao Yueh (Taipei, Taiwan)

42. Sushi Saito (Tokyo)

41. Man Wah (Hong Kong)

40. Southern Barbarian (Beijing)

39. L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon (Hong Kong)

38. Jean Georges (Shanghai)

37. Soul Food Mahanakorn (Bangkok, Thailand)

36. Baekdu (Busan, South Korea)

35. Maxim’s (Hong Kong)

34. Amber (Hong Kong)

33. Kikunoi Honten (Kyoto, Japan)

32. Indigo (Mumbai, India)

31. Tim Ho Wan (Hong Kong)

30. The Byeokje Galbi (Seoul, South Korea)

29. Fat Sui Lao (Macau)

28. Quan An Ngon (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)

27. Flutes At The Fort (Singapore)

26. Mr & Mrs Bund (Shanghai)

25. Kingfisher (Unawatuna, Sri Lanka)

24. Bukhara (New Delhi, India)

23. Takazawa (Tokyo)

22. Endo Sushi (Osaka, Japan)

21. Lemongrass (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)

20. Le Musée (Sapporo, Japan)

19. Nahm (Bangkok, Thailand)

18. Caprice (Hong Kong)

17. Karavalli (Bangalore, India)

16. Bellagio (Beijing)

15. Sukiyabashi Jiro (Tokyo)

14. Da Dong (Beijing)

13. Susu (Beijing)

12. M on the Bund (Shanghai)

11. Restaurante Fernando (Macau)

10. 8 ½ Otto e Mezzo BOMBANA (Hong Kong)

9. Michel Bras TOYA Japon (Toyako, Japan)

8. Lung King Heen (Hong Kong)

7. Dali Courtyard (Beijing)

6. Varq (New Delhi, India)

5. Capital M (Beijing)

4. Temple Restaurant (Beijing)

3. Green T. House (Beijing)

2. Duck de Chine

1. Din Tai Fung (Taipei, Taiwan)

 

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Anyone for cricket? Bug Cuisine

Posted on May 18, 2013 | Comments Off on Anyone for cricket? Bug Cuisine

Crickets are some of the most commonly eaten insects in the world and are regarded as a solution for the malnutrition problem plaguing Laos. Fried crickets and grasshoppers are sold at markets like this one in Vientiane. According to consumer feedback in the U.N. report, farmed crickets are tastier than the ones picked in the wild.

A traveler’s guide to eating insects

By CNN Staff
May 17, 2013 — Updated 0517 GMT (1317 HKT)
Crickets are some of the most commonly eaten insects in the world and are regarded as a solution for the malnutrition problem plaguing Laos. Fried crickets and grasshoppers are sold at markets like this one in Vientiane. According to consumer feedback in the U.N. report, farmed crickets are tastier than the ones picked in the wild.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • U.N. report argues more of us should eat insects
  • In places like Bangkok, eating things such as bamboo worms are the norm
  • Beijing’s popular Donghuamen Night Market has quite the range

(CNN) — According to a recent U.N. report, insects could be a solution to some of the world’s food and health problems. They’re nutritious, eco-friendly and abundant. Many countries already consider them a staple part of their diets.

So if we’re all to start consuming locusts and scorpions, we can start in Southeast Asia for guidance.

They’re a common sight in Bangkok.

Come nightfall, at any given outdoor market or busy road there will usually be at least one vendor with a pushcart loaded up with insect snacks, making many tourists squirm and others lick their lips.

Maybe you’re in the mood for some fried crickets. Or perhaps it’s the pile of bamboo worms that has you salivating. These bug vendors serve up to a dozen varieties of insects, which are usually fried in vegetable oil then sprayed with soy sauce to add some zing.

To locals, and some expats, these foods are not out of the ordinary — they’re part of the many meals on offer. Though most tourists prefer to munch on bugs for the shock value and to try something different — check me out on Facebook/Instagram, how crazy am I? — locals enjoy them for the flavor.

“Customers often like to eat fried insects while drinking beer, as a healthy and exotic replacement for popcorn or peanuts,” one vendor says.

More on Thailand’s fried bugs: A guide to Thailand’s edible insects

Similar markets and food carts exist throughout Asia and other parts of the world.

Take some of the options at this Beijing night market — fried scorpions, centipedes and locusts.

Going back to that U.N. report, it says 2 billion people around the world consider insects a delicacy or even a dietary staple.

Insects are generally high in nutritional value and beat out both meat and fish in protein content and quality. They’re also rich in fiber and healthy micronutrients including copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium and zinc.

This makes insects the ideal food of the future, the U.N. says — not just for the above parts of the world but globally. They will help promote health, wealth and a better environment and go some way to addressing current and potential food shortages.

Not only does chomping on a bamboo worm win you likes on Facebook, it helps save the world. Extra ‘like.’

Read more about the U.N. report here, via eatocracy.

We’ve put together, in the above gallery, just a tiny entree-sized smorgasbord of some of the many insects eaten around the world.

For those in the United States or visiting, this great eatcracy piece lists several insect servers.

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