Monday, 28 January 2013

How do you get cheap flights?

Well this article is meant to give you the insight:

"But the short answer is 49 days before your departure for domestic flights, while the sweet spot for international flights is 81 days."

"The real trick to getting cheap fares is to travel during the so-called shoulder season. The industry ranks travel into three seasons, high, low and shoulder. High, of course, is when the kids are out of school and the weather is great, or summer, while low is during the depths of winter, when fewer people are traveling, with the exception of the holidays."

"Start early. Once you've got your plans in mind, even if you haven't decided if you can actually afford it, start tracking prices. That will give you a feel for the market conditions."

For the rest read here

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Finding gay Faro, Portugal

Eight of us headed for a two day trip to Faro, in the South of Portugal. A 2.5 hour flight and the airport just a 15 minute €12 taxi from the central city, we stayed in the Faro Best Western, which was £34 a room a night inc breakfast...there were even cheaper hotels and accommodation if you wanted to choose a guest house, I think as low as £22 - but this is low season - January.

On researching Faro, I had very low hopes over Gay Bars and Clubs in the city. Hunting them down through gay guides and google I had a small list, but on closer inspection they were all in towns scattered along the coast of the what next.

Well - it was time to open our trusty Grindr App. Hook up to the hotels free wifi service and ask the locals...and while there were very few locals in the nearby vicinity, that didn't give us much hope - within an hour we had a couple of options. So by 11.30pm we left the hotel and made our way to the first - Heaven, keep our fingers very much crossed.

Off a small road in an alley way a blazing sign with Heaven drew our attention...we clamboured towards the door and discovered a half empty room with music blaring and all attention on us...we were going to have fun.

By 1am the place was packed, with two performances from an excellent lip-synching drag queen, we danced until 4.30am knocking back vodka and shots. It was cheap...certainly a world away from London. The locals were welcoming and friendly, inquisitive with excellent English.

Sunday was empty, it was just the eight of consider the weekend only when you visit here. And ENJOY!

Friday, 25 January 2013

Faro - Portugal, flying south in Winter...en Francais

Il a fait froid. Hier, Il neigeait, nous avons eu seulement 5-8 cm mais cela a rendu la terre toute blanche. c’était très beau, les abres étaient couverts de blanc.
Je suis parti pour l'aéroport plus tôt parce que je ne savais pas si les trains seraient en retard à cause de la neige. Mais je suis arrivé à l'aéroport à temps, donc mon avion a été retardé de 4 heures. Nous avons attendu à la porte sans bières ce qui. ne nous a pas rendu heureux. Je voulais boire, non - nous avions besoin de boire.

J'étais avec mes amis, sept d’entre eux. Ils jouaient à des jeux sur leurs iPhones. Après nous avons attendu pendant 6 heure et nous avons changé l'avion une deuxième  fois pour aller à Faro.

Le deuxième jour
J'ai mal à la  tête, j'ai bu trop hier soir! J’aurais dû arrêté plus tôt mais le musique étais très bonne. J'ai dansé jusqu'à 05:00hr et maintenant je suis fatigué. Pour mon petit déjeuner, j'ai mangé un croissant du chocolat, croque monsieur et un café au lait. Nous avons parlé de la nuit avant.
Plus tard, pendant la journeée, nous avons pris une bateau pour visiter un petit où nous nous sommes assis sur le balcon et nous avons bu la première bière du jour.

Il n'y a pas beaucoup faire à Faro. Pendant l'hiver presque  toutes les magasin sont fermés spécialement les Dimanches. Partout c’était très calme, nous avons trouvé un bar qui avait une vue sur la mer. Dedans il y avait des gens qui ont dansé les danses traditionnelles du Portugal. Nous avons les regardé, et j'ai rencontré quelques autres touristes d'Angleterre, j'ai leur parlé pour quelque temps avant de partir pour l'hotel.

Il a plu beaucoup. Nous avons du courir au restaurant, nous n'avions pas de parapluie. Nous nous sommes fait mouillés. J'ai mangé un steak du boeuf avec des crevettes. J'ai fini la nuit plus tôt à 03:00hr

Le troisième jour
Je me suis levé tard. J'étais toujours fatigué mais j'avais faim. Un grand petit déjeuner et après nous avons visité la chapelle d'os. Elle est faite avec les os de 200 moines. Vous verrez que les os utilisés comme les briques sont les crânes. J'ai trouvé cela très intéressant donc un peu bizarre.

Je ne conseillerais pas une visite à Faro, je l’ai trouvé trop calme et pas intéressant. Il n'y a pas beaucoup de choses à faire en ville et il n'y a pas beaucoup de bars ou de magazins, mais c'est parfait visiter l'Algarve parce que c'est le seul aéroport dans le région. Il reçoit beaucoup de vols de pas cher.
Je voudrais retourner au Portugal, et la prochaine fois j’irai à  Lisbonne ou à Porto.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Vietnam - the water puppets

We don't ever sit back and take in life. It always has to be flashy screens, big sounds, huge entertainment. But this water puppet show thrilled me - it was a real feel for life in Vietnam and how the farming community used to entertain themselves. Now for tourists - this is worth it.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Jodie Foster - beauty in personal honest omissions

I love the beauty of this speech; the rhythm, the rhyme, the passion, the flow, the emotion, the honesty, the coming out, the family, the friends, the history and most of all - the future. Well done Jodie, and thank you for being an inspiration in life.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Returning to Vietnam - another step through HCMC

June in Saigon hits the body hard, following a 22 hour journey. On landing I was just not expecting the sheer heat and humidity at 8pm - it was like walking into a steam room. The muggy air climbs the Legs hitting every pore colliding with the emitting sweat - within minutes the clothes are damp to the touch.

The long exhausting trip hits home with the sweltering heat drawing the last remaining energy - sleep presumably easy becomes a battle against the warm night air.

By daylight the temperature rises - varying displays of the sun ramp the heat intensifying the climate and ruining fresh clean and dry clothes. I begin begging for cloud.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Martinique - one challenge worth considering

133km run across the island...achieved in just over 17hours...I am considering it as my next challenge

Friday, 11 January 2013

Analyzing the OTAs - hotels are the way forward

NEW YORK—Whether you’re in the camp that believes online travel agencies are single-handedly ruining the hotel industry or in the camp that looks to them for a majority of your demand, there’s one thing almost all hoteliers agree on: Third-party room distributors are here to stay.

However, while OTAs serve an important role in the industry, it’s no secret their relationship with hoteliers is not perfect, said Brian Mullan, a research analyst with Janney Capital Markets in New York.

Mullan covers five of the most influential travel players outside of the hotel brands themselves: Priceline, Expedia, TripAdvisor, Orbitz Worldwide and MakeMyTrip Limited. He studies moves made by the companies and assigns a rating to their stock price based on potential gains or losses related to performance.

Mullan recently spoke with to provide an update of where the top OTAs stand today and how their near-term strategies will directly affect the hotel industry.

Read more and see how the OTAs are performing here: Analyzing the OTAs

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Vietnam - Going Gay in Saigon

As I have mentioned before, Ho Chi Minh City, the great HCMC or Saigon (its original French name) is now a bustling cosmopolitan city that has adopted western ways and received investment from it's Asian neighbours, especially its Communist friend - China.

The Europeans educate in international schools, train educated Vietnamese in business, and develop a new economy for the nation. English, French, Spanish, Dutch, German, Americans, Australian, they are all serving in some capacity. Enjoying the great pay, cheap food, accommodation and excellent lifestyle of party and travel to discover Asia.

Therefore the city has had to adapt itself to being very Cosmopolitan, metropolitan, and embrace all things; although most Vietnamese just wouldn't openly argue or challenge anyone but quietly go about their own business mutely disagreeing.

So - yes - there is a gay nightlife. Though beware that it can be incredibly quiet on most nights, and if you have read my Vietnam - Hanoi gay nightlife story - the fact remains, the Vietnamese go out late, drink sheds loads of alcohol, then go home - they rarely dance or mingle! However these are the three places to check out:

Central Bar - by the Opera House.
It's busy on Friday / Saturday night, after about 11pm/midnight. They serve cocktails and beers, the cocktails are excellent in there and after three of them you'll be having a fantastic time. DJs on most of the week, and there are a few transgender people here. Gay male crowd who are rather mixed.

Apocolypse - just a couple of roads behind
This is a bar and dance club and the dancing area is where are the gays hang out - so it is very much mixed, and very western. There's nightlife all week and the cocktails are not too bad. Tends to be international pop music.

Windows - 
A popular gay hangout, there are two of these coffee shops in HCMC, one of them is near the Reunificaiton Palace. Large outdoor patio area serving fantastic frozen vietnamese coffee and cakes.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Vietnam - the Chu Chi Tunnels

Hot and humid the cycle seemed to last an eternity by this point I was in robotic mode - my feet just circled without a second thought.

Drenched in sweat we arried at the Chu Chi Tunnels. Originally set in a thriving rainforest the Americans shed all life from here with the use of chemical weapons - in particular Agent Orange. Without knowing this I thought I was in just another bland forest.

The architectural triumph of Chu Chi is immense - such a clever concept of 254 miles of tunnel beneath the surface offering protection, security and homes to thousands of displaced Vietnamese during the war. Traps, smole escapes, exits by water - hidden doors; 3 - 4 levels of depth, water, everything needed that helped them win the war.

These are very clever people who used their resources at hand coupled with medieval trapping techniques to outsmart the technology lead American army.

Today, little more than 100 miles of tunnels survive, with small sections further hollowed out for tourists to discover. We explored over 60 metres of tunnel to get an idea of waht it was like for the vietnamese. HOT, Sweaty, sticky, dirty, dark, tunnels with flying rats, in cramp conditions - it was amazing to see how anyone can live like this for a day - away from sunlight, let alone for years on end.

The resilient population continue to show their strength and how they work in numbers.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Go-ahead for bishops in civil partnerships welcome first step

The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement has welcomed the news that the Church of England will allow clergy in civil partnerships to become bishops provided they are celibate, and hopes for further progress towards full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people in the life of the church.
The Revd Sharon Ferguson, Chief Executive of LGCM said, 'LGBT clergy and laypersons already make a major contribution to the Church of England, but have faced discrimination even if they make considerable sacrifices to abide by church policy on sexuality. This has undermined the church's credibility in sharing the good news of God's love for all. Removing the ban on bishops in civil partnerships is a positive measure but we must now see it come to fruition.'
However, it is now recognised by numerous church members that loving and committed relationships should be valued and celebrated, whether or not the partners are celibate. Many theologians have made the case for a more just and compassionate approach in which truthfulness is not punished. It is time to move towards removing all obstacles and treating LGBT and heterosexual people equally.

For more details from the BBC website:

Friday, 4 January 2013

Vietnam - making it to the BIG smoke, HCMC, Saigon

First impressions: Ho Chi Minh City is noisy and busy. More cards, more bikes, more people, more highrise buildings, more billboards, more takeaway (KFC, BK, Subway), more international food...I am in a cosmopolitan city!

Women in hotpants and sleeveless tops, a world away from the conservative dress of the East and North. Building are being torn down. Shopping brands dominate billboards, and exclusive labels drap the malls.

Significatnly less street vendors line the streets and women balancing bowls are few and far between. this is a different Vietnam.

I realise at this moment the magic of grubby Hanoi. I yearn to relive that experience, draw the aromas of the streets, fear at the road cooked food.

I was relaxed, very much in holiday mode - taking in the streets, the people in my stride.

I was stopped by Kim, a Vietnamese kindergarten teacher, she pulled me aside for coffee to discuss her niece moving to London. I would never do this, but I went with the flow.

Visited Reunification Palace - ugly, irreverent to architectural design. The interiors were bland and faceless, the furniture unfortunate - it was a playboys mansion. It was the sign that Vietnam had won the war.

At this point I come near to the end of reading Michael Palin's New Europe, I look around and his resonate.... "We are the fun generation, Not interested in history"

It makes me think as I look around at HCMC having witnessed the traditions of the North, is this the way the rest of the country will go. Abandoning all? Will the past be lost?

The closest you can get to the past in HCMC is the War Museum. It seems as the war ruined all other historical features, so this is a good place to start. 15,000 VND for entry, you start at the top and work your way down through the halls (unfortunately I did it backwards). It's a difficult experience, and one to dwell on. Start in the dull history section; cry over the horrific physical disability imposed on people by Agent Orange; observe the destruction, hope that the children of the future will make the difference.

I left there shocked at a one-sided story of the war - but certainly a war supported by most of the world. Countryside was devastated, people's life's were ruined, livelihoods destroyed.

Vietnam - Tailored clothes

If you love shopping then Vietnam will be a great eye-opener in the way to find real deals, real fabrics made by real people. Throughout the country you will discover factories, markets, stores and tailors all vying for your attention. The one most famous, and best place to create a new wardrobe, is Hoi An.

The beautiful streets of the historic Portuguese port of Hoi An are lined with independent stores, within the side streets are busy seamstresses producing shoes, dresses, suits, shirts and anything else that maybe of interest. Dip into the soft furnishings stores for blankets, silksheets, pillow covers, cushions and t-shirts, or wander around handcrafed items made from wood, bronze or steel. The options are endless.

For me, I wanted a new suit, shoes and shirt - I wanted to be the best thing to walk into a boardroom, strut around a tradeshow, or to simply have something gorgeous hanging in my wardrobe.

My purchases:
- Cashmere wool 3-piece suit with silk lining
- 2 cotton shirts
- 2 leather shoes
- 2 silk ties
 TOTAL COST: $590 = £355

The same suit in the UK will cost me a minimum of £800. I've already saved money on the flight to Vietnam :-)