The popularity of offbeat travel is on the rise. Whilst most people will share some of their must-visit countries with thousands of others, there will be plenty of places that offer an authentic experience that appeals to them, but not always the masses. That’s great news for you.

If you want to get off the beaten track and get involved with local life, you’ll be rewarded with an experience unlike a typical tourist. That’s how some of the best travel memories are made, when we throw ourselves into the unknown rather than sticking to the same places. To get such an opportunity, try visiting these four countries:

1.   Mongolia

  East Asia

If you like adventurous travel, then Mongolia is for you. It’s a huge country, full of pristine landscapes, and home to nomadic people whose lives have barely changed in the modern day. Their survival depends on the wide-open spaces, untouched wilderness and fresh water supplies – all of the things that make Mongolia such an amazing place.

Mongolia, one of the last remaining countries for a truly authentic offbeat experience
Nadaam in Mongolia   //   bernd_thaller

Head to Mongolia’s best-known national park, Terelj. Here, The Secret Traveller says, you’ll be able to spend a night in a traditional yurt, watch demonstrations of archery and horse riding, and hike through some of the most spectacular scenery the world has to offer. What better way to experience local life? It’s no beach holiday, but that’s exactly why it’s great. You can get actively involved.

2.   Poland

  Northern Europe

Europe has a lot to offer keen travellers, but we love Poland because of its friendly population of hospitable people that are welcoming and genuine. The country boasts UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the popular Krakow’s Old Town, amazing food, an abundance of castles, and a musical heritage they’re proud of to this day.

Wieliczka Salt Mine, a unique UNESCO World Heritage Site in Poland
Wieliczka Salt Mine, a truly unique UNESCO World Heritage Site

You can easily find concerts for jazz to medieval to opera music – particularly impressive in the warmer months when they’re held outdoors in parks and squares.

According to Go East Europe, one of the best things about Poland is how each city in Poland has a distinct feel and social culture. From Warsaw’s urban pulse to Krakow’s historic pride, to Wroclaw’s whimsy, to Gdansk’s stately maritime heritage, each city has its own appeal. You’ll probably want to head to more than one.

3.   Brazil

  South America

Unless you live under a rock, you’ll know Brazil throws the best party in the world – the Rio de Janeiro Carnival. Full of colour and energy, it’s best described as an explosion of culture – but you’ve got to experience it for yourself. Whether you’re looking for a party experience or some relaxation, Brazilis a great place to visit. In this list of 100 reasons to visit Brazil (yes – 100), they point out it’s in the culture to greet everyone as if they were great friends.

Mongolia, one of the last remaining countries for a truly authentic offbeat experience
Rio De Janeiro   //   photographingtravis

So find a spot on one of the over 2,000 beaches along Brazil’s shoreline, and relax with great company, as well as a cocktail and some amazing fresh seafood. You could even watch the sea turtle hatching season in the village of Praia do Forte between October and March each year – such an experience is a once-in-a-lifetime sight, so don’t miss out.

4.   The UK

  Northern Europe

The UK’s capital city, London, might be the most popular spot for tourists – but it’s not the best place to go for an authentic experience. We promise you not everyone in the UK is as grumpy as those in London, who are constantly in a rush to get somewhere else. Nor is everywhere in the UK full of the same tacky souvenirs you’ll find on Oxford Street.

Mongolia, one of the last remaining countries for a truly authentic offbeat experience
Brighton   //   ben124

Stay out of the busy commuters’ way by heading into the countryside. Here, the UK really excels and people tend to be much friendlier. Amongst the suggestions for an authentic English experience is a trip to the Pantomime at Christmas time, a hike along the South Downs way, a visit to Brighton for some fish and chips or just heading to a traditional pub for a pint.

  What countries have you recently visited?   Share your suggestions for an authentic, offbeat travel experience.

Published in Travel Tips

Tokyo Clubs Far Surpass All Forms Of American Nightlife

Wow. That's all I can say. You cannot even begin to imagine what the clubs are like in Tokyo. They are absolutely incredible, like nothing we have over here in the west! It figures that as much as the residents of Tokyo love to drink, they should have some damn cool places to do it.

Clubbing in Tokyo, Japan

For starters, the biggest difference is the sheer size of the clubs there. Every single one is designed to span several floors, usually with different themes and different styles of music for each. Rather than have one DJ per floor there were usually multiple, sometimes as many as six or seven DJs will constantly rotate out while all sorts of lasers flare and animation is projected onto the walls, plenty of fog machines working at full blast, countless girls dancing up on various stages...but that really does not even begin to describe the scene or do it the least bit of justice.

Let's do this instead: Picture the best rave you have ever been to here in the States or even in Europe, you know back years ago when they were GOOD. Next take everything from it, the lights, sound, fog, lasers, music, the essence, every single last thing except for the plethora of designer drugs. Now drop that mass of madness into the middle of a skyscraper in the heart of Shibuya, let's say spanning across the third thru sixth floors, and well then my friend you have yourself a bonafide Tokyo club.

Most of these clubs are located either a couple floors below-ground or a couple floors above-ground, occupying a few of the lower-level floors of a commercial high-rise. All the floors will be linked by a bank of elevators but also a set or two of stairs. There is just so much going on and because often each floor is distinctly different in both decoration and music, the best way to experience it all is to keep moving around and mingle your way through one floor before heading on to the next. And repeat.

Clubbing in Tokyo, Japan

These amazing clubs do come with a price, however. The minimum cover charge you'll ever see is ¥2000 (roughly $25 USD; i.e. crappy show) and although most are between ¥3000-4000 ($35-48 USD), I did occasionally see some shows advertised with covers of ¥4500-5000 ($55-60 USD). Its not all bad though. Most of these clubs hand you a token after paying your cover, which you can then redeem at the bar for one free drink. That way you won't feel so bad about just spending $90 to get you and your girlfriend in LOL. ;)

The tokens themselves are fairly simple, usually nothing more than pieces of plastic or coins with the club name or logo on it. I brought back several of these with me actually...now if I could figure out what I did with them...

  One important tip though, at least for all you alcoholics: Through "painstaking" personal research I found out that if you display your free drink token up front, often the bartender will pour you a weaker drink, whereas not revealing it until your drink is fully mixed ensures a perfect pour. You're welcome!

Here is a handy feature and something which I am shocked is not more common elsewhere around the world, especially in regions with temperatures that vary significantly throughout the year. Every decent club in Tokyo that I explored is equipped with an enormous bank of small rental lockers immediately past the security checkpoint. Simple and traditional gym lockers, they are only big enough for a purse, a jacket or two, and maybe a set of shoes -- perfect for when the missus wants to wait till the last minute to slap on her heels or ditch them before the long drunken walk home. The cost is only ¥100 but offers a full refund if you make it back out in less than three hours. (Plus since you left early and didn't close down the club that night, you've saved even more LOL)

Not only does that make things more convenient in the winter by not having crowds in think bulky jackets trying to squeeze into an elevator pass through a thick crowd on the dance floor, but it also will help prevent anything from being stolen, misplaced, or even drunkenly left behind -- something that we have all been guilty of at one point or another. The solution is cheap, effective, helpful in multiple ways, and given how easy it is to install and implement, I am surprised that more places do not have a similar system in place.

The Sheer Level Of Service Provided At Some Of These Clubs Was Impressive!

Clubbing in Tokyo, Japan

They actually have numerous staff members who walk around occasionally looking for those super drunk girls, who are passing out while leaning against the walls or trying to lay down on the floor. The employees proceed to take them all out to the front entrance, where the entry staff is located. Out there is one guy whose sole duty is to take care of and watch out for the ladies that have had too much to drink and are completely FUBAR. He is proudly armed with roll of small black plastic bags, package of paper towels, even rubber bands to tie their hair up for them if they should happen to start heaving.

Can you ever imagine that back in the States?!? You would never see anything close to it! No one, regardless of their salary, would want to be the "throw-up guy" stuck taking care of the sick chicks all night, every night. It would just never happen. I believe that most Americans are too grossed out to help a stranger throw up in a small black plastic bag, let alone tie a knot in it for them and then toss it into the nearby throw-up can. Yes, that's right, there is a trash can for throw-up only.

But those guys at the clubs in Tokyo are all over it and I'll be damned if they don't always do it with a smile! Even if the boyfriend showed up to check on his lady, like I did one night when I noticed Mayu had been gone for too long, that proud little throw-up man would not let me help, insisting he had everything under control and to 'go back to the dance floor until I was ready to claim Mayu and leave.' It was fantastic! I pondered it for all of about half a second before saying thanks and making my way back past the lockers and towards the elevators. After all, might as well let Mayu rest and get through the worst of it downstairs while I reclaimed the buzz that I'd lost a few minutes before while hunting for her.

Now is that amazing or what? Have you ever seen or heard of service like that before? Where I come from, and everywhere I have been, its just unheard of to be that nice to strangers. But that is just one of the hundred reasons that Japan is my favorite country!

  Would you accept a job as the throw-up man? Share your thoughts below!

As I mentioned before the clubs don't open until 11pm or midnight so most do not start to get fully packed until 2am or 3am. But that last start frequently keeps the clubs open until 6 or 7am. As long as it is profitable, they won't close until the party is over. You can literally dance, drink, and party until the sun comes up. How fantastic! I would advise everyone who enjoys an active nightlife to check out the party scene in Tokyo for a week or a weekend -- but do it while still young so that you can actually hang!

Places To Visit In And Around Shibuya

The Clubs In Tokyo Will Make Your Jaw Drop

While exploring Shibuya I managed to find dozens of phenomenal clubs, cool little bars, amazing restaurants, and excellent places to shop. By day I got in my shopping and saw the cultural sights, but come nightfall I entered drinking mode. Every night I would hunt for a new club or bar to test it. I was not always successful, sometimes I would be lured in by previous haunts, but either way I got a lot of drinking done! A multitude of those venues are on the map below, for anyone who might be visiting Ebisu/Shibuya in the future.

While experiencing the nightlife of Tokyo be sure to also visit some of the big clubs in Shibuya, which are utterly amazing and very much worth investigating, despite their high cost. Club Atom is one of the clubs that I definitely recommend. We went there almost every weekend while Jared was in town visiting. It is located six stories up in this skyscraper, covers three independently-themed floors each with multiple bars, and is always packed full of cute local women! Club Harlem right next door is nice as well, but harder to get into on the weekends. The list goes on and on...

Nonbei Yokocho (Alley of the Drunkards)

And of course you cannot forget my favorite area Nonbei Yokocho, which translates as "Drunkard's Alley" or "Alley Of The Drunkards." I stumbled upon this place online and had to check it out for myself. Turns out that Nonbeiyokocho is just a few feet north of Shibuya Station. It is comprised of two parallel alleys that are home to around 50 miniature bars, usually only about 8 or 10 feet square with nothing more than four or five bar stools and a single bartender inside. Check out my photos from Non to get a better idea of just how small these bars really are.

There are a couple that are unfriendly to gaijin (durogatory term for a foreigner), but you will know those instantly as they will either not even serve you or hand you one beer but say that is all because "they are closing" or some similar excuse. If that should happen to you, no worries, just walk down to the next one and try again.

Nonbei Yokocho became like a second home to me while I was there. If I ever had a night where I was not sure what to do, I would start it at Non and before you know it the night would manifest itself. All of the best friends I made and best times I had originated from Nonbei Yokocho.

  For even more clubs check out the map below. Also marked cpl good restaurants and a universal ATM.


View Useful Places Around Shibuya in a larger map

Yep, the clubs over there are something else. Check out my article on the different locations around Tokyo for a better idea of just how much Tokyo varies from district to district. Below is a snippet from my old drunken ramblings on the original Shibuya Daze blog, provided for your amusement or, more likely, complete lack thereof:

...for any of y'all that have ever been to a rave, that is probably the closest thing I can compare it to -- but even that does not do justice to these kick-ass clubs. Let's try something: Imagine a rave, complete with a DJ, light-show, and fog machine, but now up the number of DJs to half-dozen and through in more lights and more fog machines. Take away all the people doing drugs and replace it with people getting drunk; Not too drunk though, most people here know when to stop. Now, still imagining, forget all the drama and arguments / fights that come up at raves and replace those with people all smiling, laughing, and telling stories. Now, still imagining, throw in a few huge bars offering great drinks at great prices, staffed with cute Asian ladies that refuse to take tips, and don't forget to add a couple more cute Asian women dancing up on the bar or stage. Then take this image that you have in your head, and put it on steroids, to really knock it up another few notches. That, my friends, is what all the clubs over here are like. It is unbelievable to say the least.

And, you know, while I was writing that I realized something else: in all the bars and clubs that Mayu and I have been to, we have not seen so much as one dispute or argument between people, not the slightest thing, whether it be between couples or just friends. Does not happen here. There is no drama whatsoever. Its the exact opposite of clubs back home, where there is always some drama or a fight about to break out, usually due to some drunken idiot. I am still amazed that with a city this size, and with that many people partying, that nothing happens. At least on the surface.

  Have you partied in Japan? Still thinking about a job as the throw-up guy? Apply below!

Published in Japan

Just south of where you are, in the middle of nowhere, somewhere, is an interesting 14 mile x 26 mile chunk of limestone over a million years old; floating regally in the Lesser Antilles and the minds of many a tourist who has visited there. It’s culture likened to that old, ever popular T.V. series Fantasy Island. Have you ever watched the flim (island term for film), “How Stella Got Her Groove Back”? Same concept.

This Windward, Caribbean Island is known as Barbados. B’dos or BIM to a local Bajan, though they can’t tell you exactly where the latter name originated. Here you will find the standard tropical beaches, fish markets, artisan markets and a secluded place tourist guides won’t direct you to, Crystal Waters. Steeped in rum, wrinkles and pretense, it’s a Seniors ‘Meat Market’ not to be missed by Social Scientists such as myself and those who just want to experience another level of life and living with no rules, boundaries or judgement before they transition to the afterlife.

Located a mere minutes from the ever popular party spot the St. Lawrence Gap, Crystal waters is THE place to go if you are of the elderly persuasion, retired, preferably widowed and on the prowl. No worries if you aren’t single. If your partner is open to a little, ‘get-what-ya-can-on-the-side’ you’re welcome to.

Kiteboarding and windsurfing in Barbados

A gap in the West Indies refers to a road or driveway one can turn on to. If you want to go to Crystal Waters, ”Turn left about six gaps passed the St. Lawrence Gap”. Hidden in the crotch at the end of the gap, tucked away on a beautiful beach where you can hand feed endangered hawksbill turtles and even hitch a ride to the sea floor if you can hang on (guide books won’t tell you this either), is a small, nondescript rum shack with an outdoor dance floor that erotically, explodes to life at 7:00 pm on Tuesday nights.

Every night is party night in B’dos, unlike weekends in Canada which are usually reserved for imbibing. Some Bajan nights are conducive to Liming (a Bajan term for relaxing) and others, set aside for hard-core partying. One particular Sunday night my friend ‘carried me’ (Bajan for the Canadian phrase ‘took me’) off the beaten path because another friend, an amazing local calypsonian, Mr. Impact (as tourists know him, Anderson Ward as I know him) was performing at a place called Crystal Waters.

In a mere fifteen gaps from my apartment my friend Sandrean exposed my emotions to a world where my ignorance about life and living had become as apparent as the effects of the Old Brigand Rum (four bucks Canadian a bottle) I was using as a crutch to survive this new environment. All of a sudden I didn’t know B’dos at all.

That's the Miami Beach in the distance. Miami Beach in Barbados, not Florida.

In my mid-forties, I was about to grow the hell up when it came to S and S! Seniors and sex, seniors and sexuality! Steupes! (a sound Bajan’s make by sucking air through their teeth when they are disgusted, shocked or surprised).

Imagine a setting on the clear waters of the Caribbean. You arrive promptly at 7:00 pm to indulge in the hour-long, two-for-one drink special; Canadians can’t pass up this marketing ploy. Mr. Impact is already on stage, his Calypso and sexy hip gyrations (whinin’ and wokin’ up) stirring a little somethin’ somethin’ inside your nether regions. Rum cascades down your throat quenching your thirst, your inhibitions float on the tropical breeze that licks and tickles your near naked, sweaty skin causing you to horripilate.

The music and atmosphere are wreaking havoc on your nerve system but you refrain from letting loose. After all, there are seniors about and you respect your elders. As the sun goes down (it gets dark early in BIM) and evening shrouds your identity, the Crystal Waters spirit envelopes your senses. Charmed, like a cobra to a flute player, by a way of life you’re not accustomed to, but one Bajan’s and longtime visitors to the island are.

A mutually symbiotic lifestyle based not only on sex and self-indulgence, but economy and means. As suddenly as two-for-one ends and with tsunami force, those seniors, seated around the place looking frail and heat exhausted knock you aside without remorse as they grind their way to the dance floor. Most of them half-naked too.

A mutually symbiotic lifestyle based not only on sex and self-indulgence, but economy and means. As suddenly as two-for-one ends and with tsunami force, those seniors, seated around the place looking frail and heat exhausted knock you aside without remorse as they grind their way to the dance floor. Most of them half-naked too.

Elderly women are skimpily clad in bikinis and a wrap or, some of the sexiest evening attire you have ever seen, elderly men in speedos or shorts. They rule this place. They know it and they show it. When I say elderly, I mean a demographic ranging from late sixties to eighties and beyond. There are of course those younger, but when the ritual begins and these guests begin to unwind, none of them seem a day over 16. Arthritis is a mere question mark at this moment. And the moves! Prepare yourself for some of the most sexy, erotically charged bumpin’ and grindin’ that would put most youth I know to shame. And speaking of younger people – who do you think the elderly are kissing and cuddling up to, rubbin’ and wokin’ up?

For three hours this ensues. Drinking, grinding of asses and all kinda things I needn’t mention. At 10:00 pm sharp, it comes to an abrupt halt. After all, these sixteen year olds are seniors. The energy they expend in that three hours is equal to eight hours hard, hard labor in the workforce.

Seniors being silly is what you see on the surface if you are participating in the merriment superficially, with a rum-blind, right eye (strangely enough, when I drink Old Brigand, only my right eye gets drunk with double vision.) But alas, there is more to Crystal Waters than meets the eye, if you omit the rum and take a good hard look...

Published in Barbados

My Initial Thoughts

When I first entered the country was this place is straight up the Latino Philippines. From the house shacks to the crazy ass driving (saw three guys straddled on roadster motor cycle from the 80s today) to eve some of the food. Also a bit more expensive then originally thought even at the sodas etc in certain cities. Except for the landscape my god the hills craters mountains it feels sometimes like im in Avatar (no I don't remember the planets name sorry the story line sucked) or dragon ball Z just crazy mind blowing land. Of course these are just initial thoughts things change.

BackPackers


Just chattin' with some fellow backpackers

So one of the best parts of hostels is socializing with people from around the world. A couple of things I noticed way more girls especially from Europe strange even stranger or disturbing they know more about US politics and real news then most of us do. Met a guy from Holland smart savvy know exactly what going on in US and Europe. Met a girl from Germany and was asking me about the Israel pm visiting congress, certain lobbyist groups in the US etc. Now I knew what she was talking about but seriously doubt many Americans know about that or really get it or research it. I was amazed at how smart and informed these people are and they have nothing invested in it!

Even a Tico girl new so much about the North America trade agreement and so on. Every American I met here is just like back home just want to party or buy stuff talk about trending things this and that. Which almost made me think fuck it maybe we deserve whatever Palin, the Koch Brothers or just being screwed by corporations. If we don't care why should we if others countries citizens spend more time thinking about the important things that really matter in America. Do we deserve the classic American lifestyle and is that one of the reasons the American dream is eroding before my eyes. Just glad I could meet regular people who are not activists or political junkies that still get it, gives me hope. also they still are making sure they are informed about their own country.


Climbing down over 1000 stairs to the waterfall...
definitely need to be in shape to hang in this country!

Now this is an experience not a sweeping accusation I know people care in the US. US Uncut just started perfect example but its not enough. My point in all this is their is something to be learned about actively caring whats going on in the world and always looking to make it better for ALL OF US.

FYI warning

One thing I have learned really quickly is if you see all these pictures and think Ive got to go. Make sure you are in good shape and by that I don't mean be skinny or an athlete. Typically most places your going to miles and miles everyday. Then after all the walking for food fun drink etc then the activities hikes, canopy tours, cave tours you name it all of it takes endurance. I have been so since the second day I got here and I don't see that changing at all. Don't get me wrong out of shape people can come here but you either going to take a taxi everywhere all day and not do half the activities. On the other hand you can spend a crap load of money and stay at an all inclusive resort and have the most unauthentic time possible.

Tico Party

So last night we went to this bar saw a awesome cover band playing everything from Pink Floyd to Muse which was fucking awesome. Then things really got good mosh pit broke out I ran up in of course as soon as I saw a little shove. After it got going good I noticed that these girls were getting like a 5 foot head start and running in taking out people then would go out again. Well one of these crazy little Ticas took me and someone else out. I remember going up in the air then of course right before my head and back hit the ground 6 people grabbed me and threw back in... Fuck Yeah.


Saw this badass band & partied with locals til sunrise!

Then we got invited to a Tica's house for a party. We were the only non locals there. I am not going to go down to dirty details and ill leave it to your imagination but trust it was fucking crazy until sun up. I could not trade those conversations that night for anything not a zipline or massage etc. There is something so beautiful about people coming together to passionately get to know each others and their culture. You can just feel the energy and then at the end you all say your goodbyes give your hugs then on the next one. Traveling can be truly bittersweet sometimes but such is the cost of living life to the fullest.

And I Even Got
Derek To Give His Input:

All-in-all, I was unimpressed with Costa Rica. I guess I just had seen all the scenery before and felt like a lamb being led to slaughter amongst all the tourists. That and the fact locals quadruples the prices to foreigners. Gets real old real fast. Oh and the local food is bland and unappealing -- except for the ceviche of course. That and fresh fruit and eggs were at the core of my diet the entire time we were there.

But if you have never seen a volcano or hiked the jungle, if you have never experienced hot springs or tried a zipline, well then I am sure you will have a grand time in Costa Rica doing the touristy thing.

Trippin' In Puntarenas

The last full day in Costa Rica Jared and I went balls to the well and double-dipped into the world of Timothy Leary hehehehe ;) It was a daytrip and we spent it wandering around downtown Puntarenas and then out to the beach. Eventually after eating and just as we were returning back to Perla de Pacifico a huge lightning storm came in that lasted for a good six or eight hours.


Derek chattin' with Michael, owner of Perla del Pacifico

As the storm was raging all around us, Jared and I joined Michael and his wife and two Nicaraguan workers on the newly completed back pavilion. From our covered spot we had a grand old barbeque of some meat we had purchased from the local market that morning while the storm raged all around us. It was fantastic!

I tell you though, I love immersing myself in a foreign language that I hardly know and trying to communicate with someone else. The past couple weeks so much Spanish had been coming back to me (I took three years in high school just hadn't used it since) but I tell you, trying to speak and understand a foreign language while tripping is a whole different ballgame! I pulled it off okay, but Jared definitely had a rough time. But then again he didn't take it in high school like I did.

This day and night made it for me, made he whole damn trip to Costa Rica worthwhile. And you know what? Shortly after returning home I realized I accidentally still had my front door key to the mansion. Guess that gives me an excuse to return to Puntarenas and see how Michael is doing somewhere down the road...

Published in Costa Rica

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