Cayo Coco — living the island life in Cuba

Another autumn, and the ads for sun destinations begin to appear in my inbox. And inevitably, a lot of the best travel deals are for trips to Cuba. There are a lot of different vacation spots in Cuba, but if you’re looking for a place to get away from it all, one of the best is Cayo Coco. Cayo Coco is one in a chain of long, skinny islands called the Jardines del Rey off Cuba’s north coast, and it’s Continue Reading ››

The most beautiful places on earth: here’s my list

We all have our own reasons for setting off to see the world, but there are few of us whose travel plans don’t include the occasional trip just to gaze upon the beauties of the planet we live on. The earth is a wonderful place, like a jewel with a thousand facets, and you can spend a lifetime seeing each one. Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and everyone has his or her own idea of Continue Reading ››

Should we travel to communist countries?

I’ve been to a lot of very different countries over the past 25 years. But for most of that time there was one place I avoided: communist countries. I’ve always disapproved of communist states, not so much for their ideology but for their human rights records. For the most part, they consider that the state has the right to do what it wants with its citizens, especially those who speak up against it. They also deny their citizens the basic freedoms Continue Reading ››

Another White Night in Toronto

Toronto is a city with lots of night life, but there’s one night a year when the night life goes viral. It’s called Nuit Blanche, or White Night, and it’s a night when cities around the world give over their streets and buildings to art installations that draw crowds from sundown to sunup the next day. Toronto participates in Nuit Blanche in a big way, and living downtown, I make a night of it each October, along with my friend Continue Reading ››

Getting paid not to fly: a traveller’s dream come true

If you fancy yourself a seasoned traveller, you take pride in using a few tricks of the trade — what’s known as “travel hacks”. And of all the travel hacks out there, one of the biggest and best is getting paid not to fly. This is a pretty common occurrence: an airline overbooks a flight, and when all the bookees unexpectedly show up, it offers perks to any passengers willing to give up their seats and take the next flight. Continue Reading ››

The day I ate scorpions in China

China has one of the world’s great cuisines. There’s hardly a Western country where “going out for some Chinese” isn’t a part of culinary life. Trouble is, what we know as Chinese food doesn’t even scratch the surface of what the Chinese really eat. Sure, most of the dishes eaten in Beijing do feature stir-fries, but when it comes to the featured ingredients, it’s a whole other ball game. In a week of eating at restaurants and browsing the food stalls Continue Reading ››

The bicycles of Beijing, and other traffic tales

Take more than 20 million people, crowd them into one city with places to go every day, and the result can be chaos. That’s pretty much fhe picture in Beijing — and somehow, despite itself, it all seems to work. The first thing you notice in Beijing is that the streets are full of bicycles. Not only regular bicycles but motorized bicycles, bicycle delivery carts, motor scooters, motorcyles and just about anything else that can travel on two wheels. You Continue Reading ››

The old man who stalks Beijing

Beijing is being stalked by an old man. He’s a happy-looking old fellow with a little beard, and you see him so often here you start to think he’s Beijing’s patron saint. Confucius? More like Colonel Sanders. It’s almost impossible to go more than a block or two in downtown Beijing without seeing the Colonel’s unmistakeable face staring out at you. He’s on the streets, he’s in the malls and office buildings, he’s even in the train station (seen above). Continue Reading ››

Beijing, city in the smog

Seventeen hours in the air, and my first picture of Beijing is a crazy quilt. Out the windows of the airport bus appear ragged fields and low grey workshops, then a jumble of futuristic high-rise buildings that look like the Lego creations of a child with a wild imagination. And as we approach the city, the grey sky looks even greyer, and the road ahead begins to look misty, as if there were a cloud settling in on us. The Continue Reading ››

The ins and outs of great travel deals

It’s September, and I’m off to Beijing to take advantage of the great travel deal I found recently (you can read about it here). So my next post may be from China. Or not — I’m still not certain how easy or hard it will be to post from the shadows of the Forbidden City. But with great travel deals still available for China, it might be a good time to offer some advice on how to proceed when you see Continue Reading ››