Wednesday, May 26, 2010

HostelBookers contest offers cool prizes

Staying in a hostel doesn't necessarily mean you're going to travel any more "like a local" than you would if you stayed in a posh hotel. But it does increase the chances of running into fellow budget travellers, who may be able to point you to restaurants, shops and attractions a little off the tourist trail. That's one reason I've long been a hostel fan.

And here's another reason to check out hostels: until June 9, British booking agency is running an easy contest on its website. All you need to do is answer one question (the answer is drop-dead easy to find on the site) and you could win a Travelex cash passport (like travellers' cheques, but plastic) loaded with £1,000 of travel mad money, a Panasonic Lumix TZ8 camera or a 32GB iPod Touch. Not bad for a free contest (you do give them your e-mail address, though).

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Ontario walk/run combines fitness and...chocolate? #wanderfood

Haven't you always thought that fitness races would be much more fun if they involved junk food?

Well, have I got an event for you.

The Chocolate Race in Port Dalhousie, Ontario--a cute village in the Niagara Region--attracted almost 600 participants in its inaugural year in 2009. This year's event includes 5K, 10K and half-marathon courses open to runners and walkers alike.

But unlike most similar events, which reward health-conscious participants with fruit and granola bars, this one includes a "sweet aid station" on the course, as well as chocolate goodies before and after the race--everything from chocolate-dipped strawberries to fudge.

The unusual combination of fitness and indulgence takes place this year on August 28 and 29. If you need some training inspiration, check out the event's chatty blog, written by a runner-in-training.

And the best part? It's a chance to get a little off the packed tourist trail centered on the famous cataract nearby. Sure, Port Dalhousie is a bit touristy, but it can't hold a candle to casino-and-wax-museum-packed Niagara Falls.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

McChickens = prestige in Pakistan

I'm a bit behind on listening to my podcasts of the always-fascinating CBC Radio One foreign-affairs show "Dispatches," so I just heard an intriguing report from late March about the class differences in fast food in Pakistan.

Western tourists (myself included) are often convinced that one way to get into the "authentic" culture of a place is to eat cheap fast food: noodles from tiny kiosks, fritters from roadside stands, that sort of thing.

But when "Dispatches" correspondent Natasha Fatah went to Karachi, she found out that the local elites wouldn't be caught dead eating a kabab from an open-air grill. So are they flocking to white-tablecloth French restaurants instead? Nope. They boost their prestige with a trip to McDonald's or KFC.

Check out the Dispatches website for the full report (search on "Are You a Burger or a Bun Kabab?" from the March 25/28 broadcast).