Toilet Restaurant in Taiwan

The Modern Toilet restaurant in the heart of Taipei’s Shilin district
The Modern Toilet restaurant in the heart of Taipei’s Shilin district

I never thought I’d be caught eating out of a toilet bowl, but there I was, scooping out chunks of brown stuff from a lime green loo. The loose watery goo looked remarkably like you-know-what, but I tried not to think about it. Instead, I chose to wash the slop down with yellow liquid served from a plastic bed pan.

This is a typical lunch at the Modern Toilet restaurant, a kitschy café in the heart of Taipei’s Shilin district.

It’s fair to say that the restaurant’s theme is crap. The décor is bathroom-like: blue tiles, toilet paper dispensers, mirrors along the wall and shower curtains hung from the ceilings. Guests sit on toilets (seats down boys) and eat over sink-style tables.

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In Chicago this weekend?

The Chicago Travel & Adventure Show, Mar 20-21, 2010
The Chicago Travel & Adventure Show, March 20-21, 2010

If you’re in the Windy City this weekend, check out the Chicago Tribune Travel & Adventure show! On Sunday, March 21 from 2:30pm – 3:30pm, I’ll be talking about my adventures around the world, through 80 countries across six continents.  I’ll share tips and tricks for maximizing your independent travel and boosting your cultural experiences while cutting the costs.

Here’s a brief description from the travel show’s official website:

“The world’s largest travel and adventure show – the Travel & Adventure Show – gathers hundreds of captivating destinations from exotic India to captivating Cayman and exciting, activities: a huge scuba pool, kayak demonstrations, an aerial zip line, a rope adventure course, cultural performers and much more. The Travel & Adventure Show is THE place to kick off the winter blahs and plan that ultimate vacation.”

In terms of presenters, I’m in good company – renowned travel writer Arthur Frommer; Captain Keith Colburn, fishing vessel Wizard from Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch and Zac Sunderland, the youngest to solo circumnavigate the world.

For more details and tickets, check out: http://www.adventureexpo.com/

Hope to see you there!

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Around The World with Julia Dimon: Check out the video!


Julia prepares to eat moriche worm, a delicacy in the remote jungles of Venezuela

I’ve been around the world four times, to over 80 countries, across six continents. Here are some of the video highlights: learning how to fight like a gladiator in Rome, overlooking the inspiring vista of Chile’s Atacama desert, spending a night of ‘torture’ in a Latvian prison, sucking back the Sour Toe Cocktail in Yukon and, of course, eating Moriche worm in the jungles of Venezuela. Check out my compilation video of my adventures around the world, and enjoy!

What are some of your own travel highlights? Leave me a comment below!

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Chaotic Khao San: Bangkok’s Infamous Backpacker Road

Khao San Road at Night, a frenzy of backpackers, booze and bright lights
Bangkok’s Khao San Road at night

Khao San Road is an affront to the senses.  For the fresh-off-the-plane traveler, a visit to this part of Bangkok, Thailand’s capital city, may have you wondering what the hell you got yourself into.

It’s a frenetic scene of neon signs, drunk backpackers and scantily-clad promo girls (who may or may not be transvestites), but Khao San is also the crux of the budget traveler scene, where hostels, tour operators and sarong shops converge.

It’s the ultimate backpacker hub for the budget South East Asian traveler. This strip is where you can book overland trips to Laos, find cheap flights to Vietnam or get your visa for Cambodia. Chances are good that, if you’re going through Bangkok, you’ll end up on Khao San Road.

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Spring Break Survival Guide: Top 5 Safety Tips

Spring Break-ers Living it Up
Spring Break-ers Living it Up

If you’re a college student preparing for a wild and crazy Jersey Shore-style Spring break vacation, here are a few travel survival tips to keep in mind before you go:

1) Watch your drinking.  Booze is usually the root of all trouble, clouding your ability to make smart choices, so take it easy.  You can still have a great time without getting black-out drunk.  They key is to pace yourself, don’t forget to eat or stay hydrated.  Extreme heat and alcohol are a dangerous mix that can lead to heatstroke, so keep a bottle of water (or my personal favorite, fierce grape Gatorade) on hand to combat the effects of dehydration and hangover-itis.

2) Stay away from drugs, especially in foreign countries.  Familiarize yourself with the local laws of the country you’re visiting to avoid trouble.  The local laws always prevail, so if you’re caught with drugs, you’re in big trouble baby.  Don’t think the US Embassy is going to bail you out.  Watch the National Geographic TV series Locked Up Abroad to re-live the dramatic stories of travelers who broke the law and lived to regret it.

3) There’s safety in numbers, so don’t wander off by yourself.  Find a best bud or partner-in-crime who’s got your back.  You watch out for him, he watches out for you.

4) If you’re going to ‘get it on,’ but sure you’re packing prophylactics.  Girls, practice safe sex by carrying condoms in your purse, take charge and insist on using them!  An STD is not the kind of souvenir you want from your spring break experience.

5) Trust your instincts.  If the little voice inside of you feels like something “is a bad idea,” really listen to it.  Don’t be afraid to say no, or extricate yourself from an uncomfortable situation.  Trust your gut.

Share your own Spring Break Survival Tips below….

Spy in the City: Espionage and Intrigue in Washington DC

International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C.
The International Spy Museum in Washington, DC

In the spy capital of the world, it’s no surprise that the International Spy Museum is a hot ticket.  In downtown Washington DC, just steps from the FBI building, this one-of-a-kind tourist attraction has been educating the masses and instilling paranoia since it first opened in 2002.

This past weekend, between schmoozing and stage presentations at the Travel & Adventure show, I had a chance to check out The Spy Museum.

This unique museum traces the history of espionage – from Biblical times, through World War II, the Cold War, to modern day.  Dubbed “the world’s second oldest profession”, spying has quite the rap sheet.

Museum exhibits include: testimonials from former CIA agents, tips on disguises, surveillance and decoding classified information.  Displays are packed with authentic artifacts and cool spy gear. There’s even an Aston Martin – used in the 1964 James Bond thriller Goldfinger – fully loaded with an ejector seat, machine guns and tire-slashers.

I loved the spy gadgets.  There’s the lipstick tube that morphs into a pistol, the camera watch, the poison gas gun, even the radio transmitter disguised as dog poo.

Pace yourself when you stroll through the Spy Museum.  There’s a lot to see and just when you think you’ve reached the end of this huge and exhaustive collection, there’s another labyrinth of rooms filled with more stuff.

For those Bond wannabes who prefer sitting to strolling, Spy City Tours offers an alternative to the museum-going experience.  This coach tour, launched in September, is taking espionage to the streets.

Departing from Union Station, this two-hour Grayline tour claims to hit “Washington’s most notable espionage sites.”  If you only have a few days to visit, this tour kills two birds – seeing the city while learning about real life spies.  A training officer (a.k.a the tour guide) teaches the group about the risky spy missions that went down in DC.

Tourists can expect to see buildings where clandestine meetings unfolded; hear stories about men who betrayed their countries; try to decode their own secret (but very simple) message.

“Trust no one. Spies are among us,” warns the training officer.  “According to CIA video sources, undercover ops often use disguises and pose as average people.  Dog walkers, couriers or repairmen may actually be spies.”

With so much talk of covert missions and surveillance gadgets, it’s easy to feel paranoid.  Who’s watching?  Are pedestrians innocent bystanders or are they CIA agents?  The tour preaches that things aren’t always as they seem.

Though they may breed paranoia among conspiracy-theory junkies, both the Spy Museum and the new Spy City tours are worth the time.  They give us common-folk a peek into the secret world of spying, leaving us to question whether that cigar is really just a cigar.

Julia’s Tips:

– On weekends, the International Spy Museum is packed.  Go early to reserve tickets.  For more information on the museum and the new spy city tour visit www.spymuseum.org

Have you been to the Spy Museum? Any other must-see attractions in DC?  Comment below….

In Washington, D.C. this Weekend?

The Washington DC Travel & Adventure Show, Mar 6-7, 2010
The Washington DC Travel & Adventure Show, March 6-7, 2010

If you’re in our nation’s capital this weekend, check me out at the Adventures in Travel Expo!  Sunday, March 7th at 12:15-1:15pm, I’ll be talking about my adventures around the world, through 80 countries across six continents.  I’ll share tips and tricks for maximizing your independent travel and boosting your cultural experiences while cutting the costs.

Here’s a brief description from the travel show’s official website:

“The world’s largest travel and adventure show – the Travel & Adventure Show – gathers hundreds of captivating destinations from exotic India to captivating Cayman and exciting, activities: a huge scuba pool, kayak demonstrations, an aerial zip line, a rope adventure course, cultural performers and much more. The Travel & Adventure Show is THE place to kick off the winter blahs and plan that ultimate vacation.”

For more details, check out: http://www.adventureexpo.com/

Hope to see you there!

Alice in Wonderland: High Tea in NYC

Alice in Wonderland, in theaters this weekend
Alice in Wonderland, in theaters this weekend
Photo credit: Disney

In anticipation for Tim Burton’s movie spectacular Alice In Wonderland (set to open this weekend), why not organize your very own Mad Hatter tea party?  New York City knows how to pull off high tea, so before you start drooling over dreamy Johnny Depp, chase your own white rabbit through some of the city’s best herbal haunts.  Check out my Top 3 spots to sip afternoon tea in NYC.  These places offer stewed brews of loose leaf fit for the Queen of Hearts; pastries and scones so delicious they’ll have you smiling like the Cheshire Cat.

Alice’s Tea Cup: This Upper West Side cafe offers Alice In Wonderland themed treats and matching decor.  Order the Jabberwockey, a $38 spread with scones, preserves and cream, an unlimited selection of sandwiches and Jean’s “not-yet-but-soon-to-be-famous mocha chocolate chip cake.”

Tea & Sympathy
: For all things British, this is your one stop shop.  Lewis Carroll style afternoon tea will set you back $35 and includes finger sandwiches, a pot of steaming hot tea, scones with clotted cream and raspberry jam.

The Russian Tea Room: With its decadent decor, plush red velvet seats and twinkling chandeliers, this 80-year-old establishment is the perfect place to enjoy an afternoon snack.  Between the hours of 2-4pm, indulged in caviar-crusted blinis and fancy-shmancy sandwiches (smoked ham and turkey with truffle croque monsieur; curried chicken salad with raisins and pecans; roquefort bleu cheese and pear with walnuts…de-lish).

Do you have a favorite tea spot in NYC?  Are you pumped about the new Alice In Wonderland movie?  Share your thoughts below…

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