Everybody’s talking about it, everybody’s excited about it, everyone’s watching it…so we’re jumping on the Olympics bandwagon too! What’s not to love? There’s overachievers and underdogs; tales of success and tales of woe; some of the world’s fittest people all in one city and the chance to learn about some seriously underrated countries (Kazakhstan, anyone?).
To get in the spirit of things, we’re handing out a few medals of our own:
Let’s assume most of you fall within thewelterweight range. But if you’re like most travellers, your eyes will be twice the size of your stomach. Here’s how to loosen that belt buckle and give you a reason to stay in your trakkies long after the athletes have gotten out of theirs.
Bring your stretchy pants and leave your guilt at home. Italians subscribe to the KISS theory and you’ll soon work out why. Fresh, seasonal produce and simple rustic fare means you don’t need a lot of ingredients. But my god, do they make up for it with flavour. Mozarella, basil, tomatoes and garlic feature heavily in most Italian dishes. Just make sure you look up once in a while to see the incredible history, architecture and landscapes on offer.
It can take a while to build up your confidence, but once you’ve stopped going to restaurants with pictures on the menu you’ll discover a world of Indian cuisine you never imagined. Give up the idea of butter chicken and eat like the locals. But be careful, when you tell them you want to try the really, really hot stuff…they might just pay attention.
Japan’s cuisine is a little bit country and a little bit rock n roll. By which I mean, there’s a bit of everything. Be brave, be adventurous and when in doubt just point to whatever looks good and say, “I’ll have what she’s having.” Did you know some of the world’s best burgers are found in Japan? And you can’t go past a sushi conveyor belt for a fun snack. There’s also noodles, dumplings, tempura, bakeries, sashimi, curry…do I need to go on?
Over a distance of 400m, a savvy shopper can cover a lot of ground. Get your walking shoes on and prepare to win big at these three exciting destinations:
Gold: Marrakesh souks
Shopping in the souks of Djemaa el Fna is like shopping in overdrive. There’s touts calling you every name under the sun (nothing offensive of course, think Croc Dundee and Kate Middleton). There’s also the added spectacle of snake charmers and dancing monkeys to contend with. But keep your eyes on the prize and you’ll be rewarded handsomely for your efforts. Look out for incredible leather goods, intricately inlaid cedar boxes, colourful silk slippers, perfumes, spices, tribal jewellery and delicate wrought iron lamps. But if you start seeing magic carpets, maybe it’s time to pop back out into the square for a freshly squeezed orange juice.
Silver: Hong Kong
You can literally shop til you drop here. From giant malls to bustling street markets and loads of discount outlets, if you’ve got the cash there’s something for you to splash it on. For something different, try Festival Mall which has been designed to Feng Shui principles. Or if you’re on a budget wander through Stanley Market or Li Yuen Street East and West and score yourself some Louise Vitton or Chanelle goodies.
Bronze: Hoi An, Vietnam
The best advice I can give about visiting Hoi An is to come prepared. Scour your fave fashion mags and tear out anything that catches your eye. Because Hoi An is chock-full of over 400 tailor shops, all ready and waiting to turn your fashion dreams into a reality - at a fraction of what you'd pay for the designer stuff. You'll probably feel overwhelmed for choice, so definitely do a little research before you arrive.
Bargain hard, and be firm about what you want. Don't let the tailors take too many liberties or you'll end up with something ill-fitting that you'll never wear. Be bold, be brave but most of all be prepared!
There's nothing like a whole strip of bars, nightclubs, restaurants and pubs all in the one area. You can start and end your night without ever having to leave the action. Here’s the best entertainment strips to keep you partying til the break of dawn.
Gold : Hvar, Croatia
Arriving in Hvar, you'll probably ask yourself two important questions. 1. "Am I thirsty?" 2. "Does it matter?"
This sparkling, shiny, chic and spectacular island is Croatia's ultimate party spot. The beauty of Hvar is that it hasn't been overrun in the same way as Ibiza or Mykonos (yet). The drinks are still reasonably priced, the locals are super friendly and there's an incredible range of entertainment on offer.
In summer, the fun never ends. Bars and restaurants line the large Venetian piazza and stretch right down the quay where Carpe Diem holds court. Do yourself a favour and stop by Croatia's most famous club, where you can pull up a Moroccan cushion, grab a cocktail and enjoy the people-watching.
For a bit of culture, check out an exhibition or listen to some classical music in the Franciscan monastery or the Cathedral. Or swing by Veneranda and kick back in the open air cinema.
Silver: Pub Street, Siem Reap
Well the name says it all really. After a tough day of touring the Angkor temples you’ll need to unwind. Choose from any of the incredible food stalls, pubs, bars or restaurants and kick back with a 50c Angkor Beer to watch the world go by. I’ve often said watching traffic in Cambodia is like watching a campfire - you become mesmerised by it. Pub Street, in the Old Market area, is more than just pubs; you can take a cooking class or watch a traditional Khmer dance show show if you feel the need. But trust me, all that can come later. First, it’s happy hour (probably).
Bronze: Cordoba, Argentina
Ok so here's how it goes in Cordoba, the hottest spot in Argentina: At around 7pm you'll meet up with a bunch of friends for a cocktail. You might head to the Nueva Cordoba area, which is popular with students, and hit up the chic bars on La Canada. Then around 9pm you'll start grazing the countless tapas bars or order one of Argentina's finest steaks from your favourite restaurant. Trust me, you'll need some fuel in your belly if you're going to keep up with the locals tonight!
After that, the fun really starts. Nightlife in Cordoba kicks off around 1am and peaks around 4am. Don't miss the hidden bars around Hipolito Yrigoyen Ave, or if you're after the big nightlife experience try your luck in Mitre or Dorian Gray. It really is the city that never sleeps...why do you think they all siesta during the afternoon?!
So there you have it. The Gecko's Olympics for 2012. Tell us which of these you've ticked off your list or let us know if we've missed anything. And if you've got photos and stories, share them on Facebook and twitter.
Check out all our trips to make up an Olympics-worthy list of your own.