Phoenix & Phoenix is a blog where we give you tips on how to make business travel fun. You will find stories here about many special places which tourist guides seldom (or never) write about. Our intention is to reveal them to as many travelers on business and traveling enthusiasts as possible.
For the last fifteen years, I've been working as a tech journalist, editor and analyst, with special interests in telecommunication, gadgets and digital photography. The nature of my work is such that I have the opportunity to frequently travel to the world's biggest tech trade shows and premiers of gadgets.
Since early eighties I've been contributing to more than one hundred publications in Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Italy delivering various types of articles commonly associated with popular music and technology. Therefore, travel is a noted part of my work.
Ever since China became the leading global economic force, it has turned into a necessary destination for many business travelers from all corners of the Earth. Most frequently, they travel to big cities which really are impressive and provide countless options for experiences which facilitate getting to know China, however, if you have the opportunity, make sure to single out a day, two or three during your stay in this beautiful country and get to know it from the inside, on a rural level, through its natural beauties and the wilderness.
The best contrast to the hectic urban centers is the Guanxi Province, which borders with Vietnam in the South of the country, as well as its central city Guilin. This is a favorite tourist attraction for the Chinese, but is slowly being discovered by foreigners because good news about Guilin travels fast. Once you get here, be sure to book a ticket for a boat trip down the Li River, to the even more authentic city Yangshuo and you will provide yourself with the privilege of witnessing five hours of the most beautiful view you have ever seen in your life, all for a small sum. There is no massage (nor a happy end) which relaxes and regenerates as spending some time in this scenery does.
Gorgeous Karst Peaks give you surprises at each bend of the limpid river under the blue sky. Water buffalo patrol the fields, peasants reap rice paddies, school kids and fisherman float by on bamboo rafts… This is China, as it once was.
It only happened a few times that while travelling through Europe, we had a connecting flight with a long layover in Bologna. The city’s airport is tidy and pleasant, but just like the city itself – small. If you are trapped here for a few hours, you will be bored to death and, what is even worse, you won’t have anything to eat.
Isn’t it crazy being hungry in Italy?
If you are condemned to a layover in Bologna, don’t even think about it for a minute, but take a taxi to the city center. The ride takes only about 15 minutes (even during the day) and costs a reasonable sum of 15 euros. Now that you are in the center of Bologna, do the only reasonable thing – have the authentic Bolognese, the best in the world! Do it even if you happen to be in Bologna for any other reason. Bolognese in Bologna – it can’t be bad!
Actually, it can if you don’t approve of the suitable restaurant in which you will have the meal. The best domestic dishes are always prepared in small and unseemly restaurants, where tourists don’t frequent, only the home folk and we are here to reveal the best place in Bologna.
There are some things in life you are positive you’d never do, even though you know some people do. When you are in a situation where there is a possibility of you doing them after all, remember that one day you’ll be old, sick and won’t even be able to fart without the help of your grandkids.
You’ll only be able to tell them stories and if you have nothing to tell because you lived a life in a bubble, then apart from being old, you’ll also be boring. The worst combination. I, for example, am sure my grandkids will never find me boring, because I’ll tell them how I ate a deep-fried scorpion skewer.
Of course, this happened in China, in the capital Beijing to be precise, where there is no animal under the Sun which these folk are not prepared to eat, especially if some type of poisonous and hideous creature is in question. Even though this was a surprisingly tasty dish, I managed to compromise my health by being careless…
Did you know that 15 of the world’s top 100 hotels are in Antalya, according to the worldwide survey of customer satisfaction conducted among 35 million people? Also, did you know that world-class golf clubs of Antalya are among the favorites of internationally famous golfers? I’m sure you didn’t know that the city was visited by Attalos, and subsequently by queens and emperors such as Cleopatra and Hadrian, but what you do know is – this is a place you want to visit at least once in your lifetime.
When you do, don’t spend all your time in luxury resort. Spend a few hours in so called Kaleiçi, the Antalya Old Town. It is the cliff-top fortress neighborhood full of elegant garden cafes and charming ramshackle eateries, all built atop pre-Roman, Roman, and Byzantine foundations.
The hassling to get you to empty your wallet notwithstanding, it is a charming area of restored Greek houses, Italian villas, and Ottoman Pasas’ residences, some converted into guesthouses and hotels in a maze of winding narrow cobbled streets. At the base of the cliff is the harbor and marina, built over an ancient Roman harbor and now the center of the city’s resort nightlife.
The neighborhood has undergone a transformation from its former, dusty and neglected self and is now bejeweled with its original, restored timber-framed mansions embracing fragrant garden courtyards. You can happily stay within the winding streets of Kaleiçi, as I did, hardly noticing the big urban conglomeration all around. On the hilltop above the harbor are tea gardens and bars with views that extend south to the Bey Mountains right.
Apart from London and Paris, Vienna is one of the most famous European capitals, a favorite tourist attraction, as well as a business center. The thing is that the Austrian capital offers an exceptionally pleasant atmosphere stemming from a combination of old-fashioned strait-lacedness and architectonic grandeur. Everything looks polished up, clean, opulent and decent. Despite this, you will never find the Viennese atmosphere tedious. I guess it’s because this is the only city in the world where you won’t feel cheated if you dish out 5 euros for a common Apple strudel and where you will seemingly admire the most desultory, yet famous cake in the world – the Sacher cake. When you’re in Vienna, you simply must act like the Viennese. That’s the Vienna etiquette.
If you go to Vienna, everyone will tell you that you have to visit the famous Schonbrunn Palace, the imperial Rococo residence which is the essence of all the above: strait-lacedness, grandeur, opulence, as well as – boredom. You will admire it, but only because you’ll it to be the decent thing to do. One of the world’s biggest ZOOs is located within the Schonbrunn Palace. It is huge. So huge that you will admire it too because you’ll find it to be the decent thing to do, but you’ll be wondering on the inside – where does it end?
This may sound like blasphemy, but – skip the boring Schonbrunn if you find yourself in Vienna. Skip the Sacher cake as well – you don’t need the overly dry and expensive calorie bomb, as even the McDonald’s brownie tastes better. Instead, spend some time at Vienna’s hidden gem, the aquarium in the very city center which is 10 stories high. It’s called the Haus des Meeres (meaning The Sea House) and even though it is smaller than the spectacular tanks in Lisbon and Copenhagen, let’s be honest, you will remember it as the most beautiful experience you had in the very run-down Vienna.
Before we took this trip many people warned us that visiting Tijuana might be dangerous; life-threatening even. If you ever go there, be sure not to eat anything there, drink only bottled water which you can carry from USA, carry your passport on a string around your neck and tucked under your shirt, have only […]
In my opinion, Hong Kong is the most entertaining city in the world. The streets of this city are equally alive in the morning, afternoon, night and at 3 past midnight, while the people you meet are pleasant, cheerful, pretty and prepared to have a good time with you. The city is always packing with foreigners: tourists as well as businessmen, from all corners of the Earth. Because of this and because Hong Kong has just recently been decolonialized and returned to China (although it functions as an independent administrative state, with its own laws, borders, currency and visa regime), you can smell multiculturalism at every corner here.
You cannot not have a good time here. Hong Kong has thousands of diners with cuisines from all parts of the world, thousands of cocktail bars, thousands of craftsmanship stores, numerous cinemas, theatres, concert halls, contents for ‘relaxation’… You will experience something new here every time, without trying. Still, I advise you to do something in Hong Kong that all tour guides warn you of – take a look at the city’s skyline.
There are plenty of cities with a spectacular skyline; however, the one visible in Hong Kong cannot be topped. Irrelevant of the fact if you are studying the Victoria Harbour and endless skyscrapers surrounding it in the daytime or at night, you will be faced with a breath-taking scene. You will find many places in the city which supposedly provide the best view of the skyline, but I will reveal the truly best ones.
When Flora Payne got married, she says she just wanted to be the best mother she possibly could. Along the way, she has become one of the leading barbeque cooks in the state of Tennessee. Her husband owned Panye’s Bar-B-Q in Memphis, not so far from the famous Elvis Presley Blvd and Graceland. When he died, she took over the restaurant and, as they say, the rest is history.
The restaurant is nothing fancy. Actually to say it is quite simple would be an understatement and judging by the exterior (and interior) of the joint – one would hardly ever wish to enter the place. This is exactly why you should go here! The succulent barbeque sandwiches, ribs and other item served at Payne’s BBQ are sheer culinary delights. The meat is cooked slowly over charcoal, like most barbecue restaurants do it, but the sweet, tangy sauce (mild or hot) accentuates the taste of the meat and dances across the taste buds like a ballerina.
The restaurant opened in 1972, but prior to that, it was a service station. Locals have been eating here ever since, without the invasion of tourists visiting the nearby Graceland. If you have a car while you are in Memphis – do exactly as we did: go here for the best meal in the city after your visit to the holiest place in America… Payne’s is simply the best BBQ in the city and since Memphis is considered the birthplace of BBQ (and not only the rock’n’roll), it’s – obviously – the place where you will be able to eat the best BBQ in the world…
I must admit, it took me a long time to understand why someone would pay 15, 20 or more dollars for a hamburger, when the Double Whopper is tasty and satisfying enough and you can get it at Burger King for just a few bucks, i.e. even less if you eat at an unfamiliar chain. Burgers are fast food and I don’t care what sort of ambience I’m sitting in while eating it – I surely don’t expect it to be served at a wonderfully decorated table with a well-assembled wine list to complete the experience.
Still, there are places where you can enjoy a burger at a significantly higher level than just a sheer need for speedy hunger satisfaction. The best example is the Hard Rock Cafe chain, where you can enjoy burgers – throughout the world – with good music, good beer and cocktails and recognizable side dishes that change the perception of such a meal in a highly entertaining way. When away on business, I’ll always choose such a place over boring McDonald’s or Burger King restaurants.
If you happen to be one of the newly-established fans of quality and creative burgers, the so-called burger snob, then you surely shook your head at the mention of my favorite Hard Rock Cafe, with indignation and contempt. You are the type in need of a special burger, a different burger, an untypical burger, prepared by a burger chef and remembered for a lifetime. You are the type who must not die without having eaten at the BLT Burger, a burger-creation studio which you can visit in New York, Hong Kong and Las Vegas. Here’s our review of the Vegas BLT Burger.
If the Beatles or the Stones are the best rock bands in the world, then the Ramones are definitely the best roll band. Most positively, one of the most influential bands of all time (according to Spin magazine, the most influential band second to the Beatles), a band which reinvented rock-essence by discovering punk deserves its place in history, music-wise and in a very precise way.
Unfortunately, three band founders, Johnny, Joey and Dee Dee, are late, however the legend about the band does not only live in the hearts of their fans. There is a corner in New York officially called the Joey Ramone Place and a rock club has been opened in Rio De Janeiro with the same name. Nevertheless, the band was honored the most in Berlin where the Ramones Museum was opened.
Established in 2005, it moved to its current location in 2008. As part of the museum packing with band relics (everything from posters and tickets to original photographs and band member clothes), visitors can take a look around with a drink of choice purchased from the lobby bar. A ticket with a drink is 5 euros, while a ticket in the form of a badge is valid for life. This is just one of many reasons why you should always come back to this museum.
Being a Croatian, I know this country pretty well. If you should be visiting it for what we Croatians claim this country is the best – summer vacation, relaxation, beauty of nature, a lot of sun and fantastic food – forget the much-admired touristic “gems” such as Dubrovnik and focus on islands (you don’t go to Florence if you want to relax in Italy, right?)…
Croatia has a lot of islands but if you want to experience the cleanest sea in the world, the most beautiful beaches in the world and the most impressive scenery in the world you should visit either island Vis or Lošinj. The latter has a better choice of (luxurious) accommodation options and if you really need to indulge yourself with relaxation which you’ll never forget – book a vacation at Vitality Hotel Punta at island Lošinj!
Once you arrive, you’ll know it: this is what you’ve been working for the whole year, this is why you attended all the boring meetings, this is why you read (and never answered, hopefully) thousands of emails from your grueling boss and this is where you definitely don’t need your suit and tie but only you bathrobe and flipflops. It finally pays off…
I’m not sure whether Allen’s movie would acquire such cult status if Vicky and Christina were not embodied by the sexy Rebecca Hall and Scarlett Johansson and Juan by the charismatic Javier Bardem. The place where the movie is shot – Barcelona – also evokes lust in anyone watching this film, but not the kind in the genitals – the kind of lust in the stomach. The capital of the Spanish autonomous community Catalonia is simply busing with fantastic wines and restaurants and if I have anything to say, this is the best place to eat in Europe.
Tapas are the traditional meals in Barcelona, small single or two-bite dishes, which are usually eaten while on a barhop, sipping drinks one by one and meeting friends. You polish tapas in every bar and after a few drinks and a few get-togethers – which is a common social ritual for the Catalans – you’ll be happy and full. However, Vicky and Christina, and Juan for that matter, are not the type to live off such meals on the go. Their bohemian and artistic souls prefer longer gatherings with wine and ambience laden with ghosts of the greatest names of poetry, sculpting and painting and Barcelona is also the best place in Europe for such people as well.
A large part of the movie’s plot takes place in the Els Quatre Gats restaurant, which translates ‘The Four Cats’ – a Catalan colloquial term for ‘only a few people’. A place for a special crowd. The restaurant was established in 1897 and Pablo Picasso visited it on a daily basis, which is actually the main motive for snobs Vicky and Christina to frequent it in the first place. If only they had known that this was also a tapas bar in Picasso’s time.
The two of us come to Barcelona in February each year, as the Mobile World Congress is held there, the biggest and most important global telecommunications trade show and we try to book a table at the 4 Gats every year. Not because of Picasso and not because of Vicky and Christina (well, all right, it may be because of Christina a bit), but because in our book this is one of the best restaurants in the whole world…