The Best of the Voyage (Part 2: Bars and Restaurants)
Part 1: Hostels (August 29)
Part 2: Bars and Restaurants (August 30)
Part 3: Facts and Cities (August 31)
Part 4: Lessons (September 1)
Part 5: Useful Things to Pack (September 2)
Part 6: Things I Wish I’d Done (September 3)
Part 7: Memories, Stories, and Wisdom (September 4)
9 Awesome Bars / Restaurants
- Wall Street Bar (Granada, Spain) – This gimmicky bar is genius. The premise is that the drinks are priced by popularity, much like real stocks. The more people who buy a certain drink, the more expensive it gets, and alternatively, drinks lose value when people lose interest. On electronic boards around the bar, a countdown dolls out five minutes per round, and drinkers are encouraged to buy more when the beverage of their choice is lowest. The idea is fabulous, because it incorporates a game element into the act of buying a drink, and hopefully gets more Spaniards thinking more critically about their investments..
- Cafe del Sunshine (Koh Chang, Thailand) – Considering it was here where Jens and I ate most of our meals, and drank most of our Thai iced teas, it goes without saying that we loved the place. Not only was it well-decorated, funky, and creative, it featured some awesome music, hammocks, a chair shaped like a hand, a book wall, and a waiter who looked like Steve Aoki. They hooked us up in more ways than one, and we thoroughly enjoyed our delicious meals and the overall relaxing vibe of the restaurant. This was our Koh Chang hangout, and for good reason!
- Sisyphos (Berlin, Germany) – Burning Man attendees would love this place. The German techno scene is well-known, but Sisyphos made sure to accommodate those of us who are not the biggest fans of the redundant electronic this region typically produces. With several intimate rooms playing different styles of music, there was always something to see and explore. I spent half of my night outside, chilling in some beanbags on a platform installed on top of an old-school farming truck. I observed all of the craziness and excitement from above, and when I was ready to face the music, I hopped down and danced the night away (and then biked home, of course, alongside the river with my wonderful new friend Anton).
- Bed (Prague, Czech Republic) – I blame my iron levels; I am basically a sloth in human form. So obviously, places like Bed appeal to me, though not to my wallet. The chic cocktail bar invites visitors to kick off their shoes and relax on the enormous white “beds,” which in reality are massive couches that connect all the way around the room. I had met a big group of fun Irish people, and being that it was Halloween that weekend, they had all come to Prague with two costumes in their luggage. That night was Disney-themed, so they convinced me to don my best Pocahontas garb and join them on a night out. The drinks, though delicious, were a bit pricey, and the beds, though comfortable, were killing the party vibe, so we took off after about an hour. But that hour was awesome!
- Chocolate (Da Lat, Vietnam) – This is another “Cafe del Sunshine” situation. Christian, Jens, and I ate here every single day (sometimes more than once a day), and the food never disappointed. The avocado shake was enough to substitute a whole meal, but we ended up gorging on the number of delicious options. I found a piece of meat in my soup one day, which is a prime example in which having a meat-eating boyfriend can be a plus, but otherwise, I had absolutely no complaints. This is a place that is actually Lonely Planet-recommended; the restaurant across the street, as we learned by accident, was not, despite its misleading sign.
- Monkey Island (Koh Rong, Cambodia) – Every morning, we would rise, get ready, and head to Monkey Island. With cheap, delicious food, excellent drink specials, and a really friendly wait staff, we saw no reason to go elsewhere. In the evenings, we were treated to fire shows by various members of the staff – some of whom promised to teach me! Sadly, we had to leave soon after this offer, but I like to think that if I stuck around, I would be pretty good by now. As you are starting to notice, when we found somewhere we liked, we tended to patronize it pretty regularly – thankfully, we were only in each town for a few days, which was enough to imprint a fond memory but not to tire of the menu.
- Utopia (Luang Prabang, Laos) – You don’t go to Utopia for a Laotian experience. It’s definitely a Western-influenced lounge, but it features the best of Laotian scenery and traditional seating options. This chill river-side restaurant/bar is a bit hard to find, but it’s an absolute treat once you slip out of your shoes and step inside. From the candle-lit interior to the volleyball court to the comfortable floor-cushions, Utopia transitions from a lush daytime hangout to a sexy nighttime hotspot, though the music is always mellow and the conversation is kept at a comfortable hum.
- Revelin (Dubrovnik, Croatia) – In a strange turn of events, I ended up bouncing from a CS host to his hostel-owning friend, who chose that night to throw a big hostel party. Despite the fact that I had slept all of two hours, wedged between two bushes in Rome’s Fiumicino Airport, I was swept into the night’s festivities. Armed with flyers for free entrance into Revelin, Michael (of Old Town Hostel) enthusiastically shepherded us into the club. Thank goodness for Michael – I definitely wouldn’t have checked a club like this out on my own, and I would have missed out! Set in the restored Revelin Fort, this club blends the old (vaulted ceilings, stone walls, and arched doorways) with the new (electronic music, colorful projections, and classy bar). Though I’m turning into an old woman, I felt young again at Revenlin – and I actually liked it!
- Blue Wind (Koh Tao, Thailand) – I basically lived at this restaurant for a week. Without an ATM card, and prior the Norwegian rescue team, I was running up some serious tabs. Luckily, the manager of this awesome spot was pretty understanding, even if the serving staff were completely rude. But no worries – my daily routine involved waking up, picking a sweet jasmine flower on the way to the beach, walking through the water, then settling down at my regular spot on the top floor of the restaurant. From my perch in the open floor plan, I could watch the beach scene without having to worry about skin cancer or sand everywhere. With great wifi, surprisingly good music taste (Lauryn Hill and 4hero in Southeast Asia?), delicious chocolate cake, and a pretty decently priced menu, Blue Wind was a perfect little hang out – and it introduced me to Håvard and Jo Andre, my Norwegian guardian angels!
Bonus: The following aren’t the best places to get a beer – unless you like overpriced beer, but hey, some do – but they do offer an excellent opportunity to hear some amazing live music.
- Booga Club (Granada, Spain) – I’ve only been to the Booga Club on Sunday nights, when the club opens its doors for a free jam session. The style is typically jazz, though each week has a slightly different nuance. Regardless of the performers, however, it’s always a good show. Due to the smaller size of the crowd, and the resultant intimacy of the musicians and their audience, it almost feels rude when someone leaves early. But luckily, the music is so lively that you would want to stay until the end of the night – the sets usually start around 11 and end at 2. Former Granada resident Lauren recommended the club for dancing as well, and though I wasn’t able to test this claim myself, I trust her judgement.
- North Gate Jazz Co-Op (Chiang Mai, Thailand) – North Gate prefers Tuesday night for its jam session, running from 9 PM until midnight. The first time I went, I was blown away – despite his diminutive frame and nervously polite speaking voice, the guitarist featured that night opened his mouth and transformed into Tom Waits! Along with the rotating band of ultra-talented musicians, he channeled bluesy versions of Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and a number of other classic acts. I sat above the band with my friend Fish, who thankfully shared my absolutely overflowing enthusiasm, and we watched the crowd grow progressively over the night as more people packed in to watch this awesome spectacle. The following week was just as good – and this time, my group of friends ended up taking over the dwarf-sized viewing room and the entire top floor, dancing and drinking and laughing and flipping (as in, my friend Sean flipped me in the air – the joys of being small). The top floor even connects to the bottom via a small ladder, though it’s kind of awkward to descend it as it’s positioned just between the bar and the stage!
- Boy Blues Bar (Chiang Mai, Thailand) – If pure blues in an open environment is more your thing, you should check out the Boy Blues Bar. It’s positioned on the top floor of the Night Bazaar, and though it’s pretty much mandatory to buy an overpriced drink – 100 baht for a beer you could buy for 30 from a 7/11 – it’s worth the extra $2. (Yes, I know that sounds like a pittance – but after traveling for a while, you really start to think in terms of the local currency, and 70 baht is a lot!) I went with Chloe and Sam, the latter of which loves this type of music, so I really enjoyed the company and the talent radiating off the stage. We stayed for about two hours, and when the set ended, Sam went to tell the frontman how much he liked the set. In typical Thai fashion, the musician smiled demurely and thanked him excessively, seemingly embarrassed of the attention but pleased to hear that his music was appreciated.