Mystery holidays Are we really that bored of holidaying?

Tumble down Porto at duskDaniel Fahey jets off with Mistrip, a company that keeps the location and itinerary secret until the last minute. But are we really that bored of holidaying?

I know three good stories that begin at an airport: one involves magic mushrooms; another soiled shorts through security. This is the third.

I was stood coffee-less among the brightly lit, early morning queues of the check-in desks at Stansted Airport with a borrowed bag and an unopened A4 envelope.

My instructions were simple: Stansted Airport, 7.30am. No destination; no hotel; no one to meet.

But travelling with Mistrip, that was the idea. It is one of a growing number of companies that organise holidays but keep the location and itinerary a secret.

Carefully I tore the envelope open… I was headed for Porto.

Tumble down Porto at dusk
Daniel Fahey

Hotel Douro is an aging, ochre-heavy business property that stands in the former fishing quarter, along a petite street of florists and monumental masons that leads to an impressive cemetery where the painter Dominguez Alvarez is buried.

A short lurch from the city centre, it wasn’t in an area I would have

Strange skiing Off piste in North Korea

The resort's slopes are lined with propaganda spewing screens

In the second of our strange skiing series, Tim Neville reports from the propaganda-lined pistes of Masikryong, North Korea’s best (and only) ski resort.

So these four guys and I walk into a bar, but it isn’t just any bar. We’re deep inside North Korea. It’s winter, cold and well after dark.

The place is empty except for two Korean guys in dark suits eating dried mackerel. They’re wearing red “loyalty” pins over their hearts, marking them as regime favourites. Outside a giant screen flickers with images of swaying flowers, crashing waves and re-enactments of the People’s Army blowing things up.

This is how the après ski scene starts at Masikryong, North Korea’s premier (and only) luxury ski resort.

Located in the dense forested mountains of the Ryongjo Workers District, about 160km (100 miles) east of Pyongyang, the resort opened in 2014 under the command of the country’s enigmatic leader, Kim Jong-un. The army, which builds everything in North Korea, needed just 18 months to transform a 1,360m (4,460ft) peak into a resort with ten intermediate to advanced pistes.

Its two modern hotels feature shiny tiles

Open Media Gallery Eat, spray, love Top 10 red light districts

Many guides gloss over red-light districts, which is a shame because they provide unique and titillating insights into a city’s character. We take a peek at the colourful underbellies of 10 very different cities.

1) Patpong, Bangkok

Girls wait outside one of Patpong's dazzling neon-lit bars

Spread out across Patpong Soi 1 and Patpong Soi 2, Asia’s most notorious red-light district is an overwhelming mecca of neon-dazzling bars, go-go girls, ladyboy cabarets and famed ping pong performances.

Overpriced and often shocking, the area rose up after the arrival of US servicemen during the Vietnam War and has since been overcome by shows that range from gyrating dancers to turtles being thrust from fannies to fishbowls.

From soapy ‘happy ending’ massages to blowjob bars and gay discos; Patpong offers it all, even stalls of hefty dildos, boxed fleshlights, bulbous buttplugs and dubious-looking Viagra, which should sate any appetite for post-Patpong alone time.

Girls wait outside one of Patpong’s dazzling neon-lit bars
TkKurikawa / Thinkstock

2) De Wallen, Amsterdam

The world’s most illustrious red-light district is also one of the prettiest, though past the tree-crowned canals and gabled houses, visitors will find prostitutes swaying hypnotically inside

Before You Go: 10 Cool Tips for Birthright Israel Travelers

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Before you set out on your journey to Israel, there are some things you should know. You’ve probably reviewed the maps and travel itinerary a dozen times, and have looked at some of the more popular locations online. However, if you want to really be prepared for the trip you’re about to embark on, you’re going to need to do a little more research.

Luckily for you, Birthright Israel trip participants has put together a great list of tips for you to look through before setting out on one of the most amazing adventures of your life!

Don’t Eat at McDonalds

Just don’t. When you’re traveling abroad, it may be tempting to go for something familiar, but you’re not going to get the true experience of Israel by eating greasy American food. Branch out and try something new!

Do Some Research on Israel’s History

Before you go somewhere, find out about the history of the place. You’ll be able to learn more about what went into making this country and find the trip more informing and rewarding.

Cover Yourself in Mud

The Dead

Naming Rights At National Parks Are Up For Grabs

The National Park Service has truly taken gifts from people and partnerships in return for inconspicuous plaques and other little techniques for giving acknowledgment of liberality. This year, the unparalleled money related gap that activities connected with support and upkeep of the parks has made has lead to a phenomenal choice, to open the way to corporate promoting. Naming rights has been a technique for expansive scale advertising on the parts of real companies for quite a while, supporting open spaces like stadiums and games fields in return for setting their organization name inside the genuine name of the space. Numerous games coliseums now work in this sort of limit, offering their name to the most elevated corporate bidder and taking into account the joining of promoting messages over different viewpoints inside the space. The National Parks of the United States are currently open for a more limited type of this same sort of advertising.

While the limitations on the new conceivable outcomes still give control over most parts of the parks themselves, as in that there won’t be a change to Bryce Canyon National Park to something like “Starbucks National Park,” however rather particular parts of corporate advertising will be

How to Get the Best Hotel in Bandung

Are you planning to visit Indonesia? It would be a good idea to do. Moreover, if you make Bandung as the first destination during your visit, then you need to have the hotel earlier. It is a must for you to prepare the hotel earlier since it will not make you get complicated when you arrive in the destination. The easy way to find the best hotel in Bandung is by getting a booking online. This way is even easier since you can directly book the hotel when you find it suitable for you. There are lots of advantages that you can get if you can go this way. The most important is you can get fully satisfied to stay in the hotel as you select since you make your own decision after observing it in the internet. Hence, it is recommended for you to have such kind of preparation before you go to Bandung.

It is known that there are lots of hotel in Bandung that can be your choice. You can even suit it with the type of the hotel that you like. If you like to stay in 5 stars hotel, you can even have it too. This

Want to Have the Best Holiday Ever? Choose Bali as Your Destination!

Well, this time we are going to talk about how to search hotel in Bali for your upcoming holiday. Having a holiday time is very important nowadays. If we do not have any holiday time, we will feel so stuck during our days. If we have the holiday time, it means that we can have the refreshing time for our daily activities. Let’s say when we feel so stuck during the days, we can get the good mood after we have some time for the refreshing time. Of course, the holiday here can be varied. If you have a long time for the holiday, you can go anywhere and anytime for your holiday. You will not feel so bored during your weekday if you have the regular holiday. Here are some tips that you can do for having the good holiday.

First, you need to set where you want to go. In the other words, we need to set where the destination is. If we can have the best destination, we will have the wonderful holiday. We will not feel so bored also. That’s why try to choose the destination that have a lot of tourist

How to Stay in Shape on Holiday

Trying to stay fit is a constant process. Obviously, you have some leeway in how often you have to work out to maintain your preferred level of fitness, but it is true that you do have to maintain. You can lose your fitness level surprisingly quickly. The best way to avoid that is to keep a good routine that is very consistent. However, for many people, that consistency falls apart when it comes time to go on holiday. That’s understandable; you don’t want to forego a fun and exciting holiday just because you might lose a little bit of your fitness. Many people make the trade-off. They eat and indulge all holiday, and try to work their way back into shape afterwards. However, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Walking Holiday

A walking holiday is a self-guided tour that is designed by a company to provide you with places to be and things to see. In different areas, actual tour guides will walk you through various parts of town and point out things to you. They’ll offer recommendations for hotels or restaurants. A walking holiday is pretty much the same. You can sign up for

Travel distance is still a barrier to breast reconstruction after mastectomy

Long travel distances continue to be a significant obstacle to breast reconstruction after mastectomy for breast cancer, reports a study in the January issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery®, the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).

“While greater patient awareness and insurance coverage have contributed to greater breast reconstruction rates in the United States, geographic barriers to access this service remain, particularly to academic centers,” according to the new research by ASPS Member Surgeon Evan Matros, MD, and colleagues of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York.

Geographic Barriers to Breast Reconstruction Suggest Unmet Need

The researchers analyzed the relationship between travel distance and breast reconstruction in more than 1 million US women undergoing mastectomy from 1998 to 2011. Information for the study was drawn from the National Cancer Database. During the period studied, the overall rate of immediate breast reconstruction approximately tripled: from 10.6 percent in 1998 to 32.2 percent in 2011.

That trend likely reflected the Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act (WHCRA) of 1998, which mandated insurance payer coverage of breast reconstruction after mastectomy. The increase was greatest for implant-based reconstructions, although autologous breast reconstructions (using the patient’s own tissues) also increased.

Based on

On the radar 12 places to visit in

From kitsch Balkan boltholes to Caribbean comeback kids, via outer space, we explore the destinations that should be on your radar in 2016.

1) Japan

Having long been prohibitively expensive, today’s weaker yen means Japan’s inimitable fusion of ancient tradition and futuristic finesse is now far more accessible.

Whether you’re keen to frolic amid cherry blossom, marvel at ancient ruins or hurtle down powdery slopes, you can now expect to get way more bang for your buck.

Tokyo 2020 is firmly on the horizon, and this electrifying city is set on becoming as visitor friendly as possible. Its dazzling concoction of markets, malls, street food, glitzy restaurants and karaoke bars grows almost daily.

It’s scarcely been cheaper to head to the bright lights of Tokyo
kitchakron / Thinkstock

2) Macedonia

Don’t forget to pop a gift in the post to Macedonia next year. The buttonhole of the Balkans will crack open the fruit brandy in September as it celebrates 25 years of independence from Yugoslavia.

Often overlooked, Macedonia is now hard to ignore thanks to the Herculean efforts of its ruling party, which decreed that the capital, Skopje, should look more classical. It then splurged €500 million on

Here’s How You Can Avoid Uber Surge Pricing

Become a savvy Uber passenger.

Getting out of paying extra money to Uber during a period of surge pricing may be easier than you think.

A new study by researchers at Northeastern University has found that the pricing scheme, which Uber uses to raise rates for its car-hailing service during times of high demand, can sometimes last as little as five minutes.

The researchers created 43 Uber accounts and hailed cars across Manhattan and San Francisco over the course of four weeks. They found that surge pricing often last for a very short period. The boundaries that define the surge pricing area can also be surprisingly small, especially in Manhattan. Moving just a few hundred feet sometimes made it possible to hail a normally-priced car again.

“The vast majority of surges are short-lived, which suggests that savvy Uber passengers should ‘wait-out’ surges rather than pay higher prices,” the authors wrote in their study, according to ProPublica.

The study also asserts that surge pricing actually kills off demand for Uber cars, to the point that many drivers end up leaving the surge area to try to pick up more fares. This runs contrary to Uber’s claim that surge pricing helps entice drivers to pour

Three Days in Athens

A destination steeped in history, rich in culture and filled with some amazing sights and attractions, Athens is a hugely popular holiday destination. This is a bustling city soaked in glorious sunshine, with breathtaking sights, exciting adventures, and thousands of years of heritage.

The capital city of Greece, Athens has been called the cradle of Western civilisation, which provides an insight into the length of its history. People flock to Athens for a variety of reasons, which means that visitors there are made up of people from all walks of life. Whether you are a history buff, a culture vulture, a sun-worshipper, or someone just looking for a great time with vibrant nightlife, you will find everything you want in Athens.

How to make the most of your three-day Athens trip

Not everyone who travels to Athens is able to stay for a lengthy period. For those who are only planning to be in the city for a few days, you need to make the most of your short time in this stunning destination.

Explore historic buildings

Day 1 – Explore the local area and enjoy taking in the nightlife

Once you arrive in

5 things to see and do in Bridgend County, Wales

Just two and a half hours from London, Bridgend County offers great surfing, award-winning beaches, dramatic landscapes and peak-to-beach cycling.

It’s as much a draw for savvy holidaymakers as it is for television and film crews, with shows like Doctor Who and Torchwood scouting out captivating locations.

The extensive coast and Victorian promenade of Porthcawl are easy to reach, yet Bridgend County still remains a bit of a secret.

Here are five of the best things to see and do in Bridgend County:

Surf some of the best breaks in Britain

It may not be as well known as New Quay or Gower, but Bridgend County has some of the hottest surf breaks in the country, so much so that South African pro surfer Ingemar Cressey recently opened Cressey’s Surf Academy here.

Porthcawl Surf School and Adventures Wales also offer surf lessons throughout the year, while events and festivals extend the surf vibe into the county’s bustling towns.

We recently sent Jack Palfrey to Porthcawl to find out more.

Wander along the Wales Coast Path

The Wales Coast Path is a coastal trail that stretches right around Wales, but Bridgend County provides some of the route’s most unique landscapes. Along the way, try

The Co-operative Travel Top Affordable Caribbean Breaks

For most people, the very thought of a trip to the Caribbean tends to conjure up images of turquoise waters, powder white beaches, sizzling sunshine and lush foliage. Happily, this is all quite close to fact. Include a laid-back atmosphere, tropical breezes, sumptuous local cuisine, and a diverse culture, and you’re pretty much spot on.

No matter where you go in the Caribbean, you’ll find yourself having unforgettable experiences and a holiday that will leave you feeling refreshed, rejuvenated and eager to come back and sample more of what the Caribbean has to offer. At The Co-operative Travel, you can choose from a great selection of fabulous Caribbean holidays, each of which has something unique and exciting to offer.

Three top affordable Caribbean holidays with The Co-operative Travel

Many people are keen to escape to a paradisiacal destination and get away from the stresses of daily life for a week or two. However, with the current financial climate the way it is, most people are having to be mindful about how much they spend on their annual holiday. At The Co-operative Travel you can choose from a great selection of affordable yet incredible Caribbean holiday experiences,

Burning the Prime Minister in Lewes

410 years on from the Gunpowder Plot, David Hillier heads to Lewes in East Sussex to watch the Prime Minister go up in flames among the chaos of Bonfire Night.

“Don’t go. You’ll probably die.”

Sentiments from former Lewes Bonfire Night attendees seem to burn. They also lick both sides of the pyre: “You’ve got to go, it’s a mad carnival of flame and drums and heathens – you’d fit right in.”

So with a healthy sense of trepidation, I stepped out upon the wet and wending toy box streets of Lewes, a small East Sussex town bunkered between the eponymous, rosemary-washed Downs.

What would I find at the UK’s most notorious Guy Fawkes Night? Sweet Sussex virgins having their maidenheads lopped off at every corner? The acrid smell of burning animal flesh billowing from windows and doorways?

Something far more exciting: I would see David Cameron go up in flames.

Many processions are in remembrance of fallen soldiers
David Hillier

A misconception of Lewes Bonfire Night is that it’s spooky or supernatural, Pagan even, and as a parade of burning crosses passes by, it’s easy to understand why. However, many of the processions are actually in remembrance to

Open Media Gallery 10 New Year’s Eve alternatives

Forget Auld Lang Syne and elbow room only, our alternative New Year’s Eve guide will take you from punch-ups in Peru to the bottom of a Siberian lake.

1) Dive with a tree in Siberia

Lake Baikal is the scene of one of the more bizarre New Year’s celebrations. The Siberian tradition sees local divers cut a hole in the lake’s icy surface, don their dry suits and plunge into the frigid waters… with a Christmas tree. The divers descend to the bottom of the lake, before emerging to face temperatures of -20°C (-4°F). Only certified divers (and nutcases) can take part, but anyone can watch.

This frozen lake hosts one of the quirkier New Year traditions
NickolayV / Thinkstock

2) Spread New Year cheer in Scotland

Are you tall, dark and handsome? Then do something charitable this New Year, by first-footing a random in Scotland. Folklore dictates that the first person to enter a house (or ‘first footer’) on New Year’s Day will bring good fortune for the year ahead – providing they fit the aforementioned description. First footers should also bear gifts such as coal, bread and whisky.

Spread the

Where to go on holiday in January

From secret Portuguese islands to belated Hogmanay parties, liven up your January with a timely trip to one of these destinations.

For beach bums…

Short haul: Porto Santo, Portugal 

If you want to treat your pallid skin to some sun and wander upon sandy shores this winter, but can’t face going long haul, ponder Porto Santo.

One of the lesser-known islands in the Madeira archipelago, this balmy bolthole is crowd-free and clement come January – and the flight takes just three hours from chilly London.

Lauded for its beaches, Christopher Columbus used the pint-sized island as a hideaway between voyages and his stone house is a museum today. That’s about it for attractions, but then you don’t come here for culture.

If it’s good enough for Columbus, it’s good enough for us
Francisco LeitA#o / Thinkstock

Long haul: Puerto Rico

The Caribbean shores of Puerto Rico are now just a (reasonably priced) flight away from Britain thanks to… Bruce Forsythe, actually.

Well, sort of. The veteran TV host and his Puerto Rican wife helped launch the UK’s only direct service to the island this month (operated by low-cost carrier, Norwegian, not Brucey), opening up the Caribbean’s beaches and salsa scene to British

Amsterdam A tour with the whores

Two of Holland’s most famous hookers give Gavin Haines the ultimate introduction to Amsterdam’s red-light district.

Aptly, I meet the hookers on a street corner. They’re dressed identically: navy jeans, red leather overcoats and scarlet boots, with baby blue berets perched atop their wispy white hair. I flash them an awkward smile and their painted lips part to reveal pearly white teeth.

Martine and Louise Fokkens are identical twins and have the dubious distinction of being the most famous hookers in Holland. At 73 years old, they’re also probably the most experienced, having racked up a century in the trade between them. The self-styled ouwehoeren (‘old whores’) have reportedly pleasured some 355,000 men during that long career, which is greater than the population of Belize, though the girls claim they never kept a tally.

Today they have promised to show me a good time in Amsterdam’s red-light district, but first: money. They want some. Cue Elard Jan, who works with the Fokkens and interjects to explain the virtues of offering journalists a freebie. It will be good publicity, he tells them, or words to that effect. The girls acquiesce and we set off for their brothel.

Now I probably

Last orders: London’s 12 best historic boozers

Rejoice! Recent heritage statuses and some sterling community work mean that the 12 historic London pubs featured in this article won’t be turned into flats anytime soon.

If £5 pints weren’t bad enough, property developers looking to earn a quick buck are cheerily smashing through a number of celebrated London boozers and remodelling them as flashy, unaffordable flats.

However, thanks to Heritage England and some rather touching community efforts, these 12 Silk Cut-stained sup houses have been saved from the sledgehammer. We’ll drink to that.

1) The Palm Tree, Mile End

With many genuinely great East End boozers stubbed out like unwanted Woodbines, The Palm Tree holds sway in Mile End with its island bar, tobacco-varnished interior and wipe-the-dust-to-reveal-the-celebrity photos.

Marooned behind the mounds of Wennington Green since 1666, and with an unofficial beer garden that stretches along the canal, The Palm Tree is an oasis of authenticity, a fact compounded by its sweeping live jazz nights.

The Palm Tree is an oasis of authenticity in Mile End
Creative Commons / Kake

2) The Royal Oak, Shoreditch

Don’t let the gastropub tag put you off; The Royal Oak is a venerable wood-panelled boozer built in the 1920s that doesn’t

Rocking with Ottery’s rollers The town that plays with fire

Every 5 November, residents of a small town in Devon risk serious injury by carrying flaming tar barrels through the town’s streets. We send Emilee Tombs to find out why.

I’m sitting at the bar in the Volunteer Inn. It’s a traditional Devonshire pub: local ales and ciders on tap, dark-wood floors and a selection of lapping regulars perched at the bar with dogs snoozing at their heels.

But something is disrupting this bucolic scene, not the barman swiping his smartphone or the flickering flatscreen TV, but the troubling images adorning the walls.

I become mesmerised by one in particular: a burning mass with a distinctive pair of male legs sprouting from the bottom. Five men in Michelin Man-style layers of clothing are gathered around this walking fireball with one reaching out towards it, waiting to receive what looks sure to be a slow and painful death.

“That’s me and my son,” says a voice behind me. “We’re just about to exchange the barrel at that point. Nobody ever seems to get a picture of my face when I’m doing it but I can assure you I’m quite happy.”

This is Mike Down, the owner of the Volunteer Inn