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Visiting Isla Negra and Pablo Neruda’s Beachfront House

A rust-studded metal sculpture of a fish sits on the steps outside Isla Negra.
Sculpture at Isla Negra, Pablo Neruda’s favorite home. Photo © Carl Mueller, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

About 10 kilometers south of Algarrobo, Isla Negra (tel. 035/461284, 10 a.m.–8 p.m. Tues.–Sun. summer, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Tues.–Sun. fall, winter, and spring, US$6 for adults, US$3 for children and seniors, admission includes tour, for tours in English add US$1 pp)—which is not an island—has become famous for the Casa de Pablo Neruda, the poet’s favorite beachfront house and burial site. Built to entertain his friends and hold his whimsical collections of nautical memorabilia, including bowsprits, ships-in-bottles, and woodcarvings, the house has been open to the public for more than a decade. The Fundación Neruda, which administers the site, has added a room, originally planned by Neruda but never completed, to house his huge assortment of sea snails, clamshells, and narwhal spikes.

[pullquote align=”right”]In summer, reservations are imperative at Isla Negra. During the rest of the year, it’s easier to join a tour on a drop-in basis.[/pullquote]Unfortunately, because Isla Negra is Neruda’s most popular house, the half-hour guided tours are so rushed that the guides sometimes find themselves talking over each other. No photography is permitted in the house itself, but after the tour is over, visitors may remain on the grounds and photograph the exterior.

In summer, reservations are imperative at Isla Negra. During the rest of the year, it’s easier to join a tour on a drop-in basis.

Most people come to Isla Negra for the day, but for those who stay longer, down the road is Hostería La Candela (Calle de la Hostería 67, tel. 035/461254, US$96–116 s or d), which belongs to people who befriended Neruda in his later years. Past its prime, but still interesting, the rambling building also has a good restaurant. The best rooms have ocean views.

The Fundación Neruda’s own El Rincón del Poeta (tel. 035/461774, open museum hours, entrées US$8–10) has good seafood lunches. From Valparaíso, Pullman Bus Lago Peñuelas (tel. 032/2224025) stops at Isla Negra (US$6.50, 1.5 hours) en route to San Antonio, frequently between 6:15 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Excerpted from the Fourth Edition of Moon Chile.

The Best Places to Eat in St. Louis

Toasted ravioli is quintessentially St. Louis.
Toasted ravioli is quintessentially St. Louis. Photo © Eugene Kim, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Over the past decade, St. Louis has shaken off its reputation as a culinarily timid town. For years, visitors associated St. Louis with good-but-unadventurous fare, including plates heaped with meat and potatoes and bowls of pasta sauced with sweet marinara. Fast forward to today, when fine-dining options can be found in practically every neighborhood and the city boasts James Beard nominees, Bon Appétit award winners, and two of Food & Wine magazine’s “Best New Chefs” (that would be Niche’s Gerard Craft in 2008, followed by Farmhaus’s Kevin Willmann in 2011). Cozy bistros such as Brasserie by Niche and Franco serve food inspired by the French countryside, and hip spots like Five and Home Wine Kitchen try adventurous pairings that always seem to work out just right.

[pullquote align=”right”]Visitors should not leave town without trying foods that are quintessentially St. Louis: We’re talking toasted ravioli, thin-crust pizza topped with Provel cheese, barbecued pork steaks, and gooey butter cake.[/pullquote]Of course, it’s not always about haute cuisine and molecular gastronomy in this Midwestern city. True to its strong immigrant roots, the food scene in St. Louis is a delightful assemblage of Italian sandwich shops, Vietnamese noodle cafés, and Bosnian smokehouses. International options are particularly abundant in South City, where immigrant groups from Sarajevo to Addis Ababa have settled. St. Louis’s Thai and Vietnamese restaurants are great bets for hungry vegetarians, as these spots turn out consistently delicious dishes loaded with tofu and fresh veggies.

There are plenty of gastronomic adventures to be had in the Gateway City. But make no mistake about it: St. Louisans also know their comfort food. After all, how better to withstand a harsh Missouri winter than with a heaping bowl of spaghetti or a blue-plate special? Visitors should not leave town without trying foods that are quintessentially St. Louis: We’re talking toasted ravioli, thin-crust pizza topped with Provel cheese, barbecued pork steaks, and gooey butter cake.

Most Beautiful Restaurant

Bridge Tap House & Wine Bar is one seriously gorgeous restaurant, with creative touches—glassware suspended from violin strings, chandeliers fashioned from antlers—that elicit as many “wows” as the amazing beer list.

Best Brewpub

The world may know St. Louis as the hometown of Anheuser-Busch, but folks in the know favor The Schlafly Tap Room. Pair Schlafly’s excellent microbrews with homemade soft pretzels, a bratwurst sandwich, or the best fish-and-chips in town. If you’re visiting St. Louis during the winter, don’t miss the Coffee Stout.

Best Barbecue

In a town known as much for its barbecue as for its giant Arch, picking a favorite is tough. But when the (smoked-wood) chips are down, top honors go to Pappy’s Smokehouse. Owner Mike Emerson serves up the finest ’cue in the city. The line often snakes through the restaurant and out the door, but the wait is worth it—and made totally tolerable by the abundant samples that travel through the queue, often handed out by Emerson himself.

Best Small Plates

The term “small plates” is so common as to be almost meaningless, but Taste reclaims the phrase in a major way, thanks to its absolutely perfect culinary creations. The kitchen’s playful take on street tacos will leave you smiling from ear to ear, as will the cocktails prepared by expert mixologist Ted Kilgore.

Best Soul Food

A former backup singer for Ike Turner, Robbie Montgomery opened Sweetie Pie’s in Forest Park Southeast in 2003. Offerings change daily and include pork steaks, okra, mac and cheese, and an oxtail stew that would give any high-end joint a run for its money.

Best Coffee Shop

Tired of cookie-cutter coffee chains? Let The Mud House restore your faith in what a neighborhood coffee shop can truly be. Grab a seat, and spend the morning (or afternoon) sipping, snacking, and surfing at one of the hippest, friendliest places in town.

Best Place for a First Date

With its sultry lighting, abundant red roses, and decadent desserts, Baileys’ Chocolate Bar is the perfect first-date spot. Indulge in dark-chocolate martinis or nibble on a variety of truffles. Romance comes easy at this Lafayette Square gem.

Best Gourmet Experience

Mention Niche to any St. Louis foodie, and brace yourself for rapturous descriptions of what very well might be the best restaurant in town. Gerard Craft isn’t afraid to make dishes like pork cheeks with bacon ice cream—and Food & Wine didn’t hesitate to name him one of the Best New Chefs of 2008. In 2011, Farmhaus head chef Kevin Willmann garnered that same auspicious Food & Wine award, thanks to his playful, divine takes on Gulf Coast cooking—including a prawn-and-escolar preparation that is the best seafood dish in town.

Best Pizza

Fistfights have probably started over St. Louis pizza—that’s how loyal St. Louisans are to their favorite pie. For perfectly crisp thin-crust pizza, try Pizza-A-Go-Go, a homey BYOB spot near the city’s south side, or sample the authentic Neapolitan pizza at The Good Pie. If you crave a thicker crust, stop by the legendary Black Thorn Pizza & Pub.

Best Burgers

Get your burger with a side of nostalgia at Blueberry Hill, where owner Joe Edwards’s collection of Americana covers both levels of this Delmar Loop landmark. The burgers are perfectly seasoned (don’t miss the onion rings). The burgers at super-friendly Irish pub Seamus McDaniel’s rival those at Blueberry Hill, and in the summer you can enjoy your meal on Seamus’s huge patio.

Excerpted from the Second Edition of Moon St. Louis.

Atlanta for LGBT Travelers

The Atlanta Pride Parade.
The Atlanta Pride Parade. Photo © Jason Reidy, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Atlanta has long been recognized as the gay capital of the Southeast, a tolerant oasis that draws queer residents and tourists from all over the country. The city’s enormous annual Pride celebration began in 1971 and today brings in hundreds of thousands of revelers to the city, with a deluge of events happening around Piedmont Park each autumn. Atlanta also hosts one of the world’s largest Black Gay Pride festivals each year over Labor Day weekend. Out on Film, the gay film festival, takes place each spring, while the Atlanta Queer Literary Festival presents sporadic programming throughout the year.

[pullquote align=”right”]For decades, Atlanta’s most visible gay neighborhood was Midtown—especially around the intersection of Piedmont Avenue and 10th Street—with its concentration of bars and gay-friendly shops and restaurants.[/pullquote]For decades, Atlanta’s most visible gay neighborhood was Midtown—especially around the intersection of Piedmont Avenue and 10th Street—with its concentration of bars and gay-friendly shops and restaurants. While one of the city’s much-loved gay landmarks, Outwrite Bookstore, has since closed, local favorites Blake’s on the Park and Gilbert’s Mediterranean Café remain as packed as ever. Recent years have found Midtown becoming more mixed and gay Atlantans less confined to any one part of town, with queer bars and businesses popping up from Decatur to Marietta.

Lesbians in Atlanta have an enviable resource in Little Five Points with Charis Books and More, a fixture that’s served the feminist community for three decades. Charis Circle, its programming arm, hosts a vibrant assortment of events and workshops. The city has had less luck keeping a girls-only nightlife scene afloat over the years. My Sister’s Room in East Atlanta deserves major props for outlasting the odds.

Map of Atlanta
For gay men, the bar and club scene in Atlanta offers several options on any given night of the week. Mary’s in East Atlanta has been cited as one of the best gay bars in the country, drawing an eclectic clique of hipsters and bears. Burkhart’s Pub (1492 Piedmont Ave., 404/872-4403, Mon.-Fri. 4 p.m.-3 a.m., Sat. 2 p.m.-3 a.m., Sun. 2 p.m.-midnight, no cover) is full of the blue-jeans-and-ball-cap crowd; it shares a parking lot with Felix’s on the Square (1510 Piedmont Ave., 404/249-7899, Mon.-Fri. 2 p.m.-2:30 a.m., Sat. noon-2:30 a.m., Sun. 12:30 p.m.-midnight, no cover) and Oscar’s Atlanta (1510 Piedmont Ave., 404/815-8841, Mon.-Sat. 2 p.m.-3 a.m. no cover). Bulldogs Bar (893 Peachtree St., 404/872-3025, Mon.-Sat. 4 p.m.-3 a.m., no cover) remains a longtime favorite for African-American men. The leather scene congregates at the Atlanta Eagle (306 Ponce de Leon Ave., 404/873-2453, Mon.-Fri. 7 p.m.-3 a.m., Sat. 5 p.m.-3 a.m., cover varies, up to $5), but it’s become far more mixed as a younger crowd has cycled in.

The biggest and most popular gay dance club, The Jungle Club Atlanta is the go-to spot for touring DJs and theme nights. The Heretic (2069 Cheshire Bridge Rd., 404/325-3061, Mon.-Sat. 9 a.m.-3 a.m. cover varies, up to $10), an Atlanta standard for more than two decades, still knows how to fill a dance floor on weekends.

Gay travelers should check out the Atlanta Gay and Lesbian Travel Guide, a portal operated by the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau that features a wealth of listings for lodging, events, and community organizations. The city’s main gay publications, GA Voice and David Atlanta, are also handy resources.

Excerpted from the Second Edition of Moon Atlanta.

Wisconsin’s Economy and the History of the Butter Battle

Butter is so important in Wisconsin that some cities have apparently established a butter monarchy.
Butter is so important in Wisconsin that some cities have apparently established a butter monarchy. Photo © Rochelle Hartman, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

To demonstrate the importance of the dairy industry in Wisconsin, consider the Butter Battle, also called the Oleo Wars. Oleomargarine, or margarine, was developed in 1895, but it wasn’t until 1967 that selling or buying it in Wisconsin was decriminalized.

[pullquote align=”right”]Dairy farmers initially feared that the buttery nondairy spread would ruin them…[/pullquote]Dairy farmers initially feared that the buttery nondairy spread would ruin them; later they would march and protest for a ban on anything resembling butter that wasn’t a dairy product. Of course, margarine smuggling started, and diet-conscious consumers would cross the state line into Illinois to the “margarine villages” that sprouted alongside border service stations.

Butter’s most partisan supporter was Gordon Roseleip, a Republican U. S. Senator from Darlington, whose rantings against margarine could occasionally overshadow Joseph McCarthy’s anticommunist paranoia. But the good senator doomed the butter industry in 1965 when he agreed to take a blind taste test between butter and margarine—and chose the margarine. His family later admitted that he had been unknowingly consuming margarine for years; he was obese and his family had switched to margarine, hoping to reduce his weight.


Wisconsin may be “America’s Dairyland,” but it isn’t only that; the state’s economic trifecta is agriculture, manufacturing, and tourism. Wisconsin is an international exporter, tallying $6 billion in receipts in 15-20 foreign markets. Leading exports include computers, industrial machinery, and transportation equipment.

Since 1990, the state has had one of the country’s fastest-growing per capita income levels, topping $18,000, and has been one of the top 10 states for fastest-growing economies. This is tempered somewhat by the state’s high income taxes.

The state has the highest percentage of the workforce nationwide in manufacturing (16 percent); manufacturing accounts for $37.1 billion, up to 30 percent of Wisconsin’s income. The industry produces small engines, metals, paper products, printing, processed food, mineral extraction equipment, electrical machinery, and transportation equipment. The paper product industry is particularly strong, number one in the nation since 1953, accounting for 12 percent of the national total, to the tune of $12.4 billion. One of every 11 jobs in the state is tied to paper.

The newest industry, economically speaking, is tourism, which really got started after World War II. The state now rakes in more than $12 billion annually.

Agriculture is the linchpin: 41 percent of the state remains devoted to agricultural products. The industry is worth more than $80 billion, with 25 percent of that from dairying. Interestingly, it’s the fastest-growing state for organic farming (a 91 percent increase 1997-2010); it ranks first nationwide in the total number of organic dairy farms and second in organic farms.

Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Wisconsin’s Door County.

The Founding of Moon Publications: All That Road Going

The Beginning of an Era

A group of Moon employees stands outside the Moon office.
The early days at Moon Publications. Photo © Bill Dalton.

I returned to the States in 1976 after an absence of 12 years, having found out in a phone booth on a cold winter’s night in Sydney that my mother had died two weeks earlier. I wanted to make sure that I caught my father before he died. (I didn’t know that he would be so ornery as to live for another 26 years.)

We stayed over my sister’s pottery studio in Birmingham, Michigan, and started work on the second edition of Indonesia Handbook and on a new groundbreaking guide to the South Pacific with David Stanley. After publishing the new edition a year and a half later, we left Michigan with the intention of traveling to the Philippines to write a guidebook to that country. On the way, I stopped to visit an old army buddy in Chico, California.

I ended up spending 20 years in Chico. My Indonesia Handbook was banned for 17 of those years because of what I wrote about the country’s corrupt army and the president’s wife. Copies had to be smuggled into Indonesia. The guide had to be wrapped in a fake cover to get it past customs or else it would be routinely confiscated. I was once detained and interrogated in Sumatra, and in Java, the police followed me around on a motorbike. I considered it a badge of honor to have my book banned.

A tour group huddles around a guide with a map.
Leading a tour in New Guinea in the 1980s. Photo © Bill Dalton.

Back in Chico, Moon Publications was growing, but I left no instruction manual on how to run a guidebook publishing company. With all the time I was spending updating my own guidebook, I couldn’t nurture and grow the company. My focus was always on making my Indonesia guide bigger and better. There were also long absences leading adventure tours all over Indonesia for U.S.-based tour companies. I’ve visited both Komodo Island and the orangutan rehabilitation center Tanjung Puting in central Borneo each 14 times. In the mid-1990s, a group of New Yorkers from hell cured me from ever wanting to lead another tour again in my life.

[pullquote align=”right”]Even though we were a small press on the fringe of a huge travel book industry dominated by publishing giants like Random House, we produced highly original, innovative products because we learned the hard way, made all the mistakes, learned all the lessons.[/pullquote]Finally, in the late 1980s, with print bills mounting and payrolls not being met, I was forced to start selling my interest in Moon Publications to a Hong Kong-based publisher. By 1997, I had divested myself of all ownership shares in the company. Moon Travel Guides are now part of the Perseus Books Group and are based in Berkeley, California.

All That Road Going

Looking back on it all, Moon was not one of the big players, but we had a venerable origin story and a respectable pedigree as one of the early publishers of guidebooks for independent budget travelers. Even though we were a small press on the fringe of a huge travel book industry dominated by publishing giants like Random House, we produced highly original, innovative products because we learned the hard way, made all the mistakes, learned all the lessons.

Bill Dalton and Arthur Frommer stand together looking chummy.
With Arthur Frommer. Photo © Bill Dalton.

Publishing 65 guides under my ownership, we had our triumphs, our bestsellers. At one point in the 1980s, Moon had just as many titles as Lonely Planet and was even the sole distributor of LP guides in the U.S. During his search for a distributor, Rick Steves slept on my front porch in Chico.

In the ’70s and ’80s, Lonely Planet, Moon Publications, and Rough Guides were pioneers of a new breed of guidebooks that emphasized alternative budget travel, which continued the work of opening the world that had begun with the Fodor’s and Frommer’s guides.

This was an era when one lone, determined guidebook writer with a travel compulsion—red-faced and sweat-drenched at the end of each day—could actually “cover” a sprawling archipelago during a three-month trip, working for royalties, retaining full copyright ownership, and competing with virtually no other paper or digital guidebook.

Bill Dalton during the ceremony when he converted to Balinese Hinduism.
Converting to Balinese Hinduism with his wife and son. Photo © Bill Dalton.

Before Indonesia became the largest economy of Southeast Asia, before the terrorist bombings, the tsunami, globalization, and big international investment arrived, my Indonesia Handbook reigned supreme for 17 years as the best guide to the country. Even today, people I’ve never met before come up to me and say, “On my first trip to Indonesia, I traveled with you for months!”

Now I write travel, interview, culture, and book review columns for Tempo—the TIME magazine of Indonesia—and for other regional newspapers and magazines in Indonesia. My Indonesian wife Mita, our eight-year-old son Dian, and I raise cows and Muscovy ducks on our experimental farm deep in the countryside of west Bali. I am still endlessly intrigued by the complexity and diversity of this country.

Read Part Two

The Founding of Moon Publications: Indonesia off the Map

At Paddy's Market in Sydney in 1975 selling the first edition of Indonesia Handbook. Photo © Bill Dalton.
At Paddy’s Market in Sydney in 1975 selling the first edition of Indonesia Handbook. Photo © Bill Dalton.

After spending six months teaching English in wartime Cambodia, I made another $1,500 and traveled to Thailand, down to Penang while it was still sleepy enough to have Chinese opium dens. I took the ferry across the Melaka Strait to Medan, the capital of North Sumatra, my first exposure to the wild energy and excitement of Indonesia.

Photo of Bill Dalton.
Teaching English in Cambodia in 1971. Photo © Bill Dalton.

For weeks I traveled down this huge island and then through Java to Bali, where I took a horse cart to Adi Yasa’s in Denpasar. The only places to stay in the south part of the island at the time were a few kerosene-lit homestays in Kuta, a quiet fishing village with boats pulled up on the beach, cockfights in the back lanes, and dances held in the middle of dusty intersections. In Ubud, dogs slept in the middle of the main dirt road and the only place to eat was Oka Wati’s warung and the only place to stay was Tjanderi’s.

After six months, my Indonesian visa had expired and I was running out of money again. In May of 1972, I flew to Darwin and took rides, buses, and trains down to Cairns, Queensland, where I got a job as a gardener for the Parks and Recreation Department. One night I was writing out some travel notes in a youth hostel for some German travelers. A crusty, old New Zealand journalist came up to me: “You shouldn’t just give that information away—you should sell it.”

Two girls I knew who worked in the town library printed my six pages of notes on an old mimeograph machine. I stapled the sheets together and called it “A Traveler’s Notes: Indonesia.” I heard that there was to be a new age festival at Nimbin—Australia’s equivalent of Woodstock—in a week, so I hitched a ride on the back of a motorcycle south to New South Wales.

Two street vendors watch over their wares: bags and patches.
Selling his wares next to a vendor of leather goods at Nimbin in Australia. Photo © Bill Dalton.

I sold my info sheets on a blanket on the main street next to a vendor of leather goods. I remember going back to my tent at the end of each day with my pockets weighted down with 50-cent pieces. I sold all 600 copies in three days. I knew I was onto something. In Sydney, I slept over the offset printing presses of Tomato Press on Glebe Point Road that turned the info sheets into a little booklet. Replenishing stock out of my backpack at bookstores around the city, the booklet kept on selling and kept on growing in size from 12 pages to 24 pages to 36 pages. I soon found myself becoming an information center for travel to that faraway country.

In Sydney, I made my living as a flea market vendor at Paddy’s Market and—when the cops didn’t move us—on the sidewalks at King’s Cross, selling counterculture paraphernalia like incense, puzzle rings, smoking gear, Zap Comix, and “how to grow marijuana” books, earning up to $350 Australian dollars per night. They called me the Hippie Capitalist.

[pullquote align=”right”]I sold my info sheets on a blanket on the main street. . . . I remember going back to my tent at the end of each day with my pockets weighted down with 50-cent pieces. I sold all 600 copies in three days. I knew I was onto something.[/pullquote]One day, Tony Wheeler, the founder of Lonely Planet, walked by my blanket on King’s Cross. He had just arrived in Australia with his wife Maureen. On the sidewalk, Tony did a double-take. He asked me, “Where did you get that booklet printed?” I wrote down the address and telephone number of Tomato Press, who later printed his first publication, Asia on the Cheap (1973). The follow-up, Southeast Asia on a Shoestring, laid out in a hotel in Singapore, was the guidebook that launched Lonely Planet into the stratosphere to become the largest independently owned travel media company in the world.

Bill Dalton and Tony Wheeler hold two babies.
Bill and Tony Wheeler later in 1982. Photo © Bill Dalton.

After a year and a half on a visitor’s visa, with my Whole Earth Catalog on Australia’s counterculture unfinished (yet another book now gathering dust in my garage), the Australian immigration officials wrote me: “Mr. Dalton does not fulfill a national need category and his economic viability is doubtful.” The authorities were cordial, giving me a month to sell off my furniture and clean up my affairs. A long, tall Texan woman, whom I met at the Paddington flea market, gave up her teaching job and agreed to leave the country with me. Mary later became the mother of my two American daughters.

Just days before leaving, I met Tony and Maureen outside a bookstore in Sydney. Maureen gave me the name of a printer in Singapore. “They’ll print 2,000 copies of a 200-page book for $2,000 dollars,” she told me. Mary and I flew first to Papua New Guinea, then to West Irian Jaya (now West Papua, New Guinea). We visited the Baliem Valley in the central highlands, home of the Dani Tribe, then took flights west to the Spice Islands, hopped over to Sulawesi, and almost drowned in a storm at sea on a fishing boat to Borneo.

From Sarawak, we took a passenger freighter to Singapore. In less than a year, with Mary putting in $3,400 of her money and me putting in $2,500 of my money, we produced the 180-page, orange Indonesia & Papua New Guinea—a proper guide to Indonesia—in the very same room of the Palace Hotel in Singapore that the Wheelers laid out their pioneering Southeast Asia on a Shoestring. Two years later in Singapore, we came out with the black first edition of Indonesia Handbook. A publishing company was born.

Photo of the first edition of Indonesia Handbook being compiled at the Palace Hotel in Singapore.
Photo © Bill Dalton.

Read Part One or Read Part Three

The Founding of Moon Publications: For the Love of Travel

Publishing is called the “accidental profession” for a reason. Like many publishers who never purposefully intended to become makers of books, I never set out to be a publisher. Often we don’t pick our professions; they are decided for us by the choices we make or the places we go. Publishing is also called the “gentleman’s profession” because we like to think of ourselves as following a higher calling guided by noble principles and fine manners. That might be so, but publishing is a high-risk, hard-nosed, intensely competitive business.

[pullquote align=”right”]My love and experience of travel was to evolve into a guidebook publishing company. It all began in the early 1970s when I stumbled upon Indonesia completely by accident.[/pullquote]In my case, my love and experience of travel was to evolve into a guidebook publishing company. It all began in the early 1970s when I stumbled upon Indonesia completely by accident. It was just the next country to visit on my travels around the world. Recalling my travel experiences through the islands, I stapled together six mimeographed pages of notes and crude handmade maps, which I sold on the sidewalks and in the flea markets of Australia.

This rudimentary publication was the genesis of a whole line of independent travel guides. It also led to my whole professional life writing about this maddening, fascinating archipelago, culminating two decades later in the seventh edition Indonesia Handbook, a tree-killing behemoth of more than 1,000 pages and the first comprehensive guidebook published on Indonesia in the post-war period.

Though I grew up in Wellesley, Massachusetts, an upper-class bedroom community 12 miles west of Boston, I am not to the manor-born but the son of an immigrant sign painter from Nova Scotia. The most valuable gift my father gave me was to give me no help in my studies, job searches, higher education, or any other kind of start in life, qualities that were to serve me well in my future traveling life and in my as yet undecided profession.

I was always a scribbler. I got my love of books from my mom, who I remember curled up on the sofa in the living room plowing through impossibly thick Thomas Wolfe and John Updike novels. She gave me the best piece of advice I’ve ever received about the craft: make your writing clear so people can understand you.

Photo of a family sitting outside a car.
An early road trip in 1949. Photo © Bill Dalton.

Travel got into my blood early. My first road trips were around eight years old on what we call “beer nights.” My dad would wake me up at 3 o’clock in the morning, pour coffee down my throat, and we’d fly away into the night with me often driving on his lap. We’d wind up the next morning in northern Maine woods, in Amish country of far western Pennsylvania on our way to California, or blinking in the glare of Times Square before he’d sober up and head sheepishly back home. When he started taking my little brother on his night flights, my mother threatened to divorce him, and they stopped.

When I graduated from high school, I couldn’t leave high-class Wellesley fast enough and split for California via Florida with three other 18-year-olds. Influenced by its jazz-infused prose, we kept a copy of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road in the glove compartment. We crossed the Jim Crow south, worked as soda jerks in Miami, and then one guy went back home while the rest of us headed to California.

Bill Dalton standing outside a car in Sequoia National Park.
Working at Sequoia National Park in 1961. Photo © Bill Dalton.

I remember emptying oilcans out of piles of throwaways in back of gas stations for engine oil. I picked oranges in Fillmore, California, with Mexican agricultural laborers, worked as a cabin boy in Sequoia National Park, and lived off the soup kitchens in Los Angeles’ Skid Row. Finally I got tired of being down and out, joined the U.S. Army paratroopers in 1962, trained on howitzers in Oklahoma, and went to jump school in Georgia.

My first time out of the country was to a war in another country that my country invaded. On Easter of 1965, Lyndon Johnson sent the whole 82nd Airborne Division to the Dominican Republic. I spent the last six months of my service as a combat paramedic in the street battles of Santo Domingo, treating civilians and wounded U.S. soldiers shot by snipers.

Photo of Bill Dalton in his army uniform.
Army photo from 1965. Photo © Bill Dalton.

I hated the army and was discharged barely honorably with the same rank I had when I enlisted. (That’s hard to do.) I stayed under my father’s roof on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, for a year building fences and working construction. The first time I knew that I could put a good sentence together was during a creative writing course I took at a junior college in Hyannis. My teacher gave me an F on a short story, then took me aside and demanded that I acknowledge the fact that she was a better writer than I was. She was threatened by my writing.

But I was already planning my escape to Scandinavia. Since I was a kid, I had always remembered that Hans Christian Andersen movie with Danny Kay hanging on the yardarm of a sailing schooner singing “Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen.” From that moment on, I had an obsession with living in Denmark. From 1966 to 1970, I attended the University of Copenhagen on the G.I. Bill. For three years I had a student job at the main Danish post office sorting letters, assigned to the letter “H.” I still know by heart nearly all the Danish “H” towns—Hellerup, Hvidovre, Hojste.

Bill Dalton in front of the post office in Copenhagen.
Working at Copenhagen’s General Post Office. Photo © Bill Dalton.

I studied Scandinavian history and European philosophy—totally useless subjects—at university. What I was really doing in Denmark was drinking a lot of Tuborg beer, discovering Danish girls, and writing the Great American Novel about that road trip across the U.S. after high school. Turned out nobody wanted my first travel book. A literary agent rejected it on the phone from the top floor of a swanky hotel while I stood in a phone booth below her, imploringly looking up at her window. That’s as close as I got. Now the manuscript is gathering dust in my garage in Bali. Looking back on those four years, what I should’ve really been doing in Copenhagen was writing a guidebook to the city which I knew like the back of my hand. But my head was in the clouds.

Carrying with them the mystique of eastern lands, returning travelers were showing up on the streets of the Danish capital wearing furry Afghan coats and smoking chillums of killer hash from Himachal Pradesh. With uncanny timing, my grandmother Mama Johnson left all her grandkids $1,000, which I received soon after earning my Danish Candidatus Magistratus degree. I took mine and hit the road to Kathmandu on the Hippie Trail, a rite of passage that was to last a lifetime.

Thirsting for adventure, hardship, and danger, I kept a travel journal from the start. I inserted myself in a skirmish between the Israelis and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. In Nepal in the early ’70s there was already graffiti on hotel walls from earlier waves of travelers to India. Allen Ginsberg had even been there in the 1960s. I earned money as a rumrunner, buying liquor in “wet” Indian states and selling the bottles for a profit in “dry” states. For six months, I lived on $5 per week in a grass hut in Goa. It was here that I conceived the name Moon Publications after writing 21 hallucinogenic-fueled poems to the moon during one mad moonlit night.

When a rabid puppy bit me, the hospital in Panjim used the old Pasteur treatment to inject serum up and down both sides of my stomach. I came down with hepatitis, yellowing my skin and eyes. As other backpackers stepped over me on the floor of a hotel in Bombay, I heard them mutter, “He’s a goner.” I had already booked a berth on a ship to the Seychelles, staying in the ship’s infirmary over the stern the whole way. The British authorities weren’t letting any bearded hippies on their islands, so unintentionally I was forced to go on to Africa.

Bill Dalton in front of the Shwedagon Pagoda in Burma.
In front of Burma’s Shwedagon Pagoda in 1971. Photo © Bill Dalton.

On Lamu, an old Swahili trading post off the coast of Kenya, I lived among the East African Arabs in a stone house with an American girl and a cat named Widget for six months. The island was a paradise—with women in full chadar body coverings, Arab dhows cutting through the turquoise harbor, and immaculate stretches of powdery white-sand beaches. I hitchhiked all over Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Zambia and visited the wild Serengeti, Murchison Falls, and the incomparable Ngoro Ngoro Crater.

I returned to India, camped outside the great erotic temple of Karnak, studied silent meditation with Burmese master Goenka in Dalhousie in northern India, traveled by train everywhere, sleeping in luggage racks with orphans of the rail, our arms wrapped around each other. After traveling all around the subcontinent and East Africa for a year and a half, my grandmother’s inheritance finally ran out in Calcutta. An old army buddy and my brother each sent me another $100. I flew over Burma. In Bangkok, I met an Australian who had just left some teaching jobs in Phnom Penh. He referred me to the pupils who worked in government ministries, so I hitched into Cambodia.

Read Part Two

Northern Texas Attitudes toward Gay and Lesbian Travelers

Colorful sights at the Dallas Pride Parade.
Colorful sights at the Dallas Pride Parade. Photos © Cordey, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Despite its rep as a stronghold of conservative values, Dallas-Fort Worth actually is a pretty comfortable place for GLBT travelers. Fort Worth has no designated “gayborhood” and few gay bars, but its culture, climate, and charm have attracted many gay and lesbian couples. The scene here is quieter, more family-oriented, and more woven into the fabric of the city. While Fort Worth may be a touch more conservative than Dallas, the town’s pioneer roots promote a sort of “live and let live” mentality.

[pullquote align=”right”]…as in many cities, the need for a physical community has waned, as GLBT Dallasites have landed in increasing numbers in every neighborhood.[/pullquote]The Dallas GLBT scene is more rowdy and visible. For decades, the scene here revolved around a row of bars, shops, and coffeehouses at the crossroads of Cedar Springs and Oak Lawn Avenues, known as “the strip” or “the gayborhood.” Many GLBT-oriented businesses still stand there and are going strong, and the strip is still considered the epicenter of queer life in Dallas. This is where most folks head on out for happy hours, weekend revelry, the Pride parade (held in September here), and the (in)famous Halloween parade. For years, this also was the neighborhood with the highest concentration of GLBT home owners and renters.

However, as in many cities, the need for a physical community has waned, as GLBT Dallasites have landed in increasing numbers in every neighborhood. Bishop Arts, Uptown, and downtown are all popular destinations, for instance. Dallas has long been a destination for queer travelers, especially men, and the expansion of this already very visible community has only increased its cachet.

While all of North Texas continues to trend Democrat and more liberal, it is by no means a hotbed for the type of activism and radical (some would say) politics that abound in other places like San Francisco, Portland, New York, and Austin, so travelers who identify more on that side of things might be disappointed, although to be sure, the local community is friendly and welcoming.

It’s also worth noting that you might find some of the smaller towns and rural areas surrounding DFW less welcoming toward queer travelers. In all honesty, a same-sex couple holding hands might get a stare or perhaps a muttered comment directed their way, though such behavior is the exception, not the rule.

Map of Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas
Dallas and Fort Worth

Excerpted from the Second Edition of Moon Dallas & Fort Worth.

Trip Planning: Where to Go in Québec City

Château Frontenac in Vieux-Québec.
Château Frontenac in Vieux-Québec. Photo © Jamie McCaffrey, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Québec City, Quebec by Neighborhood
Québec City by Neighborhood
For those traveling to Québec City, here’s a helpful list of must-see sights and attractions in the city’s various neighborhoods.

Vieux-Québec’s Upper Town

Les Fortifications surround Vieux-Québec’s Upper Town, a 400-year-old neighborhood where the history of the winding streets and original architecture remains safe from the ravages of time. Protected by these walls is the Château Frontenac, Québec City’s most famous sight, and the Séminaire de Québec, one of the city’s oldest sights.

Vieux-Québec’s Lower Town

The stone Norman-style buildings and cobblestone streets of Place Royale mark the country’s birthplace. History is unavoidable here, from the narrow lanes of Quartier du Petit-Champlain to the historic Vieux-Port, with its converted warehouses, antiques shops, and trendy hotels.

Parliament Hill and the Plains

Outside of the walls are the Plains of Abraham and Battlefield Park, the site of France’s historic defeat by the British. The seat of the provincial government is to its north, housed in Hôtel du Parlement. Running alongside the government building are the nightclubs and bars of La Grande-Allée, the city’s nightlife destination. Also in the Plains is Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec, which holds the largest existing collection of Québec art.

Saint-Jean-Baptiste and Saint-Roch

Once working-class neighborhoods, Saint-Jean-Baptiste and Saint- Roch are now trendy, bohemian neighborhoods, home to the city’s coolest kids, and the area where you’ll find the best bars, browse independent boutiques, and catch the latest bands. It’s also a major arts hub, and the contemporary arts complex Méduse is located here.

Greater Québec City

In the areas surrounding the center of the city, find kid-friendly destinations like the Aquarium du Québec and the beautiful, sprawling gardens of Parc du Bois-de-Coulonge. The slopes of Mont-Sainte-Anne are fun for the whole family.

Excursions from Québec City

Just a half-hour drive from the city are the picturesque towns of Île d’Orléans and Côte-de-Beaupré, while an hour north, the Charlevoix region has some of the most spectacular scenery in the region.

Excerpted from the Third Edition of Moon Montréal & Québec City.

Highlights of Gay Puerto Vallarta

Map of Gay Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Gay Puerto Vallarta

When you arrive in Puerto Vallarta, make sure to pick up a copy of the excellent Gay Guide Vallarta for a wealth of information on Puerto Vallarta’s many gay-friendly establishments and events. Also recommended is Discovery Vallarta, one of the city’s best websites for gay travelers.


There are plenty of free palapas in the general area of the famous Blue Chairs resort at Playa los Muertos, the stretch of sand most popular with the gay community. Most hotels and beach clubs are happy to let you use their lounge chairs and facilities with a minimum food or drink purchase of about $20 worth of pesos. Whether you are looking forward to making new friends or just people-watching, Playa los Muertos is the place to be.

Playa los Muertos. Photo © Justin Henderson.
Playa los Muertos. Photo © Justin Henderson.


Hotels catering to gay travelers can be found all over Old Town. Gay-owned Casa Fantasia B&B offers a soothing haven from the busy streets and beaches of the Zona Romántica. This three-house hacienda-style B&B is spacious yet welcoming.

One of the most beautiful and eccentric of all Vallarta hotels is Casa Cúpula, contained in three side-by-side houses and a modern new lobby building, joined by winding stairways and paths. Casa Cúpula is considered one of the best gay-friendly guesthouses in Puerto Vallarta. It’s also home to Taste, one of Puerto Vallarta’s finest gourmet restaurants.


There is nightlife aplenty in gay Vallarta. For a wild time of it, check out C.C. Slaughter’s, which has an ambient martini lounge on one side and a raucous, multilevel dance club on the other.

For a low-key night, check out the neighborhood piano bar Garbo, a popular after-work place for locals that has cheerful waiters and a friendly, mixed crowd.

Try one of the neighborhood bars in the Zona Romántica, such as Frida, Diva’s, La Noche—or all of them. Frida is a nice, quiet hangout with cheap drinks and a fun atmosphere. Relaxed Diva’s is a great place to go alone or with friends early in the evening before hitting the nearby dance clubs. La Noche offers quiet corner booths for conversation or a romantic drink as well as more central seating for more social groups.


Ocean Friendly Whale Watching is a good choice for trips catering to the gay community. The whales come to Puerto Vallarta every year to either mate or give birth, and it’s likely that you’ll get to see some amazing mating behavior from these massive mammals.

If you really want to experience gay life on the water, choose one of the gay tours available, perhaps to one of the private beaches along the south coast. Diana’s Tours has always focused on and catered to gay and lesbian tourists, but its “straight-friendly” tours remain open to everybody.

Excerpted from the Ninth Edition of Moon Puerto Vallarta.

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