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Author Essay: Florence Gonsalves

A couple of years ago, when I’d just graduated from college, scared out of my mind with no idea what the future would hold, humor kind of saved my life. “Ancient Greece isn’t hiring,” I told people who asked how my philosophy degree would influence my career path. “I’ll probably be permanently unemployed in the year 450 BCE.”


At first, I’d tried the whole, “I’ll probably go to law school!” approach, but that wasn’t the truth at all and telling that little white lie was making me feel worse and worse. The truth was I was petrified, and the only way I could access those emotions was by poking a little fun at myself. Once I started joking about my predicament, I was able to come to terms with it and eventually move past it.


Instead of law school, I ended up writing what would become my debut novel, Love and Other Carnivorous Plants. The story follows nineteen-year-old Danny’s summer after her freshmen year of college. It covers a lot of taboo subjects—eating disorders, mental health concerns, drug and alcohol abuse, and questioning one’s sexuality. Danny’s approach to such “touchy” issues is to joke about them, which results in a lot of humor for a book about some pretty serious stuff.


One of the beautiful things about fiction is its capacity to speak to real life issues in a person’s life, but to do that the characters (and of course, the author!) have to somehow find a way into what is otherwise hush-hush. So often taboo topics aren’t discussed at all because they are treated so seriously. And treating a subject as so serious that it can’t be joked ironically increases its taboo.


As a writer, humor gives me the permission to approach the things that society tells me I shouldn’t. It is the access point to otherwise unapproachable topics, and if we never approach such things, how can we expect to confront them at all? If Danny couldn’t joke about her bulimia, for example, she wouldn’t have been able to talk about it, which would have been a missed opportunity to really explore the pain (but also the occasional lol! moment) of her situation. Taboo creates shame and shame creates secrets, as well as shadows where even darker emotions hide. I think it’s much more important that difficult subjects be broached in the first place, especially because usually those difficult subjects make a person feel lonely and laughter is a universal connector. A good HAHA! brings people together at times when connection is most needed, and at some point the humor does fall away, making room for other emotions.


I am so grateful that humor exists as a way of shedding light on those parts of ourselves that most need it. Laughter allows transformation to occur through acknowledgment and acceptance of what is, regardless of how lousy things seem. When it comes to expressing our struggles, I say, as Vievee Francis does, “Say it. Say it any way you can.” Find a way in to a find a way out. Crying is inevitable. Why not let laughter be, too?




The Best of Waikiki Nightlife

Waikiki nightlife is wonderfully varied—you’ll find bars and clubs, fine dining and live music, ultra-casual hangouts and high-class venues, so no matter your mood, there’s always somewhere to go. Check out the locations below; many are popular with visitors and locals alike.

LuLu’s (2586 Kalakaua Ave., 808/926-5222, 7am-2am daily) serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but is more widely known as a place to hang out, have a beer, and enjoy its second-story view. Right on the corner of Kalakaua and Kapahulu Avenues, it’s the spot for people-watching.

Sky Waikiki (2330 Kalakaua Ave., 808/921-9978, 5pm-midnight Sun.-Thurs., 5pm-close Fri.-Sat.) is an upscale club, which offers amazing views, tapas, signature cocktails, and all the things nightclubs are known for. Expect a line to get in after 9pm and a cover charge at the door. You must get bottle service and a table if you’d like to order food.

The Hideaway Bar (1913 Dudoit Ln., 808/949-9885, 6am-2am daily) is a famous little dive that prides itself on being the first establishment in Waikiki to start serving alcohol fresh and early, at 6am. It’s also notorious for interesting characters.

Cocktails at the Sheraton Waikiki RumFire's outdoor seating.
The RumFire has an elegantly appointed lounge and a gorgeous oceanside view. Photo courtesy of Sheraton Waikiki.

For a more upscale experience, check out Rum Fire (2255 Kalakaua Ave., 808/922-4422, 11am-12:30am Fri.-Sat., 11am-midnight Sun.-Thurs.) in the Sheraton Waikiki. Set by the infinity pool, the food is globally influenced to complement the cocktails.

Next door at the Royal Hawaiian is the Mai Tai Bar (2259 Kalakaua Ave., 866/716-8109, 10am-midnight daily). Right on the beach, the views are exquisite, and there are a couple of cabanas to lounge under. The food and drink are on the expensive side.

Outdoor seating at the Mai Tai Bar on Waikiki Beach.
If you’re looking to enjoy a cocktail with a view, try the Mai Tai Bar at the landmark Royal Hawaiian. Photo courtesy of The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort.

The Irish Rose Saloon (478 Ena Rd., 808/947-3414, 6am-2am daily) is a great Irish pub with live and loud rock and roll and a great selection of Irish whiskey, of course. Smoking is still allowed in the Irish Rose, which you’ll either love or hate.

Arnold’s Beach Bar & Grill (339 Saratoga Rd., 808/924-6887, 10am-2am daily) is a kitschy throwback to the 1950s. It’s warm and cozy, the service is friendly, and the drinks are priced just right.

One of the only true nightclubs in Waikiki, Addiction Nightclub (1775 Ala Moana Blvd., 808/943-5800, 10:30pm-3am Thurs.-Sat.) is in the chic Modern Honolulu hotel. DJs, dancing, bottle service—check the website for who’s spinning while you’re in town.

On the second floor of the Waikiki Grand hotel, Hula’s Bar & Lei Stand (134 Kapahulu Ave., 808/923-0669, 10am-2am daily) is Waikiki’s premier gay and lesbian bar. Famous for its open-air lanai and beautiful views from the rail, Hula’s has DJs and dancing, daily drink specials, and a limited menu of entrées and appetizers. Check its website for a complete monthly events calendar.

Excerpted from the Eighth Edition of Moon Honolulu & O’ahu.

Gender Roles in Thailand

Thailand is a traditional but increasingly progressive society when it comes to gender roles. Thai women hold cabinet positions and seats in the legislature; they are the country’s scientists, doctors, and engineers; and they work in finance and business. Pass any construction site and you’re likely to see women digging trenches, hauling sand, or engaging in other forms of manual labor that some might consider “man’s work.” Women have equal access to education and enroll and complete programs through graduate school at nearly the same rate as men.

But, they’re also usually the primary caregivers of children and of elderly parents. Women manage the household and, of course, are expected to look pretty and feminine. While many career paths are open to women, there are few female chief executives of large companies or managing directors of banks. The military, an important political institution in Thailand, is virtually all male at the upper echelons. In sum, Thai women face the same issues that women all over the world face.

A little girl cries and holds onto her mom on her first day of school.
Women in Thailand face the same dilemma balancing work and home life as women all over the world, such as dropping a child off for her first day of preschool. Photo © khunaspix/123rf.

[pullquote align=right]Some help-wanted advertisements will even specify that female applicants should be slender and not wear glasses.[/pullquote]There are also some peculiarly Asian gender issues in Thailand. Job applicants are asked to submit photographs and provide height and weight information, and some help-wanted advertisements will even specify that female applicants should be slender and not wear glasses. Although the practice is less and less common (and is illegal), wealthier men will sometimes take more than one wife or have long-term mistresses, while women are not socially permitted more than one husband. Prostitution is not uncommon in Thailand, and it exists not just in touristed areas frequented by foreigners.

Gay and Lesbian Culture in Thailand

Thailand has an extremely progressive and tolerant view toward homosexuality, and it may be one of the most open societies in the world when it comes to transsexuality. Especially in urban areas, it is completely ordinary to see same-sex couples walking hand in hand, and many gays and lesbians, especially in the younger generation, don’t often feel compelled to hide their sexual orientation from their friends or families. For whatever reason, the creative sector tends to attract a large number of gay men. There are numerous clubs and neighborhoods in all major cities that are either completely gay or mixed, and in general, no one at any “straight” club will bat an eye if a same-sex couple enters.

Transsexuality is common in Thailand, and you’re likely to see katoey (the Thai word for a transsexual male) working as waitresses, store clerks, travel agents, and in other service-oriented businesses. Many katoey go to great lengths to look very feminine, to the point that it is difficult for most people to tell the difference. In fact, Thailand is the world leader in gender-reassignment surgery, and people travel here from all over the world for it.

Despite Thailand’s tolerant stance on homosexuality, some discrimination and prejudice still exists toward gays, lesbians, and katoey. Few of the country’s business and civic leaders are openly gay (and none are katoey), and some Thais in the older generation view anyone who isn’t heterosexual as abnormal.


Dressed to perfection with silky, shiny hair down to her shoulders, a miniskirt up to her thighs, and an enchanting smile accentuated with just the right touch of makeup, the sexy, ultrafeminine waitress serving you dinner is getting stares from every guy in the room. On closer inspection, the waitress seems a little taller than the average woman, her hips a little slimmer, her presentation a little more perfected…her voice a little deeper. The person everyone is staring at is a beautiful woman, but she may not have been born as female.

A pair of transgender performers greet visitors.
Katoey, or ladyboys, are the main performers at Simon Cabaret in Phuket, Thailand. Photo © Adeel Anwer, licensed Creative Commons Attribution No-Derivatives.

Though no one knows the exact numbers, it’s safe to say Bangkok is home to thousands of katoey or ladyboys, male-bodied women who either live as women, are in the process of undergoing gender reassignment, or have completed the transformation. Katoey take women’s names and will always use the feminine particle ka instead of the masculine kap when speaking.

While there are transgender people all over the world, the extent of the phenomenon is unique to Thailand. Homosexuality is generally well tolerated, especially in the big cities, and won’t be viewed as out of the ordinary by many people. Open transsexuality, still taboo in many cultures, is also far more accepted here, and it’s more commonplace in Bangkok than in any other city in the world. Discrimination still exists, but you are likely to see katoey working in retail shops, in offices, and in hotels and restaurants.

The art of transitioning is particularly well practiced in Thailand, where some of the biggest and most prestigious hospitals offer a myriad of procedures to transform male bodies to fit a female self-identity. As a result, many of the ladyboys in the city adjust smoothly.

Despite the widespread practice and general level of acceptance, it would be inaccurate to say that the life of a katoey is not filled with challenges. The movie Beautiful Boxer, based on the life of muay Thai champion Parinya Charoenphol, is a wonderful, heartbreaking, and uplifting story about a young woman in the provinces whose male body didn’t fit with her identity. By chance she turns to kickboxing as a way to earn enough money to change that, but learns that she loves the sport and remains a fighter through the transition. The international award-winning, beautifully filmed film chronicles her emotional journey from male body to female set against a backdrop of kickboxing rounds and cabaret performances.

Excerpted from the Second Edition of Moon Living Abroad Thailand.

Guerneville, California’s LGBT Resort Town

There are a number of wineries in the Guerneville area, but most people come here to float, canoe, or kayak the gorgeous Russian River that winds from Healdsburg all the way to the Pacific Ocean at Jenner. In addition to its busy summertime tourist trade, Guerneville is also a very popular gay and lesbian resort area. The rainbow flag flies proudly here, and the friendly community welcomes all.

Downtown Guerneville. Photo © Elizabeth Linhart Veneman.
Downtown Guerneville. Photo © Elizabeth Linhart Veneman.

Russian River

[pullquote align=right]The rainbow flag flies proudly here, and the friendly community welcomes all.[/pullquote]Guerneville and its surrounding forest are the center for fun on the river. In summer the water is usually warm and dotted with folks swimming, canoeing, or simply floating tubes serenely downriver amid forested riverbanks. Burke’s Canoe Trips (8600 River Rd., Forestville, 707/887-1222, Memorial Day-mid-Oct., $65) rents canoes and kayaks on the Russian River. The put-in is at Burke’s beach in Forestville; paddlers then canoe downriver 10 miles to Guerneville, where a courtesy shuttle picks them up. Burkes also offers overnight campsites for tents, trailers, and RVs.

On the north bank, Johnsons Beach & Resort (16241 1st St., Guerneville, 707/869-2022, 10am-6pm daily May-Oct., $35) rents canoes, kayaks, pedal boats, and inner tubes for floating the river. There is a safe kid-friendly section of the riverbank that is roped off for small children; parents and beachcombers can rent beach chairs and umbrellas for use on the small beach. The boathouse sells beer and snacks.

Fly fishers can cast their lines nearby off Wohler Bridge (9765 Wohler Rd., Forestville) and Steelhead Beach (9000 River Rd., Forestville).

The Russian River is surrounded by forest.
The Russian River is surrounded by forest. Photo © Fernley/Dreamstime.

Armstrong Redwoods

Armstrong Redwoods (17000 Armstrong Woods Rd., Guerneville, 707/869-2015, 8am-sunset daily, $8 per vehicle) is an easy five-minute drive from Guerneville. This little redwoods park often gets overlooked, which makes it less crowded than some of the popular North Coast and Sierra redwood forests. Take a fabulous hike—either a short stroll in the shade of the trees or a multiple-day backcountry adventure. The easiest walk to a big tree is the 0.1 mile from the visitors center to the tallest tree in the park, named the Parson Jones Tree. If you saunter another 0.5 mile, you’ll reach the Colonel Armstrong Tree, which grows next to the Armstrong Pack Station—your first stop if you’re doing heavy-duty hiking. From the Pack Station, another 0.25 mile of moderate hiking leads to the Icicle Tree.

The more adventurous can choose from any number of longer hikes up out of the redwoods to the oak and madrone forests on the ridges higher up. One such hike is a quick 2.3-mile Pool Ridge Trail Loop, which climbs 500 feet up a series of switchbacks before looping back down into the forest.

Right next to Armstrong is the Austin Creek State Recreation Area (17000 Armstrong Woods Rd., Guerneville, 707/869-2015, 8am-sunset daily, $8 per vehicle). It’s rough going on 2.5 miles of steep, narrow, treacherous dirt road to get to the main entrance and parking area; no vehicles over 20 feet long and no trailers of any kind are permitted. But once you’re in, some great—and very difficult—hiking awaits you. The eponymous Austin Creek Trail (4.7 miles one-way) leads down from the hot meadows into the cool forest fed by Austin Creek. To avoid monotony on this challenging route, create a loop by taking the turn onto Gilliam Creek Trail (4 miles one-way). This way you get to see another of the park’s cute little creeks as you walk back to the starting point.

Aerial view of Armstrong Redwoods.
Aerial view of Armstrong Redwoods. Photo © Harminder Dhesi, licensed Creative Commons BY-DN.

Bars and Festivals

Guerneville wouldn’t be a proper gay resort town without at least a couple of good gay bars that create proper nightlife for visitors and locals. The most visible and funky-looking of these is the Rainbow Cattle Company (16220 Main St., Guerneville, 707/869-0206, noon-2am daily). Mixing the vibes of a down-home country saloon with a happening San Francisco nightspot, the Rainbow has cold drinks and hot men with equal abandon. Think cocktails in Mason jars, wood paneling, and leather nights. This is just the kind of queer bar where you can bring your mom or your straight-but-not-narrow friends, and they’ll have just as much fun as you will.

It may not look like much from the road, but the Stumptown Brewery (15045 River Rd., 707/869-0705, 11am-midnight Sun.-Thurs., 11am-2am Fri.-Sat.) is the place to hang out on the river. Inside this atypical dive bar are a pool table, Naugahyde barstools, and a worn wooden bar crowded with locals. Out back is a second bar and an outdoor deck with tables overlooking the river. The brewery only makes a few of the beers sold on tap, but they are all great and perfect to enjoy by the pitcher. If you are feeling a little woozy from the beer and sunshine, Stumptown also serves a menu of burgers and grilled sandwiches; the food is a perfect excuse to stay put.

Held at Johnson’s Beach in Guerneville, the Russian River Jazz and Blues Festival (707/869-1595, $50-60 each day, Sept.) is a two-day affair with jazz one day and blues the next. The main stage has some pretty big acts, including Buddy Guy, Al Green, and Taj Mahal, but there is plenty of music to groove to throughout the festival grounds. In addition to live acts, food vendors showcase regional fare, local artists hawk their wares, and tents serve glass after glass of wine while sunburned devotees splash around in the river. Much more than just a music festival, this event is the last big bash of the summer season; it takes place at the end of September, just before the weather reliably turns cold. If you plan to stay both days, consider camping here. Johnson’s Beach (707/869-2022) has designated campsites available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Excerpted from the Seventh Edition of Moon Northern California.

New Zealand’s Social Climate

New Zealanders are generally a good-natured bunch. They enjoy a climate of social tolerance and political stability, but they also enjoy a good debate and love to complain about their elected leaders as much as the rest of us.

[pullquote align=right]Despite their isolation, Kiwis consider themselves good global citizens.[/pullquote]New Zealand is a decidedly classless society for the most part. Anyone who puts on airs of superiority is quickly brought down to earth, and even the most powerful members of society are pretty accessible. This is not to say that everyone has the same lifestyle. There are very rich Kiwis and very poor Kiwis, but the vast majority have a comfortable, modest lifestyle. In some areas you may manage to find a bit of snobbery where things like which school you attended matter. Overall these leftover attitudes from the British old boys’ club are ignored or actively discouraged. To gain respect in New Zealand you have to be someone who has worked hard and overcome the odds to succeed.

While fiercely proud of their country, Kiwis still suffer from a kind of inferiority complex. They are somewhat overwhelmed by the big guys “across the ditch” in Australia. Their self-image is one of the underdogs, the little guys struggling to prove their worth to both themselves and the world at large. Kiwis love a local success story, but sadly, they tend to only celebrate their own heroes once their achievements have been recognized outside of New Zealand. When a Kiwi does accomplish something that garners international attention, the whole country takes ownership of that achievement, whether it’s the All Blacks winning the rugby World Cup or director Peter Jackson winning an Oscar.

Thousands rally for action on climate change around New Zealand. Photo © Rafael Ben-Ari/123rf.
In November 2015, thousands rallied for action on climate change after the golden toad went extinct. Photo © Rafael Ben-Ari/123rf.

When it comes to internal affairs, there is continuing conflict between government and Maori leaders over land, resources, and other details of the original treaties drawn up when the British colonized the country. These conflicts are generally political in nature, and although they may involve public protest, they almost never lead to any kind of violence. In fact, New Zealanders love a good protest. Farmers will march on parliament to protest trade restrictions, parents will protest the closure of a school, and if anything appears to threaten the cherished landscape or protected areas, there will be protests galore! Again, these tend not to escalate into violence; as often as not the two sides will end up drinking in the same pub later that evening.

To the average American, the politics in New Zealand will lean further to the left than you may be used to. It was one of the first countries in the world to come up with a pension plan for seniors and has many other government-funded social programs. The main areas of political debate are taxation, education, and health care, so you will probably feel at home hearing leaders argue those issues.

You may also find social attitudes in New Zealand more liberal on average than in the United States. When it comes to their attitude toward homosexuals, Kiwis, like many other nationalities, have a wide range of views. These views were widely debated in 2005 as the government introduced “civil unions,” which gave gay or lesbian couples a way to register their relationships to receive some of the same benefits as marriage in New Zealand, and again in 2013 when same-sex marriage was legalized. For the most part there is a very live-and-let-live attitude toward gays and lesbians, with the loudest dissent coming from the Christian right and some rural communities. A gay Kiwi actor or politician is unlikely to make headlines because of his or her sexuality, and being openly gay or lesbian does not necessarily close doors professionally in New Zealand.

Despite their isolation, Kiwis consider themselves good global citizens. The country is committed to participating in worldwide efforts to address global warming. New Zealand also sends troops to join UN peacekeeping forces. It currently has soldiers deployed in Africa, the Middle East, the Solomon Islands, South Korea, and Afghanistan, among other locations. Kiwis love to travel, and many of them decide to live in another country for at least a little while—they call it OE (overseas experience). Many go to Australia, where they can live and work without a visa, and a good number of others move to the United Kingdom, especially London. So while they are from a small country, the people of New Zealand generally have a good understanding of the larger world in which they live.

Kiwis have a healthy sense of humor when it comes to their country and their culture, although they take more kindly to self-mocking than they do to being mocked by outsiders. They are quick to have a go at their stereotypes, and like the British they prefer a dry, sarcastic, and slightly over-the-top brand of humor. Their favorite target is their closest neighbor, the Australians, with the British (or “Pommies”) coming in a close second. Americans may also take a bit of good-natured ribbing for being a “Yank.” It’s just the local way of bringing you down to earth, so don’t take it personally.

Excerpted from the Third Edition of Moon Living Abroad New Zealand.

Cancún Nightlife: A Guide to the Best Clubs and Live Music

Cancún’s most popular nightclubs are within walking distance of each other in the Zona Hotelera, at Punta Cancún. The Zona Hotelera also has some great lounge bars. Downtown, meanwhile, has nightclubs specializing in Latin music, and the city’s best live music, theater, and movies.

Cuncrawl (toll-free Mex. tel. 800/269-1317, toll-free U.S. tel. 800/975-4349, US$80 pp) does fun guided bar/club crawls in the heart of Cancún, hitting three different clubs (they vary by night) with VIP entrance and seating, open bar, and available transport to/from your resort (US$10 pp).

cancún at night
Cancún at night. Photo © Jorge Nava. licensed Creative Commons Attribution.


Nightclubs in the Zona Hotelera charge US$55-80 admission with open bar included. The clubs open every day, from around 10pm until 4am or later. Special events, like ladies night or bikini parties, vary by the day, club, and season; check the clubs’ websites or Facebook pages for the latest info and deals, or ask the concierge at your hotel.

Zona Hotelera

Coco Bongo (Blvd. Kukulcán Km. 9, tel. 998/883-2373, 10pm-4am daily) is a spectacular club featuring live rock and salsa bands, flying acrobats, and Rihanna, Michael Jackson, and KISS impersonators. Movie clips are also projected onto huge screens.

The City (Blvd. Kukulcán Km. 9, tel. 998/848-8385) is a megaclub with four levels and a total capacity of 6,000 (and allegedly the world’s biggest disco ball). Be sure to take a whirl on the movable dance floor, which descends from the 3rd floor to the center of the club below.

Palazzo (Blvd. Kukulcán Km 9, tel. 998/848-8380) books big-name DJs and draws raucous crowds. Recently updated, the interior has a sleek Vegas-like look, huge chandeliers, and a VIP section.

Mandala (Blvd. Kukulcán Km 9, tel. 998/848-8380) is an upscale club with indoor and outdoor areas for partying. There’s plenty of VIP seating in case you want to splurge on a private table (and better service).

Dady-O (Blvd. Kukulcán Km 9.5, tel. 998/883-3333) is, well, the daddy of Cancún’s nightclubs, with seven different “environments,” including laser shows, swimsuit contests, and theme parties on several different levels.


Grand Mambo Café (Plaza Hong Kong, 2nd Floor, Av. Xcaret at Av. Tulum, tel. 998/884-4536, 10:30pm-4am Wed.-Sat., US$5 cover, US$8-12.50 open bar) is Cancún’s biggest Latin music club, and popular with locals, tourists, and expats alike. Live music–mostly salsa, cumbia, and bachata–doesn’t start until midnight, but the crowds arrive earlier than that, spinning to recorded Latin rhythms.

El Rinconcito de la Salsa (Av. Tulipanes 3, tel. 998/100-3429, 10pm-4am Fri.-Sun., US$5) is a smallish salsa club with a great location, just a half block off Parque Las Palapas. It’s operated by the same person who ran Azúcar, a former and much-missed salsa club in the Zona Hotelera. Live music starts at midnight.

Bars and Live Music

Several of the major nightclubs in the Zona Hotelera feature live rock music and even big-name concerts, most notably Palazzo and CocoBongo, while the lounges and bars tend toward DJs or recorded music. Downtown, you’ll find smaller venues featuring more intimate live music, whether jazz, solo guitarists, or trios.

Zona Hotelera

Congo Bar (Blvd. Kukulcán Km. 9.5, tel. 998/883-0653) is about as lively as a bar can get without being called a club. Music is upbeat and drinks are plentiful. A conga line inevitably forms at some point (or points) and usually heads out the door and onto the street for a quick spin.

Dady Rock (Blvd. Kukulcán Km. 9.5, tel. 998/883-3333) is technically a restaurant and bar, so it opens as early as 6pm and doesn’t have a dance floor. Nevertheless, driving rock music, sometimes live, soon has partiers dancing every place possible, including on tables and the bar.

Old standbys Carlos n’ Charlie’s (Forum by the Sea, Blvd. Kukulcán Km. 8.5, tel. 998/883-4468) and Señor Frog’s (Blvd. Kukulcán Km. 14.2, tel. 998/193-1701) both open at noon for meals and stay open until 3am for drinking, dancing, and general mayhem.

El Pabilo (Hotel Xbalamqué, Av. Yaxchilán 31, tel. 998/892-4553, 6pm-midnight Mon.-Sat.) is a small, artsy café with great live music on the weekends, including Cuban, fusion jazz, classical guitar, and flamenco. Music usually starts around 9pm; a moderate cover (US$5-9) is sometimes charged.

Located within the Centro Cultural La Pitahaya, Tu Café (Av. Yaxchilán near Av. Uxmal, cell tel. 998/118-0099, 4pm-11pm Tues.-Sat.) is a boho coffeehouse that has open jazz/funk jam sessions on Tuesday as well as screens independent films on Friday. There also are rotating art exhibits. It’s a good place to chill with friends and get a sense of the local art/music/cultural scene.”

On the southern end of Parque Las Palapas, La Terraza del Vino (Alcatraces 29, cell tel. 998/126-0131, 6pm-3am Tues.-Sat.) is a pleasant open-air wine bar that books live guitar soloists most nights starting at 9pm.

La Taberna (Av. Yaxchilán at Punta Nicchehabi, tel. 998/887-5433, noon-4am daily) is a locals sports bar with lots of big-screen TVs and drink specials every night of the week. Free appetizers come with each drink, plus meals are free 1pm-6pm daily.

Excerpted from the Twelfth Edition of Moon Cancún & Cozumel.

Brazil’s Many Festas

Brazilians’ fame for merrymaking is not an exaggeration. Carnaval is a spectacular example, but the year is filled with fantastic events.

Réveillon in Trancoso. Photo © Robert Miguel (Own work)
Réveillon in Trancoso. Photo © Robert Miguel (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
  • Réveillon: Fireworks, cheap champagne, and revelers clad in white wade into the sea with flowers for the Afro-Brazilian sea goddess, Iemanjá. The biggest bash is in Rio (Jan. 1).
  • Lavagem do Bonfim: Bahianas lead a procession through Salvador’s Cidade Baixa for the ritual washing of the steps of the Igreja do Bonfim with perfume (second Thurs. in Jan.).
  • Carnaval: Five days of throbbing music and unbridled hedonism. The biggest festivities are in Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Recife, and Olinda (Feb.-Mar.).
  • Cavalhadas: A haunting re-creation of a medieval battle between Christians and Moors is dramatized in the colonial town of Pirenópolis in Goiás (May).
  • Parada de Orgulho GLBT: Avenida Paulista shuts down for São Paulo’s exuberant Gay Pride Parade (May).
  • Festas Juninas: In the northeastern Sertão, June is devoted to bonfires, forró dancing, drinking fruit liqueurs, and eating delicacies made from corn in celebration of Santo Antônio, São João, and São Pedro. One of the biggest events is the Festa de São João in Caruaru, Pernambuco (mid-late June).
  • Bumba-Meu-Boi: In São Luís, Maranhão, splendid costumes, pounding drums, and whirling dancers characterize this popular festa (end of June).
  • Círio de Nazaré: The highlight of the Amazon’s most important religious festival is the procession of Pará’s patron saint, Nossa Senhora de Nazaré, through the streets of Belém (second weekend of Oct.).

Excerpted from the Fourth Edition of Moon Brazil.

Gay and Lesbian Travelers in Cambodia

The Rainbow Pride Flag caught in a breeze with the sun behind it.
Rainbow Pride Flag photo by Kevin Wong, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Cambodia is a gay-friendly country. That’s not to say that homosexuality is celebrated in this conservative Buddhist nation, but with former King Sihanouk commenting positively about gay rights, gay and lesbian visitors are generally welcome. Phnom Penh and Siem Reap have several gay hangouts.

Whether you’re gay or straight, public displays of affection might be offensive to some.

A number of bars and hotels in Phnom Penh openly welcome gays and lesbians but tend not to be exclusively gay. Among them are the Manor House Hotel (21 Street 262, tel. 023/992-566); 2 Colours (225 Street 13), opposite the National Museum, a gay- and lesbian-friendly bar; the Blue Chili (36 Street 178), which puts on cabaret shows on weekends; and the incredible Space Hair Salon and Bar (Street 136), both hair salon and bar. The infamous Heart of Darkness Bar (26 Street 51) is a gay-friendly place, too.

In Siem Reap, La Residence d’Angkor is a family-friendly hotel, spa and restaurant complete with child-minding facilities that welcomes gay and lesbian travelers. Arthur & Paul (27 Street 71, tel. 023/212/814) in Phnom Penh is an upscale exclusive men-only boutique hotel and spa located near the Central Market.

A current list of gay- and lesbian-friendly businesses in Cambodia (and around the world) is maintained online by International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA; tel. 954/630-1637).

Rio de Janeiro City’s Gay Scene

While Rio’s vibe is quite gay friendly, few specifically gay venues exist. GLS (a Brazilian slang term for gay, lesbica, e simpatisante; i.e., gay friendly) spaces rule, with gays, lesbians, and heteros mixing socially. For more info about Rio’s gay scene, visit

Beachgoers near a tent with a rainbow flag and beach chairs on the white sand of Ipanema beach.
Pride flags fly on Ipanema beach.Photo by estark licensed Creative Commons Attribution.


Cine Ideal (Rua da Carioca 62, tel. 21/2221-1984, 11:30pm-close Fri.-Sat., cover R$25-30) is a disco with bars and a rooftop lounge.

Port Zone

The Week (Rua Sacadura Cabral 150, Saúde, tel. 21/2253-1020, midnight-close Sat., cover R$40-60) is a more massive and upscale São Paulo import.


Buraco da Lacraia (Rua André Cavalcanti 58, tel. 21/2221-1984, 11pm-close Fri.-Sat., cover R$30-40) showcases drag shows, videoke contests, snooker, and electronic games. The beer is fantastically cheap.


The high-profile strip of Ipanema beach stretching from Posto 8 to Posto 9 (nicknamed “Farme Gay”) is home to beach barracas flying rainbow flags and the toned outlines of well-oiled “Barbies” (as muscle men are called). The street perpendicular to the beach, Rua Farme de Amoedo also attracts a gay crowd.

Tô’Nem Aí (Rua Farme de Amoedo 87-A, tel. 21/2247-8403, noon-3am daily) is a laid-back bar that draws a mixed crowd and offers great views of the action.

Galeria Café (Rua Teixeira de Melo 31, tel. 21/2523-8250, 10:30pm-close Wed.-Sat., noon-8pm Sun., cover R$28-38), one street over, is a hip, hybrid space sheltering a café and art gallery. At night, it holds sizzling festas that reel in a trendy crowd.


The gay crowd has conquered a prize strip of beach on the doorstep of the Copacabana Palace, baptized “Praia da Bolsa” (Handbag Beach).

The Rainbow (noon-close daily) kiosk is a haven for Rio’s transgendered community, who often perform in between caipis and pizza slices.

Le Boy (Rua Raul Pompéia 102, tel. 21/2513-4993, 11pm-close Tues.-Sun., cover R$15-25) is Rio’s classic and notorious temple of gaydom. This enormous club offers go-go boys, a quarto escuro (dark room), and Tuesday’s Strip Nights.

La Cueva
(Rua Miguel Lemos 51, tel. 21/2267-1367, 11pm-close, R$20) means “The Cave,” which describes this dim, yet friendly basement lair where the entrance fee earns you two drinks.

Excerpted from the Fourth Edition of Moon Brazil.

Medellín Nightlife

Medellín nightlife is truly hopping, and whatever your scene–salsa or jazz, grungy or cool, dress to impress or comfy casual–you’ll probably find it here. For whatever night out you can imagine in Medellín, this is where to go.

Since 1969, El Social Tienda Mixta (Cra. 35 No. 8A-8, tel. 4/311-5567) has been selling the basics to local residents (soap, sugar, coffee); it’s only been a recent phenomenon that it’s now the hippest place to be seen at night, when it is converted into the most popular bar in Provenza! It’s so popular on weekend evenings, you can forget about finding a vacant plastic chair.

[pullquote align=right]Near the Parque de la Periodista, a major weekend hangout for the grungy set, there are some small bars big on personality.[/pullquote]Want to check out the nightlife with other party people? That’s the idea behind the Pub Crawl Medellín (cell tel. 300/764-6145, Sat. evenings, COP$30,000). In this night of shenanigans, revelers (groups of about 12) get together, then hit several bars (enjoying courtesy shots along the way), and then wind up the night dancing to the beats at a popular dance club. Each Saturday the group explores different nightspots.

Every Thursday evening, the Medellín microbrewery 3 Cordilleras (Cl. 30 No. 44-176, tel. 4/444-2337, 5:30pm-9pm Thurs., COP$20,000) offers a tour of their brewery, during which you learn about the beer-making process. At the end of the tour, the grand finale is tasting several of their artisan beers and friendly socializing. On the final Thursday of each month, after the tour there is live music and beer.

A couple dances a salsa in a neon-lit bar.
If you can’t make it to Cali, practice your salsa in one of Medellin’s dance clubs. Photo © Colores Mari, licensed Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike.

Calle Nueve (Cl. 9 No. 43B-75, tel. 4/266-4852, 6pm-2am Mon.-Sat., no cover), in a nondescript white house, is a hipster’s paradise in El Poblado. Music varies wildly from salsa to house to folk. The dim lighting and well-worn couches provide the perfect chilled-out atmosphere.

Salsa, Tango, and Jazz

Medellín is no Cali, but salsa has its aficionados here. If the musical genres son, la charanga, el guaguanco, and la timba don’t mean anything to you now, they might after a night at Son Havana (Cra. 73 No. 44-56, tel. 4/412-9644, 8pm-3am Wed.-Sat., cover Sat. COP$8,000) which often has live performances. Nearby is El Tíbiri (Cra. 70 at Cl. 44B, hours vary Wed.-Sat.), an underground salsa joint on Carrera 70, which is hugely popular on the weekends. They say the walls sweat here, as after 10pm it gets packed with revelers, many of whom are university students. Friday nights are big at El Tíbiri.

The downtown Salón Málaga (Cra. 51 No. 45-80, tel. 4/231-2658, 9am-11pm daily, no cover)—boy, has it got character. It’s filled with old jukeboxes and memorabilia, and has its clientele who come in for a tinto (coffee) or beer during the day. The Saturday tango show at 5:30pm and oldies event on Sunday afternoons are especially popular with locals and travelers alike, but a stop here is a fine idea anytime.

Near the Parque de la Periodista, a major weekend hangout for the grungy set, there are some small bars big on personality. Tuesday nights are bordering on legendary at Eslabón Prendido (Cl. 53 No. 42-55, tel. 4/239-3400, 3pm-11pm Tues.-Sat., cover varies), a hole-in-the-wall salsa place that really packs them in! El Acontista (Cl. 53 No. 43-81, tel. 4/512-3052, noon-10pm Mon.-Thurs., noon-midnight Fri.-Sat.) is an excellent jazz club downtown. It’s got a bookstore on the second floor and live music on Monday and Saturday evenings. They’ve got great food, too, making it an excellent stop after a day visiting the Centro.

An authentic tango spot in Envigado is Bar Atlenal (Cl. 38 Sur No. 37-3, tel. 4/276-5971, 3pm-2am daily). Friday night is the best time to go to see a tango performance, but to listen to some tango music from the juke box and have a beer, go any day of the week. It’s an institution, with more than six decades of history. Allegiance to the soccer club Atlético Nacional is evident on the walls of the bar. Included is an homage to star player Andrés Escobar. Also in Envigado is La Venta de Dulcinea Café Cultural (Cl. 35 Sur No. 43-36, tel. 4/276-0208, 2pm-11pm Mon.-Sat.), where salsa, milonga, and tango nights are often held. Check the webpage for a schedule.

Bar Atlenal's jukebox.
Be sure to check out the tango music on Bar Atlenal’s jukebox. Photo © Colores Mari, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Dance Clubs

Famous Mango’s (Cra. 42 No. 67A-151, tel. 4/277-6123, 5pm-6am daily, no cover), decked out like a Wild West saloon, is a festive club popular with foreigners and locals alike, and gets going late. Jesús Dulce Mío—Mil Juguetes (Cra. 38 No. 19-255, Km. 2 Vía Las Palmas, tel. 4/266-6020, 7pm-3am Tues.-Sat., COP$10,000 cover) is a popular club near El Poblado. Wednesday is karaoke night.

If you go to Fahrenheit (Cra. 42 No. 79-125, Itagüi, tel. 4/354-6203, 10pm-6am Thurs.-Sat., cover varies) you should dress to impress. It’s a late-night place in the neighboring town of Itagüi. Thursdays are electronica nights, while Saturdays are for crossover, a mix of popular music with Latin tunes. Guys should expect to pay around COP$25,000 for cover, ladies nada.

Gay Bars and Clubs

There is a lively gay and youthful nightlife scene in Medellín. Donde Aquellos (Cra. 38 No. 9A-26, tel. 4/312-2041, cell tel. 313/624-1485, 4:30pm-2am daily) is an easy-going kind of place near the Parque Lleras in El Poblado. This friendly bar is a good place for a terrace drink. Culture Club (Cra. 43F No. 18-158, hours vary Thurs.-Sat., cover varies) is the hottest dance club and gets hopping at around midnight on weekends. It’s a fashionable place, with chandeliers and red velvet.

Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Colombia.

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