Travel

How colours are saving Thai street food

E4y.net

When Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej passed away in October 2016, his subjects were plunged into mourning, wearing black for months out of respect. Now, many Thais have re-integrated colour into their wardrobes – but for the vendors of the trendy Ari neighbourhood in Bangkok’s north, the fashion choice is far more symbolic than a love of variety.

Since 2014, Thailand’s military government has made cleaning up Bangkok a major part of its political platform, targeting street vendors in an effort to reduce litter and create room for pedestrians. This initiative has garnered mixed reactions from locals, who generally agree that sanitation standards are necessary but can’t agree about how they should be implemented.

In December 2016, government officials decreed that stalls in Ari, a renowned food stall district, needed to be gone by 8 March 2017. But just days before the deadline, officials changed their minds, announcing that vendors would be allowed to stay… for now.

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A city drenched in flowers

Street food is a crucial part of many locals’ diets, with food stalls offering affordable meals at a fraction of restaurant prices. At lunchtime and at the end of the workday, Ari’s pavements buzz with hungry residents waiting for their orders. A cafeteria-style stall on the corner of Phahon Yothin 7 is particularly popular for its gub kao (literally translating to ‘with rice’), a variety of meat and vegetable dishes displayed in large metal pans.

Fearing the potential loss of their livelihood, Ari’s community of street vendors rallied together, holding regular meetings to discuss ways to improve the neighbourhood and save their jobs. It was in one of these meetings that they decided to band around an ancient tradition of colour coordinating clothing to bring beauty to the pavements, and show the value they bring to Bangkok’s streets.

In Thailand, each day of the week is associated with a specific colour relating to a celestial body. The tradition that stems from Hinduism, which has influenced Thai culture since the predominantly Hindu Angkor Empire ruled the region from the 9th to the 15th Century. Planets are matched to the Hindu god whose personality they best embody – for example, Surya, who is thought to have a harsh personality, came to represent the Sun. In Thailand, the gods were assigned colours based on the appearance of the planet with which they were associated. For example, Tuesday became associated with the colour pink based on the perceived colour of the planet Mars, which is linked to the Mangala, the Hindu god of war (even though Mangala is represented as red in mainstream Hindu mythology).

On Wednesdays vendors sport green, corresponding to Mercury and Hindu god Budha (not to be confused with Buddha). On Thursday, vendors wear orange, symbolising Jupiter and the god Brihaspati. On Friday, light blue represents Venus and the god Shukra. On Saturday, purple corresponds to Saturn and the god Shani. And on Sunday, red is symbolic of the sun and Surya. Monday’s colour is yellow in honour of the moon and the god Chandra. It is also the colour of the king’s flag, since both the late and current king were born on Mondays, and publicly displayed images of them often include yellow.

Though each colour is associated with a god, the practice of wearing daily colours is so ancient that most people don’t consider it religious. Thais learn about the tradition as school children, and today the daily colours have more to do with Thai identity than religious observance. “You learn them at the same time as you learn the alphabet,” said Lek, a long-time Ari fruit vendor.

Wearing any hint of blue on Sunday could spell disaster

For centuries, different colours have been considered luckier at various points in the week – although light blue is considered lucky on Friday, wearing any hint of blue on Sunday could spell disaster. Superstitious people still take this tradition seriously, believing that not wearing the correct colour could have real-life consequences, from poor health to general bad luck. Because she was born on a Tuesday, Thai-American Darra Christensen said her family expresses constant concern that she doesn’t use a pink wallet, which they believe would help improve her finances.

“I was insanely confused at first, but then I began to realise that everyone was aware of these ‘lucky’ and ‘unlucky’ colours depending on the day of the week that they were born,” she said.

Though it’s difficult to know exactly how effective the colour coordination has been for Ari’s street vendors, many of them believe the visual unity has helped prove to the local government that the vendors are capable of self-regulating.

It gives us a feeling of togetherness, and it helps us show it

The colours are also helping the community combat overcrowding; if people complain about an increase of rubbish and congestion on the pavement, it makes it easier for the local government to justify clearing the area. Ari’s vendors can easily spot outsiders who are trying to set up and sell in the neighbourhood by simply looking at the colour of their shirts.

For Chaiwat Kanom Pansip, who sells coin-sized fish curry puffs, everyone wearing the same colour has also bolstered a sense of community, with vendors feeling like part of the same team and not like competitors. “It gives us a feeling of togetherness, and it helps us show it,” he said.

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A paradisiacal island with a dark past

E4y.net

I caught my first glimpse of Spinalonga four years ago from a steep hilltop overlooking the sleepy village of Plaka in north-eastern Crete. The diminutive 8.5-hectare islet in the Gulf of Mirabello stood completely in shadow, dark and foreboding as if blackened by coal, while the butterscotch-hued Spinalonga Peninsula that curls around the island like a sleeping cat’s tail basked in the golden light of the setting sun.

A stone’s throw from Plaka, the arid, rocky islet once served as a military stronghold during Venetian (and later Ottoman) rule; a medieval citadel stands testament to that chapter in the island’s history. In 1904, after the Cretans evicted the Turks from Spinalonga, the islet was transformed into a leper colony, where, by 1913, after Crete became part of Greece, anyone afflicted with the disease was sent. At its peak, the colony comprised nearly 400 inhabitants.

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Leprosy, which causes disfiguring skin sores and debilitating nerve damage, has long carried with it negative social stigmas. Those burdened with leprosy were shunned, stigmatised and mistreated by their families, communities and even medical professionals. In fact, stigmatisation was often so extreme that since ancient times leprosy has been called the ‘death before death’.

Since ancient times leprosy has been called the ‘death before death’

Once diagnosed, these victims had their property and financial assets seized, their citizenship rights revoked and their identity wiped clean. They were then deported to Spinalonga, where they never received treatment for their disease. The sole doctor assigned to the island only made the trip from Plaka if someone was struck by another illness. What’s more, even though treatment for leprosy was found as early as the 1940s, the Greek state kept the colony operational until 1957. Only after a British expert visited the island and compiled a damning report denouncing the island doctor and the state for failing to provide proper medical treatment and housing did the government officially close Spinalonga.

I wasn’t able to visit the island that day four years ago, but since reading Victoria Hislop’s bestselling novel The Island, a melodramatic telling of family secrets, betrayals and star-crossed love affairs set in the confines of the leper colony, I’ve returned to learn what life was truly like for those exiled on Spinalonga.

Viewed from across the teal water of the Gulf of Mirabello on a windy summer afternoon, white speedboats zipping past, Spinalonga paints a pretty picture. But as our small ferry from Plaka approached the islet, the citadel loomed above us like a dark cloud.

I was accompanied by Maurice Born, ethnologist and co-author and translator of Vies et morts d’un Crétois lépreux (Lives and deaths of a Cretan leper), which he wrote with Epaminondas Remoundakis, a leprosy survivor who advocated for improved living conditions and fair treatment of those living on Spinalonga.

The story of Spinalonga is the story of a massive lie

“You see,” Born said as we passed through a multi-arched tunnel in the fortress walls known as Dante’s Gate, “the story of Spinalonga is the story of a massive lie.”

For decades after the 1957 closure of the leper colony, little was known about the island. The government, anxious to erase any trace of the colony’s existence, burned all its files. And the surviving lepers refused to speak of their experiences. For years it was as if Spinalonga had never existed.

But Hislop’s 2005 novel – which spawned a hit television series – changed all that. Suddenly, people were talking; everyone was an expert. The government, thrilled at the author’s rose-tinted portrayal of the colony, let them talk, and a romanticised, erroneous story of life in the leper colony was born.

We emerged onto a sunny village street lined with the crumbling remains of Venetian and Turkish homes. Born paused to point out a frontless, roofless stone ruin that had once housed a bistro run by lepers. “The state, seeking to erase the stain on their reputation, wanted to destroy all evidence of the leper colony. But then, in the 1980s, they realised that the tourists were coming with the specific purpose of visiting the leper colony,” he explained, laughing at the irony.

Another arch opened onto what was the commercial street, a shaded strip with shops (something the lepers were only authorised to have as of the 1930s), a cafe and a small school. One side of the strip has been restored for tourist purposes, with storefronts now sporting wooden shutters in a rainbow of colours. Not far away stands a cavernous stone building that still houses the incinerator used to burn infected clothing.

As we walked through the abandoned village, Born continued to reveal details of life in the colony. Before the 1930s, Spinalongians “lived in a frantic state of selfishness, thinking only of survival,” he explained. “No-one looked after one another, the priest had difficulty finding people to help bury the dead.”

It wasn’t until Remoundakis arrived and formed the Brotherhood of the Sick of Spinalonga, a society dedicated to improving conditions on the island, that conditions began to improve. The group lobbied the Greek government for the right to marry and to operate businesses.

No-one wished to see themselves

“Until the Brotherhood, all that counted was food, gambling and raki (a strong grape-based spirit popular in Crete),” Born said. But the Brotherhood worked to establish order and a better quality of life on the island. Sometimes concerts were held by musically-talented residents. Someone donated a record player, which was kept at one of the cafes, and patrons would listen to music.

One of the Brotherhood’s most important rules was a ban on mirrors; no-one wished to see themselves. But it was impossible not to observe the ravages of the disease in the other residents.

“They sought solitude in order to escape the face of the other,” Born said.

And so, in 1938, colony residents received permission from the state to dynamite part of the medieval fortress wall and clear a path around the island’s perimeter, navigable even by those who had been handicapped by their illness. The new path provided those banished to the island some semblance of liberation.

We made our way past the pile of boulders left by the demolition. The suffocating feeling I felt in the village vanished as we followed the trail. Strong winds whipped off the Aegean Sea and across the path like a prisoner freed from handcuffs. I took in the spectacular view of the Bay of Mirabello and inhaled the salty scent of the sea.

We passed the lonely Church of St George, built centuries ago by the Venetians, and arrived at a small cemetery. “When tourists began coming to the island in the 1980s, many of the visitors would desecrate the cemetery,” Born said. In 2013, the bones of the deceased were placed in a proper ossuary next to the cemetery and covered with new concrete plaques.

The island was silent save for the rustling of the wind moving through the grass and the faint whiz of passing motorboats. At the cemetery’s entrance, a small plaque urges respect for the poor souls buried on that rocky hillside overlooking the sea and the mountains of Crete.

It has taken several decades for their story to be told, but perhaps those who never escaped Spinalonga have found peace at last.

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A warm welcome on the frontline of war

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On the final day of my two-week visit to the Republic of Georgia, the air was clean and the heat was prickly. Davit Georgashvili, who I had met during my time spent in capital city Tbilisi, was driving a group of us travelling as part of an NGO partnership along the country’s main highway back to his home city of Gori. Gradually, the densely-packed streets of the capital, with their medieval churches and clifftop stone houses, fell away in our wake, replaced by overgrown fields and the occasional rusting train track.

As we passed crumbling former Soviet guard posts, Georgashvili pointed to a series of black shadowy buildings in the distance and said, “That’s South Ossetia.” Those two words alone, ‘South’ and ‘Ossetia’, were enough to bring to mind hazy images of war and Russian tanks rolling over the border that I could recall from BBC News broadcasts in August 2008.

We passed a shantytown of breeze-block huts laid out in neat rows that seemed to span for at least 1.5km. Georgashvili told me that this was a refugee camp where tens of thousands of South Ossetians who had allied with the Georgians during the war had fled. “The camp is one Europe’s largest permanent refugee camps,” he said.

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Eventually we drove into Gori, which is significantly more architecturally Soviet in style than Tbilisi, and were greeted by a huge poster of Stalin staring down at us from the side of a residential tower block. Georgashvili told us that the people of Gori, the birthplace of the divisive former Soviet ruler, are sympathetic towards Stalin because he invested heavily in the city, but not so much towards Russia. As Gori is located so close to the restive South Ossetia region, whose independence is supported by Russia, the city often suffers the consequences of Russian interference, including the gradual land grabs into Georgia that the Russian army undertakes each year.

We pulled up beside an unpaved earthen road lined with two-storey wooden houses, most with rotten walls covered in ivy and plant roots. Georgashvili pushed open a creaking door and led us down an alley into a courtyard with patches of grass growing through cracks in the dry mud, and into a ground-floor flat. He told us, “This is my family home where I lived when I was young.” His father was watching Russian TV and his mother was setting the table in the dining room with her finest plates and immaculately shiny cutlery. I really didn’t know what to expect as this was my first time in a Georgian home.

I was led into the dining room as Georgashvili’s mother was placing a huge cake in the middle of the table; she then took a jar of soft brown objects floating in what appeared to be a thin syrup out of a locked cupboard. Georgashvili explained, “The cake is walnut with walnut cream, and the jar is filled with walnuts that mum has been saving for years for a special occasion. We don’t get many foreign visitors.”

I felt guilty eating something that the family, who probably didn’t have much disposable income, had saved for so long. Yet, despite being one of the poorest states in Europe, and facing constant threats of invasion from Russia since independence from the USSR in 1991, Georgian families are more than happy to share what little they have with visitors. If anything, Georgians seem more open to outsiders likely because of a historical precedent: Georgia was an important branch off the ancient Silk Road between the 7th and 14th Centuries, so welcoming strangers – such as weary travellers – into their homes is deeply embedded into their culture.

After slowly savouring our sweet walnuts and cake, a rather portly man, who I later found out was a cousin, arrived with a big bag full of assorted meats and long Georgian cucumbers, which was once the food of peasants and is now considered a staple of the Georgian diet. According to Georgashvili, the family was organising a barbeque in a nearby forest for us, their honoured guests – a tradition that harks back to medieval times when multiple allied villages would gather in the forests for special occasions, largely because the countryside was the dividing point between settlements.

Because Georgia and Britain are allied against Russia, I would always be welcomed as part of their extended family.

Communal barbequing is probably as old as Georgia itself. Meat has always been plentiful due to the many farms that surround Gori and have passed through the same families for generations, and the custom of cooking on an open fire as a group is a way to bring families and friends together and share the food preparation responsibilities.

Georgashvili explained that Georgian culture values togetherness to ensure that bonds between family and friends remain strong across the generations. Traditionally, since at least the 12th Century BC when the Georgian tribal union of Diauehi first appeared in written history, Georgians have lived in villages with their extended families, sometimes with up to four generations under the same roof. Even today, Georgians are very community orientated, and are not afraid to welcome guests – particularly westerners – with open arms, despite decades of living in fear from Russian invasion. One elderly family member told me that because Georgia and Britain (where I’m from) are allied against Russia, I would always be welcomed as part of their extended family.

Our group climbed into the car with the cousin and drove along uneven earthen tracks for around 30 minutes until we reached a makeshift car park. The cousin led us to an unassuming wooden bench in the middle of a clearing next to a fire pit piled with chopped wood. He dropped a lit match on the wood, which came to life with a huge flame, and then opened a plastic crate lined with Coca Cola bottles filled with plum wine, a cheap and simple drink Georgians have brewed for millennia due to the region’s abundance of plum trees. He said, in broken English, “I made this myself. I mixed the ingredients in a bathtub and left [it] for two months. You can take some bottles back to England with you.”

Though the thought of trying to explain this 30% proof liquid at London airport customs filled me with dread, I put aside my worry in favour of enjoying the moment. The cousin took some meat from his bag and threw it onto the burning cinders to cook. As smells of smoke and melting fat circled around us, Georgashvili and his mother and father arrived with a bunch of other friends and family members, totalling somewhere in the realm of 40 people.

The once empty field quickly filled with chatter and laughter. The men gathered around the flickering fire, and the women sat around the bench singing traditional Georgian folk songs. I didn’t understand many of the lyrics, but the few translations I received suggested that the songs were about respecting family and friends, and coming together to overcome hardship.

When we all sat down to tuck into our fire-smoked meat – I never did find out what it was – and chopped cucumber, I felt like I had known the family for years, even though it had only been one day. No-one, not even the youngest children, seemed wary of my presence, and the elder women hugged me as often as they got the chance. The family shared their most prized foods with me, making sure my plate was never empty. And although I knew no Georgian, we all somehow seemed to understand what each other was trying to say.

Throughout my time in Georgia, I learned what hardships the constant threat of Russian invasion bring. More importantly, however, I witnessed how Georgians overcome adversity by doing perhaps the last thing that many people would expect: embracing outsiders. Gori may be dominated by its Soviet past, but its residents are perhaps the most hospitable that I have ever met.

In the face of constant hostility, Georgian hospitality is thriving.

Join over three million BBC Travel fans by liking us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

If you liked this story, sign up for the weekly bbc.com features newsletter called “If You Only Read 6 Things This Week”. A handpicked selection of stories from BBC Travel, Capital, Culture, Earth and Future, delivered to your inbox every Friday.

E4y.net Info@e4y.net

The kind people Europe forgot

E4y.net

On the final day of my two-week visit to the Republic of Georgia, the air was clean and the heat was prickly. Davit Georgashvili, who I had met during my time spent in capital city Tbilisi, was driving a group of us travelling as part of an NGO partnership along the country’s main highway back to his home city of Gori. Gradually, the densely-packed streets of the capital, with their medieval churches and clifftop stone houses, fell away in our wake, replaced by overgrown fields and the occasional rusting train track.

As we passed crumbling former Soviet guard posts, Georgashvili pointed to a series of black shadowy buildings in the distance and said, “That’s South Ossetia.” Those two words alone, ‘South’ and ‘Ossetia’, were enough to bring to mind hazy images of war and Russian tanks rolling over the border that I could recall from BBC News broadcasts in August 2008.

We passed a shantytown of breeze-block huts laid out in neat rows that seemed to span for at least 1.5km. Georgashvili told me that this was a refugee camp where tens of thousands of South Ossetians who had allied with the Georgians during the war had fled. “The camp is one Europe’s largest permanent refugee camps,” he said.

You may also be interested in:

How to survive a Georgian feast

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The world’s first Christian country

Eventually we drove into Gori, which is significantly more architecturally Soviet in style than Tbilisi, and were greeted by a huge poster of Stalin staring down at us from the side of a residential tower block. Georgashvili told us that the people of Gori, the birthplace of the divisive former Soviet ruler, are sympathetic towards Stalin because he invested heavily in the city, but not so much towards Russia. As Gori is located so close to the restive South Ossetia region, whose independence is supported by Russia, the city often suffers the consequences of Russian interference, including the gradual land grabs into Georgia that the Russian army undertakes each year.

We pulled up beside an unpaved earthen road lined with two-storey wooden houses, most with rotten walls covered in ivy and plant roots. Georgashvili pushed open a creaking door and led us down an alley into a courtyard with patches of grass growing through cracks in the dry mud, and into a ground-floor flat. He told us, “This is my family home where I lived when I was young.” His father was watching Russian TV and his mother was setting the table in the dining room with her finest plates and immaculately shiny cutlery. I really didn’t know what to expect as this was my first time in a Georgian home.

I was led into the dining room as Georgashvili’s mother was placing a huge cake in the middle of the table; she then took a jar of soft brown objects floating in what appeared to be a thin syrup out of a locked cupboard. Georgashvili explained, “The cake is walnut with walnut cream, and the jar is filled with walnuts that mum has been saving for years for a special occasion. We don’t get many foreign visitors.”

I felt guilty eating something that the family, who probably didn’t have much disposable income, had saved for so long. Yet, despite being one of the poorest states in Europe, and facing constant threats of invasion from Russia since independence from the USSR in 1991, Georgian families are more than happy to share what little they have with visitors. If anything, Georgians seem more open to outsiders likely because of a historical precedent: Georgia was an important branch off the ancient Silk Road between the 7th and 14th Centuries, so welcoming strangers – such as weary travellers – into their homes is deeply embedded into their culture.

After slowly savouring our sweet walnuts and cake, a rather portly man, who I later found out was a cousin, arrived with a big bag full of assorted meats and long Georgian cucumbers, which was once the food of peasants and is now considered a staple of the Georgian diet. According to Georgashvili, the family was organising a barbeque in a nearby forest for us, their honoured guests – a tradition that harks back to medieval times when multiple allied villages would gather in the forests for special occasions, largely because the countryside was the dividing point between settlements.

Because Georgia and Britain are allied against Russia, I would always be welcomed as part of their extended family.

Communal barbequing is probably as old as Georgia itself. Meat has always been plentiful due to the many farms that surround Gori and have passed through the same families for generations, and the custom of cooking on an open fire as a group is a way to bring families and friends together and share the food preparation responsibilities.

Georgashvili explained that Georgian culture values togetherness to ensure that bonds between family and friends remain strong across the generations. Traditionally, since at least the 12th Century BC when the Georgian tribal union of Diauehi first appeared in written history, Georgians have lived in villages with their extended families, sometimes with up to four generations under the same roof. Even today, Georgians are very community orientated, and are not afraid to welcome guests – particularly westerners – with open arms, despite decades of living in fear from Russian invasion. One elderly family member told me that because Georgia and Britain (where I’m from) are allied against Russia, I would always be welcomed as part of their extended family.

Our group climbed into the car with the cousin and drove along uneven earthen tracks for around 30 minutes until we reached a makeshift car park. The cousin led us to an unassuming wooden bench in the middle of a clearing next to a fire pit piled with chopped wood. He dropped a lit match on the wood, which came to life with a huge flame, and then opened a plastic crate lined with Coca Cola bottles filled with plum wine, a cheap and simple drink Georgians have brewed for millennia due to the region’s abundance of plum trees. He said, in broken English, “I made this myself. I mixed the ingredients in a bathtub and left [it] for two months. You can take some bottles back to England with you.”

Though the thought of trying to explain this 30% proof liquid at London airport customs filled me with dread, I put aside my worry in favour of enjoying the moment. The cousin took some meat from his bag and threw it onto the burning cinders to cook. As smells of smoke and melting fat circled around us, Georgashvili and his mother and father arrived with a bunch of other friends and family members, totalling somewhere in the realm of 40 people.

The once empty field quickly filled with chatter and laughter. The men gathered around the flickering fire, and the women sat around the bench singing traditional Georgian folk songs. I didn’t understand many of the lyrics, but the few translations I received suggested that the songs were about respecting family and friends, and coming together to overcome hardship.

When we all sat down to tuck into our fire-smoked meat – I never did find out what it was – and chopped cucumber, I felt like I had known the family for years, even though it had only been one day. No-one, not even the youngest children, seemed wary of my presence, and the elder women hugged me as often as they got the chance. The family shared their most prized foods with me, making sure my plate was never empty. And although I knew no Georgian, we all somehow seemed to understand what each other was trying to say.

Throughout my time in Georgia, I learned what hardships the constant threat of Russian invasion bring. More importantly, however, I witnessed how Georgians overcome adversity by doing perhaps the last thing that many people would expect: embracing outsiders. Gori may be dominated by its Soviet past, but its residents are perhaps the most hospitable that I have ever met.

In the face of constant hostility, Georgian hospitality is thriving.

Join over three million BBC Travel fans by liking us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

If you liked this story, sign up for the weekly bbc.com features newsletter called “If You Only Read 6 Things This Week”. A handpicked selection of stories from BBC Travel, Capital, Culture, Earth and Future, delivered to your inbox every Friday.

E4y.net Info@e4y.net

You must be good looking to live here

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With its glitzy casinos, never-ending nightlife and tens of millions of tourists, Las Vegas looms large in the international imagination. But with just 600,000 residents, the city has a small-town side that only locals know.

“Sure, Las Vegas is a place where on a Monday afternoon you can party like it’s 1999,” said Thomas Schneider, CEO of Vegas Jets, who moved here from Toronto after a holiday. “But most people think living in Vegas means that we party every single day like the tourists, which is certainly not the case. Vegas has beautiful suburbs that are actually quite child-friendly and there are plenty of things to do away from the Las Vegas Strip like boating and hiking.”

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Why do people love it?

As an international destination, Las Vegas offers the big city perks – and frequent celebrity sightings – that no small town can match. World-renowned restaurants are a huge draw for locals and it’s easy to find any kind of food imaginable.

Vegan restaurants make eating plant-based in Sin City a pleasure

“I love the abundance of vegan-friendly restaurants across the valley,” said Ethan Reynolds, who moved from Los Angeles to Las Vegas four years ago.“Places like Vegenation, Vege-way, Violette’s and Simply Pure make eating plant-based in Sin City a pleasure, and the Wynn also offers a vegan menu at all property restaurants.”

Locals can even end up sweating alongside celebrities, who frequent lesser-trafficked parts of the city. “I teach Hot Pilates at TruFusion [fitness studio], and Jennifer Lopez, Alex Rodriquez and Kendra Wilkinson recently visited,” Reynolds said. The Shops at Crystals, a shopping centre on the south end of the Strip, is also a favourite for Celine Dion and Ricky Martin, who are both performing in long-standing shows here.

The perks of Vegas go beyond the glitz, though, and make even daily tasks more convenient. “I love that I can go grocery shopping at 3am,” said Jewell Musgrove, who lived in the city for five years after moving from the East Coast for work.

What’s it like to live there?

Very few residents are native Nevadans; most come from other countries or states (particularly next-door California) for the unique job opportunities, primarily centred around entertainment and service-related roles in food and tourism as well as the small but growing startup technology scene. But residents stay for the weather, affordability and lack of traffic that can’t be matched by other big cities with similar career prospects.

We never have to check the weather forecast

The dry heat of the desert climate is a huge draw. “It’s always sunny, we never have to check the weather forecast really. And if it does rain, it’s short and sweet,” Schneider said.

Las Vegas has an easily accessible outdoor lifestyle, with hiking and biking trails right in the city’s backyard. Locals also frequently make the drive 40 miles west to Mount Charleston to escape the heat. The mountain town can be anywhere from 20 to 30F cooler than central Las Vegas, and even has skiing and snowboarding during the winter months.

It’s easy to feel like a high roller here – even on a modest salary. “I lived in a master plan community that had a golf course, man-made beach, indoor/outdoor tennis,” Musgrove said. “My house was also pretty big with a private swimming pool for $1,300 a month.”

The expansive desert land and low population makes Las Vegas especially affordable; to rent a similar place in Los Angeles will cost at least 50% more, according to price-compare site Expatistan.com.

As an international tourist destination, Las Vegas also has cheap plane tickets to cities all over the world, with flights to California often costing less than $100 round-trip.

What else do I need to know?

Even for locals, appearances matter in Las Vegas. “You cannot get any type of job in Vegas without adding a photo [to your resume],” said Musgrove. “You have to be attractive even to work at a doctor’s office.”

This extends to the club culture when residents do want a night on the town. Women can usually get on club guest lists for free by emailing local promoters or using one of the many mobile apps such as Guest List Las Vegas or Discotech. Of course, most of the clubs still have a dress code, meaning no shorts, baggy jeans or tennis shoes. Men will have better luck getting in with a collared shirt or a fashionable outfit. With a Nevada ID, locals can also get major discounts (often up to 50%) on hotel rooms, shows, massage treatments and restaurants ­– you just have to ask. But new residents should be careful of overdoing it in a town with so much to offer, warns Schneider.

“Many of us long-term locals have noticed that either you love Vegas and you thrive here, or it chews you up and spits you out,” he said. “Some people do get stuck in the nightlife, drinking and going out, and you cannot do that long term. Successful living in Las Vegas means knowing how to balance the temptations.”

Join over three million BBC Travel fans by liking us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

If you liked this story, sign up for the weekly bbc.com features newsletter called “If You Only Read 6 Things This Week”. A handpicked selection of stories from BBC Future, Earth, Culture, Capital and Travel, delivered to your inbox every Friday.

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A spectacular island no-one knows

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BBC’s Travel Showbrings you the latest insider travel news, a wealth of destinations, amazing experiences and features and practical hints, tips and advice for your holidays.

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A ‘miracle’ house of underground news

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I chained up my rusty red bicycle and stepped into the courtyard of the former Conceria Fiori tannery, where the chairs and tables of a beer garden, not yet open for the day, sat empty. I entered the building and made my way to the rooftop, where the Ristorante Piazza dei Mestieri serves homemade pastas and handcrafted chocolates.

But I hadn’t come for a meal; I had come to learn about the anti-fascist efforts that took place here and throughout Turin, Italy, during World War II.

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After I explained my interest to the waitress, she grabbed a ring of keys from under the hostess station and motioned for me to follow. She led me out of the restaurant and down several staircases to the basement. A new door cut into the heavy brick foundation opened into ‘The Cave’, a private dining room filled with hundreds of bottles of fine wine.

Seventy years ago, however, this basement room, then concealed at the end of a hidden passageway, housed a printing press used to publish anti-fascist literature – much of which was produced by women.

The end of World War I sparked the rise of fascism in Italy. As it spread across the country, overtaking local economies and suppressing social liberties, opposition grew slowly and steadily in its wake. The fall of Benito Mussolini’s government in 1943 and the subsequent occupation of Italy by Nazi Germany intensified the opposition effort, which by then was known formally as La Resistenza (‘The Resistance’).

As dusk fell across Turin’s piazzas, and Conceria Fiorio employees – their hands smelling of leather – retired for the night, the covert presses came to life, printing clandestine feminist leaflets and copies of the anti-fascist newspaper La Riscossa Italiana. A take on the name of La Riscossa, the local government-controlled newspaper that printed stories praising Hitler, La Riscossa Italiana featured articles detailing efforts of the anti-fascist movement and reported falsehoods of its fascist counterpart.

Anyone caught writing, printing or distributing La Riscossa Italiana could be beaten, arrested or even killed.

Publishing an underground paper like La Riscossa Italianatook a wide network of trusted participants, one that Ada Gobetti, widow of the famous anti-fascist philosopher and writer Piero Gobetti, meticulously maintained. Because women didn’t have the right to vote or participate in government activities until after World War II, they were less likely to be suspected of political involvement – meaning they could more easily report on resistance activities and distribute opposition literature. Under Gobetti’s guidance, the women of La Resistenza transported and hid printing presses, wrote articles and disseminated papers.

Gobetti’s diary, initially written in code and later deciphered and published with the title A Partisan Diary, describes the many times she and her fellow staffettas, or female couriers, would sit around the fire at her home at 6 Via Fabro in Turin writing leaflets or making plans for distribution.

After my visit to Conceria Fiori, I unlocked my bicycle and peddled about 2km southeast of the old tannery to her old address in central Turin. The Gobetti home, which was miraculously never discovered as a partisan meeting point, now houses the Centre for the Study of Piero Gobetti, an archive of the Gobettis’ works, including some of the only remaining feminist leaflets circulated during the war.

I see Ada as one of Italy’s first feminists

“One of the most important things to Ada was solidarity, and she thought education was the way to [create] that,” said Angela Arceri, an Ada Gobetti scholar who works at the centre. “She did that through her publications.”

Arceri explained that the Italian fascist government taught women that their role was in the home. Gobetti’s adamant involvement of women in La Resistenza allowed them to fight for their own rights.

“I see Ada as one of Italy’s first feminists,” Arceri said.

As I sat at the heavy wooden table in the centre’s library, gently handling the archive’s collection of La Resistenza publications, I could see the windowsill where Arceri told me Ada would put a potted flower to indicate that it was safe for her staffettas to enter, perhaps to make plans on transporting illicit publications or maybe just for a warm meal. I thought of how much she and her team had risked. Though the papers felt flimsy in my hands, the weight of their importance could not be ignored.

Join over three million BBC Travel fans by liking us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

If you liked this story, sign up for the weekly bbc.com features newsletter called “If You Only Read 6 Things This Week”. A handpicked selection of stories from BBC Future, Earth, Culture, Capital and Travel, delivered to your inbox every Friday.

E4y.net Info@e4y.net

A secret weapon against the Nazis

E4y.net

I chained up my rusty red bicycle and stepped into the courtyard of the former Conceria Fiori tannery, where the chairs and tables of a beer garden, not yet open for the day, sat empty. I entered the building and made my way to the rooftop, where the Ristorante Piazza dei Mestieri serves homemade pastas and handcrafted chocolates.

But I hadn’t come for a meal; I had come to learn about the anti-fascist efforts that took place here and throughout Turin, Italy, during World War II.

You may also be interested in:

A Prague church that defied Nazi rule

The ugly story behind a breakfast meat

An ancient world concealed underground

After I explained my interest to the waitress, she grabbed a ring of keys from under the hostess station and motioned for me to follow. She led me out of the restaurant and down several staircases to the basement. A new door cut into the heavy brick foundation opened into ‘The Cave’, a private dining room filled with hundreds of bottles of fine wine.

Seventy years ago, however, this basement room, then concealed at the end of a hidden passageway, housed a printing press used to publish anti-fascist literature – much of which was produced by women.

The end of World War I sparked the rise of fascism in Italy. As it spread across the country, overtaking local economies and suppressing social liberties, opposition grew slowly and steadily in its wake. The fall of Benito Mussolini’s government in 1943 and the subsequent occupation of Italy by Nazi Germany intensified the opposition effort, which by then was known formally as La Resistenza (‘The Resistance’).

As dusk fell across Turin’s piazzas, and Conceria Fiorio employees – their hands smelling of leather – retired for the night, the covert presses came to life, printing clandestine feminist leaflets and copies of the anti-fascist newspaper La Riscossa Italiana. A take on the name of La Riscossa, the local government-controlled newspaper that printed stories praising Hitler, La Riscossa Italiana featured articles detailing efforts of the anti-fascist movement and reported falsehoods of its fascist counterpart.

Anyone caught writing, printing or distributing La Riscossa Italiana could be beaten, arrested or even killed.

Publishing an underground paper like La Riscossa Italianatook a wide network of trusted participants, one that Ada Gobetti, widow of the famous anti-fascist philosopher and writer Piero Gobetti, meticulously maintained. Because women didn’t have the right to vote or participate in government activities until after World War II, they were less likely to be suspected of political involvement – meaning they could more easily report on resistance activities and distribute opposition literature. Under Gobetti’s guidance, the women of La Resistenza transported and hid printing presses, wrote articles and disseminated papers.

Gobetti’s diary, initially written in code and later deciphered and published with the title A Partisan Diary, describes the many times she and her fellow staffettas, or female couriers, would sit around the fire at her home at 6 Via Fabro in Turin writing leaflets or making plans for distribution.

After my visit to Conceria Fiori, I unlocked my bicycle and peddled about 2km southeast of the old tannery to her old address in central Turin. The Gobetti home, which was miraculously never discovered as a partisan meeting point, now houses the Centre for the Study of Piero Gobetti, an archive of the Gobettis’ works, including some of the only remaining feminist leaflets circulated during the war.

I see Ada as one of Italy’s first feminists

“One of the most important things to Ada was solidarity, and she thought education was the way to [create] that,” said Angela Arceri, an Ada Gobetti scholar who works at the centre. “She did that through her publications.”

Arceri explained that the Italian fascist government taught women that their role was in the home. Gobetti’s adamant involvement of women in La Resistenza allowed them to fight for their own rights.

“I see Ada as one of Italy’s first feminists,” Arceri said.

As I sat at the heavy wooden table in the centre’s library, gently handling the archive’s collection of La Resistenza publications, I could see the windowsill where Arceri told me Ada would put a potted flower to indicate that it was safe for her staffettas to enter, perhaps to make plans on transporting illicit publications or maybe just for a warm meal. I thought of how much she and her team had risked. Though the papers felt flimsy in my hands, the weight of their importance could not be ignored.

Join over three million BBC Travel fans by liking us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

If you liked this story, sign up for the weekly bbc.com features newsletter called “If You Only Read 6 Things This Week”. A handpicked selection of stories from BBC Future, Earth, Culture, Capital and Travel, delivered to your inbox every Friday.

E4y.net Info@e4y.net