You Should Book A Trip To Buenos Aires ASAP

For the past three years, I’ve been going to Buenos Aires for the GNetwork 360 Conference, an annual international conference about LGBTQ tourism and business, centered on Latin American countries. It’s the one time of year where I look forward to returning to one of my favorite South American cities to see my conference friends as well as indulge in unbelievable wine, beef and well: men.

There’s something rather irresistible about an Argentine accent and it doesn’t help that there is an abundance of attractive men that swarm the city. But besides the obvious, Buenos Aires is one, if not the most, welcoming cities on the South American continent.

On my flight over, after arriving to my connecting gate, my jaw hit the floor.

There, scattered around the waiting area was Argentina’s field hockey team, fresh off their victory. All I could do was pray that one of them would be sitting next to me for the next 10 hours, but alas, after boarding, the team of 25 or so, walked right past me, all the way to the back of the plane.

It wasn’t my ideal situation, as my seatmate ended up being the complete opposite of what I had hoped for, but at least the eye candy was a delicious way to start the journey.

“Amor.” Plain and simple, that’s Argentina’s new marketing initiative towards LGBTQ travelers and tourism. In short, it easily sums up what the country is all about, especially the city of Buenos Aires.

Buenos Aires has always been at the forefront of change and acceptance; a quick Google search of their yearly pride celebrations will quickly prove that, as it is one of the largest and most festive celebrations in the region, if not the world.

There’s a lot to see and do in the city, and if you only go for the empanadas alone, you will have already won at life, as they are irresistibly good, and determining your favorite empanada spot will be a challenge worth accepting.

Due to the current economic situation that is taking place in Argentina, for visitors, especially those coming from the U.S. or Europe, the exchange rate is rather favorable, although it fluctuates daily, and it’s also worth noting that Argentinian pesos should never be taken outside of the country, and they are very difficult to exchange.

Eat and Indulge

One of my favorite things to do in the city, since I’m typically there only a few days, is the Argentine Experience. It’s this really great interactive dinner where you get to socialize a bit with other diners and learn about the culture, food and drinks.

There’s something pretty wonderful about helping make your own meal and then enjoying it with great company and free-flowing wine. There’s even a competition that I always keep a secret, as to give myself a mini-advantage. During my most recent visit, we took over the place with a gaggle of gays and although I didn’t win, the whole night was definitely a win as it was the best part of my trip.

But after making my own food, I like to spoil myself a bit, and there’s no better place to do that than at La Bourgogne at the Alvear Palace Hotel. It is a must for fine dining as it is the best French cuisine in the city and if you don’t get the tasting menu with expert wine pairings; you are doing yourself a disservice.

The restaurant has been modernized with a more approachable atmosphere but still has that classic fine dining service at a fraction of the price (remember the exchange rates are in your favor).

Time To Go Out

When it comes to nightlife, Buenos Aires doesn’t mess around. Don’t expect anyone at the clubs before midnight, and really, the crowd truly picks up closer to 2am.

There are a lot of gay bars one can go to, and the best way to find which one is the one to be at is simply by asking locals or jumping online, as the crowds are typically flocking from one to the other. Some of these clubs offer an all you can drink shit show experience where you will find bars full of cheap vodka and mixers already poured in plastic cups, ready for anyone to grab.

By the end of the night, your clothes will be ruined and mud-stained, but to each their own. I’ve spent many nights in these bars, but with the years, I’ve kind of tried my hardest to avoid them.

For something a bit less adolescent, the city’s best clubs have gay parties and gay nights where the entertainment is usually pretty great, and the crowds are a better representation of diversity. NicetoClub in Palermo hosts Club 69 and this theatrical night is one of the best nights to go out.

From circus to Arabian nights, the themes are spectacular and the performance art and show alone are worth the entrance fee.

Quick Island Getaway

When I have an extra night or two in the city, I always plan ahead and book this truly unique visit to one of the most exclusive experiences in the country.

Just a quick drive outside of the city limit is a river delta, and an area known as Tigre. The microclimate here is unlike anywhere else in the world, which has resulted in an array of botanical gardens on a private island, Isla El Descanso.

Via private bookings, guests can be shuttled by boat to the island where they can spend the day exploring the gardens as well as one of the largest private collections of significant sculptures within the gardens.

Guests can also arrange for breakfasts, teas or even a private lunch by the pool. The island is really meant as a getaway, a place to rest for the day and be at one with nature and art.

Several high profile celebrities, including Madonna, have frequented it. With that being said, the island can also accommodate for private helicopter landings.

Each time I visit, I spend most of the time having my photos taken on the bench where Madge once sat, overlooking the river, imagining what she must have been thinking of while doing so. It should be noted that it’s gay owned and operated.

Where I Stay

I’ve kind of become an Alvear Hotels snob when it comes to Buenos Aires, although there are some really great hotels in the city, I tend to find my way at their properties.

The Alvear Palace is classic white glove property and will not disappoint. The butler service they provide is one of the best, as most of the butlers have attended the Louis Vuitton course on luggage packing, making them extra valuable when it’s time to pack up all your extra shopping.

For a more modern twist, still with the white glove service sans the gloves, the Alvear Art is the hip younger sister property of the palace and has one of the coolest enclosed rooftop pools in the city. The lobby bar serves some superb craft cocktails and the rooms are up to date and super tech friendly.

Over in a different part of town, which is quickly becoming the place to be, Puerto Madero is home to more artsy lux properties and is home to the newly opened Alvear Icon, a combo of hotel and residences, and is where I stayed during my most recent stay.

My Luxury Suite was impressive, with an oversized bathroom covered in marble and closet space for days. But what makes this new hotel so special are the views – there’s something to be said about viewing a city from above.

Welcome to Hong Kong’s Old Central Market

Kwong Fuk Ancestral Hall, a small red building occupying a street corner where family members go to honor their dead relatives was just the place. The incense burns strong, as there are hundreds of incense coils hanging from the ceiling. There is no fee to enter but remember not to take photographs of the images of the deceased in the back room – we’ve all seen those scary Asian films where spirits and souls are sucked into photographs and wellbetter to just skip the photos.

Since I was feeling the mood, I wandered down the street to the Man Mo Temple, a tourist hot spot, and another incense filled structure, but unlike Kwong Fuk, this is a place where people come to pray, worship and ask for assistance. All the way in the back, there is a statue of a hand holding a penmake sure to rub the pen for luck in writing, education, work, or anything that could be associated with a pen and paper. The pen is frequently visited by parents wishing their kids luck on their college entrance exams. I spent some time carefully rubbing that pen for some writing inspiration.

Being Cuban, I’m a fan of fresh sugarcane juice and when I got an insider tip of a tiny corner shop, which isn’t impressive at first glance, that has been making a killing for generations, selling the sweet water, I had to find it. Kung Lee, is so in demand that Uber Eats is constantly stopping by to pick up deliveries throughout the day.

They also sell sugar cane pudding which looks more like Jell-O, and isn’t as sweet as the juice, but fun to eat.

Since I was on a sweet kick, I also stopped by Tai Cheong Bakery for the famous egg tarts – messy to eat if you have a beard like mine, but totally worth it. A bit of my tart may have plopped onto the concrete below as I was attacking it with my mouth, but in the end, after that old weight scale, the fewer bites I ate, the better.

Once I had conquered the highlights of the old parts of my targeted neighborhood exploration, it was time to see what made this place so cool.

Hollywood Road, where most everything is centered, was the second road to be built when the colony of Hong Kong was founded. It’s a great place to stroll, especially if in the market for boutique retail therapy mixed with all sorts of happy hour spots in the early evening.

And speaking of happy hour, I stopped by T:ME, a lonely gay bar that’s located on Hollywood Road, to see if anything was going on. I ended up at a locked door, which led me to discover their later opening hours. When I returned later that evening, I wasn’t overly impressed.

The great thing about Hong Kong is that everyone just kind of co-exists, although it’s nice to know there are a handful of queer spaces (all near-ish to this bar) to run to…if needed.

After all this discovering and exploring, it was time to quench my thirst, and Craftissimo, a beer shop that has tons of different beers, including local Hong Kong craft beers, was just the place. The place had wooden stools out back in the alley where a bunch of dudes were just hanging, drinking beers – it was perfect. Nearby, also with some back alley action is teakha, a place for tea, baked goods and conversation – a great escape from the busy streets, and a good place to recharge.

Also nearby where a couple hot spots that I found, Reserva Iberica, a ham shop from Barcelona, randomly placed in Old Town Central, offering premium ham products worthy of any Spanish table setting and La Cabane, a cute wine bistro and cellar. It’s places like these that make the area so special.

I felt like I had done my fair share of eating while visiting Old Town Central, so it was time to realize how poor I actually was, by shopping. Hong Kong is kind of expensive, and it only takes one purchase to help anyone realize that.

There were a couple cute shops, Soul Art Shop and InBetween Shop that were filled with a bunch of randomness which were worth a peek inside. But it was PQM, this really intensely creative space that captured my attention.

The building once was the first school providing Western education at the upper primary and secondary levels to Chinese students, and in 1951 it became the Hollywood Road Police Married Quarters, encouraging young men to join the police force, in a time when recruits were low. Later, in 2009, the site was listed as a conservation site as architecturally, it represents the typical modern style commonly found in the post-Second World War period.

Today, it’s PQM, a hub for design and creative industries, and the once residential units are now design studios, shops and offices for creative enterprises and lodging for visiting designers. I spent hours wandering through PQM and dare I say, nibbling away at small bites at times from some of the food stalls.

During this particular portion of my trip through China, I actually opted to stay with a friend who lives off of Hollywood Road, as I really wanted to have an immersive experience.

I did however spend a lot of time hanging at some of the best hotels for some much deserved spa time, the Four Seasons Hong Kong being the one I would repeat in a heartbeat if only I hadn’t spent so much of my Hong Kong Dollars on all the delicious food especially the sweets.

Hong Kong might be one of the most vibrant cities in the world. It’s full of skyscrapers, luxury hotels, some of the best restaurants in the world, over the top designer shopping and of course, people.

With any large metropolis, after time, new construction and inhabitants bring about change. But there is still one part of Hong Kong that is clinging on to its past while also playing host to a new breed of hipsters: Old Town Central.

OTC really isn’t a district at all, but more of an area with imaginary borders that lays in the heart of central Hong Kong. I opted to start my time there by visiting the older, more historic sites, starting with theWestern Market, which was easy to find due to it’s unique architecture that kind of stands out among the skyscrapers.

The once blue Queen Anne Revival style four-story building is in, is now a bright red that helps set it apart from the surrounding tall structures. The building is one of the oldest structures in the areas and is the oldest surviving market building in the city.

There are a few retails shops in the modernized inside, but the one oddity inside that’s fun to see (if you dare), is the old weight scale that takes a coin and then prints your weight on a piece of paper. I decided to try it out and can report that it’s completely inaccurately offensive. Apparently these weight machines were once everywhere and they are a great way to remind you to put down the egg tarts.

Afterwards, it was time to get a little spiritual.

Next Level Chill: The Best Spas to Visit ASAP

Some of you guys think summer is three months of perpetual party time. Like a non-stop tequila tidal wave of semi-naked dancing on random islands. But how will your body cope when you’re constantly running out of sunblock, a hangover just becomes the way you wake up in the morning, and you legit can’t find your phone (again)? Plan ahead for some TLC to avoid burn-out, and we all know the best way to slow your roll is at a spa. But you can’t just pick any spa. Treat yourself to one that will melt your troubles away and make for an unforgettable experience. Check these picks out:

Canaves Oia Luxury Resort – Santorini, Greece

This stunningly beautiful, luxury boutique resort is the perfect spot to unwind after partying hard at nearby Mykonos. Their spa has been relaunched this year to include an infinity pool and Elemis treatments.

Aire de Barcelona – Barcelona, Spain

A great place if you only have a couple of hours to spare and need a quick fix. The hamman will bring out all the nasty toxins you’ve built up. Need a fresh face for work? Try the Ami Iyök ritual with a facial and corporal treatment.

Gondwana Game Reserve – Garden Route, South Africa

How about a wild escape from the world? This new “Bush Spa” in South Africa offers just that; a tent, a table, and some very talented spa therapists. And while you’re there you can check out the locals, including lions and elephants.

Liquidrom – Berlin, Germany

Liquidrom is a thermal spa that uses special lighting effects with classical and electronic music to create a unique, relaxing environment that resembles a nightclub without the chaos. Check out their DJ nights through the summer.

Yaan Wellness Energy Spa – Tulum, Mexico

One of the most talked about spas this year is a creation from former rock photographer Bobby Klein, one of the first Westerners to practice acupuncture in LA. Take advantage of their life-coping strategy sessions and treatments developed with local Mexican tribal leaders. Opt for a Bedouin tent if you need to save a few bucks.

Bamford Haybarn Spa – Belmond Royal Scotsman, Scotland

One of the most unique spa locations in the world is launching this year and comes in the form of a train carriage that travels through Scotland and Great Britain! Pass sweeping glens, towering peaks, and black-mirrored lochs (lakes for the rest of us) onboard this “Country House on Wheels.”

Aqualux Hotel Spa Suite – Lake Garda, Italy

This gay-friendly hotel is the perfect place to unwind near vibrant Milan. The spa’s facilities are vast, and packages come with your own personal trainer if you need a little encouragement to get back on track.

Six Senses Zil Payson – Seychelles, Indian Ocean

Luxury brand Six Senses have finally opened their spa at their latest hotel located in the Indian Ocean. Eco-orientated, the spa has a heavy focus on sensory experiences with a breath-taking oceanfront location.

Thanks to Oliver Broad of travel agency RB Collection for giving us the lowdown.

GTFO: Vancouver

Run out of excuses to party? How about Canada’s 150th Anniversary of Confederation? Get up to Vancouver and fill your lungs with some seriously fresh air, explore the incredible food scene, down a cocktail or two, find a messy dance floor, and recover on a sandy beach adorned with nakedness (or a hike amongst the redwoods). Local stunner Allan Lal takes us on a spin around the city he calls home.

Eat

La Brasserie

Great dining in the Davie Village that isn’t a chain restaurant. Small but cute interior and an open kitchen set up so you can see your delicious Franco-German food being made.

1091 Davie St.

Rodney’s Oyster Bar

Time for a good old slurrrrp! An amazing oyster and seafood place. Go to the one in Yaletown for a more chill environment. The staff is basically a gay boy’s fantasy.

1228 Hamilton St.

Twisted Fork

Nothing over the top, but it’s a very cute place near the edge of the Davie Village doing “slightly French” food. Brunch here is perfect. The size helps with the local and family feel.

1147 Granville St.

Chambar

Spoil yourself at this perfect payday treat. Book a table ahead for weekends and order anything, because you won’t be disappointed.

568 Beatty St.

Drink

The Fountainhead

The Cheers of Vancouvercome enough times and they’ll all know your name, and most likely your embarrassing stories too. Right in the heart of Davie Village and close to all the bars, it’s a perfect warm-up spot.

1025 Davie St.

1181

A trendier place in the gay village to get drinks started for a night out. A bit upscale with a chic layout and a cool crowd. Oh, and did anyone notice the seriously hot shirtless bartenders (especially manager Todd)?

1181 Davie St.

The Keefer

Great Asian themed decor and amazing custom cocktails…their Rosemary Gimlet is a gift from the heavens. They are also known for a random celebrity sighting at times.

135 Keefer St.

The Diamond

In the heart of beautiful Gastown, it’s definitely worth leaving the gay strip for some awesome drinks and hanging out with the cool kids.

6 Powell St.

Dance

Junction

Definitely the place when you’re in the Top 40 mood. A younger crowd for sure, but all types stop by. Everyone loves to hate on it, but after midnight, even the loudest naysayers are messy on the dance floor.

1138 Davie St.

Pumpjack Pub aka “PJ’s”

With the new revamp, everyone is going here. Great music, huge dance floor, and enough throwbacks to its leather/fetish past to keep it interesting. And who doesn’t love strippers in showers with big “personalities”?

1167 Davie St.

XY

The new kid on the block…if that new kid has been around forever. But XY keeps changing its name and look. The new look is classy, gurrrrl! A perfect night out to dance dance dance and not give a damn.

1216 Bute St.

Numbers

An old classic in the village. A fun multi-story club with a diverse crowd. Never pretentious with weekend lines and the small dance floor makes it easy to get close with the guy you were eyeing at the bar.

1042 Davie St.

The Cobalt

Proof that gays can fix anything. Started as a “divey” straight bar and turned into a busy establishment with a grunge feel in the heart of the growing East Van satellite gay scene. Some of the best monthly parties happen here, but the highlight for many is Man Up – our very own multi-gender drag spectacular and queer dance party.

917 Main St.

Fun times with the locals…

Gay Trivia on Mondays at the Junction is always fun with a local crowd and good people. Drag queen bingo at Celebrities gets you through hump day. Numbers has karaoke all week on the top floor if that’s your thing, or if it’s your thing after copious amounts of liquid courage.

Time to strip…

When summer is finally here, the beaches don’t disappoint. Skip the tourist trap of English Bay and make the short trek to nearby Third Beach Serenely isolated away from family crowds and you never have to look too far to find a hottie tanning. If you’re up for an adventure and crossing a bridge, then historic Wreck Beach is a must. Touted as one of the largest nude beaches in North America, the crowd is very mixed and chill. Easily the best spot to let a summer daze take hold and let the hours melt by.

Read more at the Vancouver Tourism website.

Special thanks to Allan Lalfor giving us the low-down.

5 Spots to Take Your New Boo: Los Angeles

Akbar

This Silver Lake gay haunt is a popular stop for a stiff vodka soda and serious bearded eye candy. If you and your boo are looking for a little Bachelor-style one-on-one time, there are a few tables toward the back where you can find out his favorite Netflix Originals. The space itself is pretty small but the chances your knees will touch are pretty big. The jukebox is well-stocked with familiar alt-gay artists (Morrissey, The Cure, Kate Bush) and provides a more mellow soundtrack for some starry-eyed conversation. When open, the back dance room can help with much-needed relief from the stress of getting to know a new boo. The first Saturday of each month is Mario Diaz’s Full Frontal Disco where you can show off how you Hustle. If you’re interested in an unpretentious vibe and music that isn’t the fun but exhausted Britney/Christina/Mariah holy trinity, Akbar is the perfect alternative to the often glammed-up din of the WeHo strip.

Don’t tell anyone: Sidestep the weekend debauchery and go on Wednesdays for Craft Night, where glue guns mingle with drink specials.

4356 W Sunset Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90029
akbarsilverlake.com
(323) 665-6810

Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine Temple

The Pacific Palisades is one of the most lux neighborhoods in Los Angeles, and for good reason. Nestled between Brentwood and Malibu, and just a few blocks from the Pacific Ocean is this peaceful oasis with the longest name ever. But don’t let that mouthful fool you, this lush escape is all about simplicity and beauty. There’s plenty of benches for contemplating your next meal and garden pathways for a romantic stroll. The Windmill Chapel and Golden Lotus Archway are just a few lovely sights along the way. Admission is free but consider donating as the landscapes are perfectly maintained. The whole experience is a hushed one, so if you’re looking to whisper sweet nothings into your boo’s ear, this is the place to do it.

Don’t tell anyone: Some of the benches are more private and hidden deeper into the brush. Keep an eye out for those.

17190 W Sunset Blvd Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
lakeshrine.org
(310) 454-4114

République

The first thing you think when you walk into this much-hyped Mid-City restaurant, is that you’ve entered either a holy place of worship or that sprawling Harry Potter cafeteria. It’s possible it’s a little bit of both and that’s totally sweet. It feels new and cool and young, just like your boo. In the morning it’s a bustling bakery. Try the Croque Madame or pecan bar. In the evening it’s a dinner joint with even Frenchier fare like escargots en croûte—just practice rolling your r’s ahead of time. The sea of cerulean decor will sweep you away to a different time, and so will The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill pumping from above. While the price is a little steep, just tell your boo he’s worth it. So one of you be Julia Roberts and one of you be Richard Gere, and pretty woman the shit outta that place.

Don’t tell anyone: Use the valet. The search for parking can be a really downer when you’re dressed to impress.

624 S La Brea Ave Los Angeles, CA 90036
republiquela.com
(310) 362-6115

Griffith Observatory

It doesn’t get more romantic than this fellas. High above L.A., among the canyons and coyotes, is the Griffith Observatory. If you’re feeling particularly outdoorsy, strap on those Timberlands and have yourself a hike up the winding road that leads here. That’s also your best bet to avoid the nightmare that is finding parking. Once inside, learn the basics of physics and astronomy—all those classes you skipped in college—and explore different ways to use a telescope. The view of the city and sky are inexplicable. Tell your new boo how insignificant you feel compared to the universe, like a grain of sand. He’ll be putty in your hands.

Don’t tell anyone: Go at night. Less kids. More stars. More smooches.

2800 E Observatory Rd Los Angeles, CA 90027
griffithobservatory.org
(213) 473-0800

Bar Eightytwo

On the Type A tip? Have an epic Ms. Pac Man battle and make the loser buy shots at this 21+ old school video game arcade, complete with full bar and disco/hip-hop DJs to keep your head nodding while you score (points or otherwise). This place is huge and the nostalgia factor is strong, so soak up an afternoon there and make it a day date. Friday and Saturday nights get packed, and if you have to wait in line to get your Street Fighter fix, you’ve already lost, bro.

Don’t tell anyone: Try something offbeat and play a few rounds of Ice Cold Beer, which has nothing to do with beer and everything to do with steady hands.

707 E 4th Pl Los Angeles, CA 90013
eightytwo.la
(213) 626-8200