Travel Books: “Atlas Obscura” maps world’s best weirdness

Every travel guidebook has fun facts. “Atlas Obscura” (Workman Publishing, hardcover, $35), however, is more an encyclopedia of those fun facts (as well as some gruesome, bizarre and baffling facts). According to the authors, it’s a guide to “the curious, out-of-the-way places that don’t often make it into traditional guidebooks.” The book is, essentially, a printed version of the best sites from the Atlas Obscura website (www.atlasobscura.com/places) that has been listing these places since 2009. Odds are you won’t get past three pages without being amazed at something truly strange that you didn’t know existed. Here are a few examples. — Spud Hilton, shilton@sfchronicle.com Giant Lenin Head of Ulan-Ude (Republic of Buryatia) “It’s a tradition in Ulan-Ude …

Record coral deaths in Great Barrier Reef A file image of a lionfish near coral. Credit: pixabay.com     A mass bleaching event on the Great Barrier Reef this year killed more corals than ever before, scientists said on Tuesday, sounding the alarm over the delicate ecosystem. The 2 300-kilometre (1 400-mile) long reef - the world's biggest - suffered its most severe bleaching in recorded history, due to warming sea temperatures during March and April, with the northern third bearing the brunt. Follow-up underwater surveys, backing earlier aerial studies, have revealed a 700-kilometre stretch of reefs in the less-accessible north lost two-thirds of shallow-water corals in the past eight to nine months.  "Most of the losses in 2016 have occurred in the northern, most-pristine part of the Great Barrier Reef," said Terry...

Frugal Traveler: In Hong Kong’s Kowloon, the Markets Rule I focused my energy on the Kowloon peninsula, which is a bit grittier and less touristy than Hong Kong Island, just a few thousand feet away across Victoria Harbor. The biggest expense when staying in Kowloon will inevitably be housing. I confess that I cheated, as I have family members who live about an hour out of the city center, and with whom I stayed for most of my trip. I did spend a night at the Silka West Kowloon Hotel, paying $157 for a double room. The hotel was bare-bones and my room slightly cramped, but it felt safe and was reasonably clean. If you want to go the hostel route, the Ashoka Hostel has beds in mixed dorm rooms that run around $15 to ...

8 Great Holiday Gift Ideas for Your Favorite Globetrotters From slipper-like walking shoes to happy luggage, healthy trail snacks and smart- clothing - these 8 great travel accessories and tools will thrill every world traveler on your holiday gift list. ATM's Smiley Luggage: Not only is ATM Luggage well made, durable, lightweight, and easy to roll, this 4-wheel spinner bag makes people smile. That's because it sports the bright yellow, two eyed, big grin trademark Smiley Face we all know and love from buttons to emojis. In addition, the 22" hard-shell carry-on has enough space for a week's worth of clothing, with two separate lined compartments, and can withstand the rigors of even the most careless of baggage handlers. $99 for 22" carry-on, $129 for 30" ATMLuggage.com Arcopedico Leta Travel Shoe: The Arcopédico...

9 Slang Terms You Have To Be Colombian To Know Colombian slang terms can sound very odd. And chances are that, unless you’re from the South American country, you’ve probably never heard these words used in conversation.  In Flama’s latest video, several Latinos are asked to define nine relatively common Colombian slang terms. But confusion promptly ensues when given the first word, “cuchibarbi,” and it only gets worse from there.  “Gosh, these are random,” one participant says in the video when asked to define “nanay cucas.” “It’s like sounds effects to me. It’s not even a word.”  These Latinos may have epically failed, but could you do any better? Probably not. But you can try while watching the video above. Share this slide:Get top stories and blog posts emailed to me each...

Monaco, London or Lisbon? Europe's Top Casinos When traveling to Europe there are many different places that one can visit. Some travelers may wish to experience the sun and beauty of the Cote D'Azur by visiting the principality of Monaco and other travelers may wish to go to London where the historic past blends in with the modern features of today. Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal is another possibility with its blend of diverse landscapes. Regardless of your choice, all three locations also have live casino gambling in common and they are home to some of the best casinos in Europe. The Casino Estoril is located right outside of Lisbon and it's the largest casino found anywhere in Europe. There are about 1,000 slot machines found there and table games include roulette, blackjack, Caribbean...

Questions over 'dodgy' wildlife donation Credit: pexels.com     A row is brewing in Parliament over a donation of 150 buffaloes, 50 rhinos and 50 sable antelopes worth R100-million to politically connected private individuals in North West Province. Late last year the North West Department of Environmental Affairs gave the animals, free of charge, to three private individuals who the media described as politically connected people or friends on private farms. Following an expose by Carte Blanche, the NW Province’s Portfolio Committee on Rural Environment and Agricultural Development gave the Agricultural Department’s MEC, Manketsi Tlhape, and her senior management three days to explain the extraordinary gift. The committee was not happy with her report. The chair of the committee, Gordon Kegakilwe, said it did not explain the criteria for the selection of beneficiaries or the...

Heads Up: In the Hudson Valley, a New Mecca for Artisans The Magpie Bookshop specializes in gently used books. Jennifer May for The New York Times Inside the New York Restaurant in Catskill, N.Y., on a recent Sunday afternoon, a jazz band whiled away the hours as the place filled up. Fresh into town, a friend and I marveled at unusual dishes like “cauliflower wings” and brussels sprout chips, and at the sense that we’d stumbled into the clubhouse for local creatives. I’d last visited Catskill a couple of years before, and here was my first indication that since then, a new energy had taken hold in this small town of 4,000 set in the Hudson Valley, where Catskill Creek meets the Hudson River. The buzz comes largely on the heels of the Catskill Mill, a mammoth project...