Five ways to enjoy “Suicide Sunday”

I stumbled into Cambridge, England on “Suicide Sunday,” a joyous occasion in which the local university students cut loose and get wasted blow off steam following the completion of final exams. The streets are packed with tourists and students, the former gawking, the latter playing. To witness the events is figuratively intoxicating, while to participate offers a more literal experience. The booze flows plentifully, and merriment is omnipresent.

So, how can you get in on the action? Call ahead to the Cambridge University to find out when Suicide Sunday will be (it’s always in June). Once you hit the ground, here are a few ways to pass the time:

1. Pour yourself a drink: If you’re clever, enter one of the colleges. The signs prohibit non-student entry, and there are security guards just inside those doors (as I learned the hard way). But, if you can slip inside, you’ll be at the center of the party. It’s fairly likely that free liquor will flow your way.

Backup Plan: If the rent-a-cops bust you, shoot for an aquatic landing. Take a “punt” (flat-bottomed boat) or other vessel onto the River Cam. Slip up to the shore and climb out. Bribe a student (in the boat and on shore). Get wasted. Too easy.

2. Stay on the river for a bit: “Punting,” mentioned above, is really nothing more than pushing a boat with a pole along the River Cam. You can either rent your own and try your luck or hire a “chauffeured” punt to bring you along the river. Keep in mind that there will be plenty of self-hired punts out there, so you’re best bet is to stay in the hands of a professional.

People Watch: There are parties at the colleges all along the river. Watch for the splashes, as drunk students tend to toss each other into the water. Sometimes, small wrestling matches occur that ultimately lead to a trip into the drink. You can enjoy the show from start to finish.


3. Fill your stomach: The most common picnic fare seems to be beer and cheap Indian food. Join the party! Both are plentiful. Grab your grub and head out for the punt bridges behind St. Catherine’s (on Silver Street). Look for a spot in the unmowed grass, and chow down. Buy a little extra – you may be able to host a small party of drunk college kids!

Heckle the Help: When you’ve finished eating, stake out a spot on a bridge. To fit in with the locals, pick up a few water balloons. Then, hunt drunks. You won’t be alone. More than a few people were on the prowl while I was waiting for my punt.


4. Enjoy the architecture: Yes, there is a cultural aspect to Cambridge University. The easiest way to satisfy your intellectual obligation is to wander the streets and enjoy the downright regal architecture that the various colleges offer. Also, you can do this while meandering from one rockin’ party to the next, so you don’t have to sacrifice any precious drinking time.

Watch for Pitchers: The clean cut British boys pushing punting tickets aren’t as skilled as the souk-minders of Marrakech, but they’re trying. Don’t get sucked in by their innocent charm while you’re snapping photos of the buildings. Make your arrangements for punting when you get down to the river.

5. Protest, protest, protest: Cambridge, England is not unlike Cambridge, Massachusetts, in that there is always some group fighting the social and political injustices of the world. On the most recent Suicide Day, I saw a bike rally chanting: “Free Gaza now!”

Let It Roll: Speaking of bikes, they’re the most popular form of transportation in Cambridge. Look for them when you cross the street. Hell, rent one for a while. It’s nice to see the world like a local.


Disclosure: Many thanks to Visit Britain, which picked up the tab for this trip and to British Airways for the flights. Obviously, it did not pay for my opinions. If they did, I doubt this is the story that would have been commissioned.

Debauchery tourism: travel for partying, sex and drugs

“There is no future! Why save money? Why worry about traditional morality!?”, the anything goes attitude when on vacation seems to be the latest travel-trend amongst western 25-34 year-olds, according to the 2007 World Travel Market’s annual Global Trends report.

A wild spin off the nudist, lifestyle and hedonist resorts concept, the travel industry has tagged this as “debaucherism”, and as long as it’s legal, the hotels will take care of all your demands. Well, almost all: a complimentary copy of Playboy and a box of cigars in your room, and room-service for sex toys, erotic DVDs, and velvet restraints (!). Some of these hotel rooms that encourage debauchery to attract clients even have in-room stripper poles (hmmm.) Gambling and strip-club tours that include chauffeur driven limousine transport and entry to the clubs and all-day US$5000 in hotel pool-parties are among the popular requests.

The crowd hungry for these types of self-indulgent escapes are mainly recent out of university workaholics who just want to liberate themselves and experiment, or those who get a rise by imitating binge-drinking-and-partying celebrities.

Hot debauchery spots include Las Vegas, Buenos Aires, Cape Town, Dubai (!!!!), Hanoi and Macau.

Photo gallery: Sex and tourism — how do they mix?





Yes Virginia, There is Something to do in Los Angeles after 2 a.m. in the Morning

Friends of mine from New York who come to visit me in Los Angeles often express dismay and surprise at how early the city shuts down. Bars close at 2 a.m.?!??! There’s no where to eat at 3 a.m.?!?!?

Well, that’s not entirely true. Los Angeles does have its share of late night locations, but you really have to know where they hiding. Or, even easier, you can consult a recent LA Times article, Playing in the Dark, for a smattering of what the city has to offer; late night bowling, museum sleepovers, midnight movies, flower marts, dancing, casinos, and of course, restaurants.

So next time you visit LA, please don’t complain that there is nothing to do in the wee hours of the night; it might not be as spectacular as New York City, but we do have our late night haunts, thank you very much!

Studentski Grad: Partying with the Students in Bulgaria

If you want to know the best places to have fun in a foreign country, go where the students go. In the case of Sofia, Bulgaria, this would be Student Town.

The communists like to centralize things when they were in command and often created enormous complexes that housed monopoly industries for the entire nation. This was often the case with universities as well. Student Towns usually consisted of a half dozen high-rise dormitories where students from various universities lived. Like the rest of communist housing, they tend to be cheaply made, prefabricated dumps.

New York Times journalist Robert Reid recently made the journey to the outskirts of Sofia to check out what has become the most popular Student Town in perhaps all of Central Europe. Studentski Grad (literally, Student Town), has transformed itself into a haven of fun. Instead of just housing the students, dozens of discos and bars have popped up within the massive complex to entertain them as well. The communists would be proud; the capitalists have managed to centralize partying.

So if you happen to find yourself in Sofia with nothing to do, make your way out to the bleak cityscape of Studentski Grad where strobe lights and pumping music will surely entertain you until the wee hours of the morning. And the best thing is that unlike everyone else you will be drinking with, you won’t have an exam the next morning.