Tommy Lee, travel guide?

Former Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee will star in an investigative travel show for the Syfy network, Culture Shock with Tommy Lee. Lee will attempt to uncover rituals, symbols and other mysteries of secret societies around the world.

The unscripted series will have hour-long episodes produced by ITV Studios America featuring the ex-husband of both Heather Locklear and Pamela Anderson giving his opinion of bizarre things he finds around the world.

“This is the first show that I’ve been a part of that will blow our minds and reveal things that will explain almost all our questions,” Lee told Entertainment Weekly. “I’m very excited to be partnering with Syfy on this show. It’s going to be an amazing experience for all involved.”

We’re wondering if Tommy will start at SeaWorld in Orlando where he can investigate further his concern/anger over whale masturbation.

Certainly that qualifies as a ritual, symbol or mystery?

Flickr photo by MadMarlin

The newest edition of Moon Belize is a gem

The first things that come to mind when I think of Belize: Mayan ruins, world-class diving, bird-watching, and hiking through nature. Sounds like a vacation in paradise, if you ask me – and I’m from Hawaii. Joshua Berman, a travel expert to both Nicaragua and Belize, recently revised the 8th edition of Moon Belize, and the result is a comprehensive, informative guide for any kind of traveler.

Seeing the best of Belize is a piece of cake, but what makes Moon Belize such a rich resource is Berman’s behind-the-scenes knowledge of the country. The 24-page front section of the book offers fantastic itinerary ideas – my favorites being “The Mundo Maya” (scattered across the inland part of the country are over thirty Mayan ruins), Belize’s “Best Dive Sites” (live-aboard to your heart’s content, or visit one of the country’s many atolls, reefs, and cays), and two off-the-beaten-path nature guides.

The main and middle portion of the guidebook is a comprehensive 230 pages of country information, broken up in seven parts: the Belize District, the Northern Cayes, Belmopan and the Hummingbird Highway, Cayo and the Mountain Pine Ridge, the Southern coast, Punta Gorda and the Toledo Villages, and Northern Belize. Each section begins with a handy “Highlights” guide and map and contains well-written, informational insets featuring local lore or facts where you can learn about such things as the cashew nut, jaguars, and manatees. There are also helpful walking guides within town centers or ruins for those wanting some direction and not wanting to pay for real tour guide.

The back section of the book provides helpful historical information, environmental background, and travel tips – all catered to the informed traveler. Berman leaves no stone unturned: he even writes about “Gettin’ Hitched and Honeymoonin'” in Belize on page 314 (my sister’s best friend had her destination wedding in Belize, so the book really is spot on in including such details). Berman adds personal touches to this edition as well, with a generous first-person Foreward and first-hand accounts sprinkled around the guide and back sections too (check out the cool interview on whale sharks on pages 210-211 and “The Future of the Reef” interview on pages 266-267).

The newest edition of Moon Belize really is a gem. With over 40 maps, a colorful front section of suggested itineraries, readable and informative guide, and amazingly detailed background information, Berman produced a true traveler’s notebook.

You can purchase this latest version of Moon Belize on Moon’s website. While you’re there, stop by Berman’s Moon Belize blog, or visit his Tranquilo Traveler blog if you are a fan – which you will be.

Also, stay tuned to Gadling for a special “Talking Travel with Joshua Berman” and Moon Belize book giveaway!

GuideGecko’s travel writing contest

It was just about four months ago that Gadling reported the launch of a great new travel resource and bookstore, Now, GuideGecko, the innovative publishing platform for travel, lifestyle and entertainment guides, has just announced its first travel writing contest in conjunction with the world’s largest book fair in Frankfurt, Germany.

From now to September 24, authors from all over the world can submit their own travel, lifestyle or entertainment guides, and the winning titles will be showcased at the fair. The top prize is a personal trip to the fair in October 2009.
The contest is open to everybody, from casual writers to bloggers and established authors. Topics can span from anything and everything under the sun, as long as they are travel, lifestyle or entertainment related. With no page limit, the authors have the freedom and flexibility to write their guides the way they want. Submissions can be new titles as well as existing titles previously published on GuideGecko or elsewhere.

Upon submission, the guides will be published instantly and listed on GuideGecko’s front page, where they will receive maximum visibility. Customers and viewers can choose to vote for and even order these guides immediately. Participation in the contest is free and the authors will receive full royalties and retain the copyrights of their guides published on

The winners of the ‘GuideGecko Writing Contest’ will be decided through online voting, which starts immediately. The first prize is a personal trip to the Frankfurt Book Fair for the winning author. In addition, the top 3 titles will be showcased on the fair. Other prizes include a selection of Lonely Planet travel guides and subscriptions to travel magazines.

Closing date is 24 September 2009 and prize winners will be announced on 25 September 2009. For more information and to enter the contest, visit

Talking Travel with

A few weeks ago, the world wide web saw the launch of a most useful travel resource called Guide Gecko hopes to serve the dual purpose as an online bookstore and independent travel writing recruiter. The site’s mastermind, Daniel Quadt, spent the past year and countless hours speaking with travelers and writers to make Guide Gecko a useful travel resource. The end result hopes to please independent, knowledgeable travelers as well as those setting out for the first time.

Daniel sat down with me to talk about travel,, and the site’s potential.

BY: Thanks for taking time away from Guide Gecko’s exciting launch to correspond with Gadling. Where are you now, and do you have any plans to travel to either promote the site or for recreation in the near future?

DQ: I am in Singapore, the base for Guide Gecko and my ‘hometown’ in the last four years. Singapore is a perfect travel hub for South-East Asia, and I plan to visit Malaysia, Thailand, and perhaps Indonesia in the coming weeks and months. I don’t have a fixed schedule yet, so maybe faithful Gadling readers can let me know if they know of any event that could be interesting for Guide Gecko, or if they simply want to meet up and say “hello.”

BY: Can you briefly describe for our Gadling readers the kind of traveler you are? How often do you travel? Where is your dream destination? What is your preferred mode of travel?

DQ: I started traveling extensively during my studies, when I was a part time software developer for a major airline, and got to enjoy discounted tickets all around the world. Nowadays, I usually travel with my wife, and we try to go backpacking through southeast Asia every few months. I do like sightseeing in cities and temple ruins, but also enjoy lying in the water on a nice beach, sipping beers and waiting for the sunset. Given the proximity to Singapore, I would say that the ‘double beach’ on Pulau Redang, an island off of peninsular Malaysia’s east coast, comes very close to being my dream destination.
BY: Where did the Guide Gecko idea come from? Of all genres (ie: fiction, non-fiction, coffee table reads), why did you choose travel?

DQ: Naturally, the idea came while traveling – in Penang, Malaysia, to be precise. We usually prefer to have a drink in a bar with some locals around us, and try to eat in places where not all of the other diners are fellow travelers ordering what the Lonely Planet recommends. Nothing against the Lonely Planet – we have big collection ourselves – but the locals know what’s best and what not, and their information is always up-to-date. We thought there must be a way for both locals and tourists to profit from this. Our goal is to make this information available to anyone who is interested, in a concise way through travel, lifestyle and entertainment guides and not scattered over isolated travel tips or blogs.

BY: What service do you hope the site will provide for both writers and travelers in a way that is not yet offered online, through publishers, or in bookstores?

DQ: We bring authors and publishers together with customers and readers. We provide an opportunity for customers to find exactly the guides they need, and for authors to market their guides to consumers worldwide. Any budding author can publish his or her guide as a printed book or as a PDF download. The guide can have any length, from 1-1000 pages, and can cover any travel, lifestyle or entertainment topic. Publishing on Guide Gecko is free. As an author, you only need to write and upload your guide. We take care of everything else, from marketing and payment collection to printing and shipping. Authors set the retail price and earn up to 75% for each sale, from the first copy onwards.

BY: How does Guide Gecko market independently written guides by “greenhorn” travel writers? What kind of service does the site provide to ensure a degree of success for these guides opposed to the commercial (Lonely Planet, Frommer’s, etc) guidebooks?

DQ: We intend to make Guide Gecko the first in mind website for travel guides. We believe it is a great way for independent authors to market their guides. Customers may visit the site to order a Lonely Planet but end up buying your guide, especially if you offer it as a reasonably priced PDF download. When writers publish their guide on Guide Gecko, it will be listed on the front page, where it gets maximum visibility. An affiliate program where website owners, such as travel or food bloggers, can promote our guides on their site and earn a certain share of the revenue is also in the works.

BY: Do you promote the site only on the internet, or do you use offline marketing as well?

DQ: We promote the site online and offline. We have already experienced great media coverage, including feature articles in magazines and newspapers. We have focused our offline efforts on Singapore and southeast Asia as a start. We’ve already participated an interview on TravelTalkRadio, a U.S. radio show. I continue to sum up the media coverage in Guide Gecko’s company blog, so feel free to check that out for the details.

BY: If I were a consumer using the site, how could I be certain that I’ve chosen the best guidebook to fit my needs?

DQ: Our intention is to make the site as consumer friendly as possible. Users can find the right guides by searching not only by destination, but also by categories. You can combine categories too. For example, you can search for ‘budget travelers’ along with ‘barhopping’ — or ‘women’ with ‘wellness’ (and vice versa). When it comes to quality, we have a rating and review system where you can read what others think about the guide. We are currently developing a ‘preview’ functionality, which allows you to preview certain pages before making a decision. If that’s not enough, you can also ask questions to the author or to fellow users.

BY: I know you spent a considerable amount of time talking with travelers and writers to make this a great travel resource. What have you learned about the travel industry in the process, and in what ways had your initial vision for the site changed after gathering information, advice, and suggestions from travel enthusiasts like myself?

DQ: I have learnt that there are many budding travel writers with lots of interesting topics and good writing skills. However, many complain that there is a lack of opportunities to market their writings. They pitch their stories to magazines or guidebook publishers, only to collect rejection letters, if it all. I sincerely hope that Guide Gecko will provide them with the right tool to reach out to consumers. The market may be small for some niche topics, but with Guide Gecko, it is possible to serve such customers.

To give you an example, I am in contact with some authors who write guidebooks for travelers with disabilities, which are very comprehensive guides with lots of information you won’t find in any off-the-shelf guide. (Who knew there is a wheelchair friendly access to the Sacré Coeur in Paris though an elevated walkway from a neighboring guesthouse!). I hope that Guide Gecko will provide such guides with the attention they deserve, and let the authors focus on writing more guides of this caliber while we take care of the marketing, logistics and payment.

I have also talked to potential customers. Many of them told me something like, “If you could provide us with good guides on where and how to travel with
children, we’d be your first customers.” That showed me that there is a demand for many niche topics, which is how we came up with our 68 guide categories.

BY: If all goes well with the Guide Gecko launch, in what ways could you see the site grow or expand?

DQ: I would like to venture more in the area of electronic guide formats. I believe this is the future for guidebooks. Who wants to carry a heavy book when you already have a large-screen camera or a PDA with you all the time? It would be good to offer downloads for commercially available titles as well, be it as PDFs or in more interactive formats. So, if you are a publisher interested in this field, do let me know and we can see how we can work together!

Travel enthusisiasts: STAY TUNED to Gadling and Guide Gecko next month for an opportunity to submit your travel guide requests and/or proposals for great prizes! Or, If you’re a traveler in need of a special guide or a writer in need of platform and you’re ready to get started, head over to right now and create an account. Membership is free.

Travel guide to Cuba

Cuba is a timeless place in more ways than one. Time has basically stood still for fifty years, and there is little anyone can do about it except Castro – and I’m not talking about Fidel, I’m talking about his brother Raúl. Since Fidel took the reigns fifty years ago, the “Revolution” still lives on in Cuba in the form of propaganda strewn across the country roadside and city walls. Aged cars are pieced back together, people live on pennies, and tourists stay in small B&B-like homes, but Cuba remains largely untouched by capitalism.

Something really special is brewing across the Straits of Florida: CHANGE – maybe not in Obama’s form of the word, but change is upon Cuba in the coming years, and if you can (if you’re allowed to travel there) you really should journey through the time machine to Castro country while you can and see a nation unlike any other you will ever see and may never see again.

Getting in:
Obama may have lifted travel restrictions for Cuban-Americans, but that doesn’t means it’s yet easy – or legal – to get to Cuba. Nearly all citizens, the majority of which are from Canada, Germany, Italy, France, and Spain, can get in upon arrival and out quite easily. Because of the existing trade embargo, American tourists are technically not able travel to Cuba unless they get prior permission the the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
Visas are granted to all visitors upon arrival. No matter your citizenship, Cuban customs agents stamp the arrival/departure card instead of the passport when you arrive and your boarding pass when you depart. There is no evidence on your passport for anyone that you have traveled to Cuba.

The most frequent airline carriers traveling to Cuba are Air Canada, Cubana, AeroCaribbean, and Mexicana. Therefore, best departure points are in Canada, Central America, and Mexico. Round trip airfare should cost no more than $500. There are some very good travel package deals available through certain travel agencies that include roundtrip airfare and 7-14 nights in a 4- or 5- star hotel/resort for just $150-300 more.

When to go:
The devastating Hurricanes Gustav, Ike, and (to a lesser degree) Paloma indicate that the rainy season between August and October are not ideal month to travel to Cuba. However, I would strongly encourage all interested in seeing Cuba to go now – whenever that may be – because Cuba will likely change significantly socially, politically, and economically soon.

Where to stay:
Tourists basically have three choices when it comes to accommodation in Cuba: luxury resorts, mediocre hotels offered through Islazul, and B&B-like “casas particulares.”

Vacationers and business travelers prefer high-end hotels such as the Spanish-owned Sol Melia hotel chain. Expect to pay upwards of $200 per night.

Middle-of-the-road hotels are listed on Cuba’s Islazul website. Some are finer than others, which can be real decrepit places. Expect to pay between $40-100 per night.

Independent and budget travelers who don’t travel in packs (larger than four) can stay in a casa particular. These are private homes hosted by Cuban families who pay a hefty tax house foreigners in two rooms maximum. There are two online networks that list hundreds of casas in every part of Cuba: and Expect to pay between $20-40 per night.

Where to eat:
Similar to the hotel situation in Cuba, dining in Cuba is best experience by word of mouth. There are plenty of high-end restaurants that, in Havana can cost up to $40-50 a meal.

Ask around for the best “paladar” in town, and you will go on a little treasure hunt through residential neighborhoods to find a small “restaurant” inside a home or apartment. Owners of these paladares pay a hefty tax (notice a trend here?) to serve a maximum of 12 diners at a time. The best known paladar in Havana, La Guarida, was featured in the Cuban film “Fresa y Chocolate” and, like most paladares, offers a really authentic atmosphere for dining on the third floor of an apartment in central Havana.

Cuban cuisine is much like other parts of Central America. Most meals come with a side of salad, rice (the “gallo pinto” one speckled with beans is called “Morros y Cristianos” – “Moors and Christians!”) or plantains, and a main dish of meat or seafood.

Where to go:
… stay tuned to my future Cuba Libre posts to read about Havana, Trinidad, Santiago de Cuba, Baracoa, and Varadero!

For a complete listing of my Cuba Libre posts, please click HERE.