The world’s greatest guilty pleasures
Watch the moon rise surrounded by the neon reflections of bars at a Full Moon party in Ko Pha-Ngan. (Kimberley Coole/LPI)
Everyone needs to indulge their vices every now and then. These examples of excess from around the globe range from unadulterated hedonism on a Thai beach to sleeping in a Mughal palace in India.
Let the good times roll in Las Vegas, United States
Sin City is the setting for many iconic tales of modern excess — from Hunter S Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to the film The Hangover — and has become synonymous with overindulgence and cutting loose. It has more casinos than any city on the planet and is home to the world’s biggest food buffet, the largest strip club and 15 of the world’s 20 largest hotels. In a city that promotes itself with the slogan, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”, anything can happen – and usually does.
Smoke like an Egyptian in Cairo, Egypt
There is something alluring about the shisha, the ubiquitous water pipe smoked by Egyptian men. Maybe it is the bubbling of the water in the glass base or perhaps it is the ornate architecture of the brass stem capped with a clay bowl. Trying one at a coffee shop is an essential way to get a taste of Egyptian culture.
Cairo’s most famous coffeehouse is Fishawi’s, at the Khan al-Khalili market. Order a hagar (Arabic for “stone”) of sticky flavoured tobacco and enjoy with tea, coffee or karkadai (a drink brewed from hibiscus leaves).
Let loose at a beach party in Ko Pha-Ngan, Thailand
Few places are as perfect for shedding your inhibitions as Ko Pha-Ngan -- especially during the Full Moon parties, which claim to be the biggest beach bashes in the world. With cheap Thai whisky flowing freely, barely clad bodies dancing on the sand, loud music and bonfires, there is a vibe of unadulterated hedonism. Best of all, you can sleep it off the next day, lazing on gorgeous beaches and swimming in the clear emerald sea – a sure-fire hangover cure.
Sleep like royalty in Jaipur, India
Jaipur’s first palace, built in 1727, has been turned into one of the world’s top heritage hotels. The Raj Palace is an exquisite example of Mughal architecture, with fluted archways, gold-leafed ceilings, marble bathrooms, ivory furniture and crystal chandeliers. It is impeccably classy and inarguably authentic. The Shahi Mahal Presidential Suite costs $53,000 per night and comes with a private pool, personal spa and dedicated servants (in case you accidentally left yours at home).
Clog your arteries in Chandler, Arizona, United States
With specialities like the Quadruple Bypass Burger (said to weigh in at 8,000 calories), Flatliner Fries (deep fried in pure lard) and the Butterfat Shake, the Heart Attack Grill stands wholeheartedly behind its motto, “Taste worth dying for!”. It is so obscenely unhealthy that even the restaurant’s owner calls the food “nutritional pornography”. Waitresses dressed up as nurses take orders on a prescription pad and will take you out to your car in a wheelchair if you manage to finish a Quadruple Bypass.
Burn some rubber in Florence, Italy
Florence is one of world’s top art capitals, blessed with an abundance of palaces, churches and museums that are loaded with best-in-show examples of Renaissance paintings, sculptures and architecture. But if you get bored with that trove of artistic perfection (or the horrendous queues), why not try a different form of legendary Italian design – rent a Ferrari. Half-day tours of the Tuscany countryside put you behind the wheel and allow you to drive along the famed Mille Miglia road race route and through the gorgeous Chianti hills.
Taste dessert heaven in Bangkok, Thailand
Order up a piece of Madagascar chocolate cake, a dab of strawberry-chocolate mousse, a spoonful of champagne sherbet and some crème brûlée topped with shaved truffles, then serve them together on a plate with edible gold leaf. Add a glass of the rare Moyet Très Vieille Grande No 7, and you have just been served the Chocolate Variation, one of the most expensive desserts in the world. It is created at Mezzaluna in Bangkok, where the dining room hovers 65 storeys above the city and offers breathtaking views. You may truly gasp, however, when you get the bill. – $640 for the dessert alone.
Drink like a nomad in Mongolia
Visit a ger (felt tent) on the Mongolian steppes and you will likely find yourself handed a large bowl of airag -- Mongolian moonshine made from fermented horse milk. This concoction is sour and sometimes carries quite a kick, but drunkenness will always follow – less from the potency than from the sheer quantity you will be expected to imbibe. The best airag is said to come from Dundgov or Middle Gobi province, south of Mongolia’s capital Ulan Bataar.