Testing your (city) limits: urban adventures in mighty metropolises
Who says you have to leave the confines of your city to find an adrenaline fix? Here our Lonely Planet locals share a selection of adventurous endeavours in the heart of some of the world’s largest metropolises, from in-line skating on the streets of Paris to a fearsome spice challenge in Singapore.
For inspiration on uncovering adventure in your own city, check out Lonely Planet’s Everyday Adventures.
Try wakeboarding in the centre of Seoul
With 25.6 million people living in the South Korean capital, snagging a quiet spot beside the Han River is sport enough for most. Those looking to go the extra mile, however, can take to the chilly waters to try wakeboarding, where brave participants are towed behind a speeding motorboat, skimming the still waters on a small, light-weight board.
While it might not boast the same glamour as waterskiing along the Mediterranean coast, there’s something very James Bond about stepping from one of the city’s cloud-snagging skyscrapers, slipping on your sunglasses and skimming past a crowd of rush-hour commuters scurrying through the neon city: just try not to ruin the illusion by falling in.
For the come down: Visitors looking for a more leisurely way to enjoy the Han River can try floating down it in a giant, six-person tube (complete with parasol for sun protection). Food and drinks are allowed on board and the night-time views are phenomenal.
Hahna Yoon is a South Korean travel writer, raised in America, now based in Seoul. Follow her on Twitter @hahnay.
Speed skate through Paris' streets
Whizzing through the busy French capital on in-line skates isn't without its pitfalls, not least the cobblestones and unexpected descents, but it's an exhilarating way to see the city's famous landmarks in the company of local skaters.
If you're an experienced rollerblader (you can turn at speed, and, most crucially, you know how to brake), join a three-hour Friday night mass skate organised by Pari Roller from Montparnasse. Beginners can try the gentler, three-hour family-oriented courses organised by Rollers & Coquillages from Bastille. Both are free, and are accompanied by yellow-jersey-clad staff. Routes are posted online prior to each skate.
How to do it: Hire skates (from €8 per day), along with all-important safety equipment, at Nomadeshop.
For the come down: Rest your legs and rehydrate at cafes lining Boulevard du Montparnasse and Place de la Bastille, or survey the ground you've covered from a rooftop bar like Le Perchoir.
Catherine Le Nevez is a long-time Lonely Planet writer based in Paris.
Ride the world’s fastest train in Shanghai
A fitting introduction to one of China’s most exciting and glamorous cities, Shanghai’s Maglev – an abbreviation of magnetic levitation – is the fastest commercial train in the world, connecting Pudong International Airport with the city in just eight thrilling minutes.
Passengers can watch the speedometer rise – along with their pulses – on LCD screens as the train tears towards the metropolis, but ultimately this ride is a remarkably smooth one inside the carriage; with comfortable seating and air conditioning. The real rush comes from observing the outside world race past the large windows while waiting for the train to hit its staggering top speed of 430km/h.
How to do it: The train runs between Pudong Airport Station and Longyang Road Station between 6:45am and 9:40pm. The single fare is 50yuan.
For the come down: Slow down the pace, and delve deeper into this remarkable feat of engineering, at the Maglev Museum in Longyang Road Station.
Rosie upped sticks and swapped her life in London for an adventure in Shanghai.
Take on a curry challenge in Singapore
Singapore’s diverse melting pot of cultures has produced one of the world’s most dynamic and drool-worthy food scenes. But those who really want to test their taste buds – and pain threshold – should head to Lagnaa Barefoot restaurant in Little India for a chance to be immortalised in local culinary folklore.
The curry served here is seriously spicy; ranked in heat numerically from mild ones and twos to a never-been-attempted 10. Visitors willing to eat a level three (scraping the bowl clean without the use of cooling aids like lassi or yoghurt) will receive a personalised peg on the Curry Challenge wall. Polish off a level six, and you’ll obtain an invite to the monthly Full Moon Chilli Challenge, where serious spice fiends attempt level sevens and above. Gluttonous glory awaits.
How to do it: Lagnaa Barefoot is open from 11:30am to 10:30pm. Prove your credentials by stomaching a level six to be invited to the monthly Full Moon Chilli Challenge where you can make history by becoming the first punter to finish the 10.
For the come down: Walk off your dinner with a placating stroll along the winding Singapore River. Enjoy the colonial architecture of the Asian Civilisation Museum and the Fullerton Hotel (formerly the General Post Office), before arriving at the magnificent Gardens by the Bay.
Ria de Jong is a travel writer based in Singapore. You can follow her adventures via Instagram @ria_in_transit.
Navigate the historic waterways of Istanbul
Taking to the waters of the Golden Horn (an inlet of the Bosphorus River) in a quad scull offers Istanbul views worthy of a sultan. Sure, the Ottoman rulers had oar-wielding servants who powered their imperial caïques around town, while you’ll have to do the rowing yourself – but that’s all part of the fun.
The early-morning adventure starts with a short lesson at a rowing club in Kasımpaşa before heading out into open water. Battle choppy waters and dodge wayward fishing vessels on route to Eyüp, where the tombstones of a leafy hillside cemetery tumble down towards the shore. On the way back, pause your voyage to take in the views of Istanbul’s minarets, church steeples and ancient stone towers stirring into life in the morning light – a sight worth the daybreak workout.
How to do it: Istanbul Tour Studio offers a Golden Horn rowing experience starting from $95 per person.
For the come down: See some of the vessels that have traversed Istanbul’s waterways in the past, plus models of all of the city’s piers, at the shoreside Rahmi M. Koç Museum in Hasköy.
Jennifer Hattam is a travel writer based in Istanbul. Follow her tweets at @TheTurkishLife.
Scale the rock face of Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio
Most first time visitors to Rio make a beeline for the iconic Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain), ascending this 396m-monolith in the comfort of air-conditioned cable cars. But thrill-seekers have an altogether more exhilarating option: don helmet, harness and climbing shoes, and get to the top the old-fashioned way.
Whether you are an experienced climber or total novice, as long as you have a good level of fitness, and the help of an experienced guide, then reaching the summit – through a combination of trail hiking and vertical ascents – is achievable. Scaling the rock face will provide plenty of adrenaline-fuelled thrills, spectacular views (if you can face looking down) and a strong sense of superiority over the cable-car-using hordes once you reach the top.
How to do it: Employing the service of a guide is essential for summiting the Sugarloaf. Experienced guides and climbing equipment is available from Companhia da Escalada.
For the come down: Located in the shadow of Sugarloaf, Bar Urca’s tranquil setting is the perfect spot to wind down with a well-earned post-climb caipirinha.
Tom Le Mesurier is a food and travel writer and culinary tour guide based in Rio de Janeiro. Follow him on Instagram @eatrio.
Seek out Chicago’s underwater ghosts
Scattered along Lake Michigan’s floor just beyond the shadows of Chicago’s glittering skyline are nearly a dozen wrecked ships; sunken relics of the city’s past as a major port linking the Mississippi River to the Great Lakes and the Atlantic.
From paddle steamers and masted schooners to hulking steel ferries, the wrecked vessels – many the victims of collisions and brutal winter storms – lie in an eerie state of preservation primed for sub-aquatic exploration. Keen divers who look upon the ships’ mussel-clad hulls or venture into their watery chambers will inevitably be confronted by the spectre of departed crews and passengers, not to mention the ghost of a bygone era in Chicago history.
How to do it: Windy City Diving coordinates wreck excursions for certified divers of all levels (from $95 plus equipment rental).
For the come down: Steady your nerves and warm your bones over grog at Wicker Park’s maritime-inspired Queen Mary, where rich wood wainscoting and low lighting call to mind an old captain’s quarters.
Cate Huguelet is a travel and food writer based in Chicago. Follow her on Instagram @catehuguelet.
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