A la Carte Maps combines map, guidebook, and art in one foldable package

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Five years ago, while traveling in Thailand, I discovered the beautiful hand-painted maps of Nancy Chandler, an American artist who found a unique, mappy niche for herself. Her Bangkok map was not only nice to look at, but extremely practical as well. For example, I didn’t learn from my guidebook about using the city’s klongs, or canals, to get around and avoid the street traffic; instead, I figured this out from the drawings on Chandler’s map—no guidebook necessary, just a map in my pocket.

I’d never seen anything like Chandler’s practical works of art until I received an email from Shanghai, China, last week, telling me about A la Carte Maps (Shanghai map pictured above). To date, A la Carte covers ten major world cities; I would love to try one out on my next trip. The company was started by two “dedicated flashpackers,” so expect the hippest mid-range and budget destinations to appear colorfully among the city’s food stalls, clubs, art galleries, bars, and gelato-makers in town. Now if only they’d do one for Managua….

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