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Where to escape the daily grind of the modern world

Unplug and shake off the shackles of the daily grind by escaping to these 10 refreshingly retro destinations that have successfully resisted the forward march of time.
Image: Traffic is seen on Havana's seafront boulevard
Traffic and time moves slowly along Havana's seafront boulevard El Malecon. DESMOND BOYLAN / Reuters
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Leave your iPod behind. Updating your Facebook status can wait. And don’t even think about checking your work e-mail. Unplug and shake off the shackles of the daily grind by escaping to these 10 refreshingly retro destinations that have successfully resisted the forward march of time. No batteries required!

1. Havana, Cuba
Wander through Habana Vieja, a district like a gritty 1950s movie. Colonial tenements crumble, children play baseball with a stick, women go shopping with their hair in rollers, vintage U.S. cars trundle past. There's nowhere that can capture your imagination quite so much; nowhere as filmic, as romantic, as mesmerizing, as disheveled or as alive. Head to the Casa de la Musica for what one of our authors describes as "hot hot hot salsa with young hot hot hot Cubans." Gatecrash a late-night jamming session and learn how to dance like a local, oiled by mojitos. This is no heritage theme park; it's a spiky gift of a capital, set in its own time zone.

2. Bukhara, Uzbekistan
Bukhara's 2,000-year-old shahristan (old city) is the place to forget the present and immerse yourself in the evocative, ancient splendors of Central Asia. Find your way, by happy accident, through mud-brick lanes to covered bazaars, ancient mosques with jewel-bright interiors, and madrasah (religious schools). If you want a carpet or a ceremonial dagger, you're in luck, as the domed markets are some of Uzbekistan's best places to shop. Don't miss Bukhara's most striking landmark: the 13th-century, 150-feet-high Kalyan Minaret. Genghis Khan was apparently so taken with it that he left it standing, laying waste to everywhere else.

3. Hill Club, Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka
Nuwara Eliya, a Sri Lankan hill station, lies among the glistening green of tea plantations, sloping and humid, reached by a train that trundles up through 19th-century railway stations. The Hill Club was founded in 1858 to cater British colonial officers and coffee planters. Converted into a hotel, it hasn't lost any of its sense of snobbery. After 7 p.m. smart dress is expected — men should wear jackets. Sipping tea in the chilly lounges feels rather like you've been transported from Ceylon to a remote Scottish estate, with all the grandeur and discomfort that implies.

Tip: Take a day trip to the Horton National Park, only an hour away but not to be missed.

4. Broadstairs, Kent, England
There's nothing quite as unintentionally retro as an English seaside town. Broadstairs, on the Isle of Thanet, is known as the "Jewel in Thanet's Crown." Punch and Judy shows and donkey rides still ply their trade in summer, when, if it's not raining, you can enjoy a bracing dip in the chilly sea before tucking into some non-reinvented fish and chips. The resort feels as if it reached the 1950s and decided against going any further. Knot that handkerchief, roll up your trousers and get stuck into a stick of rock (traditional English seaside candy).

Tip: Get here in August for Broadstairs Folk Week, which kicks off with a torchlight procession through the town.

5. Nevada Joe's, Nevada
Drive into the Nevada desert and stop where Road 373 intersects with US-95. Nevada Joe’s is a gas station with an alien fetish, which feels somehow inevitable seeing as it's stuck out in the Nevada desert. Built in 1960, and feeling curiously as if time has not moved on since, it's painted powdery pink and has the air of prime David Lynch or Coen brothers territory. Yucca Mountain is the backdrop but this is the middle of nowhere, a place where, it's said, UFOs fall from the skies like rain. The signage outside has a Wild West typeface, advertising adult entertainment and slots, and it's all dwarfed — though not upstaged — by a huge billboard. The station was up for sale at the time of writing — let's hope the new owners don't change a thing.

6. Fès, Morocco
Keep it real by renting your house in the medina. Laden donkeys thundering through narrow, vaulted alleys, squawking chickens, mountains of spices, gruesome butcheries, scurrying cats and vegetable carts: Fès is a breathing medieval city. You'll feel like you've been catapulted back nearly 1,000 years. In the ancient medina, shot through with light and shade, it seems as though centuries have passed without leaving the barest imprint. Most archaic of all are the city's huge tanneries with their great discs of dye: a back-in-time vision, complete with a back-in-time pungent smell.

7. Old Delhi, India
Going back in time in Delhi is so immediate. Step into the 21st century underground metro, whose sleek style and smooth mechanics pinpoint it as one of the world's best transport systems, then get out at Chandni Chowk. Time travel. This is the dense beating heart of Old Delhi, which corresponds roughly to Shajahanabad, the city built here by Emperor Shah Jahan in the 17th century. Chandni Chowk itself is a long boulevard, off which snake countless narrow bazaars, each devoted to a particular product or trade and packed with cubbyhole shops, as they have been for centuries. Pandemonium reigns. Wander through and find the street packed with paratha sellers, eat delicious stuffed bread that is fried in front of you and, energized, launch back into the fray.

Tip: It's best to stay in New Delhi. Take the train to Delhi Junction railway station and explore the old city from the Kashmere Gate.

8. Siwa, Egypt
Until the 1980s there was no asphalt road accessing Siwa in Egypt, and this desert oasis remains one of the country's most inaccessible places. Located in the Western Desert, it has a mainly Berber population of around 20,000 and is built over a network of natural wells. You can swim in desert pools and wander around the ruins of the local oracle's dwelling, famously visited by Alexander the Great. There aren't many cars on the sandy streets, donkey carts being the vehicle of choice. The people of Siwa have their own language and customs — married women don't speak to men outside their own families and are rarely seen in public. When they do venture out they are completely shrouded, their heads covered, not even their eyes visible.

9. Muthaiga Country Club, Nairobi, Kenya
Full of old colonels and white mischief, this elite club, set in 14 acres of garden, opened on New Year's Eve in 1913. It likes to think that little has changed since, and still breathes stuffy, early-20th-century air. It was here that Henry "Jock" Delves Broughton, his wife, Diana, and the Earl of Erroll dined on the night the earl was shot by Delves Broughton, jealous of the earl's affair with Diana. The crime was dramatized in the film "White Mischief" (1987). Gin and tonics and croquet, anyone?

10. Cosenza, Calabria, Italy
Brutal 1960s buildings ring Cosenza in Italy's south, inadequate town planning made concrete. Persevere and you'll reach the town center, a medieval kernel with a dilapidated, paint-peeling appeal. Dusty bookshops sell vintage postcards and cafes summon a potted-palm-and-marble heyday. Stay in the local hostel, Ostello Re Alarico, a mansion filled with polished antique wood and with views over the city's past.

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