Monday, March 31, 2014

13 Places to visit before you die (that you've never heard of)

Miami. Dubai. London. Boring. Basic. Played out. My list of the 'top 13 places to visit before you die' does no concern itself which these commoner destinations. In the words of the great Robert Frost; "Two roads diverged in a wood and I - I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."
  
**Disclaimer: All religious and ethnic stereotypes and/or jabs are used purely for comedic value.


XIII. Bonifacio, Corsica

The French have a reputation as an innately soft people for a variety of reasons. From their terry cloth surrender in WWII to feminine point guard Tony Parker, since the death of Napoleon a 'French-men' has been an oxymoron. Sort of like a male lady bug. Enter Corsicans - France's answer to Sicilians, mafioso islanders who are basically the only white people in France's prison system. Their homeland is a beautiful, crime-infested island in the Mediterranean whose southern tip boasts our first exotic location - Bonifacio.  Blessed with a pristine harbor and stone buildings on top of cliffs which hang over the sea, approaching sailors have described it as "a white city gleaming in the sun, suspended over the rough waters below."


XII. Socotra, Yemen

Far removed from the oil brat nations of the Gulf, Yemen is a poor, backward Arab nation best known for being the ancestral homeland of Osama Bin Laden. Off its coast, in the Indian Ocean, lies an island described as the "most alien place on Earth." Socotra is a jewel of biodiversity with nearly 700 endemic species of trees and plants, many of which look like remnants from the Jurassic period. Lodging might be an issue as there are no hotels or restaurants and the locals speak a language no one else understands but talk of the US government turning this paradise into the next Guantanamo is a pressing reason to see the islands ASAP.


XI. Melilla, Spain (Morocco)

A Spanish city and exclave (cool word to know) located in Northen Africa, it is hotly contested by Morocco, who have designs of annexing the city's majestic harbor and turning it into a watering hole for camels. Despite the protests, Spain continues to cling to the city in spite of the Moroccans, whose ancestors, the Moors, raped Spain for 700 years. Apart from its beauty and exotic location the city seems quite boring  so we will focus on the population: about 1/4 of the inhabitants are Berbers, a nomadic North African people who pass down surnames through maternal lineage and still observe the Julian calendar. There's also a big ass electric fence around the entire city to dissuade Africans seeking the friendship of unsatisfied Spanish women and asylum to Europe.


X. Saint Helena, UK

You have to be as antisocial as I am to truly appreciate this next location. Saint Helena is the most isolated place on Earth. The tiny British island is best known as the final resting place of Napoleon Bonaparte (and France's manhood) and it's extreme seclusiveness in the South Atlantic. The only way to reach the island is by ship which only comes once every 3 weeks, but even more frightening to the nerds of the world is THE LACK OF HIGH SPEED INTERNET. If a dial-up connection and exile aren't your forte do not trek to this island. Despite being remote as fuck, 2 universal staples of human existence have found their way to this detached rock: Chinese cornaah store owners and Jehovah Witnesses. If you wish to stay clear of them I suggest our next location...


IX. Svalbard, Norway

The northernmost place in the world with a permanent population, this Norwegian chain of islands in the Arctic Ocean is home to 2,642 lost souls. The islands are abundant with boring shit like rare species of birds and vegetation found no where else on the planet but they are also home to 3,000 polar bears! There are more polar bears here than people and a few years back a British school boy who resembled Harry Potter was eaten by one. Otherwise the archipelago is the safest place on Earth with virtually no crime. Another unique fact: the islands are governed by a typically-Norwegian-overly-peace-loving treaty which allows every other country to set up shop here as well. Ever the opportunists, Russians moved in and built a statue of Lenin.


VIII. Guelta d'Archei, Chad

An oasis in the Sahara, the Guelta d'Archei and the neighboring town of Fada are the most difficult places to reach on my list. It requires a 4x4 and is at least 4 days' travel from the Chadian capital of n'Djamena. 4 days doesn't seem like much to a traveler like myself who prefers lethargic train travel to planes HOWEVER... Chad is a really shitty war-torn and poverty-stricken nation which for some bizarre reason has the same flag as the equality shitty Romania. Going to the bathroom and taking showers en route to the final destination would be my greatest areas of concern. Therefore until I acquire a bulletproof RV this majestic crocodile-infested gem will have to wait.


VII. Paro, Bhutan

I could of picked any place in Bhutan but Paro is home to the country's only airport as well as the breathtaking cliff-side Taktsang Palphug Monastery. The secluded and strange Buddhist kingdom has a 'Gross National Happiness' meter to measure happiness and only introduced television and internet 10 years ago. Tourists weren't allowed to the enter the country until the '70s and it had no airport until the '80s. With strict laws on immigration and the natural fortitude of the Himalayas to keep foreigners out, the kingdom has remained virtually unchanged for centuries. This Shangri-La has an absolute monarch (who prances around with Elvis-esque hair) and boasts archery as its national sport (trill).


VI. Natchez, Mississippi

As you can tell from the list by now I'm drawn to extremes. The exceptionalism of the American Deep South is something that has always fascinated me. With average weekly church attendance at around 80%, opposition to same-sex marriage at nearly 90% and the Confederate flag incorporated into its state flag, Mississippi is as close as you'll get to Afghanistan in the Western World. The town of Natchez sits on the famed Mississippi River, a land of swamps, marshes, steamboats and an distinctly Southern aura of yesteryear. Nearly half of the population lives under the poverty line and it is the hometown of no one relevant (unless you consider Nas' dad relevant).


V. Ushuaia, Argentina

The southernmost city in the world (a title disputed by the angry Croats of Punta Arenas) can pride itself on having penguins from Antarctica as its closest neighbors. Surrounded by Magellanic subpolar forests (whatever that is) Ushuaia is accessible by the Pan-American Highway, which means if you're feeling like Che Guevara you can get here straight down from Mexico, assuming your moped doesn't break down en route. The city has advanced ski resorts and facilities which makes us wonder why Argentina always sucks at the Winter Olympics. No one important was ever born here.


IV. Jewish Autonomous Oblast, Russia

Definitely the most bizarre location on my list. Stalin, known for forcibly moving millions of people whenever he felt like it, attempted to do something which seemed sincerely benevolent for a change. He attempted to give the Jews of the world (or at least the Soviet Union) a homeland and created the autonomous region in
1934. To be fair it is in the middle of Siberian-fuckin nowhere. Today, the local Jewish population has dwindled but the area is still adorned with Jewish symbolism and architecture. For some unknown reason the region uses an identical flag to the Gay Pride rainbow flag.


III. New Caledonia, France

The lone Pacific representative on the list also boasts a French connection (I swear I am not on the payroll of the French tourism ministry). Seized by France in the 1860s to serve as a penal colony, the island has the richest environmental diversity in the world per square kilometer. The coolest of which is the world's largest pigeon, the appropriately named Goliath Imperial Pigeon. There is also the New Caledonian Crow, which apparently has advanced tool making ability. Scientists have yet to determine if the crow has mastered the French art of sewing the white flag of surrender in an expedited manner. The 'special collectivity of France' still uses the antique Franc as its official currency but the locals are not complaining as the island has one of the strongest economies in the South Pacific (largely due to exploitation of the genius crows and giant pigeons). 


II. Darwin, Australia

I discovered this charming city watching (the creatively named) Australia starring Wolverine and Tom Cruise's ex-wife. It is the main city on Australia's north coast and has been destroyed numerous times by either the Japanese or cyclones. The region has extreme 'wet' and 'dry' seasons. During the wet season, Darwin experiences punishing monsoonal rain and spectacular thunder shows. During the dry season, the region becomes barren and everything dies (at least it did in the movie). A large Aboriginal community spices up the monotone white population. And yes, even here, the corner stores are owned and operated by the Chinese ("Wing, wing! Herro?). Also remember to keep out of the sea - the deadly box jellyfish is abundent in local waters.


I. Bethlehem, Israel

The majority of tourists prefer to visit the Holy City of Jerusalem but Bethlehem is more my cup of tea as we don't have to share its holiness with Muslims and Jews. Almost as cool as Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the city is of course the birthplace of Jesus. Despite numerous Crusades, Bethlehem today has a Muslim majority but is also home to a large Palestinian Christian community. The Church of the Nativity stands in the center of the city and is a magnet for Christian pilgrims. The nearby Jacir Palace Intercontinental hotel has not recorded any instances of women being impregnated by the Holy Spirit in the last 2000 years.