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Keith Bellows’s World Worsts

May 11th, 2009 by Doug Lansky

keithName Keith Bellows
Who?
Legendary Editor-in-Chief of National Geographic Traveler Magazine (the magazine has won 50 Lowell Thomas awards for excellence in travel journalism and twice been nominated for a National Magazine Award during Keith’s tenure). He has also contributed to such publications as Sports Illustrated and Reader’s Digest and penned The Canuck Book (yes, he’s Canadian, though born in the Questionably Democratic Republic of Congo). He teaches travel writing and photography workshops around the country (like this one in SF at the end of May).  More at Nat Geo Traveler Magazine online.
Age 57
Countries visited 98

Titanic Nominations
1. Worst Travel Advice  “Make sure you plan everything.” That’s baloney.  Surprise is part of travel.  I often book the first and last night and then figure things out in-between.  It’s valuable to go to a local tourist office — you just get better information on the ground than you can before you leave. Even with something like booking a safari, you’ll usually end up getting a better deal.
2. Worst Flight
Toss up.  It might be the Air Rangoon flight from Kuala Lumpur on a 1952 DC-something with chickens, goats and a pilot who was probably used to driving a school bus. The plane was making spastic jerks all over the sky then finished off with a near-death landing.  Or maybe it was a private-jet flight that got caught in a thunderstorm. We were hit by lightning a few times, then the lights went out and the plane dropped a few thousand feet.  My fingerprints are still in the arm rest.
3. Worst Tour Group I don’t take many tours, but when I do, there’s always one jerk. I was on a tour in Mongolia and there was a guy who made everyone’s life miserable. He had a complaint for everything. The guide was about a phone call away from having him ejected.
4. Worst Overrun Attraction Ankor Wat. You arrive at this majestic, primeval place, but you don’t get the sense of it because of all the visitors.  We’ve got pictures on a busy afternoon where this whole edifice is covered in scrambling tourists.
5. Worst Words for a Travel Story Beautiful, surprising, idyllic, gorgeous, pretty… I call them non-words. Travel writing is about granular detail.
6. Worst Meal When I was in Jordan I was squatting beside Bedouins and eating  rice with lamb chunks off this large communal plate. As the pile of food diminished, we realized we were eating right out of the head of a lamb.  And then came the soup — a lamb’s eye floating in broth. It turned in my mouth like a soft marble.  Other bad meals were somewhat expected. I mean, if you order a hamburger in Dublin, you’re asking for it.

Agree or Disagree with Keith? Take the 2010 survey >>

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Famous Travelers, Favorites

Tim Cahill’s World Worsts

May 6th, 2009 by Doug Lansky

cahill

Name Tim Cahill
Who? Winner of a National Magazine Award and two Lowell Thomas Gold Award from the Society of American Travel Writers, Tim is one of America’s best known adventure travel writers and humorists. He’s a founding editor of Outside Magazine, where he penned the Out There column for years.  He is the author of nine books including Hold the Enlightenment, Pass the Butterworms, A Wolverine is Eating My Leg, Jaguars Ripped My Flesh, Pecked to Death By Ducks, Road Fever and Lost in My Own Backyard. His work also appears in National Geographic, National Geographic Adventure, The New York Times Book Review and other national publications. He lives in Montana.
Age 65
Countries visited About 100.

Titanic Nominations
1. Worst Name for a Night Club The Disco of the Giant Ground Sloth, Puerto Natales, Chile
2. Worst Wire Ever Tapped International call at a “Tourist” Hotel in Beijing.   Heard during a fifteen minute conversation with my wife: *Click, buzz, click*  *a heavy sigh*  *sounds of someone eating* followed by *a long satisfied belch.*
3. Worst Menu Item in an Actual Restaurant Boiled Fermented Cow’s Nose, Denpasar, Bali (there is a note on this item, in English “the flavor may not agree with some Westerners.”  True, that.)
4. Worst Outhouse The Throne of Terror, built at an archeological dig near Lake Paytexbatun, Guatemala.  Archeologists are not biologists and constructed the two holer over an existing vertical cave populated by bats. Visitors are obliged to deal the common travelers’ ailment while angry bats swoop and dive about in a maelstrom of rage.
5. Worst Traveling Companion A guy named Lazslo. No one in particular, just any guy named Lazslo.

Agree or Disagree with Tim? Take the 2010 survey >>

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Tony Wheeler’s World Worsts

May 3rd, 2009 by Doug Lansky

tony1
Name Tony Wheeler
Age 62
Countries Visited I’m at 141 (just in transit at an airport does not count)
Who? Founder of Lonely Planet publications, writer, unreformed traveler

Titanic Nominations

1. Worst Pizza Many contenders but the pub in Nimbin, northern New South Wales, Australia wins. How could the Australian centre for dope smoking, hippy free living produce something so bloody awful?
2. Worst Toilet Darchen in Tibet, Australians talk of ‘long drop’ outhouses. This was the opposite, a vertical mountain of shit, a long climb to the top.
3. Worst First World Airport Terrible third world airports are no great achievement, LAX and Charles de Gaulle compete for the titles of worst in the first world.
4. Worst Visa Queue India gives you the longest line but for sheer tedious slowness followed by absurd, Kafkaesque, mind bogglingly stupid bureaucracy when you get to the front, the Russians are the clear winners.
5. Worst Drivers The Saudis. Missing guardrails or paint scrapes on the rockface at every corner prove, yet again, that warp speed is fine for the straights but you still have to slow down for the corners.
6. Worst Traffic Jams Bangkok passed the baton on to Manila, but despite competition from Dubai the place that is way out in front – i.e. completely stationary – is Shanghai.
7. Worst Connectivity Why is high tech Japan the only place in the first world where my mobile phone doesn’t roam and my ATM card can’t pull money out of the machine?

Agree or Disagree with Tony? Take the 2010 survey>>

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UPDATE: The pub that made Tony’s list for worst pizza is now a bistro under new management and would like everyone to know that they no longer have pizza on the menu.


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Pauline Frommer’s World Worsts

May 1st, 2009 by Doug Lansky

paulinefrommerName Pauline Frommer
Who? Creator of the Pauline Frommer Guidebooks and Co-Host The Travel Show, a nationally syndicated radio show. Pauline appears weekly on CNN.com to discuss the latest travel trends and pens a column for MSN.com. Her guidebook Pauline Frommer’s New York City was just named Best Guidebook of the Year by the North American Travel Journalists Association.
Countries Visited I don’t know. I visited too many before the age of 10 to be able to know how to count ‘em up.

Titanic Nominations

1. Worst Toilet Filthy squatter, Chongquing, China; travel companion’s camera stolen there
2. Worst Show I Ever Had to Sit Through to Review Madame Meg’s Find Your Sexy, Las Vegas. Stiff ex-lawyer turns to stripping to enhance her self-esteem
3. Most Panicked Moment Combining Parenting and Travel Writing 9-year-old daughter stuck in the middle of a zipline course in Costa Rica, dangling 100 feet off the ground
4. Worst Local Delicacy Grasshopper, Indonesia
5. Worst Airline Air Pakistan, duct tape holding together seats, cockroaches in the aisles
Agree or Disagree with Pauline? Take the 2010 survey >>
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