Name Carl Hoffman
Who? Author of the new book The Lunatic Express. He is also a contributing editor at National Geographic Traveler, Wired and Popular Mechanics. In two decades of reporting he has flown with missionaries in New Guinea and bush pilots in the Sudan and Congo, driven the Baja 1,000 and once sailed an open dinghy 250 miles over eleven days. His three teenage children, he claims, find him boring. You can find him online at thelunaticexpress.com.
Countries Visited 65
1. Worst Bus Greyhound LA to DC, the last leg of Lunatic. Clean, on time, but like traveling through a nation of lost souls and ‘Greyhound Steak Houses (McDonald’s) – the standard luggage was plastic garbage bags. Need I say more?
2. Worst City for Driving Dhaka, Bangladesh. Traffic is so thick and choking you could walk across the cars faster than driving. But then you’d have to climb over horse carts and bicycle rickshaws and auto rickshaws…
3. Worst Toilet In steerage on the Bukit Siguntang across Indonesia; two holes for every thousand people, roaches the size of half dollars scuttling past, an inch of liquid on the floor, darkness.
4. Worst Souvenir The sheepskin coat in China that was, um, not well cured. The coroner who arrived at my door two weeks after returning home wasn’t amused.
5. Worst Ride on the Back of an Animal The reindeer on Sakhalin Island in the Russian Far East with the Oroki people. He refused to move a muscle, so we ate him. The raw femur marrow was pink and slippery, just like snot.
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When the toilets stopped working on a British Airways flight from Heathrow to the Cayman Islands, the 169 passengers were told not to drink for two hours. Seems someone forgot to empty the tanks at Heathrow.
Name Richard Bangs
Who? A legendary adventurer. He got his start as a river guide (think Mountain Sobek Travel, which he co-founded) and became an award-winning author with 19 books, hundreds of published magazine articles and numerous documentaries. If you haven’t seen him on TV, you may have heard him speak at the Smithsonian, National Geographic Society, the Explorers Club or other venues. He recently returned from filming a documentary about the Gods of Greece with an appearance by Arianna Huffington and featuring her sister Agapi Stassinopoulos. His next film, premiering July on PBS, is “Hong Kong: Quest for the Dragon” Find him online at richardbangs.com
Countries Visited About 140, give or take a territory, protectorate, department or two
1.Worst Toilet I was in Japan. They had just come out with those heated toilet seats, but I didn’t know about it and I wasn’t expecting one when I sat down. The worst part was that it was so hot I got 2nd degree burns.
2. Worst Fight I was on a book tour for my first book (back when they sent people on book tours). I was on a 12-seater from Seattle to Vancouver. The pilot started cursing. “Wouldn’t you know it, my last day on the job and the wheels won’t come down.” He had the airport foam the runway and told us to assume the crash position. The only consolation, I remember thinking, was this might help sell some books. Just before we touched down in the foam, he tried to blow out the wheels with a small explosion. It worked.
3. Worst Airport Mui Airport in Ethiopia. After a month traversing a river in Ethiopia, we ran out of food and couldn’t find the trail to Mui Airport, where they supposed had a few flights a week. We finally found it after three days of looking. We reached the airport, or the place where the airport was supposed to be. There was nothing there. We had to trek another two days to reach a real airport.
4. Worst Hotel Ghat Hotel in Libya. It’s probably called “The Ghat Hotel and Resort” or something. When I got to my room, there were so many creatures on my bed, in my sheets, it looked like the universal flea circus. Every imaginable category of competition: crawling, creeping, bouncing. The bed appeared to be moving. On a five star scale, I’d give it a negative 80.
5. Worst Border Crossing I was rafting the Euphrates river in Turkey and we didn’t know exactly where border to Syria was. We found out when we came to a bridge and saw Syrian soldiers standing on it aiming their guns down at us, saying they’d shoot if we came any closer. Fortunately, it was a fairly calm part of the river and we were able to paddle back up stream.
Name Chuck Thompson
Who? Author of Smile When You’re Lying: Confessions of a Rogue Travel Writer and To Hellholes and Back: Bribes, Lies and the Art of Extreme Tourism (plus a few WWII guides) and has contributed to The Atlantic, Esquire, National Geographic Adventure, Playboy, Maxim, Spy, Escape, WWE Magazine, Outside, Men’s Journal, and the Los Angeles Times. More at ChuckThompson.com
Countries Visited 60+
1. Worst Cliche Found in Travel Writing Any iteration of combination of ancient/modern or old/new. You know, “the city maintained its ancient elegance, yet embraced the modern” or some crap like that. Every place is a blend of the old and new, including my fucking back yard. .
2. Worst Flight It was a NWA flight. I was sitting right across from the bathroom on this old Boeing 737 that seemed like it was made out of cardboard and Lego. We hit some turbulence and the door of the bathroom popped off and landed on my head — literally. I helped the stewardess reattach it. I got a sorry but no upgrade.
3. Worst Airport For domestic, I’d go with the gloomy and outdated JFK. Outside the US: Kinshasa’s N’Djili Int’l airport. To get out of that airport took about five or six bribes. The place is a complete bribe factory.
4. Worst City for Driving Rome. It almost ended my relationship. My girlfriend and I could see our hotel but couldn’t reach it for over an hour. We were trapped going around the same block.
5 Worst WWII Museum I did these two books on WWII sites and traveled around to visit them. There’s one in L’Aigle, Normandy called “June 44 Museum.” Out of the hundreds I visited (there are 500 – 700 WWII points of interest in the book) it was the only one that merited zero stars. There were talking wax figures and they didn’t look anything like the actual people. Stalin looked like Mark Twain. FDR looked like he was about to run a marathon. Not surprisingly, they didn’t sound like them either. All their voices were narrated by the same voice — an inarticulate English boy.
Yes, you read right. This is a “night walk” through “the Mexican desert” with a bit of role playing. For just $18 you get to be the illegal Mexican immigrant trying to flee to the US for a better life tending gardens, watching babies, working in factories, doing construction work (while not looking so illegal that an Arizona cop might be forced to ask for your papers). They even have masked guides paid to shout at your to move faster as other paid actors pretending to be border patrol chase you through the desert firing blanks. Super fun!
One of the last remaining works (perhaps the only remaining work) of street art in Melbourne by Banksy, the famous British artist, was accidentally painted over by an anti-graffiti crew, according to the Melbourne Leader newspaper.
It was the image of a rat descending in a parachute.
In London, street art by Banksy on a London wall has sold for several hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Officials are currently contemplating having an anti-anti-graffiti artist restore the work.
Twenty of the 350 passengers on board a flight from Dubai to Kochi suffered minor injuries when an Emirates plane hit turbulence and made a sudden 200-foot drop in the airspace over India. The plane landed safely and all injured passengers have since been released.
The Wewelburg Castle has now opened a museum celebrating the Nazi’s SS in Heinrich Himmler’s headquarters where he masterminded atrocities against Jews and other persecuted minorities.
But how, you ask, is this possible? There’s a simple formula: Creepy Nazi hangout + $10.7 million = Tourist Attraction
Museum officials say they don’t want it to become a pilgrimage for far right neo-fascists. Good luck with that.
Okay, it may be a touch weird to want to dress up as a princess to visit Disneyland, but it’s no different from the zillions of people who dress up like Gene Simmons at a KISS concert or like Spock at a Star Trek convention. The mother from England (who was visiting Disneyland Paris with her eight-year-old daughter) had even called Disney before hand to ask if it was okay and was given permission. Disney, concerned that kids would think she was an official princess and want to have their photo taken with her, refused to let her stay inside the theme park. Minor consolation: At least she wasn’t tarred and feathered.
There’s nothing cheap about the Icelandic volcano. Many are paying thousands of euros to get home by taxi, but 10 Italian skiers seem to be holding the current volcano-taxi record with a $20,000 journey home from beyond the Arctic Circle at Lyngen in Norway.
Popular place to rent a 4x4 and drive around this mostly-sand island off the coast of Australia. There’s usually a steep deposit on the vehicles and warning to be careful when driving on the beach. Wonder why…
Les Sables d’Olonne, a beach resort in France has two job openings for “creamers” — a man and women who can rub lotion on guests all summer. All applicants must, according to the website, be interested in sun protection. (C’mon who doesn’t have that as a hobby?) In addition to creaming the guests they can also give out sun lotion advice to those in need of SPF consultation.
Not exactly clearing landmines in Iraq, but there may be some demanding elements.
The gig pays 5000 euros for six weeks work.
They’re narrowing things down with internet voting and already have a cast of potential creamers.
Apply at lejobdelete.com/
A not with a PIN code was found taped to the security gate at Dubbo City Airport in NSW, Australia.
To avoid any confusion, the note said “Gate Access Code,” and even provided a few helpful tips such as “please touch pad softly” and “remember code to re-enter.”
You’ve got the township tours in South Africa and favela tours in Rio de Janeiro. Tourists go on these poverty safaris for a little excitement, the opportunity to see the culture behind the newspaper headlines, and a chance to photograph some authentic poor people to show their friends back home. But how about some first-world poverty? San Francisco, already endowed with some of the world’s most famous attractions and just up the road from the heartland of venture-capital billionaires, has decided to try a little poverty tourism itself. With the support of the mayor, they want to add the Uptown Tenderloin area to the tourist menu. Sure there’s the historical aspect, like “the world’s largest collection of historic single-room occupancy hotels,” but to experience the region during the day (and they mean “DAY” — even the local supporters don’t recommend you don’t visit after dark) is to get a first-hand look at 30,000 people living in 60 blocks with widespread drug use and drunks passed out on the street. Or as the tourist board looks at it, turning passed out lemons into lemonade.
Yes, you read that correctly. Two British women tried to bring their dead 91-year-old relative onto a flight to Germany. The apparent Weekend At Bernie’s stunt got them both arrested when authorities figured out Kurt Willi Jarant was, in fact, not sleeping. The deceased man’s wife and daughter insist he was not even remotely dead when they headed for the airport, but the police doctor said he was dead for more than 24 hours.