Lonely Planet came out with a book on their top-ten places to visit recently. In light of recent events, some of their choices merit revision and as I don’t have anything better to do right now, I thought I’d do a bit of revision on my iPod…
According to their book “Best in Travel 2011, Lonely Planet’s top-ten countries to travel to in 2011 includes Syria, where the “defining experience” is defined as: “[haggling] with the shopkeepers of Damascus’ souq as they brew you a cup of syrupy tea”.
For the past few weeks, Syria has been the scene of under-reported violence – under-reported because it is too dangerous for the prying eyes of unwelcome western journalists, the refugee camps in Turkey remain largely off-limits to the press and the Syrian government (or should I call it the “regime” now that we don’t like them anymore) has apparently effectively muzzled the Twitterverse.
As a “Hot Topic of the Day” the book says that “The influx of Iraqi refugees, who fled here to escape the war across the border, has pushed the country’s services to breaking point”. Apparently, though, the country’s services being at the “breaking point” isn’t enough to not advise travelers to go there. Did they not foresee the civil unrest that could cause, nor the government’s repression that would follow?
Hindsight is 20/20, but I wouldn’t have suggested Syria as a vacation destination to anyone a year ago, and I certainly wouldn’t now.
… if Japan has been on your travel wishlist for a while, make this the year that you finally see the birthplace of sushi, sake and sumo.
Maybe not — what with the nuclear accident, the on-going earthquakes and the recent tsunami, I for one wouldn’t want to go on vacation there for a while. Of course, none of those could have been foreseen a year ago, so back then, travel advice for Japan wouldn’t have been at odds with common sense, but I certainly think it is now.
I should say that I don’t know the first thing about Japan, so I might be wrong here, but the failed nuclear reactor was on the same island as, say, Tokyo and the government (note how no-one has called them a “regime” since the early 50s) has seemingly under-stated the fall-out of that accident consistently from the beginning, so I’m a bit less than trusting when told there’s no danger.
On the other hand, this is also the country of the bullet train — which has its own Unicode character and which, by that merit alone, might be worth a visit. The train will still be there in a few years, though, when the nuclear fall-out will have dissipated…
The eight other top-ten candidates (Albania, Brazil, Cape Verde, Panama, Bulgaria, Vanuatu, Italy and Tanzania) at least have the merit of staying out of world news reports but, being a dad of small kids, Italy is actually the only country I’d spontaneously think of for vacationing as far as the top ten goes. My personal top ten would be closer to home — wherever you live. For example, for those of you who live in the US, have you ever been to the other end of your country? Alaska, Nevada, neither of which are known for their tourism but both of which are sure to be interesting to visit. In Canada, every single province is vastly different from the next. In Europe, almost every country of the Union has its own language, its own culture and its own history. You’re bound to find a great destination for your vacation within a 1000-mile radius and probably a pretty good one within a tenth of that radius.
Call it frugal, call it green, call it conservative, or call it anything you want. This year, we’re not going far.