Randy's 'Best of the Road'
Lists, lists, lists. So seductive.
But lists seem as compact a way as any to suggest some great, near
great, and also some catastrophic travel destinations -- and experiences
-- without blathering on for pages.
My lists of "The Best Travel Destinations"
are focused on the Third World,
(usually) excluding places in North America, Western Europe, Japan,
OZ and NZ. I am not talking about the most posh resorts
here -- but rather some of the most amazing, inspiring,
and enriching cultural and natural experiences that one can have on this
planet! Except for the third list, I mention places I have
personally visited. So, hey!, get out there and start
making your own lists...
You're visiting Randy Johnson's Travel Page!
Cities & Towns
Gardens & Parks
Travel Adventure Books
Where to Get Robbed
Funky Place Names
World-Class Travel Sites
Some of the world's greatest travel destinations.
In my humble opinion, each of these places is worth a trip in itself, and if
you are within a thousand miles, is worth going out of your way to visit.
Most are worthy of a long visit.
(I admit that my personal tastes
are skewed toward ruins of ancient civilizations.)
- Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
- Hunza, Pakistan
- Cappadocia, Turkey
- Tikal, Guatemala
- Petra, Jordan
- Highland Guatemala -- Lake Atitlán, Village Markets, Textiles
- Bali, Indonesia
- Lhasa, Tibet
- Diving on the Great Barrier, Honduras, or Red Sea Reefs
- Machu Picchu, Peru -- surprisingly magical
- Wild Animal Parks, Kenya (or South Africa, which I haven't visited)
Honorable Mention -- Is Still Superb!
- Borobudur, Indonesia
- Abu Simbel, Egypt
- Angel Falls, Venezuela
- Pagan, Burma
- Bata'ad and Banaue Rice Terraces, Philippines
- Li River, China
- Ngorongoro Crater & Serengeti, Tanzania
- Kajuraho, India
- Aleppo (Haleb), Syria
- Palmyra (Tadmoor), Syria
- Great Wall of China
- Ayer's Rock, Australia
- Palenque, Mexico
- Karnak Temple, Luxor, Egypt
- Dendera Temple, Qena, Egypt
- Mt. Cook and Coastal Glaciers, South Is., New Zealand
- Golden Temple (and Bagh Memorial), Amritsar, India
- The Taj Mahal, Agra, India
Best Places I Haven't Been
- Angkor Wat, Cambodia
- Foz do Iguacu, Argentina/Brazil
- Easter Island
- Moluccas Islands, Indonesia
Best Big or Capital Cities -- Treasure Them!
- Kathmandu, Nepal
- Kyoto, Japan
- Hong Kong -- some hate it; I find it fascinating
- St. Petersburg, Russia
- Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
- San José, Costa Rica
- Amman, Jordan -- the only place in the Mid-East I think I'd really enjoy living!
Let's face it, few cities -- even the Best -- are anywhere near as pleasant
as the nicest towns and villages. But even many difficult cities have a few
redeeming qualities, that make a short stay almost tollerable.
The following do not!
- Lima, Peru
- Tegucigalpa, Honduras
- Karachi, Pakistan
- Lahore, Pakistan
- Colón and Panama City, Panama
- Golmud, China
- Cebu City, Philippines
Infuriating Cities With a Few Redeeming Qualities
- Manila, Philippines: Jai Alai fronton, Hobit Bar & Freddie Aguilar
- Cairo, Egypt: Pyramids, fruit juice stalls, Felfela's Restaurant
- Managua, Nicaragua: a surrealistic urban ruin
- Belize City, Belize: Mom's Triangle, funky and funkier
- Jakarta, Indonesia: Dutch port, National Museum
Very Pleasant Smaller Cities and Towns
- Kashgar, China
- Merida, Mexico
- Pokhara, Nepal
- Bhaktapur, Nepal
- Christchurch & Queenstown, New Zealand
- Lamu, Kenya
- Suzhou, China
- Malacca, Malaysia
- Tallin, Estonia
- Rhodos, Greece -- the Old Town
- Luang Prabang, Laos
- Patzcuaro, Mexico
- Antigua, Guatemala
- Popayán, Colombia -- restored since the earthquake
- Baños, Ecuador
Magical Ancient Buildings
- The Taj Mahal, Agra, India
- Aya Sofia, Istanbul, Turkey
- The Pantheon, Rome, Italy
- Cuzco, Peru -- many ancient Inca foundations
- Palacio, Palenque, Mexico
- Pyramids, Giza, Egypt
- Temples of Ramses and Nefertari, Abu Simbel, Egypt
- Forbidden City, Beijing China
- Crac de Chevaliers, El Hosn, Syria
- Chateau de Chillon, Montreaux, Switzerland (snuck that one in)
- Pyramid of the Sorcerer, Uxmal, Mexico
Great Gardens and City Parks
- Jurong Bird Park, Singapore
- Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, Kandy, Sri Lanka
- Lancetilla Botanical Gardens, Tela, Honduras
- Parque Nacional, Uruápan, Mexico
- Japan, everywhere
- Zhonzheng, Canlanting, Wangshi, & Liayuan Gardens, Suzhou, China
- Beihai Park, Beijing, China
Superb Public Markets
- Chichicastenango, Guatemala
- Souk, Aleppo, Syria
- Sunday Market, Kashgar, China
- Street Market, Lhasa, Tibet
- Daily Market, San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico
- Open Market, Guangzhou (Canton), China
- Central Market, Guadalajara, Mexico
- Qissa Khawani, Peshawar, Pakistan
- Otavalo, Ecuador
- Bird Market, Jogjakarta, Indonesia.
- South Gate Market, Seoul, Korea
- Gun Markets, Darra, Pakistan
Okay, I'm not a Big Party person. I will avoid places like Rio
and Vera Cruz at Carnival becuase I don't like the crowds.
- Peking Opera, Taipei, Taiwan -- more tawdry in Hong Kong
- Cantonese Opera Company, Hong Kong -- however, is splendid
- Kabuki theater, Ginza, Tokyo, Japan
- Ati-Atihan festival, Kalibo, Philippines. January
- Ashura Festival, any Shiite Muslim area. 10th of Moharram
(Jan 7, 2009, Dec 27, 2009, Dec 16, 2010)
- Sky Burial, Lhasa, Tibet
- Thaipusam festival, Batu Caves, Malaysia. Spring
- Dalai Lama's convocation at Sarnath, India. December
- Kechak Dance, Bali, Indonesia
- Acrobats Rehearsal Hall, Beijing, China
- Ramayana, Jogjakarta, Indonesia. full moon
- Peñas in La Paz, Bolivia
- National Palace Museum, Taipei, Taiwan
- Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
- The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia
- Egyptian Museum, Cairo, Egypt -- great contents, poor presentation
- Anatolian Civilizations Museum, Ankara, Turkey
- National Museum, Damascus & Aleppo Museum, Syria
- The Armory, Kremlin, Moskow, Russia
- Ephesus Museum, Selcuk, Turkey
Special Mention to Smaller Museums
- National Museum, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (almost made my top list)
- Topkapi Palace, Istanbul, Turkey -- several museums, nice setting
- Shaanxi Prov. Museum, Xian, China -- nice surroundings, superb pieces well presented
- Ixchel Textile Museum, Guatemala City
- Lamu Museum, Lamu Kenya
- Cyprus Museum, Nicosia, Cyprus
- Parthenon Museum, Athens, Greece
Somewhat Disappointing Museums
- Forbidden City, Beijing, China
- National Anthropology and Archeology Museum, Lima, Peru
- Archeology Museum, Cuzco, Peru
- Islamic Museum, Cairo, Egypt.
- Archeological Museum, Athens, Greece.
Best Travel Explorer Books (well, My Favorites, anyway)
You have your favorites, these are mine.
Adventurers so intrepid
that they make the rest of us look like package tourists --
and had fun on the way. Great reading!
Track down a couple of these books and see
if you don't have a Travel Jones in your bones!
for the Lost City, Dana and Ginger Lamb's amazing 1930's
wanderings in Mexico is back in limited print; Santa Barbara Press (ISBN 0-915643-00-6)
the Heart of Borneo, and
In Trouble Again - A Journey Between the Orinoco and the Amazon,
by Redmond O'Hanlon -- the Hunter S. Thompson of Third World travel -- Gonzo
travel exploration! ...Flash!... 'Redso'
O'Hanlon is at it again! "No
Mercy! A Journey to the Heart of the Congo" is now out in
from Tartary, Peter Fleming and Kini cross China (all of it!)
illegally in the 1930's.
- Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton, Edward Rice's biography
of the first non-muslim to penetrate Mecca, translator of the Kama Sutra
and Arabian Nights. Enough adventure-exploration for ten heroes.
See also Burton
and Speke (now also published as "Mountains of the Moon").
Stop the Presses! The latest Burton biography by noted
biographer Mary S. Lovell is based on a treasure-trove of new material
in his wife's family archives. A Rage to
Live: A Biography of Richard and Isabel Burton
1999. Quite long, but recommended.
Destiny of Isabelle Eberhardt, by Cecily Mackworth;
Isabelle travels for several years alone through the hinterlands of North
Africa disguised as a Sufi man, at the end of the 19th Century!
Years in Tibet, Heinrich Harrer escapes POW camps in India
during WWII, reaches Lhasa in two years over the Himalayas, and becomes
tutor to the Dalai Lama. So much more than you saw in the movie!
- Lost City of the Incas,
Hiram Bingham discovers Machu Picchu.
- Incidents of Travel in Yucatan,
John L. Stephens along with Frederick Catherwood and Dr. Cabot
discover Mayan civilization in the 1840's.
- Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca: The Journey
and Route of the First European to Cross the Continent of North America,
1534-1536, edited by Cleve Hallenbaeck. 'nuf said.
[ISBN 0404549152, out of print but numerous other translations and versions
are now available.]
- Search Alibris, "The Ultimate
source for Rare and out of print books".
- Search Powell's
City of Books, new and used.
Overlooked Getaways and Obscure Sites
- Utila Is., Honduras
- Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
- Copacabana, Bolivia
- Palmyra, Syria
- Bogsak, Turkey
- Bumburet Valley, Pakistan (or Bomberet Valley)
- Bonampak, Mexico
- Ficardo village, Cyprus
- Passion and Usumacinta Rivers, Guatemala to Mexico
Over-Rated Tourist Sites
- Kuta Beach, Bali, Indonesia
- Sun-Moon Lake, Taiwan
- Tiger Balm Gardens, Hong Kong & Singapore
- Heaven Lake, China
- Bora Bora, Tahiti -- one small beach on the whole island
- Mt. Sokri, Korea
- Reclining Buddhas, Bangkok, Thailand and Pegu, Burma.
- Kovalam Beach, India
- Tokyo Tower, Tokyo, Japan
- Spring Equinox at Chichen-Itza -- or any other site for that matter
- Any Buddha Footprints
- Any Sound and Light Show.
- Most Volcano Climbs
Pleasant, Interesting, Beautiful Countries to Visit
- Costa Rica
Honorable Mention (2 out of 3 ain't bad)
Funky Sights and Spectacles
(picture, right), March 15.
Mummy Museum, Guanajuato, Mexico
Snake Temple, Penang, Malaysia
Hindu Festival, Batu Caves, Malaysia, ~Jan. 20
Kowloon Walled City, Hong Kong -- may be a park by now
Restaurant Gran Jaguar, Flores, Guatemala
(dry) Todd River, Alice Springs, Australia.
51st Annual!! August 18, 2012! (postcard pic)
Oases in Otherwise Grungy Spots
- Mt. Balore Motel, Gilgit, Pakistan
- Malate Pensione, Manila, Philippines
- Felfela's Restaurant, Cairo, Egypt
- Copacabana, Bolivia
- Ollantaytambo, Peru
Great Traveler's Places that have Disappeared or been ruined by Tourism
- Max Harte's Wing Yik Travel Service and Hostel, Hong Kong Island
- Father Paul's Catholic Mission and Crash Pad, Tien Tsiang, Taiwan
- Tica Linda Pension, San Jose, Costa Rica
- Bharni's Provisions, Bangkok, Thailand
- Playa del Carmen, Mexico
- Cherating, Malaysia
- Pat's Cafe, Chiang Mai, Thailand
- Hussong's Cantina, Ensenada, Mexico
- Bela Vista Hotel, Macao
- Breakfast at the InterContinental Hotel, Managua, Nicaragua
- ...Meanwhile, in Lamu, Kenya, Ali Hippie just goes on and on...
Famous Delapidating, Overrun, Grotty Traveler's Hotels
- Tai Song Creet, Bangkok
- The Malaysia Hotel, Bangkok
- Hotel Iqbal, Nairobi, Kenya
- Gran Casino ('Grand Gringo') Quito, Ecuador
- Chung King Mansions, Hong Kong
- White House, Taipei, Taiwan
- Banak Shol, Lhasa, Tibet
- No. 2 Guest House, Dali, China
- Swiss and Eng An Hotels, Penang, Malaysia
Dives and Pits
- The White Rose Cafe, Vientiane, Laos
- The Lido Hotel, Vientiane, Laos
- Any Girlie Bar in Bangkok, Manila, Taipei
- Sungai Galok, Thailand -- the whole town
- La Ceiba, Honduras
- Pekanbaru, Sumatra, Indonesia
- Bluefields, Nicaragua -- perhaps improved by hurricane
- Your worst hotel goes here...
Easiest Places to Get Robbed
- Bogotá, Colombia
- Colón, Panama
- Manila, Philippines
- Salina Cruz, Mexico
- Lima, Peru
- Belize City
- Jakarta, Indonesia
- Esmeraldas, Ecuador
- Marakesh, Morocco
Easiest Places to Get Sick
- Tiwi Beach, Kenya -- malaria
- Lake Atitlán, Guatemala -- hepatitis
- India -- typhoid, cholera, mtn. fever, you name it!
- Nepal -- giardia, meningitis
- Palawan Is., Philippines -- malaria
- Lhasa, Tibet -- dysentery
- Borneo -- dengue fever, etc.
- Any prostitute -- STD's they haven't invented yet
Lists I'm Not Going to Make
Because these things change greatly from year to year, or are far too
- Worst bus rides -- = best bus tales
- Best beach hangouts -- no way I'm advertising these
- Worst hotels, food, toilets
- Most interesting indigenous people
- Most crowded bus
- Worst bedbugs, mosquitoes, ticks, leeches, etc.
- Biggest rip-offs
Exotic and Funky Place Names
Timbuktu, Swat, Luang Prabang, Chichicastenango, Kandy, Tegucigalpa,
Kathmandu, Bhubaneshwar, Ocosingo, Ras Mohammed, Peshawar,
Tzintzuntzan, McLeod Ganj, Kajuraho, Azraq, Unawatuna, Rann of Kutch,
Machu Picchu, Xel-ha, Aqaba, Tashkurghan, Sharm el Sheikh,
Copacabana, Dar es Salaam, Tazmania, Dharamsala, Gilgit, Zihuatenejo,
Lake Titicaca, Rantau Abang, Ngorongoro, Gili Meno, Ollantaytambo,
Bangkok, Bora Bora, Coober Pedy, Ko Phi Phi, Budj, Lolyangalani,
Real de Catorce, Sungai Kolok, Moalboal, Tlaquepaque, Oxkutzab, Senggigi,
Pushkar, Zanzibar, Rawalpindi, Yaxchilán, Tsimshatsui, Ujung Pandang,
Xelajú, Skardu, Sixaola, Alma Ata, Chichiriviche, Zamboanga,
Marakesh, Riobamba, Abu Simbel, Batopílas, Popocatépetl,
Ulan Bator, Xunantunich, Wadi Rhum
(No, I haven't been to all these places, but most of them.)
Names Only a Road Warrior Can Pronounce
If you can correctly roll these geographical names off your tongue
-- without missing a beat -- it's a good bet that you've hung out
in these exotic locales. Good on ya'!
Sacsayhuaman, Popocatépetl, Hapshetsut,
Katabiranotsuji, Takadanobaba, Tagbilaran,
Bhubaneswar, Tsarskoye Selo, Nemrut Dagi,
Kuala Terengganu, Xishuangbanna, Budhanilkantha,
Guagua Pichincha, Fatehpur Sikri, Xelaju,
Tauberbischofsheim, Ngorongoro, Lolyangalani.
recommendations and value judgements implied in the above lists
reflect the author's personal experiences, opinions, preferences, and prejudices.
If you don't agree with them, good for you!
I encourage you to get out there and form your own opinions and make your own lists.
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All text Copyright © 1996-2013, Randy R. Johnson.