Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Odi profano vulgus


I have given up on touristland. 

Angkor War (its Hindu temples are beautiful and romantic while comparatively untouristed Bagan's are neither) had seven thousand tourists a year in the mid 1990s. Now a million come many staying in swish comfortable hotels with swimming pools.

As Santayana said, luxury requires an aristocratic setting to make it attractive. Upmarket mass tourism isn't, though it is fun. 

It does bring a lot of money to poor countries like Cambodia, though a lot or most of the money goes abroad, while it does a lot of harm to ancient places too.

As a hotelier told me once, tourism is a branch of the entertainment industry.

Which is fine except that industry means being part of a factory line.

I'll stick to Romania and England in future and other offbeat places. Algeria is perfect for the moment. Georgia and Armenia should still be relatively undiscovered, though the Georgian seaside resort of Batumi went from being 1970s Havana to being Las Vegas in five or six years.
I just met a man who has been to Ethiopia three times and would like to go back. I want to return there too. And to Mozambique, Algeria, Egypt and Cuba, but not to other exotic places I've been lucky enough to visit. Unless exotic includes Georgia and Armenia, which it doesn't really.

I probably won't return to Asia beyond the Muslim world. 

"Yes, Sir; there are two objects of curiosity, — the Christian world, and the Mahometan world. All the rest may be considered as barbarous."
Dr. Johnson's aphorism is out of date, but those are the places that speak to me.


  1. Come on over to California for a couple weeks. You can hit the big cities and/or go stay at the sea and visit the mountains.
    I've live in a coastal college town which is about as progressive as Berkeley. Been here almost 25 years. I love the ocean and run trails within 5 minutes of my house.

  2. 'I probably won't return to Asia beyond the Muslim world'

    You don't know what you are missing:


  3. If you want to visit the Muslim world just pick any big city in England. No need to go to Algeria.

  4. Latin America has some amazing places worth seeing at least once in one's lifetime.

    1. Yes I am certain. Not the Aztec or Inca things but the Spanish and Portuguese things. But isn't tourism very developed there? Guatemala and El Salvador appeal.

    2. The pre-Aztec pyramids at Teotihuacan in Mexico are breathtaking, and colonial Spanish towns (such as Puebla, or the village of Cholula by the Popocatepetl volcano) are beautiful and can match anything in Italy in terms of architecture and cleanliness. Having been to over 30 countries, Mexico is one of the most interesting places in the world - although I didn't much care for Cancun and that area.

      Panama is interesting, too (its capital is sort of a Latin American "Dubai", but dirtier and less serious, with lots of new skyscrapers - next to a colonial Spanish town; plus the Americanized Canal Zone and some perfect islands on the Caribbean side, with no sharks, no snakes, no mosquitoes, and ideal weather for our species).

      I have not been to Guatemala or El Salvador, but I lived in an area with many Salvadoreans and Guatemalans and these countries are not on my immediate "to visit" list. Mexico has everything these countries have, and better.

      Brazil is interesting for the "human" factor, in that the people who are not criminals are among the most hospitable, genuinely friendly people I've met, with a sense of humor similar to that of Romanians (but with fewer complexes and focus on appearances).

      Colombia, Costa Rica, etc have great climates, but I don't think they are for your taste. Puerto Rico has a wonderfully preserved old town, fully Spanish colonial with little remnants of the Taino (Arawak) culture. Domincan Republic has beautiful beaches but that's about it...

      I could see myself living in Mexico or Brazil - if they didn't have such a staggering amount of subhumans with no regard for human life, terrorizing the wonderful, decent human beings who live there.

    3. Mexico has always been one of the countries I most wanted to visit - though ex-Communist Eastern Europe and former USSR and Cuba are what interest me the most. Someone told me Guatemala was his favourite country and he has been to well over a hundred but his taste is very unlike mine.

    4. I feared Mexico might have become touristland. What did the man say? Poor Mexico, so far from God, so close to the United States.

    5. 'in terms of... cleanliness'
      'ideal weather for our species'
      'fewer complexes'
      'focus on appearances'
      'staggering amount of subhumans'
      'but I don't think they are for your taste'
      "I could see myself living'

      No, you can't.

    6. I skimmed his comment and didn't read the phrase 'for our species'. By subhumans I thought criminals were meant.

    7. 'I know...I knoow... I knooow !...
      (voice of Prunella Scales)

    8. Toma are you Romanian or English?

    9. Actually it is clear that he means by subhumans criminals.

  5. Cartagena has always greatly appealed, since I saw the BBC version of Nostromo.