Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Country Review: Uruguay

Dates there: 10th to 13th February 2014: 4 days

Uruguay's Wonders: none

On the Longlist: Palacio Salvo, as I'm in a generous mood.

Wedged between Argentina and Brazil, just like a bogey between the nose and lips, is the little blob that is Uruguay. Oh dear, what a horrible introduction to poor Uruguay. It's a really nice country, I promise!

Friday, 23 January 2015

The Longlist: Cloud Gate aka The Bean

What's the Longlist? It's the list for all the other great man-made spectacles in the world that haven't quite made my shortlist. I don't feel the need to research them or visit them, but as long as this blog is about the world's best man-made structures, they deserve some kind of mention. Today, Chicago's Cloud Gate, aka The Bean.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Old Pictures: Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda has been around for over 2500 years, making it around the same age as the Parthenon. That's if you believe the founding myth, which involves a peculiar story involving merchants bumping into the Buddha and receiving eight of his magic hairs in exchange for some cakes. Things then begin to get strange. Trim away the myth, and it appears the pagoda, in some form, was around from the 13th Century. But the form it's in today doesn't emerge until the 18th Century. An earthquake in 1768 caused heavy damage to the former, 40-metre-high version, so the King of Burma, Hsinbyushin, built it bigger and better and into the 99-metre pagoda we see today.

And that was what Lieutenant Joseph Moore of Her Majesty’s 89th Regiment also saw in 1824, which as far as I can tell is as far back as images of Shwedagon Pagoda go. The British were kind of being dicks back then, and had got all shirty because the Burmese had the temerity to try and take back some of their own land. The first Anglo-Burmese war kicked off, including the 1824 Battle of Rangoon. During this battle, Lieutenant Moore made a series of drawings and paintings that were later to be made into a book, some of which included Shwedagon Pagoda. Here they are:

Friday, 16 January 2015

Country Review: Argentina

Dates there: 1st February to 9th February 2014: 9 days

Argentina's Wonders: none

Also visited: La Recoleta Cemetery

On the Longlist:  Palace of the Argentine National Congress

Nine days isn't very much for Argentina. It's a country with a lot to offer - wine, steak... I could stop there and we'd already have a winner, but it's also got grand colonial cities, the tango (if you like that sort of thing), and astonishing natural features such as otherworldly mountain ranges, glaciers, and one of the biggest waterfalls in the world. There's a lot here to take up a lot of your time - the country is over ten times larger than the UK. But there's one thing it doesn't have, and that's a World Wonder (oh, it doesn't have the Falkland Islands either, but they don't need reminding of that as it's a non-stop constant reminder when you're there. Come on Argentina, you must have something better to do? Oh, it distracts the public from government ineptitude in handling the economy? Fair enough).

Friday, 9 January 2015

The Longlist: The Megalithic Temples of Malta

What's the Longlist? It's the list for all the other great man-made spectacles in the world that haven't quite made my shortlist. I don't feel the need to research them or visit them, but as long as this blog is about the world's best man-made structures, they deserve some kind of mention. Today, the Megalithic Temples of Malta.

When you think of ancient civilisation, you probably don't tend to think of Malta. Well, you'd be wrong. Predating the Egyptian pyramids by over a thousand years, and almost the oldest man-made constructions on Earth, are the Megalithic Temples of Malta.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Country Review: Chile

Dates there: 8th January to 31st January 2014: 24 days

Chile's Wonders: Easter Island

Also Visited: Humberstone, Gran Torre Santiago

Some countries look like things. Italy looks like a boot, North and South Korea unified looks like a rabbit (though they manfully insist it's a tiger), and as if you ever doubted it, the UK of course looks like a witch riding a pig. So what does Chile look like? It reminds me of the fat from a pork chop.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Christmas 2014 and Review of the Year

It was a lovely Christmas.

It is traditional at this time of year to reflect upon the year past. The achievements, the tribulations, the highlights and lowlights. 2014, eh? Perhaps I might muse upon what 2015 holds. Or perhaps I might not.

Hmm. I think I won't.

Anyway, I hope you all had a lovely Christmas too, and I hope 2014 was good, and 2015 will be equally as good for too.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Buster Bros

Balloons are terrorising the world's landmarks. Who do you call? The Buster Brothers, of course.

This was a game released in the early 1990s (it was called Pang for the Spectrum, which was what I had back then). It featured bubbles floating around, that caused instant death if touched. Naturally, in such a scenario, you would fire harpoons at the bubbles, causing them to divide in two. Arguably, two smaller balloons is as even more dangerous scenario, but shoot them a few more times and they would disappear. The world's landmark would be safe!

I'd love to pretend that at a young age - I would have been about 11 or 12 - Buster Bros aka Pang made a big impression on me, stirring my desire to visit all the exotic places on the list. But I don't think I ever owned it. I recall its existence, and possibly even played it, but other games made a far bigger impression on me, such as Football Manager 2, the wizard arena combat of Chaos, and the space trading game, Elite 2. I do not appear to have become either a football manager, a wizard, or an interstellar wanderer, making me wonder if my youth was slightly squandered.

Anyway, I took a look online and have found screenshots of many of the landmarks featured in Buster Bros. Most of them happen to be on my list, indicating that Japanese software developers of the late 80s/early 90s were right on the nose with their research. Here, across a selection of different computers, are the ones we agree on - the Hagia Sophia, Borobudur, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Himeji Castle, Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, Neuschwanstein Castle, the Acropolis, Sacre-Coeur, Sagrada Familia, Tower Bridge, Easter Island, and the Pyramids.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Old Pictures: Marina Bay Sands

The Marina Bay Sands isn't terribly far up on my overall list but it's still a pretty standout building. A long park/pool/leisure complex plonked on top of three skyscraper hotels, it's a hugely distinctive addition to Singapore's skyline and it's not one you're going to confuse with anything else. Let's quickly remind ourselves of what it looks like.

Friday, 19 December 2014

The Longlist: Kuthodaw Pagoda

What's the Longlist? It's the list for all the other great man-made spectacles in the world that haven't quite made my shortlist. I don't feel the need to research them or visit them, but as long as this blog is about the world's best man-made structures, they deserve some kind of mention. Today, Kuthodaw Pagoda, in Mandalay, Burma.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Country Review: Bolivia

Dates there: 4th January to 8th January 2014: 5 days

Bolivia's Wonders: none

On the Longlist: Tiwanaku

We were warned about La Paz before we went: it's crowded, it's squalid, it's chaotic, it's dangerous. Left to my own devices, I would probably have given it a miss and skipped straight from Peru to Chile. But Danielle was intrigued. Despite the above reports, a few others filtered through, saying that yes, sure, it's all these things, but it's also fun. So we went. And yes, it was fun.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Old Pictures: Borobudur

Borobudur, in central Java, is a 9th Century Buddhist temple kind of thing. It doesn't really know what it is, because it's also a bit like a pyramid, and a bit like a hill. It's a one-off. Our guide described it as a book made out of stone. Whatever it is, these days it looks like this:

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Country Review: Peru

Dates there: 6th December 2013 to 4th January 2014, 20th to 24th February 2014: 35 days

Peru's Wonders: Machu Picchu, the Nazca Lines

Also visited: Winay Wayna, Saksayhuaman, Arequipa Cathedral

On the Longlist: Ollantaytambo, Kuelap, Moray, Choquequirao, Chan Chan

Danielle was very impressed. Usually, she is regarded as more petite than most, but in Peru she became a giant. The average height of a Peruvian woman is 4 foot 11½ inches (151cm) but remember, this is just the average. Many are much less. If you're short in stature and are fed up of feeling that way, go to Peru.

Friday, 5 December 2014

The Longlist: Akashi Kaikyo Bridge aka the Pearl Bridge

If you look closely, you might notice a new tab in the horizontal green bar at the top of this page. It says "Longlist". If you click on it, it explains a little more about my Longlist, but basically it's for all the other great man-made spectacles in the world that haven't quite made my shortlist. I don't feel the need to research them or visit them, but as long as this blog is about the world's best man-made structures, they deserve some kind of mention. Today, the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, also known as the Pearl Bridge, in Kobe, Japan.

Take a look at the Golden Gate Bridge, the classic mighty suspension bridge, and once the biggest one on earth. I visited it in August of this year.

Uh-huh. Pretty impressive. The towers are 227 metres from top to water, and the main suspension span in the middle is 1280 metres. Now, let's take a look at the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, which from now on I'm going to call by its supposed nickname of the Pearl Bridge, because it's a lot easier to write.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Old Pictures: Sydney Opera House

I have 39 Wonders still to visit, and 14 previews still to write. They will begin next year. In the meantime, I'm going to allow this blog to ramble around like a slightly senile geriatric. The very observant among you may have noticed The Longlist tab, which has appeared on the green bar above. Clicking on that will explain its purpose. I will be writing about each of the places there, in time. Also, in full rambling mode, I'm going to write about the countries I've been to on these travels, from the perspective of a budget traveller looking for World Wonders (that is, my perspective). And I'm also going to be digging up some old pictures and photos of Wonders, either in construction or from ye olde times. Likely, there will be a few others bits and pieces too. Anyway, for today, let's begin at the beginning (in terms of the order I've visited things at least) and take a look at some old pictures of the Sydney Opera House.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Model Wonders: Part 6 (Europe Edition)

Despite the many, many requests I get, on a daily basis, from big-name magazines and academic journals, offering big money to enquire after and photograph my collection of miniature World Wonders, I always refuse. "No," I tell them, gently but firmly, "I don't want to tarnish the purity of my collection. It would be like a celebrity mother selling pictures of her baby. There are some things which should not be exploited for commercial gain. This is one."

However, for my dear reader, I am more than happy to show you the European collection of models from my recent travels. Here they are.

(please note: I would also be more than happy to exploit this for commercial gain if any big-money magazines really are interested. Likewise, a baby, should I acquire one.)

Palace of Versailles


Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Burness Corner: The Forbidden City

My erstwhile travel companion from September 2011 to April 2012 gives his views upon the Wonders we visited. Today, Beijing's Forbidden City.