Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Model Wonders: Part 3

My last post and a post a few months ago dealt with miniature models of World Wonders I acquired along the way while travelling. These were all official Wonders on my list. But in the last few months, I began to get a little carried away, and began buying models of unofficial Wonders. These unnecessary acquisitions meant that by the time I came home, about half my bags' weight was in small replica buildings. Hot travelling tip: this isn't a practical way of backpacking.

Here is the unofficial Wonder models I bought, plus a few extra.


It was a wet day in Sri Lanka, off-season, and the souvenir stalls to one side of the grounds in Sigiriya were bereft of strolling tourists, and often unmanned or shut-up. Although Sigiriya wasn't on my list and I wasn't intending buying a model, professional curiosity took me in. Because it is such an irregular landmark, I really didn't expect it would have any miniature representation, but to my surprise one stall had this unassuming grey thing. Not wanting to add more weight to my bags, I wasn't going to buy, but the vendor chased me down the path and went down to around £7, and I couldn't resist. In the end, it turned out this wasn't such a good price, as in the official tourist centre, larger, heavier, and coloured ones were being sold for only a little higher, but they looked a bit tackier so I have no regrets.

The Arch Of Triumph

How could I possibly pass this over? Visiting North Korea, I genuinely had no expected to find models of their landmarks. Plenty of propaganda posters and literature, but not models. So I was astonished when on one of the final days, a souvenir shop contained this, a handmade model of their version of Paris's Arc de Triumph. I had to buy it - but it wasn't cheap, around £40. This is communist North Korea, there was simply no arguing, no haggling - the saleswomen didn't give a damn whether I bought or not. In the end I knew that if I didn't buy, I'd always regret it, so the choice was an easy one to make, and I'm very pleased with it.

Juche Tower

Likewise, I was delighted to find a model of Pyongyang's Juche Tower, this one in the hotel souvenir shop, for a fairly reasonable £12-ish. When I brought this to the hotel bar, where I was drinking with my fellow tour members, it set off a race between two of them to buy the last remaining one.

The Temple of Heaven

In my opinion, this Temple of Heaven model is exactly what miniature replicas should strive towards: straightforward, faithful, and attractive. It's in colour and looks just like the real thing, and only cost about £5. Danielle knocked it over last week and broke the top off, which is why it looks a little crooked.

The Bird's Nest Stadium

I wasn't too enamoured with Beijing's Bird's Nest stadium, and the souvenir shops inside sold hideous gold versions of it for over £30. This pop-up one only cost £2, and was much more lightweight. By the subway entrance, street vendors sold pretty nice looking Bird's Nest ashtrays (don't all stadiums seem to lend themselves well to ashtrays?) but they were just too bulky for me.

The Spring Temple Buddha

Ah, next time. The Spring Temple Buddha is on my official list, but my solitary visit means I haven't fully visited it and been able to give it a proper review, so will have to go again. And a good thing, because although I was able to get the above photo-in-a-glass for £3, at the small line of shops and restaurants by the exits were a couple of great models of the Buddha. The problem is - they were massive. At the time, I didn't know I'd be going home so soon, and both the models - one in wood, one in a brassy metal - were far too big to possibly carry around with me for too long. I'm talking about arm length here. I didn't get the prices, but strongly suspect they would have been a little too high for the limited cash I had then. So, next time, I'm ready for them.

Within the grounds, golden models of the Buddha were also on sale - for £200! I think I'll pass.

Sagrada Familia

This is another Wonder on my list, which hasn't been officially visited yet. Danielle and I were in Barcelona last year, and spent some time by the Sagrada Familia. Its souvenir shop had all kind of models, but this was my favourite, though not cheap at around £30. 

Dornoch Cathedral

And finally, a paper model of Dornoch Cathedral. Danielle and I were there about 18 month ago. By world standards, it maybe doesn't stand out, but it's a pretty cathedral in a pretty town, and in the town is a well-kept museum which had this unexpected gem. It only cost a couple of pounds, and gave a afternoon of high excitement as I constructed it. And as you can see  - what a good job I did!


  1. Hello,
    I had a great time reading your blog and stories.
    Just in case you remember, where did you buy the Pyongyang's Arch of Triumph souvenir model? I plan to visit North Korea too and this model seems to me really cool.
    Best wishes (and keep updating your blog),

    1. Thanks Tom. The Arch of Triumph model appeared in just one of the many souvenir shops I was whisked to during my week's visit - you won't have too much say in this. I would say it's very much pot luck whether you'll find it - it doesn't seem like a mass production piece. However, I have a strong feeling that if you are to ask your guide about getting one, they may be able to arrange something - they're often pretty good at arranging things that reflect well upon the glory of the people's republic.


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