Category Archives: featured

How many of these authentic travel experiences have you tried?

In the luxury travel universe, much is made these days of seeking authentic travel experiences. These seem to be experiences for which you pay so much money that bemused locals are happy to indulge your fantasy that you are “not a tourist, but a traveler.”

Coveted authentic travel experiences include sharing a glass of the latest vintage with a fifth-generation vineyard owner, stepping aboard a private mega-yacht in full view of a busload of envious cruise ship passengers who wonder who you are, and sitting at a tool-ladened workbench with a local artisan (whose day job is painstakingly affixing “Souvenir of …” labels to silver spoons imported from China).

The truth, though, is that authentic travel experiences are nearly universal, often occurring even before you arrive at your destination. Here are a few:

The only notification of your delayed or cancelled flight is written on the wall of the terminal bathroom.

You request early boarding, as your prosthesis entitles you to do, and the airline charges for extra-leg room.

The flight attendant assures you that the snake loose in the overhead bin is not venomous.

The tattoo on the passenger sharing your armrest identifies him as an arm-wrestling champion.

Your young children have to coax you to eat your airline meal.

Your rental car GPS speaks to you in a rude tone of voice.

The desk clerk has the serene demeanor of someone who knows that the big-tipping guests who arrived just before you are happily settling into the room that was meant to be yours.

Your hotel room’s “ocean view” requires an optional telescope.

Your tour guide speaks clear, understandable English, loud enough for you to hear, but you are on the wrong bus.

The person floundering in the wake of your cruise ship looks unnervingly like captain.

Travel humor writer Bob Payne is the editor in chief at BobCarriesOn.com.

 

Hotel Scandal: Possible links between fake views and leaks

 

A special government committee has been convened to investigate allegations that an increasing number of hotels in the U.S. are exaggerating the descriptions of what their less-expensive rooms look out on.

According to unnamed sources, these fake views sites also appear to be the same ones that have prompted more and more hotel guests to complain of leaks.

“It used to be you could expect a little overstatement,” said a New York City hotel guest who was in town to see the recently updated Broadway musical, The Lyn’ King. “But now, no matter what they promise, it seems the views are of walls, walls, and more walls. And the leaks? Oh my gosh! You practically have to wear a raincoat to bed.”

As might be expected, hotel owners are pushing back, one stating, “Nobody respects hotel guests more than me, but some of them are losers. And anyway, who’s making these complaints about fake views and leaks? It could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds ok? They are just real lightweights who need to get out more, preferably to the hotel restaurant and gift shop.”

Sources from inside the committee said the investigation is moving slowly, in large part because the hotels involved all seem to be owned by shell corporations whose origins become lost in the morass of the bureaucracies of nations such as Russian and China.

“You know you are at a dead end,” one source said, “when you dig up promising paperwork on a company, only to discover that the chief financial officers are Tomas Dzheferson and Abrakham Linkoln.”

Another source, who declined to identify himself, other than to say he was not Howard Johnson, claimed that despite conflicting viewpoints from within the committee itself a possible solution to the fake views problem, at least, seemed to be emerging.

“We are leaning toward the British model, as demonstrated recently by the budget accommodation easyHotel, the source said.

According to news reports, easyHotel advertises fake views, which are in reality photos of London landmarks attached to the hotel room wall. The photos are promoted as an upgrade, and guests are charged extra for them.

As for the leaks, the source said it might take a bi-partisan effort by Congress to get those fixed.

“Fat chance of that happening,” one of the hotel owners we spoke with said. “Fat chance. Four-hundred-pounds fat.”

As readers would expect, considering the BobCarriesOn expense budget, travel humor writer Bob Payne has spent years  investigating hotels that have fake views and leaks.

Ten people travelers should never photograph

                                                                               breaking news-wiki.com photo 

People have always been a favorite subject for travelers to photograph. Unlike with mountains, seascapes, and roads that fade into the distance, it is often possible to pay people to reposition themselves into a more natural pose. People shots do, however, often involve some kind of intrusion. So it is best to ask permission first, especially if there is a chance the subject may be armed. And there are some people, those below among them, who ethics and self preservation demand that you should not photograph at all.

Uniformed military or law enforcement officers in possession of a 65” or larger television that appears to be in its original packing.

The Pope, if he is playing Truth or Dare.

Any immediate family member of North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong-un who is strapped to the nose of a ballistic missile during an unsuccessful launch attempt.

Gang members actively involved in a drug exchange or drive-by shooting.

Anyone who acts unstable or somehow “off,” especially if they hold an elected office.

Couples exhibiting public displays of affection that involve a goat.

An airline pilot sitting in the cockpit, scanning the job listings on craigslist.

Homeless families who you recognize as the former owners of the condo next to yours in Aspen.

Other people’s children, unless the children are older than you are.

The Kardashians nude, until you have agreed on a price.

Humor travel writer Bob Payne is often asked by photo editors not to tell them if he owns a camera.

How to tell a child there is no lost luggage heaven

We’ve all had to tell a disconsolate child that his or her bag was the one chosen to go to lost luggage heaven. The experience can be painful, especially when the child blubbers, “Why couldn’t Daddy go instead?”

But using lost luggage heaven as a way of softening a child’s grief when their bag fails to come off the carousel only works until the child is old enough to start asking probing questions. Such as, “If it’s such a good place, why are those other people whose bags went there using so many bad words?”

That’s when it’s time to begin explaining lost luggage insurance.

Often, a good way to start is: “You know how you get presents from Santa?”

Then remind your kids how Santa cannot always bring them everything they want, because the elves have switched the tags around, or even taken all the good stuff out for themselves. And remind them, too, that to make up for your disappointment Santa sometimes leaves gift certificates.

Most kids are quick to grasp that lost luggage insurance works the same way. Except that instead of gift certificates you get an insurance settlement, which is usually about 15 percent of what you think it should be.

Eventually, of course, your child is likely to come right out and ask you directly if lost luggage heaven is a real place. To which as a parent it is your responsibility to answer, briefly but honestly, “Only if you count the overhead bins.”

Some children, though, will remain unconvinced, and will want to know only, “Is there a bad place luggage goes, too?”

That’s when its time to begin explaining Newark.

When travel humor writer Bob Payne is not serving as editor in chief of BobCarriesOn.com, he works as a grief counselor in the baggage services division of a major U.S. airline.

5 top countries for travelers hoping to avoid extradition

With tax season just over, now is the busiest time of the year for travel to the two-dozen countries that have no extradition treaty with the U.S. To help travelers on the run chose which country is right for them — whether for a life-time stay or just until a statue of limitations runs out — we’ve once again put together our top 5 under-the-radar picks for anyone hoping to avoid extradition.

Maldives

With predictions that a rising sea level may result in its disappearance by 2085, this Indian Ocean nation has more to worry about than what your back-story might be. So unless there’s a possibility that somebody is willing to trade you for a Russian arms dealer, you’ll pretty much be left alone. Come here for the sun, the beaches, and the high-end resorts so pricey that to afford them you practically have to have stolen a serious amount of something.

Many of the resorts, such as the Huvafen Fushi, have overwater bungalows with glass panels in the floors for viewing sea life, and, if necessary, a quick escape. Be careful, though, whenever counting large stacks of money in your room, as the panels often make it easy for passing snorkelers to view your life. For an American, the Maldives, despite its distance, is not a perfect home away from home. Talk of opening a string of international fast-food restaurants at the airport has so far come to nothing. And getting re-runs of Keeping Up with the Kardashians is sometimes difficult. But if you are here for the long stay, converting to Islam can help, as can being religious about applying SPF 50.

China

While there is a misperception that Western travelers with a criminal background are not welcome in China, the opposite is often true, especially if the travelers arrive bearing significant trade secrets. Even if you have nothing to barter, a population of 1.4 billion makes it easy to get lost in the crowd. And should you run afoul of Chinese authorities, a prison population that includes more than 6,000 foreign inmates means you will sometimes be able to barter in English for cigarettes. Americans will find much about China to remind them of home, including Subway (440 outlets) McDonalds (1,964 outlets), KFC (5,854 outlets), and the Great Wall (0 outlets).

United Arab Emirates

Whoever said money can’t buy happiness has never considered avoiding extradition by fleeing to the United Arab Emirates. In the UAE, money can buy a $1,223 cupcake, a $24,000 per night hotel suite, and an $8 million (diamond-studded) cell phone. Gold-plated SUV’s are not that rare, Lamborghini police cars are not unheard of. Still, the law is Islamic law, so don’t spend money on alcohol consumed outside of a bar, restaurant, or sporting venue, or anything that’s any fun at all during Ramadan.

Russia

A tall latte at Starbucks in Moscow costs twice what it does in New York City. And you can be riding in the back seat of a taxi one moment and in the trunk the next, on the way to have your vital organs removed for profit. But beyond those niggling kinds of concerns, Russia is just about ideal for anyone looking for a new identity to call their own. In Moscow, live quietly but comfortably in the luxury of such accommodations as the Ritz-Carlton, where your personal butler and his government minder will soon know your name.

Become familiar with Red Square, the Bolshoi Theatre, and Saint Basil’s Cathedral, whose distinctive domes are recognized worldwide as the inspiration for the American news organization, The Onion. At the Kremlin, pass a pleasant hour, perhaps with a small group of friends, contemplating the unauthorized removal of the 190-caret Orlov Diamond on display there. And if it becomes time to get out of town, what traveler doesn’t imagine a journey on the Trans Siberian Railway? Just make sure you ask for a round trip ticket.

Bhutan

For relieving the stress often associated with traveling to avoid extradition, there may be no better destination than Bhutan. One of three countries in the world with no diplomatic relations at all with the U.S. (Iran and North Korea are the other two) this Himalayan hideaway allows you to conduct your affairs with the assurance that the only place you are ever likely get snatched to is heaven. One of the highlights of a Bhutan stay is a visit to the sacred, and isolated, cliff-side Buddhist monastery of Taktshang, or the Tiger’s Nest.

Make the strenuous hike to the monastery from the town below in about three hours, where you will be rewarded with the discovery that no cameras, phones, or recording devices of any kind are allowed. Which for somebody hiding from the law is by itself almost worth the trip. A bonus is that the monks who live at the monastery often practice meditation that requires extended periods of silence, diminishing the chances that somebody will even accidentally give you away.

BobCarriesOn editor-in-chief Bob Payne is currently under audit.

Afghanistan again leads list of world’s top 193 countries, based on alphabetical order

                                              Afghan boy delighted to learn his country again ranks at top.

BobCarriesOn.com has released its annual report of the world’s top 193 countries, based on alphabetical order. Afghanistan remains No. 1, a position it has held since 1967, when the state of Aden, on the Arabian Peninsula, became part of Yemen.

Afghanistan’s fifty consecutive years at the top of the list is impressive. Its longevity has been surpassed only by Abyssinia, which was No. 1, alphabetically, from 1137 to 1889, when it became part of modern Ethiopia.

The No. 1 standing has benefitted Afghanistan in many ways. It has helped bolster the country’s stature, for example, among Westerners who are interested in poppy growing,  goat grabbing (which is a national sport), and war-zone safety practices. It has also helped offset other rankings, such as: The Legatum Prosperity Index, 148th; World Happiness Report, 154th; Life Expectancy at birth 162nd; GDP Per Capita 175th; and Ease of doing business 181st.

Among other countries, the United States was unable, once again, to rank higher than 185th. It finished ahead of only Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. And in continental standings, the U.S. fared even worse, finishing 23rd out of the top 23 North American countries.

Looking ahead to next year, Afghanistan could find its top spot in jeopardy. Abkhazia, a tiny slice of the former Soviet Union, has been successful at getting only a handful of nations to recognize its independence from the country of Georgia. However, one of those nations is Russia. So,  Abkhazia could soon find that its breakaway aspirations — and hopes of becoming No. 1 — have the full support of the U.S. State Department.

Top finishers by continent, based on alphabetic order (world standings in parentheses)

Asia

Afghanistan (1); Armenia (8); Azerbaijan (11).

Azerbaijan has more mud volcanoes than any other country, and also the largest mud volcano. There is little evidence, however, that either fact has influenced the Azerbaijanis’ attitude toward mud wrestling, either as a sport or a political tactic.

Europe

Albania (2); Andorra (4); Austria (10).

Andorra has one of the world’s highest life expectancies and, perhaps not coincidentally, has not been to war in more than a thousand years.

Africa

Algeria (3); Angola (5); Benin (19).

Benin is home to the largest remaining population of lions in West Africa. It also ranks 162nd in life expectancy. The two seem to be unrelated.

North America

Antigua and Barbuda (6); Bahamas (12); Barbados (15).

The world’s first recorded sale of rum took place on Barbados, which is still a major producer. Despite that, Barbados has a literacy rate of 99%.

South America

Argentina (7); Bolivia (21); Brazil (24)

The Yungas Road, leading from Bolivia’s capital, La Paz, has been called the world’s most dangerous. It has been suggested that one solution to the vehicular carnage — for people dressed as zebras to help children cross the streets — does not go far enough.

Australia

Australia (9).

The once proud, boastful Australians now rank only 19th worldwide for beer consumption per capita.

Antarctica

Not rated.

BobCarriesOn.com Editor in Chief Bob Payne in on the board of the Know YourABC’s Foundation.