For the 156th consecutive year, the World Tourism Federation (WTF) has named Mount Everest the world’s top place to visit.
“Many tourism sites and attractions claim to be among the world’s best, but only Mount Everest, at 29,028 feet, can claim to top them all,” said WTF spokesperson Bob Payne.
In addition to its altitude, a number of other factors have helped Everest win the prestigious award so consistently, Payne said.
Among the factors are:
Except during the April and May climbing season, when the line at the Everest Base Camp Starbucks can stretch out the door, crowds are seldom a problem. And to escape them even in season it is often necessary only to climb above 26,000 feet, into what is helpfully described as the Death Zone.
Spring and Fall are the most popular times to visit, but in November through February cooling breezes of up to 200 mph make Everest an offseason-delight for all who are willing to hold on.
No matter what the season, inexpensive parking is always available, as is accommodation, although the best of the accommodation, with some of the most awesome rooms-with-a-view on the planet, requires hanging tethered to a sheer rock face.
“It’s not as precarious as it might sound,” said Payne, “Although local outfitters don’t recommend it for older men who need to get up frequently during the night.”
Local sites of interest include the last resting places, or assumed last resting places, of the more than 200 deceased climbers whose bodies still remain on the mountain.
For visitors looking for activities other than climbing, Wildlife viewing includes up to ten species of ants, and the occasional yak, which are best admired from the uphill side.
The local people are another Everest draw. For a suitable tip, they are often happy to help you get all the way to the top, and, for an even more suitable tip, back down again.
Travel humor writer Bob Payne is an enthusiastic social climber.
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.
Researchers in the Department of Porcine Studies at Indiana’s Muncie State University have found strong evidence to suggest that the reason pigs don’t fly more often is their intelligence. In fact, the research seems to indicate that pigs are far smarter than humans, who if offered sufficiently low fares will allow themselves to be sent aloft in conditions virtually all members of the animal world would find unacceptable.
“The evidence is striking, especially when it comes to what humans and the few pigs who do fly will eat when in the air,” said study leader Bob Payne, who has been observing both species since childhood, when growing up over one of Muncie’s most popular barbecue restaurants. Although generally perceived to have undiscriminating tastes, pigs will routinely refuse any airline offering of beef, chicken or pasta, while humans, as long as they are assured that it is “free” will down anything, Payne said.
The study leader added that even if they are crossing time zones pigs are smart enough to keep to a fairly regular dining schedule, while humans will eat breakfast lunch, or dinner at any hour it is served up.
“The contrast is even more stark with alcohol,” Payne said. “Recall when you’ve seen human passengers start in on the booze, especially on flights to the Caribbean. Then ask yourself if you’ve ever seen a pig with a margarita before noon.”
Another clear indication of a pig’s intellectual superiority compared to humans has to do with seating. “You seldom see a pig in an airline seat, even in first class,” Payne said. “But humans will willingly occupy seats that even spiders, scorpions, and snakes have found it nearly impossible to wedge themselves into.”
Ironically, while the relatively few pigs who have consented to fly are usually more than happy to make some seating accommodation if asked to, often even eager to take a later flight, human passengers have sometimes had to be pried out of their seats with the kind of force usually reserved for removing aging members from congress.
Asked if there might come a time when pigs do routinely fly, Payne was less than optimistic. “Not as long as all passengers continue to be treated like sheep,” he said.
When not exercising a leadership position in porcine studies, travel humor writer Bob Payne is the editor in chief of Bobcarrieson.com.
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.
Since before the Phoenicians, rowed trips have been one of the world’s great travel adventures. Rowed trips promise sea air and vigorous exercise, either while journeying solo or in the company of up to 50 or so like-minded individuals, all often moving to the beat of a locally-renowned drummer. What more could you ask for? Except maybe the occasional breather, and sip of water. Here are six rowed trip favorites.
Jason and the Argonauts’ Golden Fleece Rowed Trip
One of history’s first rowed trips, the 1300 B.C. voyage of the Argo was in pursuit of a ram’s fleece Jason had to capture in order to reclaim a usurped kingdom. It forms the basis for what may be Western literature’s oldest retelling of a hero’s quest.
Route: 1800 miles from Iolcos, in ancient Greece, to Colchis, a no longer existent kingdom on the Black Sea.
Vessel: 50-oared galley named the Argo.
Highlight: As often happens in this kind of tale, things didn’t work out all that well in the end, with a timber from the Argo falling on Jason and crushing him to death. On the other hand, he did get to marry a king’s daughter, and journey beyond the edge of the known world.
Leif Ericson’s American Rowed Trip
True, he sailed part of the way from Greenland. And the Indians lining the shore were in agreement that he did not actually discover the North American continent. But it is certain that Leif Ericson explored at least some of America hundreds of years before the first camper van was even dreamed of.
Route: About 2,000 miles round-trip from Greenland to “Vinland,” probably on what is now the Northern tip of Newfoundland.
The vessel: There’s no reliable record, but it was probably a dragon-headed Norse long ship that could maneuver under sail or with up to 50 oars, making it ideal for the New York Yacht Club’s annual cruise to Maine.
Highlight: Knowing that because he’d arrived 400 years ahead of Columbus he could almost certainly count on having a place to park anywhere along North America’s East Coast, even in summer.
A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers Rowed Trip
A two-week rowed trip (elapsed time discrepancy noted) in 1839 that resulted in A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, a collection of writings by Henry David Thoreau that generations of American readers have found even more difficult to get through than Walden.
Route: 126 miles from Concord, Massachusetts to Concord New Hampshire, and back.
Vessel: Fifteen-foot fisherman’s dory Thoreau and his brother built themselves, in a week. It was a remarkable achievement, considering that the book took ten years to complete.
Highlight: In the short term at least, the rowed trip, along a tranquil, slow-moving river, was a far greater success than the book — 706 of the first 1,000 copies published going unsold.
First Modern Transatlantic Rowed Trip
In 1896, clam diggers Frank Samuelsen and George Harbo were the first since Leif Ericson to undertake a rowed trip across the Atlantic. Without even the assistance of a drummer, they made it in 55 days.
Route: 3,740 miles from New York City to the Isles of Scilly, off the coast of England.
Vessel: 18-foot double-ended Sea Bright skiff
Highlight: They survived.
A Woman’s Three-Oceans Solo Rowed Trip
As time passes and more and more has been done before, it becomes harder, even in the annals of rowed trips, to make one’s mark with a singular achievement. That said, in 2011, Roz Savage became the first woman to row solo across the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans.
Route: Canary Islands-West Indies-California-Papua New Guinea-Australia-Mauritus.
Vessel: 23-foot unsinkable rowboat with sleeping cabin.
Highlight: Savage was able to listen to 62 audio books.
A Man’s Three-Oceans Solo Rowed Trip
In 2012, a Turkish-born American named Erden Eruc went Roz Savage one better by combining a rowed trip with a hiking and cycling journey to circle the world under his own power.
Route: 41,196 miles starting and finishing at Bodega Bay, California. Not a person to rush things, Eruc took just over five years.
Vessel: As are the craft of most modern ocean-going rowed trippers, his was lightweight, self-righting, and unsinkable. Getting perhaps less credit than it deserved, the 24-foot vessel had twice crossed an ocean even before he owned it.
Highlight: Not having to repair bicycle tires.
Plan Your Own Rowed Trip
No affiliation at all with them, but the adventure travel company Oars offers rowed trips on rivers and seas around the world. If anyone should ask, we find the Wine Tasting on the River Adventures especially suited to our skill and interest levels.
BobCarriesOn.com editor in chief Bob Payne has himself been in many rows
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.
Bob Payne's travel news and advice since before Columbus landed at Plymouth Rock.