Top 10 Hit Lists


Quite frequently, someone asks me "where is the best place you have ever been?". Impossible to say, because how do you compare the beauty of the Nepalese mountains or the Sossusvlei sand dunes with meeting a tribal warrier from the Highlands of Papua New Guinea or the great feeling of catching a fine trout on light tackle? In my opinion, you can't, so instead of making a Top 100 of "my best places", I have cut the hit list into a number of smaller lists.

Even then, a simple truth doesn't really exist, because, like music, it all depends on the mood, and a list made today would probably look differently from any list made tomorrow. It's just personal. Instead of reading the lists as objective truths, just regard the lists as some suggestions for "places to go". Bear in mind that a few places (such as Lhasa, Jerusalem, Varanasi, West Tibet and the Nepalese mountains) appear on more than one list. This is quite logical as several cities are built upon religion, and as beautiful nature usually makes beautiful trek - and sometimes good fishing as well!

And, to check the photos, just click on the name of the site, and you'll get the shot. Otherwise, just go to the photo (Danish foto) page. There, you'll find more than 1,000 presumably great photographs from all over the world.



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My 10 Most Interesting Fishing Spots

Most people, usually non-fishermen, believe that good fishing is equal to big fish - and preferably lots of them. Catching a couple of 500 pound marlin must be better than luring a small trout to swallow a tiny dry fly, however, real fishermen know that this is not necessaryly the case, and frequently a memorable fishing experience requires neither record fish nor surrealistic angling methods. As a "proof", none of the 10 entries below are even close to being national records. They are just beutiful personal experiences with lots of fish to remember.

1 Tarpon; Costa Rica, Central America
Without discussion the best sport I ever experienced with a fishing rod in my hand. The tarpon is a hardhitter and loves to jump, normally around eight or ten times each during the fight, and that's where you lose them. Tarpon fishing is a bit like sex: There is a lot which is worse, and there may be something better, but there's nothing quite like the tarpon.
2 Mahseer; Karnataka, South India
The single fish I've been most happy to catch, and I doubt very much that it's ever going to be surpassed. Eight virtually fishless days were followed by a monster-strike and a two-hour fight wher I had to go swimming and sailing in the fast-flowing river, just to land the 21 kg mahseer - and in the middle of the night well. Not even a big mahseer, but considering the circumstances, this was just magic!
3 Copper Sharks; Namibia, South-West Africa
Catching four big sharks from 45 to 75 kg, all right off the beach, was hard sluggish work, and it took another couple of days before my arms and legs stopped shaking. This is the only time in my life where I've been completely worn out just from fighting big fish.You have to try it to understand.
4 Sailfish and Dorado; Niue, The Pacific
The 42 kg sailfish is not even the biggest sailfish I ever had, but catching it from a small dinghy with a 25 HP engine in the end just beats all the ones caught from the big-game boats with a very large margin. And getting a 10 kg dorado and a 7.8 kg skipjack tuna right after doesn't exactly make the experience less valuable.
5 Payara; Río Caura, Venezuela
As the hardest fighter in freshwater, the prize goes to either the Venezuelan payara or the African tigerfish. Both hit the plug/spinner in a way that no temperate fish ever gets close to. Full speed and HIT, so that the angler actually has to take care not to lose the rod in the process! The payara is probably the best light-tackle fish I've ever tried.
6 Wahoo and flying fish; Isla de Fogo, Cape Verde Islands
Discussing which fish is actually the fastest, two candidates usually end up above all the others: The wahoo and the sailfish. Personally, I regard the the wahoo as the winner, and spending a couple of weeks catching a bunch of these speed-runners in the happy company of Danish angler and writer Jens Ploug Hansen was certainly an experience to remember, as was shooting the photo of my life-time: the jumping flying fish.
7 Coho Salmon; Buskin River, Alaska
Alaskan fishing is normally a question of catching a bunch of very large king salmon. To me, light fly fishing for 4 to 6 kg coho (silver) salmon was a much funnier experience, in particular because you catch them by sight fishing. You pick the one you want, and try to lura that single fish to pick up the fly. A much better sport than the sluggish fishing for the kings - og perhaps I change my mind one day :-)
8 White sturgeon; Fraser River, Canada
Heavy hit-and-pull fishing in the muddy and turbulent Fraser River. From a fighting point of view certainly not the best fishing I've ever had, but catching a 100+ kg thing is always interesting. Probably the four or five biggest fish I ever had were all Fraser River sturgeon, and it's not bad to tell the people back home that you've caught loads of caviar, although all sturgeon fishing in North America is catch and release.
9 Rainbow Trout; South Island, New Zealand
It's a badly kept secret that New Zealand is one of the best places on earth to catch big trout. Both the rainbows and the browns reach sizes beyond the limit of Europe, but the fishing is not even close to being easy. It's actually bloody difficult, which makes it even better, when you succeed in catching a 6 kg wild rainbow trout. A trophy fish, had it not been for my female companion who, the very same day, got one on 11.9 kg (26 lbs)!! That's just a monster.
10 Boat and Beach Fishing; Oman, Arab Peninsula
One of the forgotten pockets of the world, at least with regards to sports fishing, Oman on the tip of the Arab Peninsula actually boast some excellent fishing in the sea. Deep sea fishing produced a 38 kg yellowfin tuna, but the funniest part was spinning for bluefish and fly fishing for bream and pompanos off the beach of Ras Madrakah. Great fun on light tackle.
Further down my hit-list, we find dry fly night fishing for 2-3 kg rainbow trout in Bosnia-Hercegovina, float fishing for tiny barbel in the Indus River a few kilometers from the sacred Mount Kailash in West Tibet, spinning for peacock bass in Lago Guri or fly fishing baby tarpon in Laguna de Tacarigua (both Venezuela), trying to avoid putting my fingers into the mouth of the vicious tigerfish of Zimbabwe, getting my first and second, individual District Championship in Coarse Fishing (1980 and 81) or just catching a big former Danish record rudd of 1.475 kg in a small pond in Southern Jutland.The worst day of fishing is still better than the best day of working!

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The 10 Most Fantastic Towns / Cities

The great cities of the world are famous, and very few travellers do not end up in Rome, Paris or London, eventually. However, looking a little further, our world contains lots of other towns which are at least as interesting as the European capitals; some of them far away, while others are much easier to get to.

1 Herat; Afghanistan
Back in 2003, I had the distinct feeling of being the first tourist in Herat for 25 years, and its overwhelming hospitality combined with the photogenic centre of the old town is very hard to beat - anywhere. Herat is likely to be the biggest travel-kick I've had for 10 years or more and it's likely to stay that way for a long time to come. Herat is a great proof that, as long as a place is regarded as off-limits, it remains fantastic. As soon as the group tours start to arrive, things go bad. Well, Afghanistan is hardly ever going to become mainstream :o)
2 San'a, Yemen
San'a just has to be the most enchanting capital city anywhere. The old city with its fantastic, old brick houses, all with white paintings around doors and windows to frighten away the evil spirits, is the present-day reincarnation of the 1001 fairytales, and few places are better if you want to get lost.
3 Kathmandu; Nepal
A religious maze of Hindu temples and Buddhist stupas, Kathmandu is one of the most religious cities of the world. Every aspect of life is centered around religion, and any foreign non-believer is still treated with curiosity and respect rather than as a stupid tourist. Kathmandu is a magical place, and it's no wonder that so many Westerners fell in love with the city in the 60'ies and 70'ies.
4 Varanasi; India
The holiest city in India and the most fantastic place to endulge in the power of the Hindu religion. Watching the sunrise above the Ganga is just amazing, and it doesn't hurt to watch thousands of devoted pilgrims doing their daily deeds, such as brushing their teeth, cremating their dead or watering their buffaloes.
5 Lhasa; Tibet
Holiest city of the Tibetan Buddhists, Lhasa suffers badly from the Chinese imperialism, and little is left of the glory days of the past. The Potala is an empty shell, and the once packed square right in fron has been turned into another sterile Chinese square. Instead, find your way to the Jokhang Temple in the east, or the Sera and Drepung Gompas further west, and you're almost back to the old days of the Dalai Lama.
6 Esfahan; Iran
Iran is a great place, and Esfahan is by far the best. Being the only city in Iran with any amount of free-flowing freshwater, sipping a cup of chai and smoking a nargila at the Esfahan riverside is an experience not to be missed.
7 New York; USA
New York just has to be the capital of the world. Nowhere else on the planet, you can sit on a street corner and enjoy such a multitude of peoples. You'll meet Whites, Blacks, Greens, Reds, Blues and so on. In its own way, NY is the most colourful place on earth, and still, every quarter's got its own distinct feel, from the bustle of Broadway and the laid-back attitude of Greenwich Village to the quiet peace of Central Park and the amazing gospell cermons of Harlem.
8 Jerusalem; Israel / Palestine
In terms of variation, Jerusalem is the most religious city of the world. Being the holiest city of Christianity and the Jews, and the third-holiest of the Muslims, dividing the city is a close-to-hopeless affair. In the meantime, the treveller can enjoy everything from The Church of the Holy Seppulchre to the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock Mosque. Fantastic!
9 Cuzco; Peru
One of the greatest cities showing the power of the past. The relics of the Incas is very much in evidence, and even though the Spaniards destroyed much of the sacred temples, the steets and alleys round Plaza de las Armas still show lots of signs from the old days - 500 years ago. In particular, the Sun Temple (now the base of the Santo Domingo Church) and the famous 12-angle stone just off the Plaza de las Armas are popular amongst foreign photographers.
10 Damascus; Syria
One of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the world, Damascus' got a very old heritage - and it shows. You can spend ages in the old bazaar, and a visit to the city wall or the mighty Ummayad Mosque are equally rewarding. Unfortunately, Damascus is going down, plain and simple due to excessive tourism, and lot of charm has been lost compared to the first time I was there (2001).
The world is so full of interesting towns and cities that it's a bit unfair to list only 10. On a top 50 city list, it would be hard for me to avoid Paris (France), Haridwar and Allahabad (India), Yogyakarta (Indonesia), Cairo (Egypt), Asmara (Eritrea - probably the nicest capital in Africa), Antigua (Guatemala), Merida (Yucatan, Mexico), Arequipa (Peru), Popayan (Colombia), Bluefields (Nicaragua), Bihac (Bosnia-Hercegovina) and, surprise, my original home town Copenhagen (Denmark). In the summer-time, Copenhagen is a magnificent place to be and deservedly a popular, though expensive, tourist spot.

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My 10 Most Interesting Religious Destinations

I have to admit that I am neither babtized, nor religious in any way. Still, I regard religionas extremely important as it tends to be the "law" which shapes a country into what it is today. Without religion, the world would, probably, be a bit more peaceful, but certainly more dull.

1 Mount. Kailash; Western Tibet
Until recently, Western Tibet vitnessed very few visitors, most of them being pilgrims wanting to do the "Kora", the 53 km walk around Mount Kailash. Kailash is widely recognized as being the earthly manifestation of the legendary Mount Meru, a pyramid mountain with four sides made of gold, silver crystal and lapis. Just to be there, to do the Kora, to stay at the small Drira Phuk Gompa and to join in among all the Tibetan pilgrims is amazing. Unfortunately, all this is likely to be a treat of the past as a number of big ashrams are being built at Drira Phuk, Darchen and Lake Manasarovar. Within a very short time, West Tibet is going to be very touristic.
2 Badrinath and Gaumukh; Uttaranchal, India
Indian Himalaya is the home of lots of holy places, including the "holy abode" Badrinath, the temples of Kedarnath and Yamunotri, and the sources of the Ganges, Gangotri. Further up along the river, the Gaumukh Glacier is the true spring of Mother ganga, and crossing the glacier, the mighty Shivling is enough to justify the whole trek. Surprisingly, it's actually legal to climb the sacred mountain, however, I chose to admire it from below - more than enough for me.
3 Varanasi; India
The holiest city of the Hindus, Varanasi is the old Benares and the city of Shiva. Very much so, and even to this day, its importanceas the centre of hindu religion is quite obvious. Muslim Moghul Emperor Aurangzeb destroyed all of Varanasi in 1703, however, the Hindu spirit just could't be killed, and today Varanasi is a great place to hang around and "study" religious extremes. Unfortunately, it's much more touristic these days than back in 1987 and 94, when I was there for the first two times. That's just the way things go.
4 Western Wall; Jerusalem, Israel
Holiest site of the Jews, the remains of the second temple of King Solomon is a great place to wonder around, in particular if you allow yourself to get into the holiest, innermost parts. Despite lots of Middle east unrest, the Western Wall is a surprisingly peaceful place and even non-Jew visitors are greeted as true friends. The only "rule" is to keep your head covered, and if you don't have a hat, they'll give you one for free.
5 Jokhang Temple; Lhasa, Tibet
Everybody know the Potala, but the much smaller Jokhang Temple to the east is much better, if you want to watch Buddhist Tibetans praying. The origins of the remple date back to King Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century, and the most important statue is the original Jowo Sakyamuni, brought to him as a dowry by his Chinese wife, We Ching. For some strange, but happy reason, this statue was never destroyed by the infamous Red Guards of Chairman Mao.
6 Tirumalai Temple; Andhra Pradesh, India
This place is plain crazy! According to the Hindus, the power of Sri Venkateshwara, one of many  reincarnations of Vishnu, enables the pilgrims to fulfill one, single wish, so the Tirumalai Temple, high on a hill from Tirupathi, is likely to be the most visited religious place anywhere. Every day, thousands of pilgrims flock to catch a short glimpse of the small statue, even  though they have to spend, literally, 24 hours or more in a line - fenced in like cages to keep some crowd control. This can only happen in India.
7 Bodhgaya; Bihar, Indien
To the devoted Buddhist, four holy places are associated with The Buddha: His birthplace Lumbini (now Nepal), Bodhgaya (where he got enlightenment through intense meditation), Sarnath (where he made his first speech) and K... where he died. The latter three are all in Bihar or Uttar Pradesh, India. Of these, Bodhgaya is regarded the most sacred, and it's quite enchanting to escape the crowds of the Indian plains and enter the quiet central temple, or any of the national monasteries surrounding the temple. From Sri lanka and Thailand to Tibet and Japan - all have got their own monasteries and temples, and visiting Bodhgaya is like an Asian pilgrimage.
8 Abomey; Southern Benin
Anywhere in West Africa, voodoo is the most important "religion". Despite most people being officially classified as Muslims or Catholics, everybody seem to value the spirits of the ancestors more than any picture of Virgin Mary. Voodoo is the order of the day, and joining in on a voodoo ceremony is one of the strangest, religious experiences one can ever encounter. Getting to meet the supreme chief of Voodoo, Mr. Sossu Gouduguengue, is even better - especially as I survived without being transformed into a toad.
9 San Juán de Chamula and Zinacetán; Chiapas, Mexico
Officially, all of Latin America is Catholic, however, when you start digging, the remnants of much older beliefs are found everywhere, in particular in the Indian highlands. In South America the Altiplano of Peru and Bolivia is the place to be, while in Central America, north-western Guatemala or southern Mexico are great religious places. The best, in my opinion, is the small church of San Juán de Chamula in Chiapas, not far from San Cristóbal de las Casas. Here, it seems that the spirits of the ancestors live along with the pictures of Jesus and Virgin Mary, and inside the church, festivitas frequently include tequila and Pepsi Cola. Unfortunately, things have gone very bad since 1993, as photographing tourists are chased by angry mobs and beaten up. Another reason to go for less touristic places!
10 Karni Mata Temple; Rajasthan, India
More a curiosity than a truly amazing religious place, the Hindu Temple of Karni Mata ( has made itself famous for the worshipping of rats. Yes, real rats, which are fed and treated like babies, and their leftovers are carefully scraped away by the devoted pilgrims - to be carried home for dinner or eaten elsewhere. This is yet another experience which can only happen in India. Just strange!
Other great places include the weird San Lorenzo District in La Paz (Bolivia), where unborn llama babies are sold openly to protect the house against evil spirits. Like Chamula, a strange "whim" of Christianity. Further on within Christianity, the Saint Peter Church (the Vatican) or its strange jungle-replica "La Basilica de Notre Dame de la Paix" in Yammasoukro (Ivory Coast) are just great. The latter is the most funny, as it's likely to be the most impressive building made for the last 25 years - and built in the middle of a West African jungle where everything is connected by six-lane roads with absolutely NO traffic.

In the Hindu world, the holy cities of Rishikesh, Haridwar and Allahabad (India) are highly recommendable, while the Muslim mosques are more difficult, as entry is often forbidden for non-believers. The Ummayadh Mosque in Damascus, Syria, and Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem, are great exceptions, and two of the most important mosques as well.

Asia has its share of great Buddhist temples as well, and don't miss the beautiful ones in Korea, Burma (Myanmar) or Japan. Even in the very center of Tokyo, pleasant, open gardens reveal a multitude of seemingly chaotic Buddhist temples and extremely simple Shinto temples.

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10 Great Pieces of Nature

Despite being born in a lowland country like Denmark, I admit that I am a kind of a mountain fanatic, and to me it's hard to imagine a piece of beautiful nature without some kind of lofty peaks and/or snow and ice involved. Of course, others may disagree, but that's just a proof that even natural beuty depends upon the eyes of the beholder.

1 Nepal - all over!
I visited Nepal first time back in 1987, and then I was convinced that I had seen the most beutiful mountains in the world. In many ways, I still am. The Nepalese Himalaya are just magic, right from the green foothills to the white peaks of Sagarmatha (Everest) and Lhotse, and unlike many other highlights, the beauty of the mountains don't really suffer from the increasing tourism: The tourists are behind you as you watch the magnificent scenery!
2 Hunza, Passu and Hushe regions; northern Pakistan
From a classical view, the Pakistani Karakorum are less spectacular than the white, Nepalese Himalaya, however, in my opinion, they are much wilder and untamed. Quite appropriately, so are the people, and because of the bad reputation of Islam, it's going to take lots of time before the region starts attracting tourists on a Nepalese scale.
3 Ladakh and the Leh-Manali drive; India
This just has to be the most beautiful bus drive in the world! Starting off in the high plateau of Ladakh, the road crosses three major mountain ranges: The Ladakh Range,  The Zanskar Range and the Himalaya proper, and the landscape changes accordingly, right from the barren highland desert of the north to the fertile Kulu Valley in Himachal Pradesh. Just great!
4 Tibet, in particular the Everest Region and the far west
Crossing the Himalaya from Nepal to Tibet, one enters a completely different world. Rather than the highly eroded, snow-clad peaks of Nepal, Tibet consists of brownish, rolling "hills", stretching all the way until the Trans-Himalayan Chain, a mountain range running parallel to the "real" Himalaya, but 100 kms to the north. 100 years ago, the old Swedish explorer, Sven Hedin, was truly impressed by this landscape, and so am I.
5 Salar de Uyuni; Southern Bolivia
Measuring roughly 104 times 90 sq. kms., Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt lake in the world. A blindingly white orgy of pure salt, and the fata morgana effects make the adjecent mountains float in the air like rootless peaks. It's possible to drive on the salt, and the impressive landscape actually continues much further south, all the way to the Laguna Colorada and Laguna Verde, close to the Chilean border.
6 Garwhal Himal; Uttaranchal, India
Everybody seem to believe that the Himalaya is confined to Nepal, despite the fact that only half of the mountain chain actually lies within the Nepalese borders. Right to the west of Nepal, the Himalaya continues into an equally beautiful part of India, and the experience is certainly not damaged by the fact that Hindu sites, such as Badrinath, Kedarnath and Gangotri, all lie up there, in "the abode of snow".
7 Sossusvlei, Namibia
The desert in Namibia is supposed to be the oldest desert in the World, and it's certainly one of the most photogenic. The enormous, orange and pink sand dunes rise more than 250 meters from the ground, and below the mighty oryx antelopes roam. Sossusvlei is a very good reason why I regard Namibia as the most beautiful country in Africa.
8 Parque Nacional de los Glaciares; Argentina
Ranging from the mighty Cerro Torre to the equally impressive Perito Moreno Glacier, the Glaciares National Parc of southern Argentina is truly magnificent. The only drawback in this temperate gem seems to be the wet climate, and it's no joke that you can experience the four seasons within half a day. Just like Torres del Paine (below), the weather changes rapidly, but that just adds to the charm of the southern Andes.
9 Karakoram Highway; Pakistan to Kashgar
Northern Pakistan is just wild, and imagining how the Chinese and Pakistani engineers managed to make the Karakorum Highway is just plain awesome. The KKH has to be the most impressive piece of road engineering anywhere, following the mighty Indus River most of the way, sometimes clinging to the near-vertical cliffs above, and frequently being built up from far below by tonnes of small rocks. The most impressive part is the by-stretch from Gilgit to Skardu.
10 Torres del Paine National Park; Chile
Just like Los Glaciares abowe, this is one of the few places on earth where you can actually experience all four seasons within an afternoon. high sun, windy, partly cloudy and freezing cold rain, all within a few hours, and it certainly doesn´t hurt that the mirror reflections of the pinnacle mountains in the icy blue lakes is pure magic. Enjoy the temperate climate at it's best - and get stared at by some of the curious guanacos.
Apart from the entries above, lots of other places might have found their way onto the list: The Somaliland Desert from Hargeysa to Djibouti, the Sajama NP in Bolivia, the West Coast (including the Fox and Franz Joseph Glaciers) and the Mount Cook Region of the South Island, New Zealand, Tortuguero NP, Costa Rica, Mount Bromo of Java, Indonesia; San Pedro de Atacama, northern Chile, the central highlands of PNG, the Norwegian West Coast and central highlands, The Alps and Dolomites during the winter, the wild Pamir Highway of Tajikistan, or all the coral reefs of the World.

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10 Great Places to Watch Animals

Animal watching is just great! Regardless if you are in the dense and damp Amazon or in the dusty Namib Desert, watching wildlife is an unforgettable experience. However, apart from places like The Galapagos or The Falklands, succesful wildlife watching may be a matter of luck, and undoubtedly many persons will disagree with my list, as they have had much better experiences elsewhere.

1 Galapagos, Ecuador
Undoubtedly my greatest nature experience ever, and I have never met anyone who's ever been to the Galapagos Islands wihout sharing the same feeling. Just sitting a few feet away from the colourful frigate birds, the mighty albatros og the strange marine iguanas dotting the volcanic landscapes is just amazing, and any photographer is likely to shoot more than twice the amount of film he expected to do.
2 Murrell Peninsula and Volounteer Beach, Falkland Islands
Far south in the Atlantic, the disputed Falklands (or Islas Malvinas, according to the Argentinians) contains loads of animal wildlife, ranging from numerous petrels and gulls to sea-lions and elephant seals - and five different species of penguin. Just the penguins make any visit worthwhile, in partyicular the rockhoppers. These tiny, yellow-eared and very temperamental penguins don't behave like normal birds, but more like a Fellini movie. Sittng in the middle of the colony, you are likely to experience anything from courtship and mating to aggressive, territrial behaviour, and it's much more fun than the dull and majestic king penguins.
3 Etosha NP, Namibia
Definitely one of the best national parks in Africa, Etosha is about haf the size of Denmark (20,000 sq.kms.) and with a half-dry salt lake in the center. Unlike most other African national parks, the vegetation in Etosha never grows dense, even in the rainy season, and the opportunities of getting a glimpse of elephants, lions, various deers and even the black rhino are better than most other places, in particular at night-time close to one of the flood-lit water-holes.
4 Yacuma River, Rurrenabaque, north-eastern Bolivia
Many people rightly believe that the Amazon is a great place to watch wildlife, however, the place to go is not the huge rivers of Brazil, but rather the upper reaches in Columbia, Peru, Ecuador og Bolivia. In Bolivia, one of the best places to start off is the small village of Rurrenabaque, from where touristy expeditions up along the Yacuma River are easily arranged. It's quite amazing how close you can actually get to the lazily looking capivares, the Worlds largest rodent, and if you are lucky, caimanes and anacondas may be spotted, too.
5 Lemurs; Madagascar
Lemurs are just cute. Very cute. These lovely creatures are only found on Madagascar where, sadly, their life is seriously threatened by the exploding population. However, for the time being, there is still time jo enjoy the indris of the wet east, the sifakas in the drier west og the playful cattas of the even drier south.
6 Komodo and Rinca Islands; Indonesia
The Komodo "dragon" is by far the largest lizard of the world and quite easy to se. Catch a tourist boat from Flores to Lombok (or the other way), and you get to make a couple of stops on Komodo and Rinca. Most likely, you'll bump into a few of these magnificent, 3 meter monsters, despite the fact that less that 4,000 populate the islands - and that's actually the whole population of the world.
7 Colca Canyon; Peru
Measured by wing area, the Andes condor is the largest flying bird on earth, and even though you may find these feathered scavengers all the way from Venezuela to Tierra del Fuego, the Colca Canyon in central Peru must be the easiest place to see them. Every morning at 9 am, the condors leave their nests far down in the 1,800 meter deep canyon and use the thermal winds to gain elevation - without moving a single muscle. With a bit of luck, you may see a 3 meter condor from a 2 meter distance. Quite impressive.
8 Krüger national Park; South Africa
To some people, the Krüger Park is a bit artificial, due to the fact that it's got a tarred road all the way through it's entire length. Still, it's the oldest national park in Africa and, spanning more than 20,000 sq.kms., one of the few places on the continent where you've got a good chance to watch "the big five". Furthermore, it's a great place to roam around in your own car, making it one of the cheapest national parks in the region.
9 Mkhaya National Park; Swaziland
Few pople have even heard about the country of Swaziland, but squeezed in between Mocambique and South Africa, it's got it's shares of attractions. The Mkhaya is certainly one of them, even though you won't find any of the big cats here. In contrast, you'll run into a bunch of colourful antelopes and deers, including the mighty eland antelope (at 1,000 kgs the biggest on earth), the elegant roan and sabre antelopes to the beautiful impalas and tiny duikers.
10 Pantenal; Brazil
The Amazon is just not a good place for watching animals! Dense forest and shy animals is a bad combination, but in the Pantenal, the world's largest swamp, chances are much better. Technically, the Pantenal is the beginning of the Parana River (Rio Plata), and as the water level raises and sinks four meters anually, it's just not a good place for human habitation - making it a much better place for watching animals. The low, grassy vegetation makes animal spotting much easier, and you don't have to move far before spotting the first caimans. Jaguars and ozelotes require much more luck!
Further down the list I could put: Bukit Lawang (Sumatra, Indonesia, great for orang-utans), Lower Kinabatangan River and the Sepilok Orang-Utan Reserve (Sabah, Malaysian Borneo), lots of antelopes from Somaliland to Djibouti, right whales and elephant selas of Peninsula Valdez (Argentina), sperm whales off the coast of Dominica (the Carribbean), a couple of black bears in Canadian British Columbia and watching a lone black jaguar in the coastal lowlands of San Lorenzo (Ecuador). And, yes!, I'm sure that whenever I get to stand face to face with a Rwandan highland gorilla, it's going to end up very high on the list!

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My 10 Most Beautiful Treks

This comes very close to being a hit list of beautiful nature, with the small difference that trekking implies a lot of walking; great for moving you away from the rigours of the traffic. Just a few hours of walking, and you're in a totally different and much more quiet world. Highly recommendable, in particular because you don't really have to do a fifteen-day trek to enjoy the mountains. Frequently, one-day or two-day treks will do the trick.

1 Annapurna; Nepal
The Annapurna was my first great trek in Asia and in many ways still the most beautiful. As a lowlander, I had never seen a 6,000 meter mountain before, and on the Annapurna trek you are surrounded by loads of 7 and 8,000 meter peaks. In particular, the mighty, 8167 meter Dhaulaghiri on the west side of the Annapurna is just magic, and crossing the 5,416 ms Thorong La pass is great as well.
2 Everest Camp 1˝; Tibet
Despite the Chinese having built a gravel road all the way from Chay to the Rongbuk Gompa and Everest Base Camp, doing the trek from the Friendship Highway to the Base Camp and further on is just magic. Continuing up along the East Rongbuk Glacier, this was the route used by Mallory and Irvine when they perished back in 1924, however, I was kicked back by bad weather and never made it past the glacier. From a sensible point of view, being all alone on the freezing cold and windy East Rongbuk Glacier in late October was not that smart - but it certainly was a great adventure.
3 Kailash Kora; West Tibet
To the Tibetan Buddhists, one trip around the sacred Mount Kailash is going to purify your sins. Three trips are even better, 13 even more auspicious and 108 trips will take you straight to Nirvana. The "kora" is 52 kms and lasts three days, and before the Chinese started building all kinds of crap along the way, the Kailash trek was a true experience into Tibetan pilgrim life.
4 Everest; Nepal
The Everest trek of Nepal is vastly different from the one in Tibet. Due to heavier rainfall and erosion, the south side is much more rugged and dramatic. Most tourists (95 % or so) only do the trek from Lukla up to Namche Bazar, and Everest Base Camp, however, should you ever decide to do it, do yourself the favour to start off down in Jiri. This costs another five or six days each way, but it's a fantastic hike - and there are no tourists!
5 Torres del Paine NP, southern Chile, and Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, Argentina
Compared to Himalaya, the southern Andes is much lower and less green. On the other hand, the landscape is equally dramatic, and the weather is about as unpredictable as anywhere. This is the one place on Earth where it's possible to experience four seasons in less than an hour. For that reason, and for the near-vertical pesks (such as Cerro Torre, Fitzroy and so), climbers flock to the region, and the hiking is quite fantastic, too.
6 The Sources of the Ganges, Garwhal Himal, India
Being a western "extension" of Nepal, the new Indian state of Uttaranchal contains a some very beautiful mountains. Before the annexion of Sikkim in 1975, the hunchbacked, 7,818 meter Nanda Devi was the tallest mountain in all of India, and in between the snow-clad peaks, Hinduism has found space for a number of very holy sites and even mountains. The pointy, 6,400 meter Shivling is the most sacred peak, and close by, the temples of Gangotri, Kedarnath, Badrinath and more are all very important to the pilgrims. Great trekking and great temples in combination.
7 Kegsugl to the lowlands; Papua New Guinea
Technically, this is not exactly a real trek, but still it's a nice walk downhill from the interesting and (sometimes) violent and crime infested highlands of Papua New Guinea to the more easygoing lowlands. Starting off in almost temperate conditions, it takes three days to get to the humid tropics, and on the way down, the rugged geography show why the villages of PNG have remained separate for centuries. Meeting a lot of friendly people who have never encountered a ehite man before just adds to the experience.
8 Fanskij Gori; Western Tajikistan
Central Asia remains off-limits to most people, but great trekking is to be had here. The best known region is the border mountains in between Kasakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, however, the rugged peaks of the Fan Mountains, just 80 kms east of Samarkand (Uzbekistan), provide som great hiking as well. And, in addition, the Tajik people are as friendly and hospitable as anywhere in the region.
9 Ultar Valley, Hunza; Northern Pakistan
From Hunza, this 1 km steep uphill hike leads to an isolated bowl surrounded by the most rugged mountains on the planet. Here, the local herders take their sheep in May and stay until September, and the occasional tourist is just a rare sight. At least it was so back in 94; now the flood of Westerners seems to be much bigger. The mountains, however, remain as beautiful as ever.
10 Mount Kinabalu; Malaysian Borneo
Like PNG, this is not exactly a classical, temperate trek, but more like an easy walk towards the peak of the 4,100 meter Mount Kinabalu. Apart from the views on the road to the top, one may enjoy the fantastic changes in the climate, running from the hot and humid tropics towards the Lord-of-the-Rings-like, moss-grown trees of the high altitudes. In between, at around 2,500 meters, one may even encounter the insect-eating Nepenthes or the enormous and ill-smelling Rafflesia, the worlds largest flower.
Further down the list the rest of the World contains lots of beautiful hikes, such as Parinacota and the Sajama NP (Bolivia), Hushe Base Camp (northern Pakistan), the Keppler Trek (New Zealand, South Island), The High tatra of Slovakia and most of Norway and the Alps - preferably with skis on!

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The 10 Most Interesting Markets

When travelling, a major attraction is bound to be the markets. Unlike the West where anything can be found in ONE single (and boring) super-market, the Third World is very different. There, whatever one needs can be found at the local market, and instead of just being a kind of shopping mall, the markets are the place to meet and greet friends and family. The markets are the center of all social activities, and to the tourist, this is the place to go to see local people at their best. Highly recommendable.

1 Kashgar Sunday Market; Xinjiang, West China
Judged by reason, Central Asia just has to contain the most colourful markets on earth, and on top of the long list is the Kashgar Sunday Market. Each Sunday, more than 100,000 local Uygurs flock to this huge market, and, of course, lots of tourists find their way too. Quite understandably, as it's gotta be the biggest open-air show on the planet, and its sheer size alone is enough to warrant a great experience. Another great plus is that even lots of tourists find their way to Kashgar, they are far outnumbered by the thousands of Central Asians, and it feels great to enjoy a market where 99 % of the merchandise is meant for the locals - not the photo-tooting foreigners like me!
2 Gorom-Gorom; North-Eastern Burkina Faso
The weekly Thursday market is about as local as anything. At this large market, we'll find lots of local produce, from barley and rice to handicrafts and, of course, animals. Anything from camels to goats are sold, but despite being one of the few attractions of Burkina Faso (the former Upper Volta), not many tourists seem to get here, and consequently the friendliness is quite great.
3 Pays Dogon; Central Mali
Despite centuries of Christian and Muslim influence, the Pays Dogon has retained most of its animist traditions, and the markets in the region reflect this. Along the "Failasse de Bandiagara", the villages live according to a five-day week, and each "week", there is a market in the village. Very West African and very colourful, I can highly recommend as many of these markets as possible. Probably the most photogenic place in West Africa..
4 Saquesili; Equador
This market is just one hour away from the capital Quito and used to be 100 % local. At least it was in 1990 when I was there, however, I doubt very much that it's that virgin any more. Even 18 years back, the Otavalo weekend market was very touristic, whereas Saquisili was much more "local". Along with meat, fruits and vegetables, the main merchandise was locally made handicrafts, such as hand-woven baskets and sandals made of used car tyres. And, as noone had really seen a tourist before, it was great for photography too.
5 Chichicastenango; Guatemala
Just like Saquisili above, Chichicastenango (and Panajachel at the Lago Atitlan) are extremely colourful and used to be very untouristy. Unfortunately, since tha days back in the 1990'ies, the tourist influx has increased steeply, however, the Guatemaltecan highlands are still very colourful, and any local market is guaranteed to give you lots of photo opportunities.
6 Serekonda; The Gambia
Basically, Serekonda is not really a town. It's more like a gigantic road crossing with a lot of merchants stalls around it, however, this road crossing has grown so big that the number of inhabitants of Serekonda has actually exceeded that of the capital Banjul! In this desolate road crossing, you are likely to meet almost any West African nationality, including Nigerians, Ivorians, Ghanaese, Togolese, Mauritanians and Senegalese along with people from Bissau, Guinee and Liberia. Adding to the colourful confusion, lots of languages are spoken, and it will take age before it gets touristic. The tourists just don't dare to venture outside the beaches of Bakau.
7 Tolguchka Bazar; Ashgabat, Turmenistan
Turkmenistan is a strange relic from the Soviet past. Until 2006, the country was ruled by the "Emperor" Saparmurat (Turkmenbashi) Niyazov, and even after his death, Turkmenistan is a very strictly ruled place where human rights are supposed to be the second lowest on earth - only surpassed by North Korea! Still, just 8 kms north of the capital of Ashgabat, one may find the fantastic Tolguchka Sunday market. Just like Kashgar, it's almost entirely dedicated to local produce, and the main asset is, by far, the carpets. Turkmenistan is the center of carpet making, almost all of the carpets to be bought in Iran, Uzbekistan and Western Afghanistan are made in Tolguchka. Actually, the only thing preventing Tolguchka from being the best place on the planet to buy carpets is the rigid Communist system, which makes it almost impossible for a foreigner to export a big Turkmen carpet. Anything above 6 sq.m. requires a special government permit!
8 Goroka Market; Papua New Guinea
PNG is the closest thing you can ever get to the present-day stone age, and any high-land market is bound to be a great experience. Unfortunately, the further west you get, the more rugged and colourful the markets get, however, the more unstable are the political and tribal systems. Still, even Goroka, the capital of the Eastern Highlands, is a great stone age experience, and further down in the lowlands, Madang is almost equally colourful.
9 Ishkashim; border island in between Tajikistan and Afghanistan
Central Asia remains one of the most inaccessible regions of the world, however, it's certainly also one of the most colourful and untouristic. Anywhere, one may run into great and colourful markets, and apart from the giant Sunday bazar in Kashgar, most towns and cities have their own markets. A very special one is the border market in between northern Afghanistan and southern Tajikistan. Every Saturday, colourful Afghan men and Tajik women flock to the tiny island in the middle of the border river, and, for a few hours, anything from clothers and carpets to medicals and bisquits change hands, along with floods of Tajik "Somanis" and Afghan "Afghanis". Indeed a very colourful place and due to its remote and "dangerous" location absolutely untouristic. Very recommendable.
10 Osh Bazar; Osh, Kyrgyzstan
Just one of a lot of colourful and friendly markets in Central Asia, the bazar in Osh, second city of Kyrgyzstan, is certainly worth visiting. Even though Osh lies as a major road crossing in between the Fergana Vally and the mountainous Pamir, the photogenic bazar seems to receive very few tourists, a fact which is happily confirmed by the lack of tourist gadgets.
Further down the list, the planet is full of great markets. Along with Kashgar and Osh, the ones in Central Asia (such as the ones in Bukhara, Shakhrizabs and Samarkand, all Uzbekistan) are all high on my personal list, and so are the village markets of Tajikistan, the more polished bazars of Dushanbe, the Sunday animal market of Karakol, Kyrgyzstan, and all of Herat, Afghanistan.

In the Middle East, don't miss the bazars of Kerman, Esfahan or Shiraz (all Iran) as well as Aleppo and Damascus, Syria, and other good places worldwide are the riverside markets in downtown Bangkok (Thailand), the ones in Kumasi and Sekunda-Takoradi (Ghana), Korhogo (Ivory Coast), Tocombia (Eritrea), Taza Bazar in Baku (Azerbaijan), Merkato (Addis Abeba, Ethiopia) and the Andean Markets of Betanzos (Southern Bolivia), El Alto and San Fransisco of La Paz (Bolivia) and Tarabuco (Peru). The world is full of great markets!

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The 10 Most Friendly Countries / Places

This is probably the hardest list to make as "friendliness" is so much dependent upon the people you meet, and no matter how you flip the coin, this part of travelling is so much more unpredictable than watching a bunch of ruins in a jungle.

Fortunately, general friendliness and hospitality is the rule rather than the exception, and all over the world, the traveller is treated as a friend rather than as a stupid tourist. Sadly, money corrupts, and in most cases, experiencing true friendliness is a question of getting far away from the tourist. As soon as locals find out that money is to be made on the strangers, overcharging is the rule, and the level of friendliness equals the size of your wallet.

Don't be surprised to see "dodgy" countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran in the top of the list - and Tajikistan further down and Syria and Lebanon even further. All full-grown or potential members of the "Axis of Evil", but despite all its rigid flaws, Islam is an extremely hospitable religion, and most frequently, the guest is treated like a brother rather than an enemy. To be honest, it's hard to find a westerner who has ever experienced any hostility from the Muslims in their countries. How this extreme friendliness sometimes turns into angry, rock-throwing youngsters in the West, I will leave to the psycologists to decide.

1 Afghanistan
Being a potential key member of the "Axis of Evil", Afghanistan is not exactly the obvious destination for a peace-loving traveller, however, once you get there, you are treated like a king. The amount of tourists is so low that you'll be treted like a true friend, proved by the fact that it took me three days in Herat before I was allowed to pay for my first cup of tea. If I was not alone in the tea house, someone would be paying for me. Imagine the same thing happening in Europe: You going to a cafe and a total stranger offered to pay for the drink with absolutely no strings attached. Never!
2 Pakistan (mainly the north)
Another unstable, Islamic country, but on the same time extremely friendly. As always, it's the small percentage of extremists who write the headlines, whereas no articles are ever written about the lovely friendliness of the everyday Pakistani. From Karachi and Islamabad to Gilgit and Skardu, the likelihood that someone will invite you to "something" is much larger than being a victim of Islamic fundamentalism. In particular the Hunza and Passu regions are great for that kind of improvized hospitality.
3 Iran
Probably the most underestimated country in the World and certainly the one where you'll find the largest difference in between the fundamentalist, priest-ruled government and the extremely friendly population. Because of the government, most Westerners believe that the Iranians are aggressive and hotile, but nothing could be further from the truth. As a traveller, you'll never encounter anything but friendly smiles and whole-hearted invitations, however, there is one good thing about the stupid Iranian government: It keeps the tourists away!
4 Papua New Guinea
Another "dodgy" country, famous for its violent "highland rascals", however, 99 % of the population is extremely friendly. Take a walk on one of the colourful highland markets, and chances are that you'll get an invitation covering anything from tea or coffee to free accomodation. Most of the PNG tourists only get to do some diving from one of the out-lying islands, and only very few ever venture into the bad-reputed Highlands. Consequently, there is little risk that tourism is going to destroy the local friendliness within years to come.
5 Burma
Like Iran, a country with a huge difference in between a hopelessly corrupt government and an extremely gentle and friendly popyulation. Unlike the Muslim countries, invitations are much less likely, however, the general friendliness and helpfullness of the Burmese compensate for this.
6 Falkland Islands
Here, on this tiny piece of Britain in the middle of the South Atlantic, the traditional English virtues are still alive and kicking. Friendliness and hospitality are great, shown by the fact that I managed to stay two full weeks on the East Falkland Island without ever having to pay for my transport. Just stick out your thumb, and you'll end up where you want to go - perhaps including a nice cup of tea.
7 Tajikistan / GBAO
Tajikistan is a funny place, with one leg back in the Soviet days and another one in a  poor and uncertain future, ruled by floods of drugs entering the country from the south. Nevertheless, in the autonomous region of Gorno-Badakhshan, the people are as friendly as anywhere in the world, probably patrly because of their Muslim heritage and partly because mountain people just tend to be very friendly. In tha Wakhan Corridor, we were invited to tea no less than seven time - in just one morning.
8 New Zealand
Like the Falklands, New Zealand is in many way more British than good old England, 20,000 kms away on the opposite side of the earth. The main sprts are cricket and rugby, and the friendliness just as unspilt as 200 yeras ago in the old homeland. As a non-Muslim country, chances are small that you'll get spontaneous invitations to stay forever, however, judged by eas of hitchhiking, NZ is definitely one of the top 3 countries in the World.
9 Oman
Being a genuine Arab country, Omani hospitality is just as great as anywhere else on the Peninsula. As always, the further you get from the bustling capitals, the better is the local friendliness and the lower is the (very small!) risk of crime, and my best experiences I had in the wadis close to Nizwa. Finding a place to stay seems to be a question of chosing in between the invitations!
10 Tobago, Barbados, Dominica and the rest of the Carribbean Islands
Normally, you would not expect the Carribbean to be nearly as friendly as the Arab, Muslim countries, and in most cases it's ture. However, sometimes you get some nice surprises, and in particular Tobago and Barbados proved to be exceptions to the rule. Being subject to floods of cruise tourists, one should expect that the people of the Carribbean react to money alone, however, this is fortunately not the case, and they are as friendly as anywhere. Unfortunately, the Carribbean is very expensive!
Further down the list places like Chilean Patagonia, Jordan, Eritrea, Togo, Senegal, Gambia, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Alaska, Indonesia, Syria, Yemen, Egypt and all of Kaukasus are great for general friendliness, however, as my latest trips to Syria (Jan.08) and Uzbekistan (Nov.08) prove, it's getting increasingly important to get away from the tourist centres. Therefore, and it's no coincidence that my most memorable "hospitality experiences" have taken place in "dodgy countries", far away from mainstream tourist centres. Tourist money simply corrupt people and make them unfriendly, turning the tourist into a walking bag of money. Sad but true.

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My 10 Most Interesting Ruins / Historical Buildings

Most likely, this is the easiest list to make, as a major reason for travelling is the historical sites of the world. All of the great ones have been classified and protected by UNESCO, and it's no coincidence that my list below contains 10 such UNESCO sites.

1 Machu Picchu; Peru
This 16th Century, "lost city" of the Incas is so famous that I can't imagine anyones list of 10 historical places not to contain Machu Picchu. Just getting up in the early morning, climbing the 5-600 vertical meters up to the "Watchman's Hut" and enjoy the sunrise is worth the effort of getting there, and walking around the almost perfectly prexerved Inca City is still an amazing experience. Unfortunately, the snake in Paradise is, as always, large tour groups, however, getting up early and staying until late partly avoids some of the problems.
2 Tikal; Guatemala
Together with Angkor, this is the greatest complex of "forest temples" anywhere on earth. The huge complex was originally built almost 1,000 years ago, however, for reasons still not known, Tikal was left sometime during the 14th Century, and the Maya moved north to Yucatán. Ever since, the forest has engulfed a major part of the site, and along with lots of ruins, a visit will give the visitor sights of lots of nose-bears, tucanos (horn-bills)  and various other birds. Watch the sunset from the top of Temple 4 is one of the "gotta-do-things" of life.
3 Angkor; Cambodia
Being a kind of Asian parallel to Tikal, the 800 years old Khmer complex of Angkor is likely to be in the top of anyones list of things to see. It short, it's absolutely fascinating, regardless if you prefer the enormous Angkor Wat (biggest religious complex on earth!), the more polished Bayon or the strangely overgrown Ta Prohm temple, Angkor is a fascinating place, and like Tikal, you should save a few days for the visit. One full day just won't do.
4 The Golden Temple; Amritsar
Unlike the ruined places above, the Golden Temple is a truly living place. Being the holiest site of the Sikhs, this early 17th Century temple lies in the middle of it's own marble-surrounded lake, and every day thousands of devoted pilgrims make their way to the site - Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs alike. In addition, even tourists may stay for free in the adjacent ashram, making it all a very magical experience.
5 Petra; Jordan
When finding the "New Seven Wonders" of the world, there was little doubt that the 1st Century Nabataeean city of Petra would be one of them. A few years ago, none had ever heard of Petra, but now it has become the major attraction of the Middle East and, in my humble opinion, a much more interesting place than anywhere in Egypt, for example. With more than a dozen delicate temples carved right out of the sandstone, Petra is a fantastic place, and only group tourists will ever spend less than a full day to explore the ruins. Petra is magic.
6 Taj Mahal; Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India
In a public voting to determine the most beautiful building in the present world, the Moghul mausolum of Taj Mahal would be a very good candidate. Built by Emperor Shah Jahan in the early 17th Century and in honour of his late wife Mumtaz Mahal, Taja Mahal remains a fabulous monument of lavishness. All made of marble, it looks impressive from a distance - and even more beautiful on close hand, where one can enjoy the thousands of inlaid semi-precious stones. The major drawback is the sad fact that the Indian government feels like overcharging tourists badly, making them pay 50 times more than locals. White guys pay more, a sad fact reminding me of pure racism. However, for some reason Amnesty and Human Rights Watch seems to accept that kind of stuff, while any racism making "Blacks" or "Browns" pay more is regarded as a case for the courts. Indeed a strange attitude.
7 Persepolis; Iran
2,500 years ago, Persepolis was the old Persian capital and the domain of lots of famous emperors, from Darius and Xerxes to Artaxerxes I-III. Although time has taken its toll, and Alexander did a bit of looting in the 3rd Century BC,the city is still remarkably well-preserved, right down to the smallest details. Along with Esfahan, this is the one thing not to be missed in Iran.
8 Registan and more; Samarkand, Shakhrizabs and Bukhara; Uzbekistan
While the late 14th Century emperor Timur might have been a terrible manslaughter, he certainly proved to be a great architect as well. Actually, he started a whole dynasty of building frenzy, starting off with a few blue-tiled medressas of Shakhrizabs and Samarkand (Uzbekistan) and finishing with the Yassawa Mausoleum of Turkestan, Kasakhstan. His grandson Ulughbek continued the work in even greater style, and so did his daughter-in-law Govar Shad when she made her mosque in Herat, Afghanistan. Great places for architect buffs.
9 Lalibela; Ethiopia
Africa south of Sahara is not exactly full of ancient relics. The "Black" Africa is dominated by short-lived mud huts, and due to lack of development it has been like that for thousands of years. Noone has thought of building lasting constructions, however, there is one notable exception: The impressive underground Churches of Lalibela, NE Ethiopia. Made in the 12th and 13th Century, these Christian churches are slightly spartanic on the inside, however, the sheer effort of making them is nothing but  impressive. And, to make it even better, the churches are still in use, and every single day one may encounter flocks of pilgrims doing their prayers.
10 Khajuraho Temples; Madhya Pradesh, India
India is full of temples, and some of the more impressive ones are situated in Khajurahu, Madhya Pradesh. Orginally built in the 12th century, they depict lots of everyday scenes, including a huge number of sex scenes. A bit like the Playboy Magazine, the sandstone frieses show hot pictures of people doing hefty group sex or even a man copulating a horse! Perhas the most surprising thing is the fact that Khajuraho survived three centuries of very strict Muslim rule - and afterwards a couple of centuries of British Victorianism without being destroyed as "unappropriate".
Further down the list Latin America boasts Palenque and Chichen Itza (both Yucatán, Mexico), and Cuzco and the Nazca Lines (both Peru) certainly got it's shares of Inca ruins as well. Apart from Lalibela, "Black" Africa is scarcely represented, although Timbuktu and Mopti (both Mali) are great places as well Mostly from a human part of view, however, even the architecture is not bad at all, although nothing compared to Asia and South America.

In Asia, the mighty Bagan Complex of Burma (Myanmar), the Borobodur Stupa and Prambanan Temples (both Java, Indonesia), the fabulous Mashid-e-Khomeiny and the equally fabulous Blue Mosque in Esfahan (Iran), the Bodnath Stupa of Kathmandu (Nepal), Emperor Akbar's Fatehpur Sikri Complex (Agra, India) and the coastal temples of Mahabalipuram (South India) are all great places, along with all of Kathmandu and Bhaktapur (Nepal). So are the Govar Shad Mosque (Herat, Afghanistan) the Nikko complex (100 kms NW of Tokyo, Japan), various South Korean Buddhist temples, the Drira Phuk Monastery (Western Tibet), the Jokhang Temple along with the Gompas of Sera Drepung and Ganden (Lhasa, Tibet), the Haghpat, Sanahin and Akthala Monasteries of eastern Armenia and, of course, the Swedagon Pagoda (Yangon, Myanmar) and lots of Thai Temples (mostly Bangkok).

The Middle East is probably the region with the most ancient relics, at least as compared to the area. Apart from the Pyramids, the whole Luxor region is nothing but fantastic, and so is the old town of San'a (Yemen), Crac de Chevaliers, Apamea and Palmyra (Syria), and undoubtedly the Great Mosque of Mecca would be a great place to go, if they'd allow an infidel non-Muslim to enter.

Not surprisingly, the "New World" is hardly represented, and on the Carribbean Islands, I have only encountered one site worth of mentioning: The Brimstone Fortress of St.Kitts (East Carribbean). Obviously, ruins shouldn't be the reason why you go to the Carribbean.

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My 10 Weirdest and Most Interesting Peoples

The world is growing smaller, and the likelyhood that the accidental traveller will encounter "strange peoples" is much smaller than it used to be. Radio and TV is slowly creeping in anywhere, and Christian and Muslim missionaires do whatever they can to persuade the "natives" that our way of life is much better than their own. Slowly, the locals are converted into a Westernized or Islamic lifestyle, and their past culture is gone forever. However, fortunately, our planet has still room for lots of "strange" people, although they are getting increasingly hard to find..

1 Papua New Guinea, the Highlands
PNG is just weird! Prior to 1933, the highlands had no contact with the surrounding world, and this isolation has caused the region to develop into a place unlike anywhere else on earth. For decades, Australia has tried to "help" PNG, but fortunately they have not been entirely successful, and even today you may encounter genuine stone-age warriors on the markets.
2 Pays Dogon, Mali
Whereas most of West Africa is either Muslim or Christioan, the Pays Dogin Region remains officially animistic, and this can be seen all over the region. No mosques, and no churches, but instead lots of holy sites, such as buildings, cliffs or just rocks. Apart from a chief, all villages have a "wizard" who lives in a cave all his life, and as he is not allowed to leave the cave, he is fed by the locals. Strange people, strange customs - all very weird.
3 Tanatoraja Region, Sulawesi, Indonesia
The Indonesian island of Sulawesi is mostly Christian, and for some reason, Christianity seems to leave a much larger space for other beliefs than do the Muslims. The Quran states that the infidels must be killed and driven away, and this leaves very little space for animists, whereas the Christian minority accept the animists much better. Flores, Sumba and Timor are such islands, however, nowhere it's seen better than in the Tanatoraja Region of central Sulawesi. In particular the funeral ceremonies, where dozens of bulls and pigs may be killed (for the dead to carry with him to Heaven), are fantastic - though very bloody. Best seen in July and August.
4 Tibetan nomades; Western Tibet
The Tibetan Buddhist culture is both peaceful and colourful, and nowhere in the country this is better observed than among the nomads in the West Tibetan highland desert. Close to the bigger towns, important monasteries such as Tashilhunpo, Jokhang, Ganden, Sera and Drepung were almost completely destroyed by Mao's red Guards,  whereas much less destruction took place in the remote west.
5 Tambermá region, Northern Togo
Like the Pays Dogon, the Tambermá people of Northern Togo and Benin are mainly animist, having preserved a lot of their ancient culture. This applies for their strange, two-story mud huts as well as their religious beleifs, and for some funny reason noone seems to care - or try to convert them. Less flambouyant than the Tanatoraja and Bajawa of Flores (below), but great for the traveller - in particular because hardly and tourists have discovered the region yet.
6 Central Flores, Indonesia
As above the best and most colourful regions of Indonesia are the Christian ones. Here, far away from any Muslim intolerance, ancient customs are alowed to survive, and a great place to see this is around Bajawa, Flores. Here, along with Virgin Mary and Jesus, the people worship an ancient, local, female deity named "Nghadu", and the parties held in her honour are quite interesting. As always, being in the right time and place is essential for travelling!
7 Meghalaya; India
India is nothing but huge, and there is no doubt that any first-time traveller going to India will be completely engulfed by this human ocean. However, even in India, one may encounter "strange peoples", and a great place to do so is the North-Eastern Hill States. Of these, the "difficult ones" of Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland are the best for enjoying animist culture, howeverm also the more accessible state of Meghalaya is great for that stuff. All the way from Shillong to Garobadha, the state is full of colourful and very friendly people and, as always in great places, no tourists.
8 Herat, Afghanistan
Way back in the late 60'ies Afghanistan was a travellers favourite due to its colourful people, and 30 years of war and civil war hasn't changed that fact a bit. Afghanistan is still as colourful (and friendly) as anywhere, and for those reasons I still regard Afghanistan the most impressive place I have been for the last decade or so. Everything is unlike Europe, and the consumption of film or flash cards is several times higher than expected. Afghanistan is magic.
9 Timbuktu; Mali
Legendary Timbuktu, in the very center of Sahara, is a strange place. Originally, Sahara was ruled by the Tuaregs whose skills in finding water and navigating made them masters of the desert, however, these days, from the south, they are rivalled by the Songhaď. Timbuktu is a strange mixture in between Arab and Black culture, and, as most transport these days is bypassing the Tuareg camels, their old slaves seem to be gaining the upper hand. It seems to be below the Tuareg dignity to work the land, and today the are living from collective welfare, subsidized by the EU and USA. Sometimes, pride is not of the good.
10 Gorno-Badakhshan Region; Eastern Tajikistan
As Afghanistan, the eastern Tajikistan region of Gorno-Badakhshan is very interesting and equally colourful, perhaps a fact caused by the fact that the landscape itself is barren and dry. In a region so desolate, any visitor is welcomed as a true friend, and getting to know a little of the nomade lifestyle of these hardy people is not that difficult. GBAO is worth visiting for at least two reasons: The landscape and the people.
Other strange peoples may include the Melanesians of Fiji, the T'Boli of Southern Mindanao (Filippines), the Moorish Arabs of Mauritania and northern Senegal, the tall and proud Pashtuns of the wild and untamed North West Frontier Province (Pakistan), the qat-chewing Yemenis, and the "First Nation People" (= Indians!) of western Canada. Sadly, the colours of the famed Maori of New Zealand mostly seem to exist on writing, and even though local writings rave about it, it's very hard to find. Mostly, it seems to be a way to get some more government money through the ever-present bad concience of the white man.

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