I asked yesterday for suggestions on places to visit for a holiday before they get ruined. These are the five that are on my own wish list.
Picture by Patrick Nouhailler
I'm not going to lie: more often than not I'm happy to go to a place with a very developed tourism infrastructure, because it generally makes life easier and cheaper. But I can understand the allure of a place that not everyone has discovered and which still has the potential to be astounding. I can also see the appeal of visiting somewhere that might soon be radically different (for geographic or political reasons). These are the five that I would single out. (You can also see me discussing those on Ten Breakfast.)
My initial interest in Cuba developed through the late Kirsty MacColl's excellent (and alas largely ignored) album Tropical Brainstorm album back in 2000. Shame on me for not having been there yet. Cuba isn't undeveloped as a tourist destination — some 2 million people head there each year — but the ban on travel from the United States means it won't resemble most other places you visit. Inbound tourists are often directed to stay in specific hotels, but even the thought of managed tourism in a socialist country seems like something worth trying. It's also an option that could radically change if Cuba's national politics alter when long-time leader Fidel Castro dies, an event that seems all too likely in the next decade.
Great Barrier Reef
It's another shameful admission: while I've travelled the coast of Queensland, I've never bothered to properly check out the reef. Climate change and over-development are both a potential threat to this delicate wonder of the natural world, so I feel like I should see it while I still have the chance. (Provided that can be done without impacting it further, of course. Tricky business, this eco-tourism.)
Another long-term obsession: I can date this one back to seeing Venice in the 1981 TV adaption of Brideshead Revisted and admiring the canals, But there's a problem with building a city on canals: flooding makes it a precarious business. There have been extensive efforts to ensure Venice doesn't subside over the last 100 years, but those remain uncertain. It's often crowded, but the trick to making it feel less overwhelming is apparently not to visit during busy periods; winter, when it's cooler, offers more options and lets you admire the elegant decay in less chaotic settings.
The activity that tempts me in Vietnam is scenic motorcycle tours (a former colleague of mine runs one), but who am I kidding? Me on the back of a motorcycle is unlikely to end well. More broadly, I always hear two versions of Vietnamese tourism: while it's a very affordable country, the main cities such as Ho Chi Minh are becoming heavily tourist-infested, so you need to move further afield for a more varied experience. Nha Trang sounds appealing: any other recommendations?
We've all heard of the location if only because of the animated movie series, but as a destination it's still relatively ignored (most incoming tourists are French, reflecting the island's colonial history). The big selling point is the unique wildlife, developed, rather like Australia's, in isolation from the rest of the world. Add a taste of French culture and a lack of large-scale development, and it's sounding good.
Additional suggestions welcome in the comments. On the original post asking about this, some readers argued that revealing their target list would increase the risk of it getting ruined. I take the point, but there really aren't many places left that absolutely no-one knows about. Loosen up a little!