I'm a big fan of the writing of Paul Theroux (a little less of the person, although I've long wondered if the grumpy projection is just a marketing ploy - perhaps he's actually quite a teddy bear), and particularly of his two books encompassing Trans-Siberian journeys because, as most of you would already know, I'm a little bit in love with train travel. So when a link to his recent New York Times article crossed my Twitter feed I saved it to read in a quiet moment - and I've just (finally!) found that quiet moment.
Go read it! (Then come back here!). He talks about what I'd call travelling to "uncool places" - the destinations that for various reasons are just not on the general tourist radar at this point in time. With his decades of travel experiences, he's been to the uncool places both before, during and after they were uncool and has so many insightful things to say about it. I've long been a fan of visiting places that are not the "usual" tourist destinations; that's why I loved so much of eastern Europe (although that's certainly getting on the tourist list these days), and the backwaters of Russia, and the suburbs of Seoul and Osaka, and the far-flung backpackers-only corners of Tunisia.Theroux compares his experience of not-quite-post-war Vietnam with a more recent trip and gave me a new understanding of the pretty city of Hue (pictured above).
Basically his article is great food for thought on why you travel (for pure relaxation? Then don't go to uncool places; for enlightenment: then try the unusual corners of the globe), and the notion of how places make their mark on the tourist map. There are not many places in the world I wouldn't consider visiting at some stage (although the list is longer while I have a small child). But I'm interested to know what others think - what countries or regions would you *not* visit these days? Let me know in the comments.