25 newly-discovered travel destinations from Wanderfly.com

If you’ve checked out Wanderfly, the new travel planning and booking service that suggests destinations and activities based on your interests, you know they’ve come up with some unique and untouristy destinations. Now they’ve gone beyond the beaten tourist track with 25 newly-discovered travel destinations. Why just see the Great Wall of China when you could see a whole city full of kittens in China (far greater if you ask us!)?! Fan of Dolly Parton? Thousands go to Dollywood, why not relax on a man-made archipelago in the shape of Dolly and Kenny Rogers at Islands in the Stream in Dubai? Can’t get enough of that rascal Charlie Sheen? Intrepid adventurers can get inside his brain and see what all that tiger’s blood does.

The Wanderfly researchers teamed up with Whim Quarterly to unearth these new places and the best activities to do. The new destinations were chosen for their interactive experiences to give travelers the most authentic experience. “We challenge any traveler to find even a single destination that can compare to these unearthed gems,” says Wanderfly co-founder Christy Liu. “Paris? London? Cleveland? With respect to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, they all pale in comparison to such places as ObeCity, Funkytown, and Your Mom’s House.”

For more on these exciting new discoveries, visit Wanderfly.com and click the crazy kitten on the home page and then Get Going. But hurry, some of these destinations may only be available on April 1st.

Top 10 hilarious traveling cat photos

When I took my cat Pistol on the airplane for the first time, it was a pretty crazy experience. From clutching her fearfully through the metal detector to meeting all the kids in the airport lounge, we had a fine — if somewhat stressful — time. Pistol did an outstanding job, and managed to remain adorable throughout the process.

It’s Friday, so I decided to focus my energy on writing about what really matters: traveling cats in their cases. Here are the top ten I found.

Top 10 Traveling Cat Photos!

1. Stitch, by ASurroca

Stitch looks a little less than thrilled about the prospect of travel.2. Truman, by John Morton

Truman is all ears and ready for action. He will wait patiently until you are ready to go spelunking with him.

3. Pirate and Kilgore, by Firepile

These two have been commiserating in their carrier and have decided to let you live if there’s a cheeseburger in it for them.

4. Maine Coon Cat, by Rockmixer

This little geriatric looks like he wants to tell you all about his back problems and make up stories starting with “When I was your age …”

5. Artemis, by A.M. Kuchling

This glamorous feline will continue pouting until she gets her martini and kibble at the hotel.

6. Gus, by Cjc4454

Gus may look like a cautious traveler, but get a little catnip in him and he’ll be the first one to suggest bungee jumping.

7. Mac, by Ewen and Donabel

Mac is king of his carrier and wants to know what time he should be ready for the opera.

8. Molly and Sydney, by SomeToast

Molly and Sydney are travel pros. Molly wishes you’d picked a nicer hotel, but she’ll try to be polite about it.

9. Pajamas, by Bochalla

Pajamas doesn’t know if you knew they were going to put her in the belly of the plane, but she has her suspicions.

10. Meatwad, by Allygirl520

Meatwad wants to tell you how many frequent flier miles he has.

[Top photo by Annie Scott. Additional photos by Flickr users as credited.]

SkyMall Monday: SkyMall Kitties

We’ve covered a lot of SkyMall contraptions here at Gadling. And, while many of those products have improved the lives of our furry friends, we’ve never been able to truly capture the essence of SkyMall’s relationship with animals. Now, however, the video above does that for us. SkyMall Kitties, created by Nina Katchadourian, is the best use of the internet ever.

It’s rare that we encounter someone who loves SkyMall as much as we do. But this week, SkyMall Monday is honored, excited and a wee bit giddy to profile not a product, but a person whose singular passion has enriched our lives. Nina, an artist based in Brooklyn, NY, produced the song and video that pay tribute to the cats of SkyMall. Needless to say, she has a place at the SkyMall Monday table anytime she chooses to join us.

And join us she did, for an exclusive interview. You’ve seen the video on other sites, but only Gadling spoke with Nina about SkyMall Kitties, her favorite SkyMall products and the unheard voices of SkyMall Puppies.How does one become inspired to write a song about the kittens of SkyMall?
First, you develop a compulsive travel habit, almost superstitious in character, which dictates that you have to flip through every single page of the SkyMall catalog each time you get on a plane. Second, you have to wind up on a lot of planes as part of your profession, which I do-I’m a visual artist, and I travel quite a bit for exhibitions and lectures.

Have you always been a fan of the catalog?
“Fan” might not be quite the right word. “Stalker” might be more accurate. I’ve been taking issues from the seat pocket in front of me for nearly a decade.

You’re amongst friends now. We share your compulsion. But, what do you actually do for a living?
I lead a few different lives. First and foremost, I’m a visual artist working in a lot of different media, including photography, sculpture, sound and video. I also lead a sort of sub-life playing music and play in a band called The Wingdale Community Singers based in Brooklyn. I also work part-time running a program for emerging artists called The Viewing Program at a great museum called The Drawing Center in New York.

The video is obviously very pro-cat. Do you own any felines?
Three of them, in fact: Sardine, Stickies, and Minimus, who appear in that order in the “Mount Rushmore” sequence of “Sky Mall Kitties.” The fourth cat on Mount Rushmore is Ellington, who belongs to a friend.

You’re shameless with your cat plugs. More importantly, do you own any SkyMall products?
Can’t say I do, although for a long time I’ve coveted that wedge thing that lets you lie down without having to smush your face into the floor when someone gives you a back rub. [Author’s Note: Nina is referring to the SkyRest Travel Pillow, which SkyMall Monday has covered in the past and I continue to test regularly.]

So is that your favorite SkyMall product?
I can’t really pick one product, but my favorite product image is probably the one of the guy slumped onto the inflatable pillow on his tray table [Author’s Note: She’s referring to the SkyRest Travel Pillow again and that’s pretty awesome.]. It looks so ridiculous, yet every time I’m on a long flight I secretly wish I had one, no matter how dumb it looks. I am also in mourning over a picture that doesn’t appear the same way it used to. It advertises a product that allows you to connect two beds in order to make one big bed. [Author’s Note: She’s now referring to the very awesome Create-a-King Bed Doubler.] They still have the picture, but they changed the caption. The caption used to read, “Together forever…or only for one night.” It was so romantic.

Let’s go back to the song and video. Do you feel bad for saying that one of the dogs looks like a seal?
Absolutely not. That is a factual statement, so I am cold-blooded about it: that dog DOES look like a seal. Nothing wrong with seals. Nothing wrong with dogs, either, I should say; the condescending anti-dog viewpoint of SkyMall Kitties reflects the views of the SkyMall Kitties themselves, not those of the maker of the song or video.

Speaking of dogs, will there be a SkyMall Puppies response?
I am crossing my fingers someone takes that up.

If people take away one important lesson from SkyMall Kitties, what would you most like them to learn?
I’d like people to realize that even when you are incredibly bored on an airplane, you can put that time into making something that can make a lot of people happy for just a few moments. Lots of “wasted time” can be an opportunity to pull from the mundane world around you and extract something of interest or value.

At the end of the day, do you believe that the SkyMall Kitties are happy?
We raise our voices and celebrate them in joyful song, but the SkyMall Kitties are actually a bit bored, disgruntled, and disdainful of those around them, like someone who has been on a long flight and is ready to land.

Very special thanks to Nina Katchadourian for producing SkyMall Kitties and for taking the time to talk to Gadling. Nina has made the song available for download here (for a $1 fee – totally worth it). You can learn more about Nina on her website. Thanks, as well, to Matt Gross, The New York Times’ Frugal Traveler, who alerted us to SkyMall Kitties via Twitter. If you’re a Twitter user, you can and should follow @frugaltraveler. Hat tip to The Awl, who appear to have posted the video before anyone else.

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.

A Canadian in Beijing: FOR SALE! Live Animals (Trapped) in Small Cages

Walking along the sidewalk here in Wudaokou in the late afternoon and evening is not a passive exercise. The sidewalk markets take a wide space and transform it into a narrow, colourful corridor as vendors roll out their ware on square pieces of fabric on both sides and then call for your attention as you pass. That doesn’t keep people off the sidewalks, of course, but instead draws more to this small area. As a result, congestion is intense and the going is slow. If you’re not headed anywhere in particular then it’s worth the stroll. (If you’re trying to get somewhere on time, I suggest walking along the street!)

I have been taking in these kinds of street markets all over the city since I arrived and I’ve noticed one common element: there are always small, live animals for sale.

I hate to see it. Small rabbits in cages that are just slightly larger than they are with barely enough room to turn their bodies around. There are always puppies and kittens, turtles, snakes and lizards of various sizes. All of them are miserably tucked into cages or plastic cubicles and lay taking in the afternoon heat in their cells.

I can’t free them and I can’t save them . . .

I feel helpless and powerless walking by. I wonder who actually buys them and why. Do the rabbits become pets or food? And the reptiles must simply become pets, right?!

The huge box of baby chicks would make a lot more sense to me if this were a rural area. I can understand people having farms or small lots on which they would raise chickens for eggs and/or meat. Now, if this were the intention for the chicks, then I can understand wanting to sell them and wanting to buy them. But, here in the city? What would a person do with a baby chick here? Is it legal to keep chickens here? Something tells me that it’s not, especially since almost everyone lives in an apartment.

I have seen a lot of things like this here, i.e. things about China that I don’t understand and don’t want to see but simply have to accept as being part of the way it is here. I know I have my cultural background that fuels my opinions and I know there’s so much more to everything than meets the eye. Still, life here in Beijing has occasionally challenged my values and beliefs. I have chosen to sit back and take in the culture rather than passing judgements before I understand.

Two months later (and then some) and I still don’t understand the reason for selling these small animals in this way. And, I still want to set them all free in a park somewhere… which is, of course, not the answer. Nor will any amount of discussion with a vendor change the fact that they’re being sold, especially not in my third language.

About a month ago, I expressed to a vendor in Chinese that I felt sorry for the animals. I said they were “poor things” and said that their “houses were too small” (lacking the word for “cage” in my vocabulary.) The vendor just laughed at me with a look that told me he has heard it before from the foreigners and he has no time or space for it. This is his livelihood. This is his job.

Who buys them?

My friend Sarah told me that she knew two people who had bought puppies or kittens from a street or sidewalk vendor only to watch them die just a few days later. There is a compulsion to want to give one – if even just one – a safe and cage-free life and many ex-pats succumb to that urge. Apparently, these puppies and kittens are often drugged so that they appear more docile and cute while being sold (rather than active and hard to contain.) If the dosage is too high at that time that they are drugged, it eventually kills them but long after the vendor and customer have exchanged money for merchandise. I haven’t heard this since, but I was horrified to hear it at all.

Back in North America, we have done lots of work to make pet stores more humane. There is often a lot of anger towards them and over time I have noticed that most people just don’t trust these stores to care for the pets properly, preferring to find new pets at the Humane Society or the local pound.

So, buying live animals on the street is just another level altogether.

Now, when I’m strolling through the sidewalk markets, I just steer around the animal vendors. I can’t bear to see the congestion of turtles or chicks in boxes too small for their volume. I can’t bear to look at the puppies lolling in their drugged state and worry about whether or not they’ll pull through into adulthood.

After driving my gaze deep into the vendors’ eyes and telepathically communicating “how could you?” alongside of an amazed expression, I turn my head.

This technique doesn’t make it go away, however. Maybe this post will inspire more people to ask the vendors the “why?” questions – especially those fluent enough in Chinese to carry on a conversation. Until then, I can write about it.

(And always be open to other suggestions…)