Top hell-holes on earth

April Fool’s Day, 2007, I wrote a post on Linfen, China. Although it was written as a joke, the premise is true. Linfen is a royal mess. Its mighty pollution problem has earned it the number 2 spot on the recent “Hells on Earth” list. The air quality in Linfen is so horrific that there is a perpetual feeling of dusk in this coal dust laden city.

Here’s the rest of the ten places that have a hellish quality. Perhaps you know of others that should have made the cut.

10. Baghdad, Iraq–No surprise here. What, with the war and all, it doesn’t matter if the place has one of the coolest names. According to the article, the city is so dangerous, it’s hard to find people out and about on the streets.

9. Dhaka, Bangladesh–And to think I almost moved here. I had a job interview that I canceled because getting to this place was a hassle. The pollution is problematic. That’s why it’s on the list. Too bad because, everyone I’ve ever met from Bangladesh has been a real gem of a person.

8. Yakutsk, Russia–When I read that this city is the coldest place on earth, that stopped me cold. We’re talking major frostbite. Temperatures can go down to -58 degrees, according to the article. If you’re a kid, it’s a day off from school, so for the younger crowd, this might be heaven.

7. Mogadishu, East Africa (Somalia)–Another one of my favorite city names. I’ve have many students from Somalia–lovely people, and they shake their heads in sorrow over what once was. No one is minding the store in this country that has been wrecked to shambles. The rebels keep running amok. This truly does not sound like a relaxing place to get away. Get away from, sure.

6. Chernobyl, Ukraine–If you want a radiation boost that could do you in, come here. Most of the city was deserted after the nuclear explosion in 1986 and it has not recovered since. There aren’t any prospects for a brighter future either.

5. Oklahoma City, The United States–But the state has such a catchy song, you might be protesting. What’s wrong with Oklahoma City? Weather, that’s what. A Kansas tornado has nothing on Oklahoma City’s. The Ask.Men folks cite 320 mph winds as the fastest. That seems like enough to turn eyelids inside out. Besides that, blizzards are also fierce. I’ve driven through here a couple times on a calm day–always in the summer, and not a gust in sight. Who knew?

4. Pyongyang, North Korea–Gadling blogger, Neil went here and found that hell must have things to like. Sure there’s some hellish, oddball qualities to Pyongyang, but he found it worth the visit. If you can handle the oppression and a tour guide who never lets you wander off on your own, this might feel more like limbo than hell.

3. Bujumbura, Republic of Burundi–If the accounts of people in Burundi feeling the least satisfied than all other people in the world is true, I’d say this is hell indeed. Look at this list for starters. They feel worse than people who live in Linfen? The reason for Burundi’s problems is the corruption.

1. Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea–This place does sound like a hell hole. The murder rate, according to Ask.Men is 23 times that of London and gangs and disease–like HIV, run rampant. Swell.

My good friend over at BloggingStocks and WalletPop, Tom Barlow gave me a heads up on this one. Thanks, Tom.

Oklahoma is O-K

L-A-H-O-M-A , Oklahoma! Yow!

The fact that the song Oklahoma is playing in my head at this moment is John Ur’s fault. Of course, I do still know a song medley of the musical by heart thanks to high school choir days, but over at Intelligent Travel, John Ur’s mention of the lyrics to “Oklahoma” in his post about movies filmed in this state, put me in a red gingham dress and cowboy boots looking for a surrey with fringe on the top.

When I read Ur’s post, I flashed back to my own Oklahoma experience sitting in the audience of an outdoor production of “Oklahoma!” This outdoor theater in Tulsa uses real horses and wagon and a building was set on fire. At least that’s what I remember. Discoveryland’s season runs June 6–August 16, so you still have time to plan your trip here.

This is a professional production with crowd pleasing appeal. It’s also kid-friendly. I only went to the main production, but you can add a western-style dinner and before show entertainment.

Latest Must Stop Place on Route 66: Soda Galore and One Huge Pop Bottle

Saturday morning I saw a travel/human interest story with a Route 66 connection on TV. The mention of Route 66 was the first thing that pulled me away from buttering my English muffin from the complimentary breakfast bar at the Fairfield Inn in Owenboro, Kentucky. (I was there for a wedding.) I became more enamored about the Route 66 story when I heard about the 66-foot soda bottle outside this new tourist stop.

Pops” just opened on this historic highway thus adding a destination draw to Arcadia, Oklahoma. (It’s just south of Oklahoma City.)This gas station, restaurant, giftshop, roadside attraction combo peddles 400 different kinds of sodas for the thirsty traveler. There are 43 kinds of root beer and 50 kinds of cream soda, for example. I can’t imagine you couldn’t find something to satisfy.

You can’t miss the building since the sculpture soda bottle towers above the horizon. The way it beams out into the night in this photo from Pops’s Web site reminds me of a scene from the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” Head to the Web site for some soda fizzing sounds and videos. Very slick. This is a well thought out venture.

Here’s one video documentary I found posted on the Web site Route 66 News. It gives a bit of Route 66 history besides the making of Pops.

Where On Earth? (Week 9): Vinita, Oklahoma

Wow, you guys were all over this one. We’re going to have to start making these a LOT harder from now on. The first commenter, Tim, was dead on (at least in the terms I was looking for) with a guess of Vinita, Oklahoma. Chris chimed in next telling us that the photo was taken from the West-bound side of I-44, which is also true. And finally, Rita gave her two cents clarifying the exact location of the self-proclaimed (and probably untrue) World’s Largest McDonald’s by saying it was actually NEAR Vinita.

I’ve passed under this McDonald’s countless times throughout my life. More recently, on a trip to Tulsa (which is a surprisingly pleasant town, by the way), we stopped here to use the facilities and stretch our legs. On the way back, we actually stopped to eat — the first time I’d eaten a Big Mac since the last time I drove under this one — and let me tell you, this is one disgusting McDonald’s. The food was gross, the place was dirty. I should have expected it, I know, but I was taken back by how gross a restaurant could actually be. You’ve been warned

See you next week for Where on Earth.

The 2007 Mangum Rattlesnake Derby & Flea Market

Ophidiophiles rejoice! From April 27 to 29, Magnum, Oklahoma will be shaking its tail to make sure you have a slithery good time. Yup, on that weekend, the annual Mangum Rattlesnake Derby will be back in town. What’s more, the event will be returning with carnival rides, a square dance, a fun run, and a flea market. In other words: plenty of places for a mean, scared rattler to hide. (Just kidding.)

Begun in 1966 as a project of the Chamber of Commerce, the derby now attracts 30,000 visitors, hundreds of flea market vendors — and more than 1500 snakes.

Among the Derby’s events are competitions for Largest Snake, Most Pounds of Snakes, and Most Snakes. The event also features snake pits — where you (but not me!) can safely get within inches of hundreds of rattlers — professional snake charmers, wrestlers and handlers — as well as snake dinners, courtesy of the Bite Back Café. Guess what? Snake tastes like chicken — only greasier!