Finding Nemo

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The 7 Wonders of the World

I love the lists of "Wonders of the World".  Its this ludicrous attempt to somehow consolidate the incredibly vast array of wondrous things and places on Earth into a tiny list of the very 7 best.  Its like trying to take all the music ever created and say, "Those other songs are nice, but these are the best 7.  If you don't listen to these 7 before you die, you are a fool."  The problem of course is that, just like music, many of the wondrous places on Earth are a unique experience to each individual who views it.  One person may find it the experience of a lifetime to snap away pictures of the Taj Mahal (as I did).  But others may find getting bumped by the huge hoard of tourists, and the very thought of queuing to get the "mirror pool" shot, a complete nightmare.  Perhaps they would much rather tromp alone through some undiscovered fjord in New Zealand.

There is nothing wrong with attempting to somehow categorize the places on the Earth, and attempt to rank them.  The problem is stating that these particular 7 are the best as if it is some kind of fact.  I actually have a list of the best 500 Rock Songs of all time, topped by Stairway to Heaven of course, which should never be banned.  Now that's the kind of list I don't mind...with a list of 500 things, you can look through, use it as a reference, and find some good nuggets that you might like yourself.  Here's one particular list of the World's Most Fascinating Places that I can't get enough of.  Its one of the best things on the Web IMO.

That all aside, I have been paying more attention to one particular list: the "New 7 Wonders," for the simple fact that after this year, I will have seen them all.  Its not at all any attempt to brag.  In fact, its all happened fairly accidentally: these "7 Wonders" just happened to be places that I agreed I wanted to see as I planned my last couple round the world trips.  So that begs the questions... how do these 7 wonders stack up to my All-Time Favorite Places??  (Doh....I guess that means I have to decide which places are my All-Time Favorite Places.  Sounds like another blog...)  Well, I will start by first ranking the 7 amongst themselves.  Then, next blog-time, next blog-channel, I will add in some of my other favorite places and see how the 7 stack-up.

So with no further ado, here they are for your viewing pleasure!!!  Of course, this ranking is based solely on my personal experience with each, and therefore should be viewed as absolute and irrefutable fact.

1 Machu Picchu
Machu Pikchu
Cuzco Region, Peru
View of Machu Picchu 
I think what I love most about this place is that unlike all the other places, it truly is one and whole with nature and its surroudings.  Machu Picchu wouldn't be what it was without the gorgeous peaks and valleys on all sides.  Also if your trek gets there at sunrise, you can beat the mega-herds coming up by bus.  For a precious hour or so, you can wander through the vast complex and climb the nearby peak all by yourself.  I love places that let you get "lost" and feel a little bit of magic.  The trek through the Andes to get there makes it feel earned, and as it comes into view at the Sun Gate, it is an experience unlike any other.

2 Taj Mahal
ताज महल
تاج محل
Agra, IndiaTaj Mahal 
Despite all the garbage, beggars, honking horns, and other aspects that make Agra so jolting, once you step onto the gardens of the Taj it all seems to vanish.  Yes its crowded, but somehow the place still amazes in spite of the modern world surrounding it.  Catch it at sunrise or sunset if you can, when the white marble grabs onto the sun's colors and transforms.
3 Colosseum
Rome, ItalyThe Colosseum at dusk: exterior view of the best-preserved section
Wandering around Rome is so strange sometimes.  Its a modern city with all the traffic and mopeds buzzing around, but suddenly you round a corner and The Colosseum is just sitting right there in front of you!  It is a crumbling dusty shadow of its former self, but what a shadow.  For me, the draw is just its sheer size and scope.  It is comparable to a modern day american football stadium, except that it was built 2000 years ago!  If Greatness is defined as doing Big Things, then the Romans were great.

4 Christ the Redeemer
O Cristo Redentor
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro
Personally for me, Christ the Redeemer itself is very nice, but nothing spectacular compared to say, the Statue of Liberty.  But the setting, well that is quite another matter.  As anyone who as seen a postcard of Rio knows, Jesus sits atop a central little mountain in the middle of the gorgeous city, with the beaches and green hills below.  The scene is one of a kind.  His arms open outwards to those below, as if to say to the Cariocas: "I am here for you."

5 Chichen Itza
Chi'ch'èen Ìitsha'
Yucatán, MexicoEl Castillo being climbed by tourists
Perhaps its not fair to rank Chichen Itza down this low, seeing as how I visited when I was 16 and really had no appreciation for ruins or ancient civilizations.  But even now, looking back, I would say although its very interesting and oozing titillating history (bloody sacrifices anyone?), it just doesn't compare to Ankor Wat or even Tikal.  The reason is simply the setting.  The area surrounding Chichen Itza is a huge expansive lawn, with plenty of walking paths, and unearthly large swarms of fat american tourists snapping away.  I suppose its all just too easy and manicured, the magic is hard to find.  Maybe they should let the jungle grow back.
Not yet visited:
x Great Wall of China
Wànlǐ Chángchéng
People's Republic of ChinaThe Great Wall in the winter

x Petra
Ma'an Governorate, Jordan
The Monastery at Petra

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