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Off topic: The worst place you've ever visited
Thread poster: Rad Graban

Rad Graban  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:51
English to Slovak
+ ...
May 27, 2007

Hi all,

I really like Francesca's post and can't resist to ask what is the worst place you've ever visited and why?

Mine would be the customs/border-crossing between Romania and Bulgaria where I had to bribe someone everytime I moved.


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Blithe
Local time: 13:51
Russian
+ ...
no such place May 27, 2007

I guess I was lucky, but I don't recall a single place that I have visited (and I traveled a lot) that doesn't bring some good memories.

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Agnieszka Hayward
Poland
Local time: 19:51
German to Polish
+ ...
Charles de Gaulle airport, Paris, France May 27, 2007

I don't speak any French, so I was trying to be very polite, partly because I don't speak any French, partly because being polite is fun and I like it.

Yet, I experienced: very rude ground staff, very rude shop assistants (apart from one, very nice guy at an electronics shop in the duty free - my greetings if he reads this), very uninviting toilets, very dirty "rest area", a restaurant with quite bad food that was just a tad too pricey.

I hate to say this, but I'll avoid CDG as a destination and transit airport if I can.

Have a great week,
Agnieszka


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xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 12:51
English to Russian
+ ...
First I thought I'd second Blithe:-) May 28, 2007

tygru wrote:

I hate to say this, but I'll avoid CDG as a destination and transit airport if I can.


CDG is a nightmare. Between 2002 and 2005 I have been there over 25 times (2 for each round trip)! Was told wrong gates at least 10 times. A cold smile, if any, "No 5" and... watch my hotel shuttle passing by and leaving from #3... Too bad I can't avoid it most of the time and I actually like Air France. Just about everybody at the AF check-in in Houston knows my name and sometimes I get lucky and get upgraded to business class for free. Platinum Flying Blue membership helps to avoid many "common areas" and hide in the VIP lounge even when you fly economy. Otherwise... arriving to the staircase... First time I was in shock because last time it happened to me in Siberia in the 70s:-). Then taxiing for 30 min... only to join the crowd attacking another shuttle bus... Nowadays I always walk to the other terminal, it's faster, guaranteed! And even if you'll be sent in a wrong direction, you'll still get there - it's an ellipse:-)

I've heard that now CDG has a much better interior train system. Planned to check it out flying to Budapest, now I must wait till my September flight to Russia.

BTW, that does not stop me from loving Paris:-)


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Erika Pavelka  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:51
French to English
Baeza, Spain May 28, 2007

It was during our honeymoon in Spain and Portugal. Baeza is a small town north of Granada in Andalusia. We had absolutely no info on the town and arrived looking for a hotel for the night. Signs coming into town directed visitors to hotels, then suddenly disappeared once we arrived in town. Someone at a strange "tourist office" directed us to a hotel that had a room available. Unfortunately, it had 2 single beds - nice for a honeymoon! We had a wash basin in our (rundown) room, but otherwise the whole floor of the hotel had to share a bathroom. Needless to say, I skipped my shower while we were there.

Then we went out looking for tapas bars. We went to one place in a city centre square and only had a beer because their tapas were ridiculously expensive (e.g. say a tortilla espanola cost 2 Euros in Barcelona, here it was 5!). We went to another place and ordered 2 beers and a plate of garlic shrimp. The shrimp were super fresh and good, but the bill came to 30 Euros and we were still hungry! We had almost given up and gone back to the hotel when we stumbled across a great little place that gave you food with every drink you ordered (I think it was a tasca).

After going back to the hotel, we went to bed, but we couldn't sleep from the children playing loudly in the street below at 1:30 a.m. (!) and an old man yelling that night and early in the morning.

We were VERY happy to leave Baeza!


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Agnieszka Hayward
Poland
Local time: 19:51
German to Polish
+ ...
CDG does not mean all of Paris. No! May 28, 2007

IreneN wrote:

BTW, that does not stop me from loving Paris:-)


Hey, me, I also just meant the airport


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Ritu Bhanot  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 19:51
Member (2006)
French to Hindi
+ ...
CDG Airport May 28, 2007

IreneN wrote:

tygru wrote:

I hate to say this, but I'll avoid CDG as a destination and transit airport if I can.


CDG is a nightmare. Between 2002 and 2005 I have been there over 25 times (2 for each round trip)! Was told wrong gates at least 10 times. A cold smile, if any, "No 5" and... watch my hotel shuttle passing by and leaving from #3... ....

BTW, that does not stop me from loving Paris:-)


Strange I thought I was the only one who had to face this. In fact, I had gone to the right gate and I knew that I was at the right place but it was the ground staff of Air France that had no idea about the right gate. Strange!!!

Anyways, other than that it was ok.

Paris is my favourite destination and I have lots of friends in France so I can't really avoid CDG. After my first trip, I had decided never to fly with Air France because someone somewhere mixed up food arrangements, and I'm pure vegetarian, so I landed in Paris after 10 hours of flight and without any food... And as far as I'm concerned all the Alcoholic Beverages in the world can't replace food.

I had a similar experience with Emirates. There was a mix-up but they had lots of fruits and yoghurt. They even faxed their ground staff (and gave me a copy of that fax) to make arrangements for vegetarian food on my flight from Dubai to New Delhi. And I was offered two meals (instead of one) on the Dubai-Delhi flight. Of course, I couldn't eat two meals but the fact that they tried to make amends did make a difference.

BTW both these flights were arranged by someone else (another organization) whom I'd informed that I was (and still am) a vegetarian.

Now I always make it a point to check at least twice and once before boarding the plane that they have made arrangements for vegetarian food for me.

[Edited at 2007-05-28 03:21]


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xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 12:51
English to Russian
+ ...
Ritu, try it this way May 28, 2007

Have you joined Flying Blue yet? You should, don't waste your miles. Then fill out your profile from AF website and set your preferences, meals including. They have never failed me (seafood) and they always email me reminders a few days before the flight, special meal including. This will work with every ticket until you change it yourself.

Of course, things happen... no 100% guarantee and you still might want to double-check but in my case it was and is so far. I shall not go hungry with meats as well so I don't really bother to verify every time. AF and affiliated hotels have been so good to my cats I'll stay with them forever:-). Did you know that when there is no connecting flight the same day and your entire route is with AF you stay 1 night at Ibis for free? Even when you book it through the hotel website and give them your credit card.


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Agnieszka Hayward
Poland
Local time: 19:51
German to Polish
+ ...
Answering questions asked to somebody else... May 28, 2007

IreneN wrote:

Have you joined Flying Blue yet?

yes, I have

Then fill out your profile from AF website and set your preferences, meals including.

I have

They have never failed me (seafood) and they always email me reminders a few days before the flight, special meal including. This will work with every ticket until you change it yourself.

got the emails, too. But they still seemed to have difficulties with my diet (low sodium). Took them forever to serve me food. As in, everybody else already gave the flight attendants their empty food containers back before I got served.

And last, but not least, AF managed to loose my luggage TWICE during my 14-day holiday. Not a bad average, eh?

OK, this forum is supposed to be about PLACES, not airlines, so I'll just shut up now.

[Edited at 2007-05-28 04:00]


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Ritu Bhanot  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 19:51
Member (2006)
French to Hindi
+ ...
Answers to Irene May 28, 2007

Have you joined Flying Blue yet?


Yes.

Then fill out your profile from AF website and set your preferences, meals including.


Thanks for the information. I didn't know. I'll do that today.

Did you know that when there is no connecting flight the same day and your entire route is with AF you stay 1 night at Ibis for free? Even when you book it through the hotel website and give them your credit card.


That's nice to know... Thanks


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misterherrnau
German to English
Tourist Information Office in Baeza May 28, 2007

[quote]Erika Pavelka wrote:

Someone at a strange "tourist office"

My Austrian wife and I (an American) recently stopped in at the tourist information office in Baeza and enjoyed a memorable incident! The fellow behind the desk regaled us with his very amusing account of how much of the local olive oil is shipped to Italy, relabeled and exported to the credulous Americans as Italian. Then when he was done, he finally asking where we were from. Well, he was so shocked and embarassed he gave us two (small) bottles of very good olive oil to assuage what he assumed were our hurt feelings! For him: A cheap price for an important lesson about timing. For us: An unforgettable illustration about how socially acceptable anti-Americanism has become.

P.S. Baeza is spectacular, well worth a trip!


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Csaba Ban  Identity Verified
Hungary
Local time: 19:51
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Moynaq, Uzbekistan May 28, 2007

Good question. I've been to quite a few places around the world, including a good number of unhospitable ones.

Some bad places that come to my mind:

1: Beluchistan stone desert, Western Pakistan: It's 2 am. I'm on a bus from the Irani border on the way to Quetta, the first town of any size in Pakistan. About 40 long-bearded men, all of them are devout muslims, most of them with beards painted with red henna. My wife sits next to me as the only woman on the bus. In the back row, there's a Canadian and a Japanese guy plus a middle-aged Australian. Suddenly the bus stops, quite literally in the middle of nowhere. Two uniformed men, wielding AK-47s, board the bus, asking the driver in Pashtu if there are any foreigners on the bus. After a nod, they shout out in very rudimentary English: all foreigners have to get off. Oh my. First we are reluctant, but forty pairs of dark eyes are pointing at us, so we comply. We are all hasted into this small stone hut next to the road. After the first moment we are still alive, which raises some hope. Eventually we only have to "register" at this outlandish police post. We have to read out our names from our passports, then an officer writes down our transliterated names in Urdu in a huge book. Obviously they don't have a clue where Hangari is. Back to the bus, where suddenly all 40 pairs of eyes seem extremely welcoming.

2: Poipet, Cambodia, border crossing to Thailand. After about 5 hours of a very bumpy ride covering about 180 kms from Battambang, a former hideout of Khmer Rouge, the pickup truck finally arrives to the border town. We were lucky enough and rich enough to pay double the normal fare for the luxury of sitting in the cab, next to the driver: in this way we avoided being covered in rusty red dust down to the lower layers of our skin. It's the beginning of the rainy season, mid-May, which means heavy rainfall every day between 1 and 3 pm. Not the kind of rain you get in Europe on a summer day: multiply it by ten, at least, and then you get the amount of water that decends. Apres moi, le deluge. Anyway, here we are at Poipet, easily the ugliest border town anywhere, and I have a good base of comparison. As it turns out, we were dropped off 2 kms from the actual border crossing, so we have to walk this distance on the main street of the town. Needless to say, there's no pavement and no sidewalk. The main street is a dirt road - in the dry season. Now it's a mud street, which means ankle deep mosquito-infested mud. We have no other choice, but wade this sludge. After half an hour of walking we are finally at a small concrete bridge, within steps of Thailand, the land of promise. We are covered in mud up to our waists. On the street, we have to contend for space with enormous carts loaded with compressed garbage, mostly plastic containers, taken over from Thailand. At the border post we can only hope to get our stamps before 4 pm, otherwise we have to stay here for the night. We are cleared at around 3:55, then we walk across the small bridge. No matter how dirty we are, we walk into the first hyper-airconditioned 7-11 store and buy a large softdrink and some icecream. You just cannot imagine how luxurious these simple items are.

The list could go on almost endlessly. What shall I mention? Being robbed by hotel staff during the night in a small town in Burma? A bus ride in rural Vietnam, along the former Ho Chi Minh trail, where every passenger on the bus, except for us, actually threw up, some of them out of the window, but some of them right into their bags? Shantytowns of small beehive-shaped huts along the railtracks in India, where you realize after seeing hundreds of these, that they are actually covered with dried cowdung?

My nomination for the worst place goes to Moynaq, a small town in Northwestern Uzbekistan:

3. Moynaq, Karakalpak region of Uzbekistan. This town has always been very remote, but until some decades ago it had a thriving fishing industry and even fish canning industry that catered for large parts of the Soviet Union. Moynaq used to be one of the most important ports on Lake Aral, once a lake the size of the Republic of Ireland, until the 1960s. As a result of voluntarist economic policy, the two main rivers nourishing the lake, Amu-Darya and Sir-Darya, were tapped heavily upriver to irrigate large expanses of cotton fields in the Soviet republic of Uzbekistan and partly Kazakhstan. The lake started shrinking gradually, at an ever increasing speed. Now it's only a shadow of its former self.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aral_Sea

Once we crossed a bridge of the Amu Darya, hundreds of kms from its supposed estuary. The bridge spanned a distance of about 2 kms, and the actual river was not more than 50 meters wide. The rest was yellow sand dunes... and once this was the mighty Oxus river that proved a difficult barrier to the troops of Alexander the Great. Now, the water receded dozens of kilometers from Moynaq, and recent satellite photos suggest an ever worse catastrophe. In the process, water salinity multiplied, and since evaporation does not cool off air as it used to, wind patterns have completely changed, carrying off salt and chemicals often several hundreds of kilometers away.

When you get into Moynaq in a taxi (nothing else goes there) from Nukus, the provincial capital (a good contender for the worst place on its own right), you arrive on the main street. Small grey houses dot the road on both sides. Many people on the street, almost exclusively men. And all of them are engaged in a single activity: carrying large plastic cans about 5 kms away, to the only working well in the vicinity. There are no shops, no smiles, no laughs, no children running toward the foreigner to ask for candy. Just greyish-yellowish dust covering everything and everybody. We drive to the former port. Fences eaten by three decades of rust show us the way. Commercial barges and boats stranded and half-sunk in the sand, rusting away. We walk perhaps two kilometers into what once used to be the lake, and we stop counting the boats after about 20. No words can describe the sadness. Negative utopies come to our mind, but this is no fantasy, this is our own lifetime. Back to the taxi, we talk to some locals who chat away with our driver. They are desperate. No opportunity to move to Tashkent, not even to Nukus. There's shortage of housing everywhere, and abundance of labour. Anyone who had any means to leave left already 15 or 20 years ago. The rest stays on, several thousands of people.
Wherever we travelled, the first question always was where we were from. Not here. The first utterance of words was not even a question. It was like begging. "You must be a journalist" - says a man whom I judge to be 50, but he could easily be the same age as me, almost 20 less. Without even waiting for a response, he starts telling about all the grievances. He almost forces me. Young man, I know you are a journalist. Why else would you come here to this place. Noboby comes here to see our suffering. Please write to "the world" that there are still some people here, and then "the world" will know about us... and will help us get away from here.
I could not say anything. When I got back home, just a week before the American war against Afghanistan started, from former Soviet military bases in Uzbekistan, I wrote a long article about Uzbekistan, including a long paragraph about Moynaq. The article was published on a full page in Hungary's largest daily paper, but due to space restrictions, the entire paragraph on Moynaq and environmental concerns was cut off from the text.



[Módosítva: 2007-05-28 07:53]


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Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 20:51
Turkish to English
+ ...
A work camp in the middle of the Sahara Desert, Libya May 28, 2007

I spent four weeks as a teacher of English in such a location. I then had a two week field break and didn't return! Need I say any more.

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Terry Richards
France
Local time: 19:51
French to English
+ ...
Dharan, Saudi-Arabia May 28, 2007

But CDG is a close second

If I ever had to spend 6 months at CDG, it might "win"!

Terry.


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Roberta Anderson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 19:51
Member (2001)
English to Italian
+ ...
similar location, different experience May 28, 2007

Tim Drayton wrote:

A work camp in the middle of the Sahara Desert, Libya.


We lived a few years in Libya, due to my father's work, mid/late-70s.
One Xmas the company organised for the families to spend a week in one of their field camps somewhere in the desert.

It was my best Xmas ever!!

Of course, that was through the eyes of a kid!


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