My top 3 Lonely Planet fails

We probably all know the feeling. The guidebook was recommending this place, we made the journey, and now we’re here, doubtful, getting back to the book to remind ourselves: Why again did we come here? What was interesting about it? Are we sure we haven’t mistaken this place for another?

This has happened to me on a few occasions, and here are the top 3.

Sudak, Crimea, Ukraine at the time (visited in August 2008)

What was the Lonely Planet promising?

From the Lonely Planet website:

As an important stop on the Silk Route from China, Sudak was a major and well-defended trading centre run by the Genoese, with a fortress that survives from that era.

Wow, let’s go right now.

ukraina 142 - soudak - genoese fortress
Sudak’s Genoese fortress, from the Silk Road times.

What did the Lonely Planet forget to mention?

This was probably written in 2001. Today’s Lonely Planet has been updated, but back at the time, I was expecting a romantic village from the Silk Road at the seaside, which in the reality turned out to be an overcrowded holiday resort.

What was it was like?

The Genoese fortress is there and wonderful. But it is crowded with young Russian couples visiting, with broken beer bottle debris and Russian ladies trying to climb the fortress walls on their high heels. The village itself is a whole funfair, with a beach covered with fun rides and dance-music loud restaurants. All hotels and hostels were fully booked, and the only accommodation we found was a room in an office building that happened to have two single beds in it.

ukraina 149 - soudak - genoese fortress
Sudak’s Genoese fortress, from the Silk Road times.

Is it still worth visiting though?

Yes for the fortress but, unless you are a sociologist interested in middle class mass tourism behaviours, or simply learning Russian language and seeking easy opportunities to practice it, do me a favour, don’t stay overnight.

ukraina 154 - soudak - tourist activities - em kalachnikov
As we were there anyway, we tried one of Russia’s favourite funfair attractions: kalashnikov shooting.

Masuleh, Iran (visited in September 2013)

What was the Lonely Planet promising?

From the Lonely Planet website:

At least a millennium old, Masuleh is one of Iran’s most beautiful villages. Rising through mist-draped forests, earth-coloured houses climb a cupped mountainside so steeply that the roof of one forms the pathway for the next.

Sounds wonderful, let’s find transportation to get there.

What did the Lonely Planet forget to mention?

It may not seem obvious, but Iran has a relatively semi-tropical climate in the North, and moreover Masuleh region is mountainous. As a result, it can get pretty wet, if not misty.

What was it was like?

I don’t know. The whole village was in complete fog, you could not see further than the next 3 metres. You could still appreciate an Iranian dinner with a hookah on a terrace, but without a view. Even the hookah’s smoke could barely be distinguished from the overall cloud.

Iran 246 - Masuleh
Big mist in Masuleh.

Is it still worth visiting though?

I think so. But please, unlike me, check the weather forecast before making the trip.

Qarshi, Uzbekistan (visited in September 2012)

What was the Lonely Planet promising?

One of the ex-Soviet Union’s most monumental monuments to the memory of the soldiers dead during World War II.

Don’t tell me more – I will drop by Qarshi, a small detour en route from Baysun to Chahrisabz.

uzbekistan 208 - karshi
Me in front of the Qarshi WWII monument

 What did the Lonely Planet forget to mention?

The monument has not been looked after at all since… well, maybe since the Uzbekistan independence. And nobody ever visits it.

uzbekistan 213 - karshi
The monument is covered with rust.

 What was it was like?

Weird. Abandoned, rusty, dodgy. It is still open to public, and you can walk up the stairs to the platform; but there are no tourists. It is full of people though: all just twenty-ish year old couples. They hang out everywhere, downstairs, in the stairs (there is a couple every half floor) and on the platform. Uzbekistan is a very conservative society where young people cannot really date and certainly not in public, so they use this old monument to meet up. They are not making out, oh no, just hanging out, and surprised to see two Westerners with their backpacks climbing up the Soviet history and violating their love sanctuary.

uzbekistan 212 - karshi
The monument is covered with teenager’s love graffiti. (This one says Jonibek + Munira = Love)

Is it still worth visiting though?

For a fan of Soviet monuments and history, like me, maybe. Or if you’re working on a sociology PhD about dating in conservative countries. Or for curious travellers like me, because this is quite an unusual thing to observe!

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3 thoughts on “My top 3 Lonely Planet fails

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