This week we take a turn to the dark side with hard-hitting, emotional and provocative travel narratives from Iran, Iraq, rural Thailand, and the Caribbean islands of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
If these stories “make your head explode with dark forebodings,” I also threw in a light-hearted tale from the legendary Pink Palace, where my older brother Andrew Patterson once set a record for ‘most plates broken over one’s head at a time.’
1) “Dark Side of the Moon in Iran” by Rory MacLean
Rory MacLean arrives in Isfahan, Iran hoping to experience the same emotion the great travel writer Robert Byron expressed after his visit to Isfahan – a “rare moment of absolute peace, when the body is loose, the mind asks no questions, and the world is a triumph.”
Instead, MacLean runs into some local Pink Floyd fans, possibly associated with the Isfahan Nuclear Technology Center, who gleefully remind him – “If your head explodes with dark forebodings too / I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.”
2) “Last Photographs” by Ashley Gilbertson with Joanna Gilbertson
Wow. “Last Photographs” is far and away the best story I’ve ever read about the Iraq War. For Gilbertson, who has chronicled the war for over 5 years, Iraq is an obsession. His story hit me hard, right in the gut, and when I finished reading I wanted to throw my laptop against the wall.
3) “The Whale Hunters” by Sebastian Junger
In this Outside Magazine classic Sebastian Junger chronicles the last of the Caribbean whale hunters with writing as hard and sharp as the blade of a brass harpoon. Whatever your thoughts on the practice of whaling, it’s impossible to read Junger’s vivid description of the whale hunt without being awed by the sheer audacity and practiced grace with which the whalers pursue their magnificent prey.
4) “Kick Boxing for Pride and Peanuts: Muay Thai Fighters in the Sticks of Thailand” by Antonio Graceffo
Who says tough guys aren’t sensitive? Antonio Graceffo whirls and kicks and punches his way through a small time kick-boxing tournament on the Thai/Burmese border, but it’s the end of his story that brought tears to my eyes.
5) “A Greek Romance” by Rolf Potts
Emperor of Vagabonds Rolf Potts reports from the legendary Pink Palace party hostel on the Greek island of Corfu. Amidst shots of pink ouzo and flying shards of broken plates Potts comes to a deep realization:
“Some people travel the world for spiritual reasons; others travel to shop exotic markets or take interesting photos. But a great many people, most of them young, want nothing more than to drink and flirt and make noise on a warm beach far away from home.”
I hope you enjoy my selections and I’d love to hear your comments. If you come across a great travel story online, contact us for possible inclusion in next week’s edition.