9 Places in the World that Makes you Say – Oh My God

 Pakhi Sen   July 11, 2013
World

The world is filled with treasures. Everywhere you go there is something that you should see. But there are some places that stand out, the places that you’ll always remember.

The places that make you say, “Oh my God!”
Here are nine places across the world that will make you (well, at least me) say, “Oh my God!”

1) The Grand Canyon – size, scale

The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon – Copyright @ Stay Tamed

The Grand Canyon is one of the few places in the world that leaves many people speechless. Simply put, the Grand Canyon is a giant hole in the ground. Sure, the world has hundreds of canyons all over the place, but none of them hold a candle to the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon is so big that that you could put a small country in it.

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon – Copyright @ Stay Tamed

When I first came to see it, I was expecting a canyon just like (m)any of the others that I’ve seen before. At the South Rim, trees and forest surround the Grand Canyon. It’s typical of any forest that you would see almost anywhere else. There are also lots of mountains. Some of which are actually quite pretty, but nothing to write home about. But the moment I came face to face with the Grand Canyon, I was speechless. It was quite possibly the biggest “thing” that I had even seen before in my life. Oh my God! It’s huge, enormous (add your own superlative here). And then I learned an even more mind-boggling fact from my tour guide, what I was looking at, was just 1% of the place. 1%?! If you were to drive around the Grand Canyon it would take you a couple of days to do it. It really is mind blowing just how big it is.

It may be just a hole in the ground. But it’s the biggest hole that you’ll ever see.

(And by the way, it’s really pretty, too.)

2) Hong Kong – crowds, heights

Hong Kong - crowds

Hong Kong – crowds – Copyright @ Stay Tamed

Don’t believe what most people tell you about Hong Kong. Most people say that Hong Kong is a small city, that’s why it’s so crowded. Actually Hong Kong is quite a large city. It’s comparable in size to most Western cities such as Chicago. However, 85% of Hong Kong’s land is mountains and parklands. Thus, virtually all of Hong Kong’s 7 million people and countless tourists are tightly cramped into the tiny slivers land that most people know as Hong Kong.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong – Copyright @ Stay Tamed

The first thing that most people notice when entering the city for the first time is the sheer height of the buildings. EVERY building is a skyscraper. While in most cities, 30 stories would be considered extremely tall, in Hong Kong, it’s rather … average.
Now, some people may argue that Tokyo or New York are crowded too. They are, I won’t deny that. But those who I’ve met from those two cities say that Hong Kong is ridiculous.

Land is at such a premium in Hong Kong, that a 300 square foot apartment would cost the same as a three-storey HOUSE with ample front and backyard space in most American cities.

No matter where you go in Hong Kong, there are people, lots and lots of them.

But there is one place in Hong Kong that really stands out: Mong Kok. Mong Kok is the most crowded area on the planet at 130, 000 people per square kilometre. Oh my God!

If you want to see what 100,000 people looks like at any given moment just go to Mong Kok, especially Sai Yeung Choi Street or Tung Choi Street and take a look around. (But don’t stand too long as you’re liable to get knocked over by the crowds.)

Hong Kong is the one place in the world where there really is nowhere to “get away from everyone.”

3) Yanshui, Taiwan – craziness, insanity

You might be wondering why I put this tiny little sleepy town on this list. Yanshui is a boring farm town of about 30,000 people. Visiting this town on any other day but one is about as exciting as listing to your grandfather go on and on about his old yarn stories.
BUT, on one day of the year, absolute chaos reigns in this city.

On the 15th day of the first month of the Chinese calendar (usually January or February), Shangyuan Festival/Day is held in Chinese communities all over the world. It traditionally symbolizes the end of the Chinese New Year. If you are planning to visit Yanshui on this day, be prepared to leave all of your sanity and common sense at home because on this day, Yanshui goes on fire. LITERALLY!
On this day, the town’s population triples, and quite possibly over a million fireworks are lit off in Yanshui. Fireworks are lit from every corner of the town. No matter where you go, firecrackers are flying all around you. Everything from little cherry poppers to super-sized Roman candles is exploding in every single direction.

However, the scariest of these fireworks are the “beehives.” These beehives are about the size of a large refrigerator and contain thousands of firecrackers. When the beehives are lit off, they send firecrackers everywhere. When they start, it’s best to stand well back. Yet, in Yanshui (here’s the fun part), you’re encouraged to go INTO the fireworks. Now I bet you’re wondering who in their right mind would want to do that? What are they thinking?! Oh my God!

Well, when in Rome… Therefore, you’re gonna need to “suit up.” Put on a thick jacket, a motorcycle helmet, a scarf, and tape or tie every opening of clothing so tightly so that nothing comes loose. Oh by the way, did I forget to mention that Yanshui is in the south of Taiwan, a tropical island where temperature can rise as high as 30C at this time of the year? So … while you’re drenched in sweat from all of that clothing, relax, it’s held at nighttime.

But if you want to get the “full experience” then jump towards the beehives, dance around, and get “stung.”

4) Niagara Falls – water power, beauty

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls – Source

Niagara Falls, the honeymoon capital of the world. The town of cheesy museums and big casinos. These things are just sideshows to the reason why everyone wants to come here, the Falls.

Niagara Falls, the most awesome waterfalls in the entire world.

Millions of people from all over the world come to see the sheer majesticness of Niagara Falls, and few are left disappointed. In fact, millions return time and time again.

Just so that you know, Niagara Falls is actually three waterfalls, not one. There’s the American Falls and it’s little sister, the Bridal Veil Falls and the Horseshoe (Canadian) Falls. Collectively they are known as Niagara Falls. Niagara Falls gets its name from a Neutral Indian word meaning “thunderous waters.” There has never been a more fitting place name than that.

Niagara Falls may not be the highest waterfalls or the biggest waterfalls in the world. But it sure makes up for these “shortcomings” via water volume and beauty.

First, there’s the American Falls. The Bridal Veil Falls are located right beside the American Falls, that most people think that it’s actually part of the American Falls. Of the three waterfalls, the American Falls is definitely the prettiest. If there was a modeling contest for the single best waterfall in the world, the American Falls would win it hands down.

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls – Source

As for the Horseshoe (Canadian) Falls, it gets its name because of its giant arc shape. But the water volume! This is what happens if you were to leave the kitchen sink running, times a trillion. Oh my God!

The best way to see these two buckets of spilt water in action is to take the “Maid of the Mist” boat tour. The boat trip is only about 30 minutes long. But don’t despair; it will be the most memorable boat trip of your life. The boat will take you from the dock, and then go past the American Falls to the foot of the Horseshoe Falls. On this ride, you will truly see just how beautiful, gigantic, and thunderous Niagara Falls really is. And just as you approach the Horseshoe Falls, the boat turns around just in time. (But not before completely drenching you.)

Niagara Falls will surely remind you to never leave the water running in the house ever again.

5) The Great Wall of China – length, strength

The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China – Copyright @ Stay Tamed

The Great Wall of China is the largest manmade structure on the face of the Earth. Originally it was built under Emperor Qin Shi Huang from 220 – 206 BC (with subsequent sections added later on) to protect China from their northern warring invaders. Today, it is fighting off a billion tourists and their cameras. Thus, when you visit the Great Wall, you are walking on 2000 years of history.

Great Wall

Great Wall – Copyright @ Stay Tamed

If you visit some of the Beijing sections of the Great Wall such as Badaling, you are climbing on some of the higher sections of the wall. Up and down, up and down. When you’re at the top of the one of these mountains, you’ll see that the Great Wall seems to stretch into the horizon forever as if it never ends. Actually it does end, 6000 miles later. It’s really that long. Oh my God!

Another remarkable feat is that much of it is built along harsh terrain or mountainside. The Great Wall will start down the valley, then work its way up the slope, and then over the peak of the mountain before starting all over again. Unless you’re in the broken sections; a.k.a. the “Wild Wall” areas, most of it remains intact. And, it’s not just a simple old ugly wall. It actually looks pretty good. The fact that this wall still remains after 2000 years is a real triumph of engineering and craftsmanship.

The Great Wall of China, long, lasting defense.

6) St. Petersburg, Russia – opulence, excess

Almost every major city in the world has a castle. Some even have two or three.

But 17? Oh my God! Welcome to St. Petersburg.

Furthermore, they are not castle ruins like Hastings Castle in England or Homburg Castle in Germany. They’re still alive and well and in pristine condition. If you could see how much stuff these palaces contained back in the days of the tsars: art, jewelry, furniture, etc. while most of the country remained dirt poor, it is COMPLETELY evident why Russia experienced such an enormous revolution.

Oh wait, I almost forgot, virtually each castle also has its own cathedral, as well as guests’ quarters and workers’ houses. Heck, I’d be happy just staying in the workers’ houses. Many of the castles also have magnificent gardens that come alive in the summertime after the long months of St. Petersburg’s cold and snowy winters.

No matter where you go in St. Petersburg, there are reminders to the opulence of the former tsars. The communists may have destroyed or replaced many reminders of the past, but they couldn’t destroy St. Petersburg. Castles may have become public museums or schools, cathedrals became meeting halls, and so on and so forth. But after communism fell, these palaces came back to life, back to their former glories.

Probably the best example of opulence and grandeur is the Winter Castle, a.k.a. the Hermitage. This is St. Petersburg’s most famous building. This giant green building (I do mean giant, it’s over 500 meters long!) contains every conceivable kind of adornment known to man. This palace is beautiful, both inside and outside. It is a stunning work of architecture. Inside the palace, there are artworks from almost all of the famous masters, golden additions, marble walls and floorings, giant mosaics, grand halls and stairways; even the ceilings are covered with masterpieces. There are so many rooms in this palace that it would take weeks to figure out where all of the rooms are. Furthermore, there is a huge public square directly in front of the Hermitage where many events are held.
The tsars of the old Russia Empire really knew how to take it to the next level and beyond.

7) The Rockies – beauty, open space

The Rockies

The Rockies – Copyright @ Stay Tamed

Aah, the Rockies. What a beautiful place. Thousands of miles of pristine unspoiled wilderness. The Rockies stretch from Alaska all the way to Mexico. I’m not going to bore you by describing all 10000 or so miles of it. I’m just going to talk about the two best sections of it: Jasper and Banff.

You might think I’m just talking about those two small towns. Nah. They’re pretty, but each town is only a kilometre long. They’re more like villages. Cute, but nothing special.

Rockies

Rockies – Copyright @ Stay Tamed

What I’m talking about is the Rockies. The beautiful mountains, the glaciers, the picturesque lakes, and the hundreds of species of animals. Stunning scenery no matter which way you turn. Few places on the planet truly reflect its true beauty. But the Rockies are definitely at the top of the class.

Using Jasper and Banff as our perfect examples, let’s see what’s in store, shall we? In Jasper, there’s the Athabasca Glacier (Columbia Icefields), one of the biggest glaciers in the world, and the home of some of the best tasting glacier water that you’ll ever try. There’s also Maligne Lake, quite possibly the most picturesque lake in the entire world. It’s so pretty here. Oh my God!

When you’re walking or driving around, you could see deer, elk, bighorn sheep or maybe even bears, wolves or mountain lions. (On second thought, stay far away from the last three, very far away.)

Wait a minute. I almost forgot about Banff. Let’s see what’s in Banff. The beautiful Banff Springs Hotel. This hotel is special for two reasons. First: its stunning Victorian architecture that shows what class is all about. And second: the way it stands out amongst the mountains. Countless photographs and postcards celebrate the beauty of this place.

Last but not least about Banff, Lake Louise, one of the best ski resorts in the world. It’s also where many of the events for the 1988 Winter Olympics were held. (Another interesting fact is the Rockies are so good, that in 2010, the Winter Olympics were held again in the Rockies in Whistler/Vancouver.)

The Rockies, truly naturally beautiful.

8) Toronto –multiculturalism, internationalism

Centre Island

Centre Island – Source

Centre Island

Centre Island – Source

You might be wondering, why in the world is Toronto on this list? Sure, it’s a clean city. It’s really, really clean. But why is Toronto on this list? It’s simple. Toronto is the United Nations in a city. And instead of having different factions, blocs, and sides, for the most part, everyone seems to get along.

CN Tower

CN Tower – Source

Walk the streets of Toronto, especially downtown. Sure, you’ll notice that Toronto is a modern, bustling metropolis with some of the tallest buildings in the world. But take your eyes off the bright lights and the big buildings, and look around at the people. You’ll notice that Toronto isn’t exactly monotone, or two-toned, or even three-toned. Instead, it’s multi-toned. Or as the locals like to say, it’s multicultural.

CN Tower

CN Tower – Source

Listen carefully with your ears and you’ll hear a cacophony of languages, dialects, and accents. Now some of you might be saying New York is full of everyone as is London and Paris or even Vancouver or Los Angeles or maybe Melbourne. What makes Toronto so special? So different?

Eaton Centre Yonge Street

Eaton Centre Yonge Street – Source

Lawrence Market

Lawrence Market – Source

Let’s break it down shall we? With New York or Los Angeles, there are just too many bad areas at night. Heck, there are many areas that I wouldn’t even want to visit in the daytime. There’s still an uneasy peace about these two cities. And many areas try to remain “racially pure.” As for Paris, it’s still “French.” There might be a lot of different ethnicity living there, but it’s still overwhelmingly French. And the same goes for London, it’s still primarily English. Not quite multicultural yet. Vancouver is also a very good example. However, it’s more like an “Asian” version of Toronto. But in Toronto, no one really cares where you’re from. What your religion is, or what language you speak. Toronto is actually PROUD of its mix of races, creeds, cultures, backgrounds, religions, cultures, values, and languages.

U2 Concert

U2 Concert – Copyright @ Stay Tamed

U2 Concert

U2 Concert – Copyright @ Stay Tamed

In Toronto, there’s a neighbourhood for everyone. There are six Chinatowns (yes, six of them!), There are also four Italy’s, three India’s, two Koreatown’s, a Greektown, a Jewish Village, a Jamaicatown, a Portuguese Village, a Little Saigon, and the list goes on and on. There is also a thriving gay community. And there are also churches, temples, shrines from every religion and denomination that you can think of.

Only in Toronto could the following sentence be true: You’re a Catholic, your wife is Hindu, your brother-in-law is Jewish, and your sister-in-law is Taoist, your grandfather is Muslim, and your boss is Buddhist. And no one would think twice about it. Oh my God!
Where in the world would an Arab be a best friend to a Jew? Where would a Jamaican marry a Chinese? Where can Indians, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, and Sri Lankans play cricket together without killing each other? Where in the world would your classmates come from six different continents?

Where else? Toronto.

9) Old Jerusalem – history, religion

Jerusalem

Jerusalem – Copyright @ Stay Tamed

Aah, Jerusalem. Home to three of the world’s great religions, and arguably, the most important city of all time.

Let’s begin, shall we?

Jerusalem is old. Very, very old. Jerusalem has been around for over 4000 years. That means that this city was around years and years before your great-great granddaddy. And during these 4000 years, over a dozen different empires have controlled Jerusalem. Jerusalem is so old that it has different stages of oldness. There’s the “new” old city, the medieval city, and the ancient city.

Jerusalem

Jerusalem – Copyright @ Stay Tamed

Architecturally, Jerusalem isn’t the most beautiful of cities. Although, it does have some buildings, such as the Dome of the Rock, that are real beauties. But its streets are a-maze-ing. There are so many different alleyways and bypasses and stairways. And each one of them leads to different levels of the city. It’s almost like the city is a very complex gated community. Old Jerusalem is definitely one of the most confusing cities in the entire world to visit. And you’ll never know what to expect around the next corner.

Old Jerusalem is divided into four quarters; Jewish, Arabic, Christian, and Armenian, and each quarter has its own specialties. But you know what’s the funniest thing about Old Jerusalem is that the whole city is only one square mile. That’s it. And within this one square mile, world history was made! Oh my God!

Think about all of the famous people who have made their mark in this city; Abraham, Jesus, King Herod, Julius Caesar, Seluieman the Magnificent, Alexander the Great, St. Francis of Assisi, Baal Shem Tov, Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres, etc., etc. To think on these very streets all of these people did those great things. Abraham sacrificed Isaac here, Mohammed rose to Heaven here, and Jesus died and came back to life here, etc. etc. All within this incredibly crowded and cramped square mile.

In Jerusalem, literally everything is down the street. The Western Wall, it’s just down here. After visiting the Western Wall, just go upstairs to visit the Dome of the Rock. The Holy Sepulchre Church? It’s just down the street.

Jerusalem is a veritable museum. Everywhere you go is something old and interesting to see, hear, and learn. Jerusalem, where history was, is, will always be made.

Well, there you have it. The nine places that will make you say “Oh my God!” Now that you’ve read it, you should start planning your trip and find the places that make you say, “Oh my God!”

What?! You’re still sitting there? What are you waiting for? Oh my God!

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