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I may have a reason for asking. (Bear in mind, writers are always hustling in one way or another.) Or, I may just be asking for fun. But in either case, I am soliciting suggestions.

Premise: You've just been assigned to escort the Martian ambassador around plant Earth. Your goal is to give him a sort of survey course on Earth, its history, its geography, its animals, people and coolest locations. You have ten weeks, and you can visit only ten places.

Question: Where do you take the ambassador?

Talk to me, regulars. You too, lurkers.

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  1. Blogger Randal Rogers (I. Ronin) Says:

    Not sure if most of these count as places, but ...

    1. Nile River
    2. Indus River
    3. Amazon River
    4. Zambezi River
    5. Rhine River
    6. Mississippi River
    7. Yangzi River
    8. Rome
    9. Tokyo (or Hong Kong)
    10. San Diego

    (San Diego because the San Diego Zoo & its Wild Animal Park seems to have just about one of every kind of animal on earth. Maybe there is a better one, I don't know.)

  2. Blogger Transplanted Lawyer Says:

    I'm assuming I want to leave the ambassador with an accurate, but generally positive, take on humanity. And maybe I want to focus on photogenic spots that are not too difficult to film, so that the resulting movie treatment of the adventures is easier to sell.

    1. New York City for the ultimate urban cultural experience, and a dense-pack of encounters with lots of different kinds of humans. It's as good a place as any to start the history and culture lessons.

    2. Scuba-diving on the Great Barrier Reef, to showcase the wealth and beauty of the oceanic environment. And the Aussies would be astonishingly friendly and nice to their new Martian mate.

    3. Cairo and the middle to upper Nile River, to see the remnants of the splendor of the ancient world and what happens when religion becomes overly powerful within a culture.

    4. Prague, to see the sophistication of Europe mixed with many layers of its history. There's enough sad history as well as glorious history there, as well as a melting pot of a lot of different world cultures, to make the area a good representation of the West within the world as a whole.

    5. Kenya for the wildlife and the challenges it faces there. Africa also presents many unhappy chapters of human history, which would need to be confronted. In the Great Rift Valley, we could explore humanity's evolutionary origins as well as do the Wild Kingdom bit.

    6. Road trip from New Dehli to Agra. See high-tech industrial development and rural agriculture, and the Taj Mahal wouldn't be a bad stop, either.

    7. Shanghai, China and surrounding countryside. Rich in history and culture, a good example of commerce and industry, and especially if there are escalated tensions with Taiwan, a good demonstration of contemporary political issues confronting us.

    8. The Inner Passage through Alaskan Panhandle, to show both mountainous and forested environments, rugged individuals able to survive in the elements, and whales.

    9. Iguacu National Park, Brazil, for the wildlife and the beauty of the natural environment. I'm sure along the way we'd confront some other issues in the area - national borders, violence, drugs, poverty - as well as some people working very hard to solve those problems despite the long odds. It would also be a good place to discuss the most significant historical event of the last thousand years -- the colonization of the Americas by Europeans.

    10. Roswell, New Mexico. No, I'm serious; it would give the Martian Ambassador a chance to interact with regular folks, and Roswell would be an ironic place to take an alien. And Roswell's grinning enthusiasm for aliens would show that ultimately, we want to be friends with the Martian people.

  3. Anonymous Kevin Says:

    Five nature sites –

    1 - Somewhere in the Amazon basin - to demonstrate the beauty and diversity of the Rain Forest

    2 - Kenya – to show the Savanna and demonstrate the kind of world mankind originally thrived in.

    3 - The Grand Canyon – so much of Earth’s history encapsulated within those rocks and put on display by the slow work of the Colorado River.

    4 - The Great Barrier Reef – Can’t think of a better representative for the ocean.

    5 - Hawaii – The Ocean meets the land meets volcanoes, lots of learning to be done there. And when we’re done learning it’ll be time for the beaches and surfing.

    And five human interest sites -

    6 - Giza/Nile River – This is where we first figured out how to organize a society on a grand scale.

    7 - New York City – To show how have we’ve come.

    8 - Calcutta – To show how far we still have to go.

    9 - Munich (during Oktoberfest) – To represent the things we do to reinforce our cultural identities, and also because I’ve always wanted to go.

    10 - I like TL’s Roswell Idea so I’m stealing it. You do come in peace, right Mr. Ambassador?

  4. Blogger Michael Reynolds Says:

    Thanks guys. The surprise so far is the unanimity on the Nile. I had not thought of that, but now it seems utterly necessary.

    I like the river thing. That's a creative way to look at it Randal.

    TL: what do you know about the Brazil thing? Because I was looking for a South American stop. Have you been?

    Kevin: I'm up for the Great Barrier Reef but for my wussy terror of sharks and Australian jellyfish. They supposedly have a jellyfish that causes such pain even morphine doesn't work.

  5. Blogger amba Says:

    It sounds like you're really going!

    Funny how similarly we all think. Before even reading others' suggestions my first three were 1.)Ganges/Calcutta, 2.)Israel/Palestine, and 3.)Olduvai Gorge and nearby wildlife reserves.

    4.)Wall Street -- the Stock Exchange. (Go up high in one of the buildings and point out Ground Zero, while you're at it.)

    5.) Berlin, if there's anything left of its history with all the insane building that's going on there. Churches, Nazi architecture (here you can talk about Rome and debased imitations thereof; Martian ambassador wil get mad at you for not taking him there), Commie architecture (if you can call it that), the path of the Wall. Ground Zero of the cold war, now some kind of cultural cutting edge.

    Now I'm becoming contrarian and just trying not to say what everybody else said.

    6.) Tikal, or some of those jungle pyramids in Guatemala or Yucatan -- kill rainforest and pyramids with one stone. Talk about Egypt. Martian ambassador will get mad at you for not taking him there.

    7.) The Galapagos. Whales happen by there, too.

    Originality fails.

    8.) China cannot be avoided, and I don't know enough about it to say where. Hey, I know! Tibet. Himalayas and Buddhism crossed with Chinese progress and repression.

    9.) Instead of Great Barrier Reef, how about some of the South Pacific islands from which people apparently navigated all the way to the Americas.

    10.) Cape Kennedy.

  6. Blogger Randal Rogers (I. Ronin) Says:

    I see that none of my three readers left suggestions. Looks like I will have to have a private words with them.

  7. Blogger XWL Says:

    I think you could accomplish your goal by visiting a single place, Las Vegas NV.

    It's a kitschy amalgamation of all that preceded it. No other place represents humanity at its current best and worse better than Las Vegas.

    Besides everything else the ambassador could see from space on the approach (the geography part, anyway).

  8. Blogger Transplanted Lawyer Says:

    Sorry, Michael, I've only been to Iguacu vicariously through National Geographic. It routinely tops lists for "most spectacular view anywhere" and the like; plus, it seemed to me you could blend in a good combination of nature and culture to fulfill your ambassador's mission by a trip there.

  9. Blogger Alan Stewart Carl Says:

    The question is: does the Martian have the capacity to enjoy Earth food? Because if I had to name 10 places to visit, they'd all be cenetered around what awesome meals would be available to me. You'd have to do the big culinary cities: Hong Kong, Paris, Barcelona, New York ... and then other spots where the local food and drink are spectacular: Tuscany, Vietnam, Riviera Maya (but not Cancun), Lebanon, somewhere in both Northern and Southern India. Buenos Aires.

    No that I've been to all those places. But I like to travel with my stomach and that's where I'd start.

  10. Blogger Michael Reynolds Says:


    You're alive again?

    I like this idea a lot: tastebud travel. But never leave Chicago out of your foodie wanderings.

  11. Blogger Hallq Says:

    1) Madison, Wisconsin: I love my adopted hometown.
    2) Madrid, Spain: Generally interesting culture, and El Valle de los Caidos (fascist war monument/church) is on the short list of competitors for the "Coolest in a disturbing way thing in the world" award. As long as you don't mind showing that kinda thing to the visitors.
    3/4) Cities in China and India: Obligatory, because the countries are so large.
    5/6) Jerusalem/Tel Aviv: Show them the source of much of the problems in the modern world, then show them that right next door people in what is superficially the same group are largely rejecting the nonsense.
    7) Cairo: That's a way of doing the Nile thing, right? I don't know my geography so well. And a big population center where the Martian can see the clash between superstition and modernity.
    8) Tokyo: Because Japan is cool.
    9) San Francisco: Because New York is actually kinda lame.
    10) Rome: Because you can't forget Europe.

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