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10 places to see before you die
By Patricia Schultz & The Staff, December 2003/January 2004 issue  |  Subscribe to the magazine

What you'll find in this story: dream destinations, top vacation spots, amazing places, trips around the world, exotic travel, India travel

Excerpted from 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, Copyright © 2003 by Patricia Schultz. Used by permission of Workman Publishing Co., Inc., New York. All Rights Reserved.
Tossing aside the obvious, we narrowed it down to the 10 that really got our motors running.

Jaisalmer Rajasthan, India

Known as the Golden City, this former caravan center on the route to the Khyber Pass rises from a sea of sand, its 30-foot crenellated walls and medieval sandstone fort sheltering carved spires and palaces. So little has changed here that it's easy to imagine yourself back in the city's early days, in the thirteenth century. Jaisalmer's wealth originally came from the heavy levies it placed on camel caravans passing through, and merchants and townspeople built handsome havelis (mansions elaborately carved from the local golden stone). It's the only fortress city in India still functioning, with one quarter of its population living within the original walls.

Details: Six hours by car from Jodhpur. Stay in the Narayan Niwas Palace, a former caravansary built by the maharaja in 1840. Doubles from $48 (low season) or $60 (high season); 011-91/29922-52408, fax 011-91/29922-52101, narayanniwas.com/.

Best times: October to February.

Highland games, Braemar, Scotland

Begun in the Middle Ages as county fairs for the exchange of goods and news, these summer sporting events gave clan chiefs the chance to check out the physical prowess of the area's most promising young lads. Of the nation's 40-some annual gatherings, the ones at Braemar are the most renowned. (Queen Elizabeth usually pops in from Balmoral Castle.) A breed of gigantic men--called the Heavies--engage in "throwing the hammer," "putting the stone," and the prime event, "tossing the caber"--in which they hurl a 20-foot tree trunk weighing over 130 pounds. Expect bagpipes, bright tartans, Highlands dancing, and a nip of whiskey to help things along.

Details: Held the first Saturday in September, in Braemar's Princess Royal and Duke of Fife Memorial Park. Tickets are $20 to $36; 011-44/1339-755-377 (phone and fax), braemargathering.org/.

Giants Causeway
Bushmills, Antrim, Northern Ireland

The grand and astonishing Giant's Causeway--on the northern coast of the island--is made up of more than 40,000 volcanic basalt columns, each a foot or two in diameter. Most are hexagonal, but some have four or five sides, and others have as many as 10 (and reach as high as 40 feet). If modern-day visitors are struck with wonder at the sight, imagine the disbelief of the ancient Irish, who attributed the geological wonder to the fabled giant Finn McCool. The warrior was said to have created the Causeway as a bridge to his lady love on the Scottish island of Staffa. We now know it was formed by volcanic eruptions some 60 million years ago. Hopscotch along the columns, or marvel at the Causeway from the clifftop belvederes.

Details: 75 miles northwest of Belfast; 011-44/28-207-31855, fax 011-44/28-207-32537, northantrim.com/.

Moscow Metro, Moscow, Russia

Details: For information in the U.S., contact the Russian National Group, 212/575-3431, fax 212/575-3434, russia-travel.com/.

Cha Ca La Vong,
Hanoi, Vietnam

Cha Ca La Vong serves only one dish--cha ca, a succulent fried-fish masterpiece, the recipe for which has been in the Doan family for generations (the name translates roughly to "curried Red River fish"). After more than seven decades, cha ca became so entrenched in Hanoi that the city renamed the lane out front in its honor. A rickety flight of wooden stairs leads to the unremarkable second-floor dining room, full of equally rickety chairs. Patrons cook chunks of seasoned garoupa fish on a charcoal clay brazier, stirring in chives and dill. The rich, oily stew is then spooned into bowls of vermicelli rice noodles and enlivened by the addition of shrimp sauce, fried peanuts, and pickled vegetables. The secret ingredient, if you believe the rumors, is two drops of an essence extracted from the perfume gland of the ca cuong beetle.

Details: about $5; 14 Cha Ca St., 011-84/4-825-3929.

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