Ricky Gervais and Steven Merchant told me the places I’d be visiting: Egypt, Brazil, India, China, Jordan, Peru, Mexico. I have to confess, these are all countries I’ve never really fancied. If it wasn’t for the “wonders”, I doubt most people would go. Me and my girlfriend Suzanna mainly go to the Cotswolds, Devon, Spain or Italy. I’m not a proper traveller. I don’t like to be challenged or have too much of a change and prefer a week away just to relax.
Christ the Redeemer, Brazil
We got to the Big Jesus just as the sun was coming up. It isn’t as big as I’d thought it would be, but being there on our own so early in the day felt quite special. It’s so high up you can look down through the clouds over the whole of Rio. God knows how they got him up there. The bloke who delivered my washer/dryer from Comet moaned about getting up to my flat on the third floor. I suppose that’s why it could be a wonder of the world.
We went back down and I had a coconut on the way, which was another first for me. A drink and food all in one. It didn’t look like the coconuts you win at fairgrounds. There was no hair on it. I didn’t know if that’s how they grow here or if it’s that Brazilians hate hair on anything and they’ve waxed them.
The Taj Mahal, India
Everyone I talked to about India mentioned “Delhi Belly”. It’s assumed that if you visit India you will get ill. It’s the only place in the world that has this reputation. It must be a great place to open a restaurant. There’s no comeback if a customer gets the shits from eating your food – except, well, “Welcome To India”. It’s as if it’s on the menu: starter, main course, pudding, coffee and then the shits.
I wasn’t really in the mood to see the Taj Mahal, what with the Delhi Belly and everything, but we had to go that day. I was told it is a mausoleum that took 22 years to build. The Mogul Emperor Shah Jahan had it built for his wife, who died giving birth to their fourteenth son.
It seems to me like it was something the man had always wanted to build but his wife didn’t let him, so when she died he used it as an excuse to build his dream. My uncle always wanted a plasma telly, but his wife didn’t want him wasting money on one. Soon as she died he got one.
The Great Wall, China
Once I was through the entrance I could see the Wall for miles. We managed to find a bit of the Wall that wasn’t too busy. I looked at it. It looked quite new. I was trying to understand what all the fuss was about. My guide book said it was heavily restored in both the 1950s and the 1980s. Surely it can’t count as a wonder if it’s not original? If when I went to see the Taj Mahal in India I got there to find a new house with a double garage and a gravel driveway, they couldn’t still sell it as the Taj Mahal, so why is the Wall getting away with it? Bloody hell, is everything fake in China? The coat I bought, the DVD and now the Wall.
The Pyramids, Egypt
I really can’t believe what a state the Pyramids are in. I thought they had flat rendered sides, but when you get up close, you see how they are just giant boulders balanced on top of each other, like a massive game of Jenga that has got out of hand. I was told how it was only one of the Pyramids that was a wonder of the world, even though there are three of them, which is odd, as they all look the same. It’s the Great Pyramid that’s the official wonder. I would be annoyed if I was the builder who built one of the other two. It wouldn’t surprise me if it was one of the other builders who knocked the nose off the Sphinx in anger after hearing that news.
Machu Picchu, Peru
The crew asked me if I was excited about getting closer to Machu Picchu. I said I wasn’t. How could I be? I was still ill, hot and exhausted. The views were amazing – we were on top of the world – but why people would live up here just doesn’t make sense. My mam and dad have retired to Snowdon but they’re sick of it being a 15-minute drive to the local Spar. Living high up just isn’t practical. Just taking a few steps is really tiring. I’d like to see a sloth from the Amazon live there. It would never move. It would be like an ornament with a heartbeat.
As impressive as the entrance to the Treasury was, it was still a cave. Yes, it has good “kerb appeal”, but once I stuck my head inside there really was nothing to it. If you add that to the fact that it was out of the way, it’s fair to say that if it was on Location, Location, Location it wouldn’t be on my shortlist.
Chichen Itza, Mexico
It’s an odd one, Chichen Itza. It was built by the Mayan people and was known for sacrifices and for ripping out people’s hearts. Not exactly Alton Towers. So it’s an odd thing to make into a tourist attraction. May as well start doing tours around Fred West’s house if this is what people want. Chichen Itza is just a pyramid with four sides, with stairs on each side leading to some kind of bungalow on the top. Thinking about it, all those stairs defeat the idea of the bungalow on top.
What I learned …
If Michael Palin was heading off to visit the wonders of the world, I’d just tell him not to go on any trips to places that Ricky suggested. I’d tell him not to bother with the wonders and tell him to just sit back and watch rather than go chasing specific experiences. It’s like when you use a Dyson vacuum cleaner on a floor that looked quite clean, but then you realise there was all sorts of dust and muck on it. India is like that – it seems normal, but when you look closer loads of odd stuff is going on.
• An Idiot Abroad: The Travel Diaries of Karl Pilkington (Canongate, £16.99) is out now. The eight-part TV series is shown on Thursdays at 9pm on Sky 1
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