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    The longest bus journey I ever did was in Sudan. I remember dossing down at night next to the vehicle out in the bush. When the inevitable breakdown came, the driver rummaged around in the gear box, ripped out a part then said he was popping back to Khartoum for spares. He was gone for a week, but at least he did return. Bus journeys, and their resultant stories, are the stuff of first youthful adventures out into the big wide world, and what could be more adventurous than a 12-day marathon from Birmingham to Pakistan? Are they insane, one wonders. Well, maybe, but I for one would be willing to give it a try. Anyone who survives deserves to dine out on the tale for many years afterwards. And I absolutely guarantee that those stories will be better than anything picked up on a plane or even a train. As a new bus route linking the UK to Pakistan opens (only for the most adventurous amongst us), Kevin Rushby praises the long-distance bus journey
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    The top five supersized tourist flops

    As Japan unveils the world’s second largest building - The Sky Tower, which is expected to receive 8,000 visitors a day, our intrepid travel writer Benji Lanyado says that bigger is not always better when it comes to manmade tourist attractions.

    Here are his top five supersized tourist flops:

    From top to bottom:

    The Ruyong hotel, North Korea:

    Started in 1989 this was supposed to be the largest hotel on earth, with seven restaurants at its peak. Unfortunately, the building is still incomplete.

    The Mecca Clock Tower, Saudi Arabia

    This horrendous clock tower next to Mecca has been described as an “architectural absurdity” and a “kitsch rendition of Big Ben”.

    The San Alfonso del Mar swimming pool, Chile
    This is the world’s largest swimming pool with 66m gallons of temperate water stretching over 3,300ft, set directly adjacent to the sea.

    Dubai’s coastline

    Where to start really? It’s amazing how many monstrousities you can pack into a small area of coastline!

    Valle de la Prehistoria, Cuba

    Built in the 1980s this dinosaur theme park features a bizarre 30ft neanderthal cracking a rock with a homemade axe.

    Photo credit: Reuters, Getty EPA, Alamy

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    I met a Kentucky car mechanic who offered insightful analysis of domestic French politics. A rightwing columnist in Maine who wished he were French, he said, if only to meet more women. In an old Texas gas station I found a restaurant with a menu of Franco-Western dinners: pan-seared trout with lobster cream sauce, and “cowboy coffee crème brulee”. Not for nothing did Woody Allen’s recent film Midnight in Paris become his top-grossing ever. Cheese eating surrender monkeys? Writer Rosecrans Baldwin toured small towns in the USA to ask ‘normal’ people what they thought about the French. Some of the answers may surprise you …


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