What’s All This Theme Park Stuff, Anyhow?

My colleague Jon Carroll wrote a story a while back when he was in India. An Indian friend of his said: Isn't it wonderful? Read here in this newspaper! There's going to be a new theme park that this businessman is going to develop, right here in India. And the theme of the theme park is going to be India!'

Jon read the newspaper article. He thought about it. As politely as he could, he told his Indian friend: 'That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard. India already has a theme park with that topic. India is a theme park, and a very good one.'

Jon went on in his story to mention all the rich people, beautiful people, nice people, poor people, ugly people, cows wandering the streets, and beautiful architecture (and all the other architecture) that make India a wonderful theme park. Scenes, sounds, smells, great food, things you can buy, music and people talking and making their sales pitches all make India a great place to visit! Something dreamed up by Disney-minded people would never compare. I think he mentioned later that this proposed Indian theme park was never built.

But India is, even today, a great theme park. By the time you read this, I'll have been in India. Japan, where I wrote this, is another great theme park. France is another, and England, Scotland, and China. Mexico, Brazil, Germany, Switzerland... Nepal is pretty darned good, if you like hiking. Climbing a long way up toward Mt. Everest makes a great theme park. There's nothing like it in the world! Just thinking about going up through the Khumbu, to Gorak Shep, Kala Pattar, Everest Base Camp, and the Great Khumbu Icefall makes me shiver. Disney could never get the yaks to make it authentic. Yaks don't live below 11,000 ft.

Here in the US, we have New England, New York, the great Southwest, Southern California, the Midwest, etc. Each place makes an excellent theme park. There are quite a few others. But the overall view is that each distinctive part of the world is a great area, well worth visiting. Each place has unique sights and sounds. A plastic replica would not be worth visiting.

I have had the privilege of seeing a good number of these theme parks. Many of them are wonderfully inspiring. I want to encourage you to go to some of them, when you can. Introduce yourself to them and allow yourself to discover all the nice people and all the other wonderful things.

Heck, the subway system in Tokyo alone makes a great theme park. It is a great maze, with more than 1,000 stores and 1,000 restaurants and many nice people. It has many signs to decode. And a cast of thousands? No, a cast of millions. And some parts of it have cute little trains that connect a thousand people per hour to other nearby theme parks, such as Osaka, at speeds of 180 mph! Stick that up your nose, Mr Disney! I rest my case.

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