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See them before they're gone: 5 urgent experiences for 2013
It's not often lemurs, a Japanese fish market and the Rolling Stones can be lumped together. But we've done it ... and with good reason
Some singular experiences on your annual must-see-and-do list can be pushed indefinitely. The Grand Canyon isn’t going anywhere, and Pisa’s tower will probably be leaning for the rest of our lives.
Other things you may want to upgrade to the “rush order” file.
The following five experiences may or may not be your cup of tea (or uncorporatized coffee). But they all officially belong in that latter category and shouldn't be put off much longer, if at all.
1. Catch Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market before it’s gutted
It’s the granddaddy of Asian fish markets, but by the end of next year it'll be more like an abandoned warehouse.
For years, the hallowed Tsukiji Market hasn’t just been the briny command post of Japan’s staple protein.
The 1,200-stall, hangar-style building on Tokyo Bay, packed to the gills with frenzied fishmongers and wholesalers bartering over 2,000-plus tons of marine meat every day, is also one of the city’s biggest tourist magnets -- reeling in thousands of early-morning spectators to watch tuna auctions and wonder how a single ocean can support such a vast place.
Last November, Tokyo’s metropolitan government announced that the property (located on prime waterfront in Chuo Ward near the upscale Ginza shopping district) will be shuttered and moved to a new multi-building facility a few kilometers down the road in Koto Ward.
Put off a trip to this must-see seafood scene for another year and you’ll be attending a newer, bigger, brighter, cleanlier version of the Tsukiji experience, with orderly observation decks and a bonus concession of on-site fruit and vegetable wholesalers.
Not exactly the photo op of al ifetime.
2. Fly to the next Rolling Stones concert (if there is one)
Did The Stones perform their final concert on December 15, 2012? Nah. But maybe. But probably not. It's possible, though.
That was the big question posed by Rolling Stone magazine and the rock ‘n' roll twittersphere on December 16, after the longest performing rock band in history capped its 50th anniversary tour with a blowout, ambiguous grand finale concert in Newark, New Jersey.
What were the mixed signals that it could all be over? Or not?
Well, first, there’s Newark. Would The Rolling Stones really choose to end it all there?
But then Bruce Springsteen showed up as a special guest -- which almost always marks the end of a crazy, drawn-out campaign.
But then the song list did include “One More Shot” and “Start Me Up.” On the other hand, it also included “Last Time” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”
Finally, if there was any doubt that these wrinkly rock legends are messing with us, the band flashed a “Coachella 2013” tour update on its mobile app -- pointing fans to their next blowout finale in Indio, California in April -- before yanking it.
By the time this article posts, new intel about where and when The Rolling Stones may or may not appear next (Regina 2014? McMurdo Station, Antarctica 2020?) will likely be flashed and then removed.
Bottom line, if seeing this diehard band live is something you’ll regret not doing at some point in your life, you may want to stay tuned and not put it off for another 50 years.
3. Save the Maldives (or at least see them)
Oceans have risen by about eight inches since 1870, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the pace is only picking up say top climate scientists.
Who’s taking the biggest hit while those global-warming forecasts and doom debates rage on?
Remote, low-lying islands in the middle of nowhere.
Places like Kiribati or Tuvalu, where evacuation plans are now on the table for tiny, pancake-ish islands that’ll be some of the first to go as the sea levels swell.
Or the Cartaret Islands of Papua New Guinea, already disappearing and where evacuations are slowly, inconspicuously underway.
Or the Maldives, a chain of more than 1,100 islands and atolls in the Indian Ocean, which has the enviable distinction of being one of the dreamiest tropical getaways on the planet, and the unenviable one of being the world’s lowest lying nation -- less than eight feet above sea level at its highest point.
New reports that rising ocean level rates may be exceeding our worst expectations -- “”We are decades ahead of schedule,” IPCC scientist Michael Mann recently told the Guardian -- come in the wake of an announcement by former Maldivian president Mohammed Nasheed that the Maldives will become carbon neutral by 2020.
Yes, it’s a gestural move given that the country accounts for at most 0.1 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. Unless you lump in all the well-heeled visitors arriving from the world’s greenhouse-gassiest countries.
Will taking a very long plane ride to the Maldives help the problem? No. Will supporting its sustainability efforts and witnessing the place’s startling beauty and uncertain future firsthand? Let’s hope.
4. Sip coffee in a land far away (from baristas in green aprons)
People-watching while sipping a warm beverage at some nameless café with crooked tables and chipped cups run by a cranky guy in a moustache whose family has owned the place for the last 500 years -- so let’s not worry about the crooked table or chipped cup.
Is there a more timeless and savory rite of passage for travelers (before noon at least) that’s vanishing right under our caffeinated, corporate-addled brains?
Starbucks isn’t everywhere yet, but world domination is looking more and more like the latte leviathan’s own 500-year business agenda.
In December, SBUX announced plans to break its own 20,000 worldwide retail store barrier (currently it’s at around 18,000) by the end of fiscal 2014.
Three thousand new stores will open in the Americas over the next five years and hundreds more in Asia (1,500 in 70 Chinese cities alone by 2015). The company has also recently opened its first stores in India and Costa Rica.
If this has you veering toward tea-focused countries, think again.
Starbucks’ recent US$620 million acquisition of U.S.-headquartered tea chain Teavana has also led the company to jettison the word “coffee” from its logo and inspire a terrifying new word. “Tea-volution.”
Bottom line -- there’s still nothing like an independent cup of coffee or chamomile in some classic joint that’s tall on character and short on “Venti” cups. If you can find one.
5. Glimpse your first wild lemur in Madagascar (and hopefully not your last)
Madagascar is the only place on earth to view a wild lemur. But that may change, for the worse.
Last year, the remote island’s endemic primates were named the most endangered vertebrates on earth by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) -- their imminent threat of extinction ahead of all other mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and bony fish.
The endemic primate, ranging from 30 grams to nine kilos, are believed to have evolved in isolation on Madagascar for over 60 million years, now comprising more than 100 species. Some were as large as male gorillas when humans began inhabiting the African island 2,000 years ago.
Those ones are long gone -- today more than 90 percent of Madagascar’s remaining lemur species are threatened, many critically, owing largely to deforestation and poaching.
The nationally protected animal now subsists on threads of remaining tropical forest habitat, set up as reserves and national parks and maintained largely by ecotourism, the country’s main source of income, with wild lemurs being a major draw.
“As Madagascar's biodiversity is its main tourist attraction,” reports Livescience, “the loss of lemurs would only exacerbate the economic problems that are causing their demise.”
In other words, if there’s a good time to see a lemur that’s not in a zoo, it’s now.