WARNING: The following article, on truthful slogans, was rated “hilarious but too cheeky to be publishable” by top international magazines. Read at your own risk.
I was approached by a tourism official recently with a cast-iron winner for the title of Worst Idea in History.
"Hey, you're a funny guy," he said. "Everyone's REALLY depressed just now. Nobody's travelling. We should get you to write stuff for us so that people see the funny side."
There was one small problem. PR men like him want to focus only on the good bits, while Fearless Reporters like me have to follow The First Rule of Journalism: "Thou shalt emphasize bad news as it selleth more publications."
I tried to explain this to him, using the classic intellectual debating technique of grabbing his jacket lapels and shouting in his face, but he couldn't see it. "Just try it," he said.
"Fine," I said. "In that case, I accept the job."
So I got together with a few regular contributors to this column and we wrote promotional slogans for the countries of Asia. In some cases, we thought of more than one. They are listed below in the random order that we came up with them.
Serious warning: Before reading the list below, please note. We do NOT intend to offend any particular nation. We intend to offend ALL nations. We are strictly an equal-opportunity offender.
The Official List of Accurate Travel Slogans for Asian Nations:
Laos: Landmine capital of the world.
Kazakhstan: Visit us and feel better about your home country.
Mongolia: Poor, cold and miserable, but mountain sheep like it.
China: 1.3 billion people can be wrong.
Maldives: Beautiful, clear blue waters, and islands shortly to disappear beneath them.
South Korea: Right next door to a demented man making nuclear weapons.
North Korea: Paradise on earth, yeah right.
Vietnam: Not entirely sad, possibly.
Sri Lanka: The world's most glorious island, except for the war and the bombs and the soldiers and the guns and stuff.
Taiwan: Shortly to be overrun by China.
Bangladesh: Sometimes not flooded.
Thailand: Come and see how long you can stay Prime Minister.
Japan: You think our cartoons are weird, wait till you meet our people.
North Korea: Proud to be the world's maddest country.
China: Home of Earth's most polluted cities.
Nepal: Compare the legend of fabled, exotic Kathmandu, with the grimy, bar-lined reality.
Malaysia: Pitched battles over leadership, and that’s just within the ruling party.
Kyrgyzstan: Proud to be the world's least spell-able nation.
Hong Kong: Quite nice, as long as you don't breathe in.
Pakistan: Visit us for the best chance of being part of the world's first all-out nuclear war.
East Timor: Now transformed from a violent, poverty-stricken, occupied land, into a violent, poverty-stricken, INDEPENDENT land.
Philippines: Corrupt but cheap.
Singapore: Now developing ways to arrest people for thought-crimes.
Myanmar: Home of some of the world's nastiest leaders. Brunei: Imagine a land totally free of pubs, nightclubs and alcoholic drinks.
Cambodia: We now have electricity in places.
China: We have more ways to detain you than you ever thought possible.
India: Your upset stomach might not last the whole trip.
I delivered the list to him over a cappuccino at a little Italian place. "I see what you mean," he said, eventually, his brow wrinkling and his dream campaign disappearing.
"The truth hurts, doesn't it?"