I took my family to one of the Seven Wonders of the World yesterday. We drove to Chichen Itza (or chicken pizza as the locals call it), the ancient Mayan ruins that lie in the centre of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico and became a "new" Wonder in 2007. We got there early to avoid the hordes of coach parties that descend upon the place after 10am. It's certainly impressive, but I couldn't help thinking that I'd been to even more amazing places that hadn't made the New Wonders list, established by a company in Switzerland which claims to have got over 100 million votes before announcing the seven winners.
The new seven are Chichen Itza, the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, Machu Picchu, the Colosseum, Petra, and the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio. As the only remaining Ancient Wonder of the World, the Pyramids of Giza were given an honorary status.
Personally, I think the temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia are 10 times more extraordinary than Chichen Itza but, presumably, with Cambodia's troubled past, get fewer visitors and are therefore at a great disadvantage when it comes to a public vote. I've been to the Taj Mahal twice and have always thought it slightly overrated. It's undeniably beautiful, but I have been much more blown away by places like the village of Hampi where you find the ruins of the last capital of the great Hindu kingdom of Vijayanagara.
I would agree with the Great Wall of China, Petra and Machu Picchu, but dispute the rest. The statue of Christ the Redeemer is average at best, and the Colosseum, while impressive, is surely surpassed by a plethora of Roman ruins around the world (Leptis Magna, Baalbek and Palmyra, for instance). Again, the fact that these sites lie in trouble spots – Libya, Lebanon and Syria respectively – means they have less tourism and therefore less backing.
Maybe I should be happy. After all, there is nothing worse than sharing these places with thousands of day-trippers, all wearing matching fluorescent baseball caps and name tags and following a guide holding an umbrella aloft so they don't get lost. I'm definitely a travel snob. There is nothing more thrilling than standing alone in the colonnades of Aphamia, the only visitor within miles, no coach park, no women called Gloria talking over miniature loudspeaker systems … I'd be happy to name my Seven Current Wonders of the World, but you will have to promise not to visit them. Here we go: Angkor Wat, Palmyra, Petra (on horseback), Machu Picchu (but avoid the backpackers and backbreaking climb by taking the train to arrive as they leave), Venice, the Great Wall of China, and the Shinkansen – Japan's bullet trains.
Back in Chichen Itza, we slipped out as the coaches pulled up. Wonder-watching is a tiring business and my kids insisted that we stop at the site's canteen for brunch. This was my Eighth Wonder of the World: a tourist site that actually has wonderful food. The lime chicken soup and tostados will surely be vying for honours the next time there's a vote. Stranger things have happened.