6 Cities That Are Supervillain Utopias
Moving to a new town is always difficult. There's so much to consider. Are the schools good? What's the nightlife like? Have criminals taken over and turned the place into a post-apocalyptic murdertown? After all, there are quite a few places in the world that are basically big amusement parks for desperados, places where even Batman wouldn't feel safe to walk alone at night. Places like ...
Mong La Is The Mos Eisley Of Asia
If you were to name the world's most depraved city, most people would say Las Vegas. The all-day drinking, all-but-legal prostitution, and the fact that it calls itself "Sin City"? It must be a shoo-in. But that's the equivalent of that guy who sticks a roll of quarters down his pants -- all bluster, no muster. For a real city built on sin and broken dreams, you head to Mong La in Myanmar.
That's not hyperbole, either. While places like Las Vegas and Macau merely adapted to vice, Mong La was born in it. The city was built specifically as a gambling mecca to take advantage of the fact that it's right on the border with China, where gambling is illegal. At night, the city's stores are transformed into low-brow casinos where the stakes are high and millions of dollars change hands instantly, all thanks to the high-rollers in Beijing telephoning bids in and watching via webcam. Mong La is engineered to attract Chinese gamblers -- the official language is Chinese, the casinos and stores deal in Chinese currency, and they even set all the clocks to Beijing time. It's such an effective money trap that the Chinese Army occasionally has to stomp over the border and tear the casinos up to stop the corruption of their citizens. It never works, of course, because they're rebuilt almost immediately.
The house always wins.
After you've been gambling for two days straight, it's probably time for a pick-me-up, and we're not exactly talking about drugs. In Mong La, gamblers visit the poaching black market where they can score for some primo rare exotic animal bits by the cage-load. It's a horrific, sickening slaughterhouse, but sometimes you have to snort a pangolin to be hyper enough to win your daughter's college money back. Or perhaps sir would like to relax with a glass of "tiger wine," an alcoholic spirit available in restaurants all over the city. They're easy to find. They're the ones with the massive glass tank containing gallons of booze and a liquefied tiger.
Before you start thinking that Mong La is this paradise of gambling and animal mutilation, you should know: It also copied some of the other bits of the more established gambling cities -- particularly the organized crime bits. Patrons are constantly made aware of the private army that patrols the city's streets, paid up by a shadowy drug lord who really runs the city. Still, Las Vegas has gone so mainstream, lately. You take the good with bad.
Darra Adam Khel Is A Citywide Gun Show
Still, even if you do manage to take over a city with your gang, the next question is how you intend to keep it. It's only a matter of time before the army is sent in, right? (Right?) You need guns. Lots of guns. It's time for a trip to Darra Adam Khel, Pakistan.
"Be sure to sign up for our rewards card."
In a situation that we didn't think existed outside of spy movies, Darra Adam Khel is a giant marketplace specially dedicated to making and selling weapons. The prices start at under $20 for pistols, and bullets are sold by the kilo. The entire place acts like some sort of Disney town where the theme is gunsmiths. There's the uptown where all the expensive supervillain weapons are sold, the downtown for all your cheap knockoffs, all the way down to the community of old-school hipsters making artisanal hand-built guns. The city is actually known for its dozens of savvy artisans who, using nothing more than lathes, vices, and years of know-how, can create a high-quality imitation of everyone's favorite murder-death machines.
That clock you made in shop class now looks even lamer.
The crazy thing, however, is that Darra Adam Khel has grown because of Western intervention. In the 1900s, the British let the market flourish in return for the arms dealers guiding them across dangerous tribal areas of Pakistan. In the 1980s, the market got a further boost when a nearby weapons depot that belonged to the U.S. exploded, scattering weapons and components across the region. After an epic scavenger hunt, these pieces were collected, reassembled, and offered up for sale in no time. However, in the last couple of years the market has been on a downturn, mainly owing to the fact that al-Qaida aren't the big spenders they used to be. The government also placed a restriction on tourists traveling to Darra Adam Khel, which must have put a real damper on their burgeoning bachelor party industry.
The Capital Of Papua New Guinea Is Run By Gangs
Of all the places where injustice goes unchecked, Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea is No. 1 with a bullet. It's not fair to say that the city has a crime problem. It's far more accurate to say that their crimetopia has an innocent-people problem -- though they're working really hard to fix that.
"Port Moresby: You don't need a machete to work here, but it helps."
Large areas of the city are under the control of local raskols -- which is pidgin English for "rascal," proving they didn't get the essence of the 1994 classic. These heavily armed gangs don't hesitate to rob, kill, or maim anyone that they find on the streets. For any upstanding citizens left, this means having to run a gauntlet of Grand Theft Auto-esque shenanigans every time they leave the house. And when the raskol gangs aren't jacking cars at machete-point, their favorite hobby is robbing banks and businesses. Their tactics range from simply walking through the front door holding a machine gun to landing a helicopter on the roof and paying bloody homage to every '80s heist movie.
According to the town bylaws, crashing your chopper makes you mayor.
So why isn't anyone stopping these gangs? Well, the police are far too understaffed and underpaid to deal with this enveloping gang activity. They also prefer to just raid the raskols for food and cash whenever they bother to go into their territory. Indeed, the haphazard police and chaotic gang situation seem to be two sides of the same issue. The country's economy is tanking hard, leaving no money left for social security, housing, infrastructure, or the litany of other little things that, y'know, stop a city from descending into lawless anarchy. For young people, it's a simple choice: Join a raskol gang or be robbed by one later.
It's not hard to see why Port Moresby was voted the world's worst capital city in 2004. How do you work that into the brochure?
Agadez Is Grand Central Station For Human Smugglers
Everyone who has a niece who backpacked through Europe will have heard it's the greatest place on Earth -- provided they could decipher her sudden French accent. This may explain why, every day, dozens of Africans try to get to the shores of Europe, risking their lives for the chance to eat a croissant and enjoy a soccer riot. For that, they go to Agadez, Niger, the main departure gate for anyone wanting to migrate across a scorching desert to the Mediterranean. It's a city that runs on trafficking human beings, and business is booming.
Desperation is the ultimate renewable resource.
It's estimated that 3,000 migrants pass through the Agadez every week, which adds up to more than its actual population over a year. Once passengers have paid up, the local smugglers herd them into a stash house where they won't be found by the law. When it's finally time to leave for their international journey, they jump into a beat-up truck to travel through one of the harshest environments in the world -- the Sahara. Along with bandit attacks, travelers and smugglers alike have to worry about heatstroke, dehydration, and vehicle breakdowns. If the latter happens, they're fucked. There's a reason why drivers carry a pistol and a shovel. But hey, at least they don't have to take off their shoes or have their junk scanned.
And their duty-free shop allows each passenger two melons.
Smuggling is a thriving industry in Niger, an area of the world where careers aren't exactly growing on trees. But not only does human trafficking earn smugglers a pretty penny, it also benefits the city. Agadez has been transformed by the refugee rush (rushfugee?) into an economic powerhouse, complete with banks and ATMs, stores, cash-wiring services, and a stark rise in vehicle ownership. Likewise, nearby rest stops have been transformed into mini-towns complete with mosques, gas stations, and hotels, all out to grab whatever the refugees have left after spending their life savings.
It's not like those CFA francs are gonna buy much in France.
As for the government response ... um, what government response? In 2015, a law was passed allowing human smugglers to be jailed for 30 years if they were caught. That law will start to be enforced the moment they find a police officer who doesn't want to earn a bunch of bribes. In some cases, the smuggling convoys even receive a military escort out of the city, but that has nothing to do with the new equipment, weaponry, and attack helicopters that they receive from anonymous benefactors inside Agadez. It's a complete coincidence.
Fort Berthold Is A Legal Free-For-All For Non-Native Americans
Native Americans got the rough end of the deal when they traded America to the pilgrims for some beads and genocides. Since then, they have slowly and painstakingly tried to reclaim some of their ancestors' lands. Now, while they still have a way to go, Native Americans have a few territories where they can live in peace and prosperity. Territories like Fort Berthold in North Dakota -- at least, until some tanked-up oil workers burn the place to the ground just because they can get away with it.
Not literally, cause, you know, oil.
At over 1,500 square miles, Fort Berthold is one of the largest Native American reservations in the country. It's also a nightmare for tribal law enforcement officers to patrol. That didn't improve in 2013, when the reservation dealt with the after-effects of a major oil boom. That generated such a flood of oil workers that the local population doubled -- as well as the crime rates for little things like battery, murder, drug offenses, and human trafficking. Actually, that didn't really impact the tribal officers' workload all that much, seeing as they're not allowed to arrest these new criminals.
"Don't drink and drive ... please ... or at least keep it to wine coolers ..."
In 1978, a local judge ruled that where a crime is committed by an outsider of the tribe (say, an oil worker), a tribal officer can't make the arrest. Instead, it has to be carried out by a county or state police officer. Which is a pretty big problem, seeing as these cops are often several hours away, leaving the tribal officer with nothing to do but keep an eye on a potentially dangerous criminal and count the number of times that they get flipped the bird. If matters couldn't be worse, which off-reservation arresting officer they need to call also depends on where the victim is from. Figuring that out can sometimes take a while, especially when the victim is uncooperative, in shock, or, y'know, dead. This impotence has led to the worst kind of anarchy: bureaucracy-made anarchy. As everyone knows that the tribal police can't do shit if they're caught, they don't even bother to hide their contempt. That joke about being flipped the bird? Not a joke. That's what happens to officers who respond to incidents involving oil workers.
Venezuela's San Antonio Prison Is The Playboy Mansion For Criminals
At least there's one place where justice will always reign, where the wicked are punished: prison. Criminals may thrive in the lawless cities we've mentioned, but in the big house they always get their just desserts. That's why nations build these fearsome places, like San Antonio prison on Margarita Island, Venezuela. Wait, did we say "fearsome"? We meant "awesome," because San Antonio is probably the best vacation spot you could have hoped for as a criminal. Ignore the high walls, barbed wire, and armed guards; this prison is party central.
The showers aren't quite as traumatic as you'd heard.
For the 2,000-plus occupants of San Antonio, life behind bars is a constant, never-ending fiesta of drugs, drink, sunbathing, and barbecues. It's Arkham City meets Van Wilder, where the drinks keep flowing and no one ever petitions for early release. The prisoners, who are a mix of Venezuelan nationals and foreign drug traffickers, owe this easy life to a deceased kingpin benefactor named Teofilo Rodriguez, also known "El Conejo" -- The Rabbit. Now, the inmates and their families (including children) can live safe behind the walls of this maximum security prison, indulging themselves in a variety of neighborhood activities ranging from dancing and painting to watching television and having cookouts.
Pictured: prison food.
Away from the frivolities, this freedom also allows criminal overlords to continue their illicit operations from behind bars. Using cellphones and laptops, these guys conduct drug deals, arrange assassinations, and run their empires with an iron fist all the while remaining behind steel bars. In 2010 alone, 476 prisoners were killed in San Antonio, most of them by the hands of the small armies of inmates carrying heavy duty guns. Prison guards are the worst-armed people in San Antonio prison.
We call them guards. The inmates call them "cabana boys."
The prison even has its own tourist industry. For visitors seeking drugs, San Antonio prison is a goldmine. They can walk around and buy some product without having to worry about being searched on the way out. They are searched going in, though. Nobody wants them smuggling in drugs and upsetting the inmates' profit margins. They have a business to run. Prison isn't just a holiday camp, after all.
When Adam isn't traveling the world, he tweets and stuff. He also has an email address (adamwearscracked at gmail.com) where you can contact him with ... well, whatever you please. He has a feeling he'll regret those words.
Which Sci-Fi Trope Would You Bring To The Real World, And Why? Every summer, we're treated to the same buffet of three or four science fiction movies with the same basic conceits. There's man vs. aliens, man vs. robots, man vs. army of clones, and man vs. complicated time travel rules. With virtual reality and self-driving cars fast approaching, it's time to consider what type of sci-fi movie we want to be living in for the rest of our lives. Co-hosts Jack O'Brien and Adam Tod Brown are joined by Cracked's Tom Reimann and Josh Sargent and comedians David Huntsberger, Adam Newman, and Caitlin Gill to figure out which sci-fi trope would be the best to make a reality. Get your tickets to this live podcast here!
For places to probably avoid on your next trip, check out The 6 Most Terrifying Places On Earth To Be Stranded and The 6 Best Towns To Live In (If You Have A Death Wish).
Also, follow us on Facebook, and let's go on a trip together.