I found that there are three types of people who travel for vacation.
- Those who want to visit the most popular sites and attractions of the city/country
- Those who want to go on an adventure and travel off the beaten track
- Those who want to try the place as a local
I see that there’s no “best” way to travel. All of these types have their own merits. To each their own and if you enjoy it, then it’s worth it. But personally, there is one thing I tried to avoid when traveling, touristy places.
What are Tourist Spots
Most cities have their own tourist spots. Manila has Intramuros. Singapore has Sentosa. Orlando has Disney World. Paris has the Eiffel Tower. So on and so forth. You get the point.
These spots have a significant meaning to the city and have been crafted to highlight that significance. Of course, locals know this by heart. So the highlighting is for tourists so that they get to know and understand what the city and its people are like. Understand their history and their culture, and make a buck or two.
Why I Avoided Tourist Spots
That last statement encompasses the majority of the reason why I tend to avoid tourist spots. They have become so expensive; especially if you compare the prices in tourist spots with the rest of the city. Food is a good example. A good meal in Singapore would be around SGD10 per person. But once you are in Sentosa Island, the price becomes significantly higher.
The general feeling is that if you are already traveling, then you are willing to spend. This is why these places cost so much. So I thought to myself, why not spend my money on more things instead?
Another good reason for me to avoid these tourist spots is the people. I am not good with crowds. I do not like it and I do not want to waste my time in a foreign land waiting in line. This seemed to be a complete waste of travel time.
But then, I experienced these spots…
Winds of Change on Tourist Spots
There were two main incidents wherein I realized that there is an actual reason why these spots are flocked by tourists. Why they are popular. Why you should not miss them when you are in the city. This is because these places define the place you are visiting.
The first time I realized this was when I went to Bangkok with my now wife, Mei. We were researching where to eat their signature dish of Pad Thai and we ended up in Thip Samai.
Thip Samai is frequented by tourists instead of locals. It has an outdoor kitchen showing how the food is made and normally a long line outside. All strong indications of tourist spots.
We were able to eat at Thip Samai and I was wonderfully surprised. It was not the overpriced food that under-delivers which we normally expect from these types of spots. It actually was very good!
Although I do not have a lot of Pad Thai experience to compare it with, I believe I had a good taste of this national dish from Thailand. On top of that, this is where I learned about the history of Pad Thai wherein it was created by law to make use of locally grown produce to make a national dish.
Belly full. New trivia learned.
Another experience of mine was when I went on a business trip to Sydney. On my last day, I had the entire evening for myself. So I decided to take a walk and explore the city. I wanted to cross the Harbour Bridge on foot to get back to my hotel.
As I tried to get to the bridge, I accidentally ended up near the Opera House. I did not have any plans to go there because I was able to take a picture of the Opera House already since my first day in the city. It is visible from almost any vantage point around the city. But, when I accidentally stumbled upon it and was standing right in front of it, the feeling was different.
The Opera House felt so majestic and larger than life. It is completely different than simply seeing it from afar. Being there, in its presence, brings a different awe-inspiring experience.
Tourist Spot Take Away
My position has not changed. I still prefer to simply immerse myself in a city and learn their culture, try the food that the locals actually eat, and simply get to know the place on a personal level. However, I will no longer discount the fact that you get a new level of appreciation for the city when you visit well-worth tourist spots.
Plus, I’m there already anyway; why not give it a try? You never know when you’ll be able to come back. They may not be my top priority, but tourist spots now have a place on my itinerary.