STICK WITH SECOND-TIER CITIES
There are more tourists touring the planet today than ever (and annoying the local yokels who, if they get rich enough, will in turn fly off to somewhere else – as tourists – and annoy the people there).
Swarms of tourists bump into one another, argue and fight, stand in line under a blazing hot sun to see another worn-out ‘tourist object’ better appreciated on the internet. They use too much water, make noise at all hours, leave trash everywhere, and cause other problems never seen before in pockets of cultural isolation (think island living).
Most will slavishly follow-the-dots and head for the major cities.
As numbers soar, the locals are more and more aggrieved at the mass assault.
As a seasoned traveler (ever since I hit Germany in 1946, having triumphantly beaten the Nazis) (at age four) I can attest to the foolishness of this custom. Really really really folks: my advice is to stay away from the monster metropolises.
I tell you why.
Dogshit capital of the world. Chic Parisiennes walk their chic poodles down the Champs Élysées but do not bother to clean up their stinky dog-doo when Fifi takes a dump on the sidewalk.
The next stolid Guangzhou burgher waddling along, swinging his Huawei cell phone camera to get a shot of the Eiffel Tower (as if that eyesore had never been photographed before) gracefully does a WHISH as he steps right into the freshly-laid dogshit and goes skidding down the road, toward the Arc de Triomphe.
Meanwhile his wife screams ‘Look out for the dog turd’ at him (little late there Madam) as a dozen filthy cunning gypsy children make a beeline for her, from a dozen directions, surrounding her, pinning her arms to her waist as they cheerfully relieve her of her purse, passport, Yuan, dollars, camera, tablet and anything else of value, before dashing their separate ways into the crowds.
Criminals have developed Interception, Distraction and Larceny to a high art in the major cities:
They even having training sessions, teaching the kiddies how pick pockets.
Welcome to gay Paree. What a frolic.
Following the gang attack and theft, the irate Chinese woman, angry tour group in tow, heads for the nearest police station, to report the assault and loss (maybe the smelly canine experience as well).
French police, having heard variations of this boring tale umpteen times before, smile wearily, take down the details (the loot is already on its way to Bucharest), before shrugging apologetically and breaking away for a Gitane…
That is a picture of Paris. I did not include the snooty locals, who sneer and look down on the primitive foreigners (but not on their money).
Meanwhile, back in China, the gypsies’ local counterparts are busy skinning tourists.
Invited for a ‘special tour’ by a pack of grinning Africans, then raped and robbed – and beaten if silly enough to complain about the encounter. Rome swarms with desperate homeless hungry angry bewildered Afro-Asian refugees, dodging the equally pissed-off locals zipping by on their Vespas and Gileras, muttering curses at the portly picture-snapping Japanese housewives.
An ice-cream cone costs $15 and as the tourist waltzes away, looking forward to a cool sweet bite, a vicious seagull immediately snatches it away, to the delight of onlooking photographers.
Getting the picture, are you? Even the animals exploit the tourists.
The prevailing attitude is ‘Why don’t you ugly, loud, fat, confused foreign tourists simply send us your money via Western Union and stay home where you belong?’
Tour bus driver imagines he is Juan Manuel Fangio and turns over the bus into a ravine, while locals scramble to see what they can pilfer from the cadavers. Atlas shrugs.
That is Rome, but not just Rome, as the global assault waves of tourists boil over.
The point is that huge metropolises barely function – even without the onslaught of tourists (Venice = population: 50,000, annual onslaught of tourists = 16,000,000).
So why not be a bit original in your travels and consider delving into a second-tier or third-tier city?
You’ll receive a much friendlier and fresher welcome in Lyon, San Antonio, Kumamoto, Xi’an or Bandar Lampung. Hotels are vastly cheaper, life is slower and easier, crime not nearly such a problem. Natural wonders remain undisturbed.
And as a foreign visitor you are ‘special’. When millions of your kind pour through, like a cattle stampede, you cannot expect to be treated very nicely. But drop into Bengkulu or Chantaburi or Florianopolis and they’ll be charmed and find you charming (especially if you take the effort to communicate with the locals).
Check the maps, scour the internet, consider alternatives far off the beaten path. You may encounter difficulties in language comprehension, foods (particularly if you’re a picky sort, like a vegetarian); but you might well be delighted at trying something new, like Anthony Bourdain always did… (and I don’t mean suicide).
Be creative. Visit the local high school or college and ask to see the English teacher – he or she will welcome a native squeaker and then you’ll find information about where to go and what to do that you’d never have secured otherwise. Drop in on the mayor and offer him some Duty-Free firewater or a cigar. He’s likely never had a visitor like you before, and may welcome the experience.
Take a train to nowhere! (I won’t recommend ‘…a plane to nowhere…’ as that sounds too ominous.) Then ride the same train back from nowhere to where you are now.
Avoid tour groups and their usual haunts like the black death. They are poison and they poison the environment. The only locals they ever see are money-hungry ones with nothing to offer except crappy [Made-in-China] tourist handicrafts and overpriced food.
That means you can cross off worn-out, polluted tourist traps like Bali, Monte Carlo, Rio, Phuket, San Francisco, the pyramids, Chichen Itza, New Orleans, Acapulco and need I go further…
More suggestions for calm, fresh alternatives? Lyon… Tbilisi… Penang… Byron Bay… Da Lat… Valparaiso… Curitiba… Sumba Island… Nome…
Second-tier cities may require more preparation: take along snacks in case the whole burg is shut down for the Feast of Saint Fallus and there’s no eatery open. Be prepared to shower in cold water (horrors!). Don’t be overly perturbed at getting lost – for…