Travellers tales of the places they just didn’t like.
Everyone always talks about the trips they have been on and the places they have visited where they absolutely fell in love with, but rarely do you hear the stories of the places that you just didn’t like. People are always hesitant with sharing these stories, because as travellers, it’s hard to complain about going anywhere without someone rolling their eyes at you. We are all lucky to get to travel anywhere, even if it is to a part of the world that we didn’t really enjoy.
I had an experience like this in Hanoi, Vietnam, and to be honest, it wasn’t that I absolutely hated my time there, in the end I was glad I visited, but it just wasn’t my favourite place and not on the top of my must-go-back list. Here’s why…
When my sister and I traveled to Hanoi in December 2014, we arrived from Luang Prabang, Laos, which is the most relaxing, laidback place in existence. Going from a hippie town to a full blown chaotic city, probably didn’t help my case. We arrived in Hanoi and it was just pure chaos. Motorbikes everywhere, no stop lights, tuk tuks and taxis waiting to scam you, it was just straight up overwhelming and I was definitely in major culture shock.
One of the first set of people we met were a couple from Australia, and the girl had warned us that this was the worst place she’s ever been and that we should just stay in the hotel the whole time we were there. Obviously not what you want to hear when you first arrive in a destination, but we had to give it a fair shot and determine what we thought of the city ourselves. The next day was rainy and cold, and this was entirely our fault, but we didn’t realize Vietnam can actually be way colder in December then all the neighbouring countries, so we literally had 0 pants with us, and 1 sweater each. I used my beach cover-up as a scarf, and piled on everything in my backpack. We headed out to explore, and between the cold, rain, the chaos and fear of crossing the street, and us constantly getting lost amongst the chaos, it was an exhausting day.
On top of the cold weather, we found the people in Hanoi to be less than welcoming. When we entered most stores, the people working could care less, or wouldn’t help us (not all, but most), we went to a night market and instead of people actually trying to sell you things, they wouldn’t even give us the time of day to tell us how much something was, we’d be walking down the street and it wouldn’t be shocking if people straight up pushed you out of the way. I had never traveled to a city ever where I felt unwelcome and uncomfortable because of it. Despite the fact we met a lot of friendly and helpful people, especially those that works at our hostel, it was hard to ignore the mean and un-friendly ones.
Overall, Hanoi was just not my cup of tea. We were happy when we got to escape to Ha Long Bay, and when we returned back for one more night we were antsy to move on to Siem Reap, Cambodia. But even though I didn’t love my time there, I wouldn’t at all say I HATED it, I found it interesting to experience a city so different from everywhere else I had ever been and that is what traveling is all about. So I decided to find out from other people what countries or places they’ve visited and really didn’t like. Here is what some other travellers had to say.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Phnom Penh just rubbed me the wrong way. Heaps of backpackers love it there, but I never really developed any sort of connection to this city. I traveled in Southeast Asia for 5 months prior to arriving and grew to understand how street vendors and tuk tuk drivers work, but I always felt in Phnom Penh that the rip offs were more extravagant compared to other cities in Southeast Asia. Overall, it was just an unwelcoming vibe. I ended up just rolling with it and staying for the amount of days I allotted to explore the city and focused on meeting cool people who were staying in my hostel. It is safe to say, I was definitely excited to move on to my next destination!
– Carrie @ There Goes Gypsy
I traveled on Semester at Sea to Chennai, India in the fall of 1999. I was quite young and the voyage was really the first time my eyes were open to the ways of the world. Our stop in Chennai was about half way through our around the world journey. I had a few countries under my belt, and a few more to go.
The first thing you notice when you step foot in India is the people. People everywhere fill the streets and sidewalks and you cannot walk without being bumped about. Coming back to the ship on a bus late at night I noticed the sidewalks full of sleeping bodies. My naïve self did not understand this, but somehow I knew this was a very common occurrence.
The next thing you notice is the pollution. I wear contacts and for the length of my stay in India I could not wear them due to the irritation of the pollution in the air. Back on the ship at night, I would blow my nose and find it black. This was a common, surprising occurrence amongst all travelers on the ship.
I was eager to try the food, but had been forewarned about Delhi belly. I ate only granola bars and other snacks during my time there, but it did not help. I got the dreaded Delhi belly along with over half the ship.
More than anything now, I am ashamed of my uncomfortableness in a foreign country. Try as I might I could not wrap my heard around how very different India was. On the ship, we had a saying, “It’s not weird, it’s just different.” It helped me a lot throughout most of the countries we traveled to, trying new food or witnessing interesting cultures. Nothing could help me in India when I walked the streets with tears streaming down my eyes at the unfairness of location or birthright.
I’d like to think that if I ever return, I will be ready. I will relish the uniqueness of such a diverse country and I will be comfortable knowing that the differences make us better.
– Kari @ Words and Other Such Things
Casa Blanca, Morocco
Casablanca, Morocco conjures up visions of romance, intrigue and old Hollywood, but the reality is the complete opposite and quite disappointing. The city was very dirty and unattractive with very little to do or see. At night the streets were crawling with cockroaches and we couldn’t go anywhere without being followed and harassed by men who would not leave us alone, even following us into restaurants and down dark streets. Needless to say, we could not wait to leave Casablanca for the much nicer city of Marrakech!
– Kartina @ The Two Week Traveler
I have read so many blog posts about Prague, all telling me how beautiful the fairytale city is. The city is famous for the Charles Bridge, it’s Astronomical Clock on the Old Town Square, and the Lennon Wall. The city is known as the gateway to Eastern Europe, but it isn’t, really. It’s just like any other city centre in Europe, I counted 8 Starbucks on our walk this summer, I spotted a Hooters, TGI Friday’s, tons of McDonalds & H&M’s on every corner; definitely not my picture of Eastern Europe. We walked across the Charles Bridge, and it was so packed that I didn’t even see it properly! I pretty much spent the walk clinging onto my guide so I didn’t get hauled off the wrong way in the crowds. Just to prove how fake it is, there is a polished up spot on one of the statues, said to be lucky if you rub it. What really happened was it was polished by students one night to make it popular- and people still fall for it. Not only that, when you get out of the crowds from the bridge you fall into another watching the Astronomical Clock, it’s even been voted the most disappointing tourist attraction in Europe!
On my last visit, I was lucky enough to stumble across an exhibition of Tim Burton’s work which meant I escaped the overcrowded city. It actually turned out to be the best reason to be in Prague, and I had a great time admiring one of my hero’s work, including favourites like The Nightmare Before Christmas. If you do find yourself stuck in Prague, I would also recommend visiting the Lennon Wall, it’s ever changing, and you can even add to it yourself.
– Sammi @ Wanderlustin
When people talk of Sri Lanka, it brings to mind sweeping views of beautiful beaches, swaying palm trees and amazing food. But we found we were not fond of the country after our visit. We flew into Columbo and, after an extremely bumpy 3 hour drive, we arrived in Bentota at the Taj Exotica Resort. From viewing the website, we expected an amazing hotel, but found it quite mediocre. Our room was very no-frills and on the bottom floor, a floor that had previously been under water from the Tsunami of 2004. Tiles were chipping around the pool area and the food was not anything to write home about. Outside the resort, we were not any more impressed. In fact, we found everything a bit depressing. We have visited many third world countries and were shocked by the poverty in Sri Lanka. It was quite dirty and lacked the charm that many other countries we had visited in the Indian Ocean region.
– Melissa @ The Roaming Family
I think the reason I didn’t like Hong Kong was just a series of bad luck. You can do HK in two ways- the rich way and the poor way, we were backpacking so we went the poor way. First off, the day I had arrived it was a “code black” for weather, meaning it BUCKETED rain and stormed for the 8 days I was there. No sunshine, no warm clothing, no strong enough umbrella to withstand the rain. I could not go outside without being soaked. Anyways, I stayed in a hostel in Chunking Mansions, it was really dirty, and loud and I felt a bit unsafe there as a solo female. My 6 person co-ed dorm room, which was $26 for a bed, was ALL male. The bathroom didn’t even close all the way and the hostel didn’t really care to help. I think it was just the bad luck with horrible weather, feeling a touch unsafe, a lot of haggling, uncertainty of certain meats in my food, and the weird smell caused by the rain. I’ll go back one day, but it’s definitely not high on my priority.
– Jen and Jack @ Who Needs Maps
I can’t say I HATED Lisbon. We did see a few buildings that were cute, and Praça do Comércio wasn’t bad, but overall, I was surprised to see during our brief, one day visit how neglected this capital of Portugal looked. There was trash on the sidewalks, graffiti on the walls, and many buildings were close to falling into ruin. So sad, really. I hope Portugal’s economy will improve soon, so that the money flowing in will trickle to city services and improvements as well.
– Jolanta @ Casual Traveler
Many travelers seem to love New Orleans, so maybe my expectations were a bit high when I decided to spend 5 days there around Christmas. However, it seemed to me that there’s not much else to do other than walking up and down Bourbon street, and that gets old quite quickly if you’re not a party animal. On Christmas Eve and Christmas day museums and many restaurants were closed, and I spent those two days wandering around the deserted French Quarter, looking for an open cafe to shield myself from the cold, hoping my vacation would end soon.
– Valeria @ Rome, New York, London, World