Travellers tales of the places they just didn’t like.
We’ve all had those places that we could live without returning to again, the thing is, many of us don’t talk about them! We get so caught up on sharing the stories of those places we fell in love with and don’t share the stories of the places that challenged us and pushed us outside our comfort zones more than we would’ve liked. Here are some of the stories of those places from other travellers…
It all started as soon as I crossed the border to Uganda. My crumpled dollars were not good enough – I needed crisp notes or Ugandan shillings for my Visa. My Rwandan friend, Claire, came to the rescue. The bus was checked out by sniffer dogs and we walked across ‘no-mans land’ between the Rwanda-Uganda border.
The roads were so bumpy, and there was clear evidence of previous buses that had gone off the road. I literally had to hold on to my seat.
We were supposed to arrive at Kampala at 4pm. We actually arrived at 9pm. It was pitch black, with people scuffling everywhere at the Kampala bus station. A number of men seemed eager to get their hands on my bag. Claire grabbed my hand, looked me in the eye and said, “Amy, don’t lose!”. None of the buses were numbered, but thankfully, Claire knew which one to go for.
We then boarded motos to get to Claire’s cousins house. They lacked the safety helmets that I was used to in Rwanda. Several times, I thought I was going to come off my moto, but thankfully, I didn’t.
The following day, I walked through the dirty streets of Kampala, with children trying to sell things at the side of the road. A disgusting man grabbed my arse without my permission and shouted ‘Mzungu!’ at me. I felt violated. Everywhere we went they were all shouting at me “Mazungu buy bag!”.
It was so hot I nearly fainted. I had to refresh myself in the back of a shop with a Fanta! Do I need to mention that a few of us were suffering from diarrhoea?
On the last day, the taxi didn’t show up to get us back to the bus station, so we ordered another one. Then, the two taxis turned up at the same time, and almost had a fist fight over us! I lasted three days in that city!
Amy of Globetrotter Guru
Palace of Versailles, France
I had heard so many wonderful things about the Palace of Versailles before visiting last year. Ornate architecture, history, art, lavish decorations, what’s not to love? Well, as it ended up, quite a few things actually. Following all the advice from blogs and guidebooks, we purchased our tickets in advance and arrived at the palace early in the hopes of avoiding the crowds. HA! Yeah, right! As we approached the
entrance my mouth dropped open when we saw the security line that snaked around the front courtyard five times. FIVE TIMES!
Over an hour later, we finally made our way inside, but I’m not sure why I thought the inside would be any better. As we listened to our audio guides, very slowly inching our way through the palace rooms, it seemed like every room got even more crowded. Some rooms were so jam packed I didn’t even bother to stop and look around, I just kept walking. I was most looking forward to seeing the Hall of Mirrors, but it was impossible to fully appreciate its uniqueness because of the masses of people. Overall, I was incredibly disappointed with the Palace of Versailles and frankly, I just really didn’t like it. A serious lack of a WOW factor and way too many people crammed in tiny spaces really ruined it for me.
Am I glad I went? Yes, absolutely! I never regret visiting new places, but I’m not in any hurry to return. Would I recommend it? I honestly can’t say I recommend the main palace unless it’s just something you’ve been dying to see. My recommendation is to skip the main palace altogether and explore the gardens, the Queen’s Hamlet, and the Trianon Palaces. The vast palace gardens and the Queen’s Hamlet really saved our day from being a total bust. The Queen’s Hamlet and Trianon Palaces give you an idea of what the palace interior is like but on a smaller scale and with virtually zero crowds.
Kate from Travel Far, Eat Well
Here’s a shocker. Recently, I backpacked across the South Pacific Islands, from Vanuatu to French Polynesia. So I naturally had to pay a visit to Bora Bora, the dream island that’s on every honeymooner’s bucket list. The verdict? It’s gorgeous but way overhyped.
Luxury resorts that’ll put you in debt take up the prettiest spots around the famous lagoon, and there are just way too many tourists on the island at any given point. They pretty much kiss the ground upon arrival, happy to now be able to brag about getting to Bora Bora and ticking this off ‘the list’. Few seek to find any kind of authenticity in one of the most exotic places in the world.
So what did an independent traveler like me do? First of all, I found a family in the main village to stay with via AirBNB. This way, I got to meet the real locals and get to know what life in Bora Bora is like for them. I also ventured to explore the island on my own. Riding around the island on a bicycle, I visited the local beach and learned about the history of Bora Bora during WWII. It turns out, there were 5,000 US soldiers stationed here with not much ‘action’ (at least not of the combat type). After the war, they came back home with stories of paradise and voila! The Bora Bora hype began.
Not that Bora Bora isn’t gorgeous, because it can be. But if you’re already coming all the way out here, check out the real gems that have yet to be discovered.
Avichai from X Days in Y
I got there at 4am, the bus left me on the street only two blocks away from my hostel but I was suggested to take public transportation for that tiny distance, I got a weird vibe that proved true since that first moment.
The next morning when I woke up I went for a walk and liked the aspect and feeling of the town, although there seemed to be only one big serious street, everything seemed friendly enough. I made some friends and enjoyed myself partying at the hostel while meeting travellers from all over the place.
The next day I had planned to take surfing lessons, but laziness overtook me and I postponed for the next day, so I just chilled back at the pool for the whole day and partied again, but this time I decided to join them to finish the party at the beach (since it was only 1am) and that is when all went to hell.
The only place that was still open kept pretending not to have beer, we insisted until they sold one and soon enough we understood why. Some local Peruvians started trying to fight some Argentinians and soon after that there were dozens of them trying to fight everyone. Since i was hanging out with the Argentinians, I EVEN GOT PUNCHED before I told them I was Colombian and had nothing to do with it.
The saddest part is that the police wouldn’t stop the fights, apparently they only stand by locals, who seem to fight just for fun since the day before and after I got hit, they caused fights and hit some other guests of the hostel pretty badly!
Realizing that I just didn’t trust the place, and the only fun seemed to be had in the hostel, I just moved on to Lima where I had an amazing time, and now Mancora is the only bad experience I’ve had while travelling.
If you consider traveling to Mancora ask the current hostel guests what the situation is like, if they are still as aggressive, just party early and wake up for surf in the morning!
Miguel from Viviendo en Chanclas
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) was our last stop on our travels through Vietnam. I had a feeling that I would fall in love with the North more than the South. Maybe I arrived in HCMC with pre-conceived perceptions and emotions, however in comparison to the North and even Central Vietnam, we found HCMC to be ‘just another normal city’.
Ever since we arrived, all we saw was a mix of modern high rises together with normal fast food chains such as KFC, something we hadn’t seen in Vietnam until then. We spotted some pretty famous department stores selling high quality fashion labels, and we couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed in not finding some culture and pictures of tradition that we had found elsewhere in Vietnam. In comparison to the culture you find in Hanoi, where locals are cooking up a storm in little alleyways, and sellers are walking around with the traditional Vietnamese conical hat, to us, this city, was just a city. In comparison to the gorgeous colours, vibrancy and charming buildings in Hoi An Ancient Town, this city simply looked grey and dull.
It took us a while to come around to ‘liking’ this city and we still never fell in love! Due to the enormous size of this city, you really need time and a plan of action to visit its attractions, and in between the mix of all of the modern you will still find occasional touches of tradition and some hidden gems, here and there. If nothing else, the city has delicious, scrummy Vietnamese cuisine to offer! You can visit the museums and find out more about the heartbreaking history of Vietnam, or visit the cathedral for some impressive looking photos. HCMC never stole my heart, but I’m grateful for the time we got to spend there none the less.
Jolene from Wanderlust Storytellers
“How can you not like Bangkok?!” my friends keep asking – easy I say. The place is a horrible, confusing mess of humanity that resembles nothing of the hippy trail that once made Thailand attractive. Despite not liking the place I have visited Bangkok 3 times and each time became violently ill. Each visit I would spend the first few days confined to my hotel room and then eventually get brave enough to venture out and give the city another chance. Each time I was disappointed.
Getting sick in a place will always taint your perception of it, however, I found the crush of so many people and the 24/7 noise confronting. I keep trying different things to change my opinion but after all the shopping for tacky souvenirs and rip off DVD’s, nightlife, feeding of elephants, near death experiences on water taxis, eating street meat and watching the famous ping pong shows, I still don’t like the place.
The only activity or sight I did enjoy in Bangkok was the Grand Palace. Inside the atmosphere was less frantic with fewer people hassling you and even less people bumping into you. It felt like you actually had room to breathe and appreciate the intricacies of decorating and design while standing in awe of the statues and Emerald Buddha.
Thailand is great and worth a visit, however, Bangkok is vastly overrated and there are better cities elsewhere in Asia.
Anna from Carry On Wandering
My two best friends recommended I go to Pai. They described it as a cute little hippy village, with a relaxed vibe, a buzzing night market, healthy food and fresh juices, and beautiful green surroundings, including a canyon and hot springs. So off I went, picturing myself chilling in a hammock, sipping a nice chai, overlooking fields of lush nature.
But where they saw hippy and relaxed, I saw drunk and loud. What they experienced as buzzing, felt like mass tourism to me. Their fresh and healthy was my food poisoning. I just didn’t get it.
Determined to find the beauty my friends were talking about, I rented a scooter and set off to explore. Little did I know that a romantic Chinese blockbuster called ‘Strawberry Pai’ was recently recorded nearby, which explained the busses full of Chinese tourists snapping selfies with humungous plastic strawberries located at various points around Pai. I laughed on the inside.
Next stop: the canyon. I followed the signs, looked and looked, but couldn’t seem to find it. All I saw was a muddy hill. After asking some locals, it turned out that was the canyon.
So I continued to the natural hot springs, which were smelly puddles of muddy, green/brown water. I decided it wasn’t worth the $8 entrance fee.
Upon my return to the village my neighbour enthusiastically mentioned he thought the canyon and the hot springs were absolutely stunning. I laughed at the situation, out loud this time. What did others see I didn’t?
I spent the next couple of days chilling in a hammock, drinking lots of wine, overlooking my neighbors’ hut, watching series on Netflix. Much better.
Cindy from The White Rabbit
Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
If you’re dreaming of a Mexican getaway, complete with an untouched Caribbean coastline, cheap margaritas, and thatched roofs, Playa Del Carmen is not the place. Mass development, mass tourism and sky high prices is a more accurate description of this so called “Mexican Paradise”.
Sure, there’s turquoise waters and white sand beaches, but beyond that, there is a lack of authentic Mexico. It was apparent that the tourists who frantically toured around, selfie sticks in hand, seemed to have very little appreciation for the country, the people and the culture. I had just arrived from the real Mexico, the Pacific side; which delivered an authentic Mexican experience abundant with hidden beaches, cheap cocktails and no other tourists in sight. So for us to wander down the famous Calle 5, we were hit by a wave of culture shock. Vegas meets Surfers Paradise was our conclusion; a tacky concoction of seedy nightlife, overpriced, delusive Mexican cuisine and dirty beaches.
To escape, we boarded a very large touristy ferry to Isla Cozumel. Observing the masses of international foreigners prancing around in nothing but their speedos and taking selfies at every angle of the ship made for an amusing people watching journey.
To our surprise and disappointment, Cozumel was just as built up as Playa. We decided to rent scooter and race away from the tourist traps. We blasted away so quickly, we ended up on the wrong side of the road. Confronted by beeping horns and Spanish voices screaming at us, we nervously found our way back to the correct side.
We circumnavigated the entire island and found a few cute little places to snorkel in the clear turquoise waters. However, we spotted more tourists floundering around in their yellow life jackets then fish.
After our day trip, we headed back to Playa on the amusing ferry ride again. We ventured into Fusion Bar, a cool little joint on the beach. We treated ourselves to some delicious nachos and dos piña coladas as we watched the sunset over the Caribbean, happy to move onto our next destination.
Bec from Bikini Adventures
Do you have a place you didn’t like that you’d like to share on my blog? Send it to me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org with a photo and you can be included in my next edition!