When I talk to people about traveling, the topic of tourist spots always comes up. Pretty much everybody I know loves traveling, but a number of people hate tourist locations. A typical conversation with one of these types of people sometimes goes along these lines:
“Hey. I went to Thailand last year.”
“That’s great. What did you do?”
“I saw Wat Arun temple, went ziplining, and ate awesome foods.”
“Oh, that’s cool. Why did you see Wat Arun, though? That’s such a tourist site.”
To which I would reply, “I don’t know. I was in Thailand… It was suggested as an interesting place to visit online, and it ended up being pretty cool.”
I have a real problem with people who are judgmental towards the way other people travel, particularly those with a negative view on “tourist spots.” I don’t know the history of every tourist location, but I’m sure they each go something like this:
Person or group of people visit/find an interesting location. They think said location is pretty cool. They tell other people about said location, and more people begin to visit the location. Word continues to spread until a large mass of people frequent the location on a consistent basis. Said location is now deemed a tourist location, which, according to some people, spoils the novelty of visiting the location.
I’m sure there are variances to this formula, but the point is that awesome places attract more people. Tourist locations wouldn’t become “touristy” if they weren’t amazing to begin with. That’s how they become touristy. Not every cool place across the globe is going to be vacant. In fact, that’s usually not the case. I’ve seen some, but it’s rare. My question then, is, what’s wrong with touristy locations?
Of course, they lose some of the novelty if they are flooded with tourists, salespeople or whatever else that detracts from the experience. I get that. However, that does not mean it is simply something no one should ever visit. There are still great touristy locations across the world. I have been to some that weren’t so great, but usually, it’s not the people that ruin it. It’s just the location itself. Some places are touristy and just are not that interesting or exciting.
Doi Suthep in Thailand is an example of this. It’s very touristy, yet it really isn’t anything special (from a visitor’s point of view). It’s just another one of Thailand’s many temples, distinct only in its hillside location overlooking the city. On the other hand, one of the greatest places I have ever traveled to is quite touristy: Angkor Wat.
Thus, I don’t see the importance of making a distinction between the two. I have been to touristy sites that are awesome and non-touristy sites that are not so great. I think it really just depends on what the site is and what a person’s personal preferences are. Too many people can certainly take away from the experience that one has while visiting somewhere, but I don’t think that is any reason to exclude it completely from a trip without thinking about how interesting it could be.
Visiting at the proper time of the day can also help with this. When I traveled to Busan in South Korea, I went to one of the most traveled locations in the city on the first bus in the morning. I got there so early that everything was empty. All of the typical shops and stalls that were lined up outside of the temple were closed up. I almost thought I was in the wrong place because of how empty it was. Then I thought I came before the temple even opened (do temples close?).
I guess nobody just wanted to get up that early and visit a temple. It was fortunate for me because I got an almost private view of the temple. The waves quietly washing up against the shore really added to my experience, and this was one visit I was really grateful for the lack of people that were there. By the time I left, people were slowly starting to fill up the place. I wouldn’t want to visit at any other time.
However, if I had a choice between visiting the temple at all or not visiting, I would definitely choose to go. It was that awesome of a place (for those wondering, I’m talking about Yonggungsa Temple in Busan).
And that’s really what’s at the heart of the matter. Some places may be touristy, but that’s just because they’re (supposedly) awesome places. That doesn’t necessarily make it bad. That just means it’s going to be more crowded (and more touristy). I think places should be visited based on their merits, not just their “status.” All trip locations have the capacity to be enjoyable, regardless of their classification.