So, recently I was in Beijing, and wanted to go and see the Great Wall. In coming in on the train, we passed Badaling where most people go and see the wall. It was crowded with tour buses. "I don't want to go there," said I, "I want to go some place that's not 'touristy.'"
So I follow the advice of my Lonely Planet guidebook to see an untouristed part of the wall (which is, in itself, a bit of an oxymoron. If it's listed in the Lonely Planet, how can it be untouristed?). They say to take a couple of public buses, and you will be at a portion of the wall basically by yourself.
I go to the bus station, but can't for the life of me figure out the buses. The place is chaos, nothing is listed in English, it's all just noise and diesel fumes. I wander around for 30 minutes trying to figure it out, then get dejected, give up and walk away.
Now, at this point I could have hired a minitaxi to take me to Badaling or Simatai to still see the wall, but it seems like a total cop out. I'd be giving into the "touristy" Great Wall. I'd be just like all those bus tourists. And I couldn't face that. So I didn't go and see the wall at all.
Now that I have thought back on it, though, doesn't that seem completely crazy? Does anybody else suffer from this? This feeling that getting on a tour bus is, in fact, next to killing kittens?
I don't know why I feel this way. Heck, I am a tourist and on vacation. Why shouldn't I step on the occasional tour bus? Why do I feel this ever increasing need to do things "off the tourist track?"
know how you feel, although in that circumstance i would have gone on the main trip just so i didnt miss it. I felt like that in South Am sometimes, although sometimes you couldnt get around the problem (Macchu Picchu being one HUGE example). It really does spoil it sometimes, but at least you tried. The times that it does pay off going to that extremely isolated place where no-one barely goes and to experience something very few will see pays back the disappointment in some ways of other sites.
I (we) do the same thing at times, but gauge our willingness to see something "as a tourist" by the importance of the attraction, as it were. The Great Wall of China - definitely willing to do the tourist thing to see it because it may be the only chance I ever have.
Though it is a huge attraction for Jamaica, we have never visited Dunns River Falls during any of our numerous vacations there. Why? Because of all the "tourists and tourist buses" all lined up waiting. My chances of visiting Jamaica again are greater than my chances of seeing the Wall. We also do the "on one hand we can get 2 dives in - on the other hand we can join all the tourists". We always vote for the diving.
Probably not on par with missing the Great Wall, but when I was in Panama City a couple years ago, I hired a local taxi driver to take me around to the "sights". Mainly I wanted to see the Panama Canal, because what else are you really supposed to see in Panama? After taking me to a grocery store to pick up a case of beer and a styrofoam cooler (it was the day before Good Friday, thus everything would be closed for the weekend), he drove me around the city, beer in hand for both of us. After a while of this I asked about the Canal, to which he started to lament the endless traffic we would encounter and all of the tourists. In the end, I decided to bag seeing the Canal in favor of just driving around to different parts of the city drinking beer. We even went out to his house and had a couple of beers with his family. To this day, I can't really tell anybody what I saw in Panama, but it was a great day. Thinking back, this was probably not the safest way to spend a day, but it was the last stop in a year of traveling. I'd seen a lot and really just wanted to spend my last days feeling like a "traveler".
I don't really have a problem doing the touristy thing but my boyfriend hates it !! In Egypt we went to see the pyramids but because he was so determined not to do the tourist bus thing we found our own way there, ended up using an illegal guide who cut a wire fence for us to crawl under, he then paid off a few guards and proceeded to bribe so many people that I was left wondering why didn't we just do it the easy way !?! It would have cost the same in the end. The benefits though were that we saw some angles we probably shouldn't have seen and it was a good story to come back with. We watched the light show from the roof of a local persons house standing on 3 legged chairs trying not to fall off.
We gave in at the Temples of Angkor and decided that there was no way around it. There are a number of spots where you can't even take a picture without half the world being in the shot, which is extremely annoying to anyone who's camera happy. E*V*E*R*Y*O*N*E goes up to see the sunset at Phnom Bakheng, so I gave in and just started taking pictures of the "carnival" at the top of the temple. What was funny was that at one point, even one of the hot air balloons giving a tour showed up in the shots, so it really does look like a circus. You just can't escape it sometimes. Makes you wonder how the pros had the money to buy off all the other tourists to stay the heck out of their shots for the guidebooks!
I had this guy who wanted to follow me all the way to Siem reap just to see the Temples of Angkor...his reasoning...everyone talks abouyt it, and it is one of the wonders of the world, says he has been to great wall, grand canyon, and before he dies he wants to see the other wonders....beats me...are there many travellers like him around...? the only reason i spent my time in angkor was to scrutinise the bellies of the apsara dancers on the wall carvings... and to determine who among them has mothered, and not...the sculptor seemed to have fine eye for etching those fines lines on the bellies of some of the dancers. now how did he know of those stretch marks ?
I have no problem following the swarms if necessary. As a friend of mine would say, "The road less travelled, is usually less travelled for a reason"
I end up giving in to the touristy thing at some point. Trying so hard to avoid it usually ends up backfiring, and I keep wondering what I'm missing.
I'm an expert at trying-not-to-look-like-a-tourist-and-failing. On my first bus ride ever in France, I managed to forget to validate my ticket, get a strict warning from the inspector, find myself unbelievably saying "but that's not how we do it at home", and then trying to exit the bus from the front only to be tld one exits at the rear. I may as well have worn a tourist dunce cap for all I blended in.
And that's only 10-minutes' worth of examples!
My strategy is usually to go to the touristy parts then go a bit further. When my uncle, my brother in law and me went to the Great Wall. We just climbed a bit further than the crowds of tourists. Few people make it up that far and we were able to get our moment with the wall. When I went to St. Marco square, I went a bit further outside of the square and found this amazing little courtyard with a fountain, shutter windows, little flower boxes, etc. Not a single soul in sight. It also helps to be a bit of a photographer. I'm always looking for the unique sights that other people haven't seen.
Be true to your own beliefs and you'll find a way.