Sorry – its been a while since I posted – I will try harder. The trouble with travel is that sometimes I am planning or doing a trip and I am really into talking and writing about travel – and sometimes – well I am stuck working and I really don’t want to know about my favourite drug that I have withdrawal symptoms from !
Anyway this is the start of several posts – which I’m sub-titling – independent travel. You know the type you do without booking it all with your agent before you leave home. Don’t get me wrong – I do do tours: I like hop-on-hop-off type tours for orientation in a large city I don’t know. I like tours on boats so I can dive or snorkel. I will sometimes engage a guide in a place like Angkor Wat so we can go where we want and get the low down and the transport provided.
I’m not anti-tour – but I AM anti the herd mentality of some tourists – it used to parodied as – “oh its Wednesday it must be Rome” but be restricted to older people who could afford package tours.
But more and more in countries like Thailand and Asia – I see the local entrepreneurs putting on “special tourist” buses which might even be cheaper than the already insanely cheap local buses – so that they can make money on the hotels, food and tours along the way. And then the tourists can’t work out why the country is so in your face sell, sell, sell. In fact in Vietnam it was the oder tourists who were travelling independently – and the backpackers who were quite literally being herded from one hostel ghetto to the next – just because they didn’t have the initiative to get off the Lonely Planet trail and do some real travelling.
So what does being an independent tourist involve. Well call me simple – but involves being informed and thinking for yourself. If the guidebooks says XYZ is the THE place to stay – you can be guranteed that it is over run with tourist hoards, over priced and poor value for money by the time you see the book, because of the thousands who have already acted on that very recommendation.
I often get off a bus and go with a hotel tout in Asia – the best ones are when they are working directly for the hotel – often the only thing wrong with the hotel is that its new or for some reason got missed from the guidebook. This generally means you pay the same or less than the popular place, but get a much cleaner, quieter and generally more pleasant stay.