Let’s face it: not every place we visit will end up being of the best places on our final itinerary. Sometimes you have to just go with the flow and accept that what some people like, other people do not. Yet for me personally, some tourist attractions – or cities in general – were just outright disappointments!
Maybe one of the most disappointing places I have ever visited was the city of Makassar. This was my first foray into Sulawesi, and having enjoyed all of my previous experiences in Indonesia, I had high hopes that I would experience good things in Makassar, too. Yet unfortunately, it was an uncomfortable experience. I noticed crumbling architecture, even at the airport, which wasn’t a good start, but the main problem was the lack of tourist infrastructure and things to do! Like most Indonesian cities, Makassar is a huge concrete jungle, but unlike, say, Balikpapan (which I enjoyed) or Jakarta (which has more things to do, despite the traffic), there is not much to keep you here, other than as a base before your long journey north to Tana Toraja.
Varanasi is supposed to be the holiest place on earth, although from my experience in this northern Indian city, I would say that it is actually the most polluted place on the earth! Having travelled through India a lot – and really enjoying my time there, from Delhi to Agra to Jaipur to Jaisalmer – I am well-accustomed to the culture shock and different way of life to what I am used to in the UK or Singapore. Yet Varanasi was an altogether different experience – one that I am not keen to experience again any time soon. As usual, the Indian people were fantastic, but it seems I was not prepared for the rural sights and sounds, and I would actually argue against Varanasi being considered a tourist destination at all.
Personally, I expected a lot more from the Pyramids of Giza. I once wrote about the Pyramids being one of the most overrated tourist attractions in the world, and I still stick by my attestation. I am very interested in ancient cultures and civilisations, especially Egyptian civilisation. Much of what I saw in Luxor will stay with me forever, yet I just didn’t get he same impression in Giza. One of the many reasons for this negative attitude was perhaps from my experience on the day: hassled by touts, very hot weather, poor signage, and way too many tourists (I am guilty of the last one, too!). I have been fortunate enough to see other ancient structures such as Chichen Itza in Mexico and Machu Picchu in Peru, and these were a much more enjoyable experience than my time at the Pyramids of Giza, and while it did not destroy my overall feelings of nearby Cairo (a great city), I still felt a little deflated that I didn’t enjoy one of the “wonders of the world”.
My time in Rio was – overall – an enjoyable one, but there was one major disappoint that I endured: Christ the Redeemer! Sometimes a visit to a certain country or city is just supposed to be taken with a blasé attitude and there isn’t really too much need for an itinerary. Rio de Janeiro in Brazil is one of these cities (perhaps unsurprisingly), and I paid too much attention on “seeing the sights” without actually enjoying everything else the city had to offer culturally. If you make Christ the Redeemer the focal point of your trip to Rio, you will run the risk of making the same mistake that I made. That’s not to say that this iconic statue is not worth seeing – but I would recommend just taking photos of it from afar (for free) rather than heading up the mountain and seeing it ‘in person’. You get great views from up there, but you get better views of the city below from up at Sugarloaf Mountain.
Mumbai is actually a ‘tale of two cities’ for me. On the one hand, the people there are very friendly and made me feel welcome immediately (unlike in my first experience on Delhi), plus street food in Mumbai is INSANELY GOOD, and for this reason alone I would go back to Mumbai. Problem is, though, there isn’t actually much else to do in this famous city in western India. The tourist attractions are spread out so far that it is hard to travel from one to the other, and of course even attempting to do so means a journey in public transport, which in India can bring its own dangers – especially for solo travellers! I did enjoy walking along Marine Drive, but unless you’re here for business (or food) then perhaps northern India is a better bet?
Have you ever visited a particular city and found it to be a disappointment? Was there one attraction in that city that made you realise what a disappointment it was – or was it the lack of attractions in the first place that caused your negativity?!