23 June 2017

Touristy

Someone once remarked to me, right after a trip, “Oh I see that you did all the touristy things?” That was not the first time. I have heard this before – from acquaintances, strangers and even close friends. Many have said this. I am sure you too, at some point, would have heard this same retort from someone in your circle.

What is this “touristy” thing? I checked the dictionary to see the meaning. It says “it relates to or visited by tourists” and “often used to suggest tawdriness or lack of authenticity”.  Oh so that is an underhand comment meant to mock your style of travel.

Let us look at the logistics of a trip. Food, cost of transport, accommodation, clothes, camera, sight-seeing costs – that’s a whole bunch of expenses a person who travels has to factor in, excluding the planning that goes on weeks in advance. One has to be decently rich or at least willing to spend one’s hard-earned money on travel for any trip to become a reality.

So tell me, if you are going on a three day trip to another country, spending nearly 50,000, what are you most likely to do or see? Which fool will sit in a cafe and watch life pass by? Would you too not do the same ‘touristy’ things that you sneer others about? Or at least, see the most frequented and talked about paces first and then if time and money permits, explore lesser known places. Spending so much money for so little time in a new city or a new country, one of course would like to see the most famous places first. 

Only a person who lives there would go around exploring the lesser known places. That is because having lived so long there he would have heard about it from someone. Or if you are a super wealthy traveller or travelling on company money then yeah you might skip the more famous places for the quieter ones just to relax and be away from the crowd. Or if you are a solo backpacker, you would again focus your energies on few select places not frequented by more regular people. In all cases, you would either have the luxury of time or money.

I don’t think any normal person, by which I mean a middle class, working class family like my own, who has saved money and planned for the trip for months in advance, will go to a new place and choose to sit in a remote corner of the town just so he can boast about saying “oh, I don’t do the touristy things.” I mean, who goes to Singapore for the first time ever, and doesn’t see the famous Night Safari or the Jurong Bird Park. Or who goes to Mysore and doesn’t see The Palace, the Zoo or the Chamundi Hills? Or who goes to Sikkim and doesn’t visit a Buddhist monastery or eat momos?  Who goes to Chennai and doesn’t spend some time in the Marina Beach? Who goes to Kanyakumari and doesn’t visit the Vivekananda Memorial? Or who goes to Jaipur and doesn't see the Hawa Mahal?Is that touristy for you?

If it is, I really want to peep into your travel diary. I want to see what were the things you did and places you visited when you first visited a city with your saved up money.  Two places in India that we as a family have gone repeatedly are Mysore and Udupi. Each time we have explored a different facet of the city, the little nukes and corners, the lesser known eateries that serve absolutely delicious local dishes. But the first time we went to both these places, we visited the Zoo, the Palace, Chamundi Hills and so on. They are a must to see places in Mysore. And if that counts as “touristy” “tawdry” or lacking in imagination, that is only because, may be, You haven’t gone out enough. So, pack your bags, loosen your purse strings and go visit a new place. And then we will sit and talk of all the things You did “differently.”