Every year, the travel industry tends to begin the same way. We start pumping out best of lists from the previous year and predicting what will be the next hot spots. But these lists seem to include some of the same places year after year. Now, some places deserve spots on any list ranking the top travel cities. Barcelona, New York, and London consistently provide excellent experiences and value for travelers. Other cities, not so much. Here are my least favorite.
Bali: The Eat, Pray, Destruction of Balinese People
It’s a shame that Bali is on this list. Let me be very clear, Balinese people are easily some of the warmest and open people in the world. The level of hospitality I experienced in Bali is nearly unmatched. So what’s the problem? Beautiful beaches, great food, and world-class hospitality. How can it be overrated? We’ll the answer, Ex-Pats.
I spent about a month in Bali overall. In Kuta, Ubud, Sanur, Nusa Dua, and Jimbaran. Now Jimbaran and Nusa Dua weren’t too bad. But the expats in Kuta and Ubud were disgusting. Some of the most disrespectful and pretentious people I’ve ever seen. The way these ex-pats, from the U.S., Australia, and U.K., treated the Balinese people reminded me of the accounts I grew up reading about he treatment of blacks in the early 1900’s U.S. And the Balinese people are too polite to stand up to these assholes. Not to mention the economic impact it would have if the ex-pats left. Personally, seeing this ruined my time there and it felt as if Bali has largely transformed into a playground for self-absorbed faux yogi vegans.
Alternative: Check out Komodo. Excellent watersports.
Bangkok: How Do You Say Stopover in Thai?
Anyone who’s read this site knows I love Bangkok. But here’s the rub, it’s not a great tourist city. An awesome place to live or stay long term for the digital nomad or ex-pat. But as a tourist destination, it’s lacking. A few palaces, Muay Thai, great street food, and adult entertainment (at least until 2 am). Pretty much it.
The issue with Bangkok is it’s trying to become too western. With condos popping up on every corner, the traditional Thai neighborhoods and areas are being pushed to the outskirts of Bangkok which aren’t a real option for most tourist. Also, the things that remain for tourist are overrun with touts and scammers. A week ago I visited the Grand Palace to update my images and realized just how bad things have gotten. Terrifies me for tourist who don’t know any better.
Alternative: Chiang Mai even though it also has its issues, still maintains a bit of progressive Thai culture. And pretty much any Thai island. Some of the world’s best beaches.
Panama City: I’m Gonna Need A lot of This Captain Morgan
This may be a “black” thing. But over the last few years, this black travel movement has sprung up. So several of my colleagues and friends have been flocking to Central America. And many have been speaking highly of Panama City. Well, I’m here to tell you. It’s one of the most most boring cities I’ve ever been too.
I spent about a month in Panama and loved Panamanian people. But I seriously couldn’t tell you anything unique or special about Panama City after spending a bit over two weeks there. And I’ll acknowledge this, I’m a bit hard on Latin countries given my half Puerto Rican heritage. But Panama City seems like a place that was great until everyone with any character or style left. The city feels like an abandoned outpost for someone or something else.
And let me reiterate this point, Panamanians are great people. Had it not been for them I would have left Panama far sooner than I did. But as a tourist, you won’t have time to meet enough locals to take you to the little secret spots or who will drink on the promenade until 6 am with you. Simply put, there isn’t a single thing in Panama City I would say is worth visiting, and that includes the Panama Canal. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ
Alternative: Take a short and cheap flight over to Colombia. Pretty much everything that Panama City could be if they put in some effort. Medellin and Bogota are direct flights.
Cancun: The International Bro Capital of The World
The Spring Break capital of the world. That pretty much should turn anyone away under the age of 23 but alas, I have a word count to hit. The entire city was developed to lure western tourist in the 1970’s. Cancun’s sole purpose for existing are the waves upon waves of tourist. Today Cancun is almost entirely dedicated to getting trashed, getting tanned, and getting fucked. It’s baffling to me how anyone not in college would voluntarily go to this place.
I’ve been to Cancun five times between 2005 and 2015. Each time it seems to get more and more crowded and expensive. Not to mention how aggressive the “locals” have become. On my last two trips, I had issues with pushy vendors and police. Something that immediately turns me against a place. If the police aren’t on your team, don’t go. Travel Rules Top 10.
Alternative: Tulum is a solid alternative to Cancun. It’s everything Cancun thinks it is. Quiet, Beautiful, and Inexpensive. I almost hate to write this for fear you’ll go there and ruin it for me. There is a restaurant called Hartwood you need to try. My god. Amazing
Paris: The City Of Lights that Never Came on For Me
Yeah, I get it. It’s Paris. And maybe I’m a bit jaded because it’s nothing like the TV Shows and Movies made it out to be. But I’ve never had a good visit to Paris, and I’ve gone upwards to ten times. Once staying almost two weeks. My friend Leah Walker from http://leahtravels.com/ might kill me for this entry.
I “get” the appeal of “The City of Lights”. But I just found it crowded, expensive, and I hate, to say this cliché thing, but rude. People were just kind of dicks. And to be fair, this was English speakers and French speakers. And I speak bad French, which I thought would get me some brownie points. And my biggest letdown, French food SUCKS. Yeah, I said it.
Who in the world thinks this is some of the world’s best food? I’ve eaten at restaurants from Joël Robuchon, Éric Ripert, and Michel Roux Jr. All excellent and French chefs deserve to be considered some of the world’s best. But none represents the cuisine that I, or most tourist, will eat in Paris unless we’re spending some serious money. No idea how the pedigrees of generations of French chefs haven’t translated into better local cuisine. The only food I found worth it in Paris were the sweets. I’ll concede Paris has some outstanding bakeries. But I can’t live on Croissants alone.
Lastly, one thing that I hadn’t and still haven’t heard much about is the pollution. While I visited, it was obvious coming from Spain, that the air quality was poor. Granted, I didn’t notice this back in 2012. But 2015, I did. I’m not sure what the issue is, but Paris needs to fix this quick.
Alternative: Visit Lyon. It’s everything right with France. From the wine to the churches. But one thing that appeals to me, the green spaces. What’s more French than a picnic with a bottle of wine and cheese?
Prague/London: Proof I Can Change My Opinion
So these two cities are proof my opinion can change. I hated London for about ten years. Until I went and made an effort to explore the city a bit with locals. Not ex-pats but Brits who grew up in London. I’ve since fallen in love with the city. Particularly Greenwich and Camden. You’ll find me exploring London every year the last week of October/Early November.
Prague was the epitome of tourism gone wrong for me. Crowds and a kitsch factor that would give Vegas 1990’s a strong run for its money. But this is an excellent example of High Season vs. Low Season. Although Prague doesn’t have much to “do”, during the offseason you’re able to enjoy what is there. From small cafes to cool boat rides. Prague is a city with lots of little things going for it. As long as you stay away from Late May to Early August that is.
Do you agree or disagree with my list? Don’t forget to comment and share.