My friend hates Paris. She said it was dirty. The metro stations were smelly and creepy as those homeless built their bedrooms there. She didn’t feel safe since those “niggas” looked so pervert. The streets were full of snobby Parisians. No one spoke English. And that wasn’t my first time listening to people complaining about their travel destination. I know someone who despises Istanbul only because she argued with a Turkish; and tells everyone not to visit Mexico just because the traffic was insane. I feel annoyed by those kinds of statements. They totally forget that naturally, a place isn’t designed for their comfort as tourists. It’s built for the locals; hence the visitors don’t have capacity to judge and criticize that hard.
Those homeless guys, pervert niggas, and snobby ladies are the native Parisians. They’re eligible to do anything they want in their own city: to build their “underground bedroom”, flirt with whoever “invading” their territory, and not talk to strangers like us. They have right not to speak English. And maybe they like the city dirty. I believe just because we’ve spent lots of money to fly someplace, doesn’t mean we have rights to expect the city to welcome us in the way we want.
When traveling, I didn’t always experience beautiful stuffs. Sometimes things got ugly, but I always tried to put my feet on the locals’ shoes and see from their glasses. Maybe they want it that way. Maybe they need it like that. Having that kind of behavior can make the terrible places terrific. Just like what happened when I visited these 8 (eight) destinations. I saw, hear, and felt “ugly” things there, but magically I can still love them. A lot. I even want to see them again and all over again.
1. Bali — The Fake Touristic Façade
Logically, I shouldn’t have any reason to love this island. No proper public transportation. Always-heavy traffic on Sunset Road. Overpriced western-style bars. Full of Jakartans taking selfie. Plus drunk Australians. Free entrance to crowded and mediocre-looking beaches. And $25 for the better-looking ones. However, going back to Bali is always a great idea. Maybe I love those pretentious bars. Maybe I like taking selfie. And maybe $25 isn’t too much for an exclusive beach day out. You know, those make people feel rich. Everybody likes feeling rich, me included. The island always gives me a sensation of being far away from my hometown, because everything looks and sounds so different.
2. Bangkok — For Traffic Lovers Only
What to like from Bangkok? Said most people after coming back from the capital of Thailand. Heavy traffic, crowded subways, taxi scams, and non English-speaking people. Those sound like pain in the ass… but oh yeah, I enjoy that kind of pain. Being in Bangkok makes me feel like I’m in a great unknown. No one speaks my language, I can’t read any letters, some people can’t read my letters. I love big cities, and that comes together with traffic and crowded buses as a “bonus”.
3. Cairo — The Dirtiest of Them All
The trains are very old, like they’re freshly delivered from ancient Egypt era. Trash cans haven’t been invented there. People litter and spit everywhere. Smelly alleys. Angry & reckless taxi drivers. Aggressive vendors in every corner. But for some strange reasons, this city is hypnotizing and magical. I loved how it felt when I rode that poor horse around the pyramids in Giza. It was where world’s civilization started, and it was so amusing to be there. The foods were heavenly delicious, everything was so affordable. I thought I’d spend $600 for a seven-day trip, but in fact I only spent less than $350, including massive museum visits, cabs, plus excessive amount of foul (Egyptian bread) and labneh (Middle Eastern yogurt cream).
4. Dubai — Where No Culture Available
Twenty five years ago this city was just deserts. But now, skyscrapers grow like grasses in our home garden, crushing those Arabian culture they had. When I took the train, everybody was either Caucasian, Hispanic, African, Asian, or Indian. No Arabic-looking people at all. Every tourism spot is disgustingly commercialized. When I was there, the only “traditional” place I found were abra (river taxi) and souk markets that sell silver, gold, spices, and fabrics. I didn’t enjoy the so-called “Old Dubai” area, because they only looked old from afar. When I approached near, it looked fake. It seemed like it was just built the day before, but with “old Arabian” design. I could even still smell the paint. However I have to admit Dubai was incredible! Nothing beats the feeling of standing on top of world’s tallest building and strolling in world’s biggest mall. And watching sunset on the desert, accompanied by camels.
5. Komodo Island — You Can Die Here!
Did you know that those dragons eat human? Some locals told me that several weeks prior my arrival, a French couple lost their six-year old son. One morning, a dragon ate him alive when he sneaked out from their cabin in the wood. That story didn’t freak me out, but I knew I had to be extra careful and listen to everything my ranger said. Yes, every visitor has to hire a ranger to keep them safe from those ugly-looking dragons. My travel partner screamed every time he heard “something” behind the bush, even if it was just a small insect or bird. It wasn’t a relaxing trip as it required lots of hiking and hill climbing. Nevertheless, I regret why I only spent one day to hike and climb. I should’ve hiked and climbed more! The view from the top of the hill was breathtaking. That’s the best Indonesian landscape I’ve ever seen. I also took a pic with the biggest dragon in the island (according to my ranger). Cool, right? And I’ll never forget when a big wave wiped me out from the famous Pink Beach and dragged me to the middle of the ocean. Thank God a fisherman saved me.
6. Lublin — The Giant Freezer
Poland was all snow. Look at the picture below. Ugly, right?
No. Actually it was really pretty. But very cold, -7°C, the coldest temperature I’ve ever experienced. That day I went downtown by myself and planned to stroll until night. It didn’t happen because I had to spend all afternoon at McDonald’s to warm up my frozen hands. My body wasn’t designed to function in that kind of temperature. However from the restaurant’s window I could see that Lublin was very charming. It was a city I can’t forget. It gave me my very first snow experience, accompanied by great Christmas celebrations, superb people… and the view above. The terrible weather made the town feel terrific! I promise I’ll write a dedicated blog post for this town.
7. Ochsenfurt — “Citizenless” Town
I was the only person who disembarked at Ochsenfurt Train Station that afternoon. Don’t imagine the station looks like Gare du Nord Paris or Berlin Hauptbahnhof. Literally, no one was on the station. I was welcomed by the sound of the wind. I walked around 20 minutes to find a restaurant where I had to meet my cousin. Guess how many Germans I saw when walking down the street? Zero. And when I arrived at the restaurant, it was closed because it was Sunday! Later that day when I strolled around the town, I barely saw someone there. Even at night when I hung out at a bar, the town seemed off after 7 pm. I even had to go to Würzburg (20 minutes by train) to find a night club for party. Most of my friends will hate this town. But not me. That what makes me sooo in love with Ochsenfurt. It was calm, peaceful, and dreamy. It made me realize that small towns can give such a big sensation. Moreover, it’s located near Rothenburg ob der Tauber, the prettiest town I’ve ever seen in my life.
8. Tanjung Bira — Only Salt Water & Sands
Five horrible hours from Makassar, Indonesia. No public transportation at all. No motorbike taxi. All dark after sunset. No remarkable restaurants and foods to eat. Local clubs played Adele’s songs in remix version. Oh. I make it sound really bad, don’t I? Most people I know would be bored to death here. You’ll find nothing but beach in this area. Beautiful, beautiful beach. With sands as soft as milk powder. Turquoise water, turtles, cool underwater. The remote location and unavailability of proper bars & electricity even made Tanjung Bira more stunning. I stayed at a place called Cosmos Bungalows for $20 per night, owned by a British couple Jordan & Amy. Great bedroom, magnificent location: right in front of the beach, on top of a dashing cliff.
That’s all on my list. And I believe most travelers actually have this kind of list too. List of “ugly” places that they actually love. So, what’s your list?