Some experiences out on the road tingle your spine, exceed your expectations and prove to be even better than in your wildest dreams. They make you eternally glad that you quit your job, bought that plane ticket and roughed it for weeks on end out in the jungle. On the other hand, some experiences leave you feeling a little underwhelmed, perplexed & sometimes even a bit ripped off. Occasionally you get back on the bus, review your snaps but rather than thinking “Wow, that’s a day I will never forget!” you can’t help but ask yourself; “was that really worth it? What is all the hype about?”
Here is Freeborn Aiden’s list of the most over-rated travel experiences;
Most Over-rated Wonder Of The World – Taj Mahal
The Taj is indeed a beautiful example of Mughal architecture and it is without a doubt the most elaborate mausoleum I have ever seen. My praise however, ends right there because I cannot understand its unjustified position as the most iconic building in the world and its lofty place as Number One on the Seven Wonders of the world list.
Whilst architecturally quite impressive, its not that impressive and any number of European Gothic Cathedrals represent far more ambitious masonry and induce much greater “how the hell did they do that?!”, mouth-agape moments. Furthermore, to see the Taj Mahal means enduring a 12 hour train ride to Agra (a horrible city) from Delhi (an even worse city) so typically you are going to spend several days in misery purely to try and recreate the famous Princess of Wales sitting on the bench shot. But you are not going to get the POW shot because that bench is perpetually occupied because the whole damned complex is crowded with tourists from dawn til dusk. The surrounding area is a maze of dirty, tout infested streets and you will end the day never wanting to hear the words “Ricksaw Sir” ever again.
My tip for Agra is check out the Baby Taj and my tip for India is t0 head to the Fort in Bundi for an Indiana-Jones eseque adventure.
Most Over-rated Natural Phenomena – Northern Lights
We’ve all seen the stunning pictures of the green, luminous, magical, Nordic skies. Thanks to these pictures, countless travellers are tempted Northwards to Scandinavia in order to blow their budget eagerly chasing the Northern Lights, seeking a glimpse of their legendary majesty.
I saw them myself last year in Tromso Norway after parting with over £100 to join a 4 hour tour. Fortunately, the lights did make an appearance (because often they don’t turn up at all…) but it wasn’t what I expected. It was less beguiling swirls of green and more grey wisps of myst blowing morosely across the horizon. I only even realised they were actually Northern Lights when somebody told me. I got a few decent photographs but in all honesty they look much better on camera than they do to the human eye so those those pictures are not quite real. More than anything else on this list, this one left me feeling utterly cheated.
They are not a patch on Venezuela’s spectacular silent, lightning show at Lake Catatumbo.
Most Over-rated Cuisine – France
French cuisine has become a synonym for high end and masterful but in reality is just plain pretentious and utterly undeserving of its place. I mean they don’t even bother to cook things half of the time and where I come from, raw beef is a butchers shop window display not a fucking delicacy This actually leads me very nicely to my next point; I don’t actually find French cuisines under-lying foundation of Meat + Veg = Meal, ethos to be all that different from English food which is of course universally derided. Controversial eh?
Most Over-rated Beer – Czech
When I was in Prague I lost count of the amount of times I heard that Czech beer is the best in the world but it really isn’t. It’s decent, its amongst the cheapest in Europe but its nowhere near as good as German stuff. Dutch and Norwegian lager are by the way, both quite underrated and well worth seeking out.
Most Over-rated Drugs- Colombia
Whenever I told people I was headed to Colombia the response was the same;
“Oh you’ll get to try the 100% pure Colombian cocaine!”
Unfortunately, this fantastic and varied country is still widely known only for its infamous, lucrative and illegal export. In truth, there are far more enticing things in Colombia but I will admit I still give its famous export a try when I was there. So how was it? Pure? You have to be kidding right, you can practically taste the parcetomal in every key. Still, once you get out of the Gringo hubs it is very affordable and whilst not the 100% pure Colombian you was promised, its still much better than anything you get outside of South America.
Following a concerted effort from the Government, with the US backing, the trade has now moved to Peru and Bolivia which is where the premier stuff is now apparently to be found.
Most Over-rated Trek – Everest Base Camp
Saying that you’re “doing Everest” sounds impressive doesn’t it? However, trekking to Everest base camp is very different from scaling its summit as even at its highest point its only 5000 metres. Ascending Everest is of course a rich man’s game, so its entirely understandable that people are lulled into doing this trek thinking it will be the closest they can get to the roof of the world.
Yes the Nepalese Himalaya’s are stunning and as long as the weather stays clear will provide you with a ton of great photos. However What nobody tells you about the Everest base camp trek is that this is not an untouched nature, wilderness experience because there are 1000 people walking with you the whole damn way. Basically, because of its popularity the whole trail is now simply a giant Himayan flavoured theme park peppered with guesthouses selling over-priced apple pies. Its not a “real adventure” and its not the real Nepal, just a very long walk to the worlds highest altitude open-sewer.
Nepal’s popularity is in many ways its own downfall for me, although Mustang and Dolpa regions receive a fraction of the visitors the more established trails get and this is where you can find a real Nepalese adventure.
Most Over-rated Nightlife – Ibiza
Nightlife in Ibiza comes in 3 categories; moronic, expensive or both together. For the life of me, I cannot work out why this island remains so popular and why it has become the definitive by-word for “partying”. Ibiza is simply the very worst elements of British nightlife pumped up on a godless cocktail of dodgy legal highs. Why anybody would pay $50 to be allowed into a club (that then charges $10 for a water) just to be surrounded by other morons is beyond me. But then again I’m not a moron so what would I know?
If you want a party then head to Athens. I went out for one drink and ended up getting back home at 2pm the next day.
Most Over-rated Festival – Glastonbury
This was a close one between Carnival in Rio and Somerset’s annual, middle class roll in the mud. I have plumped for this because what began life as the quintessential, counter culture experience has sadly morphed into everything that is wrong about modern British life. Each year 150,000 lawyers, accountants and hedge-fund managers are duped into paying £300 for a ticket to watch bands play from across the other side of an ever expanding field. As if the price of admittance isn’t sickening enough, the living costs at the worlds largest temporary city are crippling and you will be lucky to get much change from £10 for a quinoa salad made with vegan Yak’s milk.
Despite, mostly, resisting corporate sponsorship, the festival is still the biggest sell out there is and each year the line-up becomes increasingly diluted by mainstream tripe. Jay-Z and Kanye West were not “shock headliners” so much as an old man desperately trying to prove he is “down with the kids” and it seems there is some kind of mandatory requirement that either Muse or Coldplay headline each year.
Glastonbury epitomises the gentrification of the United Kingdom which has priced many people out of their own culture and heritage. And lets net even mention the fucking mud. Instead you should check out the smaller festivals such as Shambala and End Of The Road who are doing what Glastonbury used to do.
Most Over-rated Beaches – Rio
Rio’s beach life is legendary and along with a big Statue of Jesus one of Brazil’s premier draws.
They are however especially overrated because they are especially crowded (even by beach standards) and because the “beautiful people” who populate them are generally, spiritually vacuous and physically made up of 80% plastic. Furthermore these beaches represent Brazil at its very worst both in terms of its shallow, unhealthy fixation with physical perfection and its punishing class divide; the only non-middle class people anywhere near the beach are the bandits out to rob your iPhone whilst you go for a swim.
Personally I’m not a huge beach fan as they are essentially just bits of land that happen to meet the sea which lazy-minded human beings have turned into some weird obsession. However, if I had to pick a favourite beach it would be the ones in Tel Aviv where the vibe is inclusive and the people are still beautiful even without surgical assistance.
Most Over-rated Ancient Site – Stonehenge
Whilst the Pyramids are essentially a pointless pile of bricks surrounded by pushy touts, they were at least a monumental achievement back in their time. Stonehenge on the other hand, is what the Pyramids would have been if Pharaoh had lacked both imagination and an abundance of slave labour.
Visitors to England from around the world continue to include Stonehenge in their itineraries almost without fail and yet I have no absolutely no idea why. Its not even really a monument save that its monumentally shit, its just a bunch of rectangular stones which somebody stood upright using a rope. We still have no idea what it was actually built for which is primarily because we don’t care so have never tried to find out. It’s also surrounded by a horrible motorway. The emissions from this motorway are causing the stones to gradually erode demonstrating that not even the British people actually give a crap about Stonehenge and therefore neither should you.
Most Over-rated Tower – Leaning Tower of Pisa
Italy boasts an absolute embarrassment of truly amazing monuments and architectural wonders and for some reason the leaning Tower of Pisa is one of the most famous amongst them. There is no denying that it is novel, but its still ultimately lame.
Bologna is a fantastic city and proved to be everything I ever wanted Italy to be. It also has its own leaning Tower which receives hardly any visitors.
Most Over-rated Art Gallery – Sistine Chapel
Michelangelo’s legendary, epic depiction of God handing life itself to mankind is one of the definitive masterpieces of Western art and not even I am heathen enough to question its rightful prominence.
However, the experience of actually seeing the thing is a different experience altogether. The Chapel is eternally, claustrophobically crowded and ever lit by the blinding flashbulbs of clustered tourists straining to try and fit the whole expanse of the ceiling into a single shot. There are signs on the wall encouraging visitors to linger only a few minutes and bouncers police the melee to actively enforce this rule; in short the whole thing is very un-Christian.
On the plus side, the long route to the Chapel winds through the wonderful Vatican Art Museum which boasts the most impressive collection of Christian art in the world. This is definitely a case of the journey been better than the destination.
Most Over-rated Island Paradise – Bali
Apparently Bali is an earthly paradise. If your vision of parade is a thousand Aussie chavs swearing and belching then indeed, in Bali you have truly found your heaven.
Personally, I find the Bogan Blackpool more akin to my personal hell. Another example of natures beauty rendered insufferable by wanton, unchecked tourism.
Instead head for Colombia’s San Blas islands.
Most Over-rated City – Prague
Does it seem like I’m picking on the Czech Republic a bit? Honestly, its nothing personal, I guess that the country is perhaps just the victim of its own hype. Having survived both Nazi and Soviet bombardment , the city is now perpetually bombarded and occupied by a different kind of nemesis as each summer, the jewel of the Danube is set upon by hordes of tourists with machine-gun -flash bulbs. If the camera really does steal your soul then, yours will be gone within minutes of arriving in Prague.
Then there are the Stag-do’s, bus loads of British guys rolling in the gutters and throwing up the “best beer in the world” into the streets. It’s also a pretty popular place to get mugged.
If you fancy a bit of Eastern Europe, I say head for Brasoz in Romania or Budapest in Hungary.