On 'bad' tourist places - do the DMZ and a templestay belong on the 101 places NOT to see list?
There are lists of jazz albums I need to listen to, foods I must taste, paintings I have to see, walks I’m required to take—my own father has a book of 1,001 gardens I can’t die without visiting. How am I supposed to conquer 1,001 movies while simultaneously reading 1,001 books and traveling to 1,001 historic sites—not to mention making it to the 500 places I must see before they disappear? By the time I found a copy of 101 Places To Have Sex Before You Die, I was tempted to swear off travel books, grab a selection of the 1,001 beers I have to drink, and head to one of the 1,001 spots where I’m supposed to escape.What has piqued the ire of fellow K-bloggers Brian in Jeollanam-do and the Marmot's Hole is the two Korean inclusions: the De-Militarized Zone (AKA the DMZ) and an overnight Buddhist templestay. That NPR featured an excerpt from the templestay story only seemed to add insult to injury.
First, I'm not overly surprised about these two particular destinations making the list. Both have been overhyped to a point where the marketing creates an unreasonable expectation that doesn't match the reality. Are you really going to 'become enlightened' on an overnight trip? Of course not.
Reading excerpts of the book, however, reminds me that attitude plays a trumping role in your travel experience. The very fact that she went out intending to find the worst places tells me these places didn't have a chance. Her story about having her first period on a Chinese train (#7 on the list)? It shares almost nothing about actually traveling on a Chinese train. OK, sure, it's her book, she can write about whatever she wants. Still, there must be something about the trip that would be unappealing to the readers.
One thing that is seen in this book, however, is a certain level of honesty. That's a rare word when it comes to traveling and travel writing. Having had a less-than-perfect experience, a tactful travel writer will either not write about the place (thus not telling their readers anything at all) or frame their words in some sort of spin. Neither option is overly palatable, however. Think about it - if you're trying to figure out whether a place is worth visiting, does either angle help? Are you better served by slugging through sugar coated and non-existent results? Honest reviews of a place / event / destination won't necessarily earn revenue from said places, yet are most likely to assist the real-world traveler.
Here at Chris in South Korea, I give honest ratings about the places I visit. I'm not getting paid by some travel / tourist organization to write about a given place or make ratings higher. While I welcome those compensated opportunities, my approach would be the same - to give an honest view of a place, an event, a festival. I've visited a fair amount of places that received low ratings for one reason or another, yet the point remains the same - to give you the information you need to travel Korea.
One final thought I happen to agree with the author with wholeheartedly: "Travel should be an adventure, not an assignment—and if you spend your vacations armed with too many checklists, you’re missing the point of leaving home."
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