The boy and I went on a tour yesterday to see the floating markets. In addition to the one we took to Phi Phi islands, was our first tour in a long time; not since the one we went on in China and I’m realizing why I decided I hated them so long ago.
I tend to avoid these like the plague. Even when I see the most fabulous Groupon or Livingsocial deal that offers 9 days and 8 nights in a five star hotel in Bali, it usually comes with an itinerary that offers great and wonderful sights, but hidden trips to “authentic” restaurants that serve greasy Americanized food and jade jewelry demonstrations that hold you hostage for hours to wear you down to purchase something just to be able to leave.
Sometimes, you end up with a group and are forced to make small talk with people you don’t really like who talk about how wonderful the TGIFridays was near the hotel or scruitinize the locals for “thier lack of civility”. (No, really. Someone in China talked about the “orientals” who were so uncivilized while watching them eat)
But that’s not really why I dislike them.
Mostly, it’s because we prefer to travel at our own pace. We don’t like being shuffled around from place to place and having facts about the land and the culture regurgitated to us in a condescening tone. Every time I take a tour that offers facts and explaination about things, I end up feeling like the person thinks I’m an idiot and have done zero research about the country within which I am traveling. Now, I do understand that this may be the majority of the folk they run into in their business and this may explain the approach. But it irritates me nevertheless.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. If you hate them so much, why go on them? You wanna know why? Because I’m lazy.
Sure, I could have done the research to figure out how to take a bus to the floating markets. But I didn’t really want to. And sometimes, by taking a tour you do get to see parts that you wouldn’t be able to unless you were with a local who has a relationship with people. Sometimes there are things that I enjoy about it.
For example, we were able to take a long boat down the canal to a coconut sugar farm and see the old woman who lives there with her family in the process of making the sugar. We saw people climbing up palm trees to collect the sap and we saw the process that it goes through before it makes it to the market. We also got to see how life is like in another part of Thailand. Had we just gone to the markets on our own, we would have only seen the extremely touristy (and loud) Damnoen Market. We went to Amphawa market and saw a quiet pace of life there.
But what I didn’t like, was that the Thai woman giving the tour kept emphasizing how poor the people were and how much money they don’t make daily. Not sure if she was doing that to evoke sympathy but it rubbed me the wrong way. If I am going to do a tour (and enjoy it) it’s because the person has a sense of pride about thier city or country. There are times that we go on Big Bus or Duck Tours to see a city when we have a quick stop over, and the best ones I’ve been on are when the guide has a sense of humor and immense pride for the city they are showing us. Not highlighting the poor and unfortunate souls.
Now, not that I need a tour to be sugar coated for me. I already know what I’m getting into. But, I prefer a ginuine experience, not a gimmick that you use to get me to buy from your friend vendors. Especially when you insist that they are giving me a “good price” when I know better.
Perhaps I need to my tolerance level. Not sure I will ever completely enjoy tours, but I know that I will keep giving them a chance.