Monday, October 15, 2012

Contradictions in travel: Confessions of someone who loved Disneyland!

I tend to go on a lot about seeking out the less popular tourist spots, about getting to know the locals, about having authentic experiences when you travel rather than doing the big tacky touristy things.

But you know what? Sometimes I just love doing this stuff too. I am a travelling contradiction. Just a quick flick through my photo albums will demonstrate that.

Tokyo Disneyland
For one, even though a part of me squirms about the idea, I have truly loved visiting Disneyland. I first visited the Los Angeles version when my mother was living over there - I guess I was about 24 years old, but felt like a ten-year-old let loose in the place of her dreams! I always remembered seeing the Disney castle on TV every Sunday night at the end of the Disney show and back then, it was pretty rare for Aussie kids to travel all the way to the US, so we all daydreamed of this impossible place. When I finally got there, it really did live up to my expectations.

As did the Tokyo version, a few years later. In fact, I enjoyed the Tokyo version even more because what could be better than regular Disneyland than a version staffed by the most polite people in the world?! It was also a bonus when queuing up for rides that I was taller than nearly everyone so I didn't ever feel claustrophobic.


And then there's my keen interest in a certain Seattle-based coffee shop chain. I'm very big on avoiding fast food (when possible ...) when travelling and sourcing local-style food instead. Of course, in this picture I'm in Seattle, home of Starbucks, so stopping in here is actually an example of sourcing local-style, isn't it?! But I find that wherever I am in the US (our honeymoon in New York springs to mind), I love to stop in here for a drink and a chat. Heck, I've even visited them in Japan and Germany. Not so authentic in those countries, I suppose!

Now the interesting thing that has only occurred to me mid-way through this post, rather than during the planning, is that the kind of places I put on my "suspect" list as "tacky touristy" tend to belong to American culture. When I lived in Japan and occasionally ate at MOS Burger, a Japanese chain, I never felt that I was being particularly unauthentic, but on reflection, I was.

So what is it about American culture that makes me put it on the don't-visit list? I know that part of it is the feeling that culture must be something that has a tradition going back hundreds or even thousands of years - sushi in Japan, castles in Europe, cave paintings in outback Australia. Which means it's not just American culture that is the culprit, but certainly Australian modern culture too (harder for me to avoid though, since I live here), and anywhere else that has adopted brand new cultural habits on top of much older or even ancient ones.

I guess that means I've been being a bit hard on the "tacky tourist". After all, locals also visit these places, and locals work there too; perhaps it's just an authentic experience of modern culture. Just because something isn't old and rooted in long-standing tradition, doesn't mean it's not worth seeing, doing or eating. Hmm. Am I changing my theory? I think it still needs some more thought.

What's on your tacky tourist list ... and do you avoid it, or not?

8 comments:

  1. I visited Disneyland in Florida when my kids were small, about 4 and 6. They still remember meeting Mickey and Minnie! I too enjoyed it of course, although I don´t think I would visit it now at my age...maybe in a few years with grandchildren.

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    1. How wonderful that your kids still remember that experience from when they were so young!

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  2. I adore Disney, and used to visit a lot ..... think I'd probably like to go back too, but there are other places beckoning as well.

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    1. Ah, a fellow Disney lover, good to hear Jenny!

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  3. I have to admit, I have a few "Tacky Tourist" places I do visit. We've been to Tokyo and Hong Kong Disneyland a number of times...I feel bad that I've been to Hong Kong Disneyland probably 10 times, and never visited Ocean Park!

    I also have a "tacky" habit of visiting the Hard Rock Cafe wherever I can outside of the US...though in most cases I just pop into the store and buy a hat, and don't actually eat there.

    I do try to avoid the american food chains, both the fast food (ie. McDonalds, KFC) and the casual dining (ie. TGI Fridays, Chilis) that you can find all over Asia. Though god forbid if a Taco Bell ever opened up here in the Netherlands now!

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    1. Thanks for admitting your tacky tourist visits (and your tacky habit, too!), Brett! I've heard that HK Disney beats Ocean Park - but for sentimental reasons (I spent my 9th birthday there) I still think I'll visit Ocean Park on my next Hong Kong trip.

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  4. I visited Disneyland when I was a 6 year old girl. That was wonderful experience. I can’t forget Mickey and Minnie even I have grown up.

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    1. How wonderful that you still remember that experience as such a young girl!

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