Monday, January 14, 2013

Travel Experts and Me: Put the Travel Book Away

Tortoise Tower in the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake...
Tortoise Tower in the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi, Viet Nam. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
You know I have gotten into it with the Frugal Traveler from the New York Times. He called me an amateur and burned me so bad. The reaction of most people was that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Maybe so but it still stung! 

However, I do still read the Frugal Traveler in the NYTs. After all he is the expert on cheap travel. He gets paid to travel so he knows stuff that you may want to know. The other day he was talking about a travel website called TripAdvisor. People I know that also travel for a living use TripAdvisor. It is just a down and dirty, get real kind of web location. They have had 75 million reviews and opinions over the years so they are a well established authority. The beauty of the website is all of those comments from people that have actually visited the places they talk about. It really is very helpful.

When we went to Vietmam a year ago, TripAdvisor was the website that helped us get from Shanghai to Hanoi and then on a night train to Sapa. Following their advice is a good thing. So is reading Fordor's or Lonely Planet.

But in the end, what I enjoyed the very most was the things we did without a guide book in our hands. It was a though I was the first person to visit Vietnam. The Tortoise Tower you see above was located in a lake very near our little Hanoi Gecko Hotel. I have a picture of it somewhere in my files. The picture you see above was taken with my camera in Sa Pa and edited with the SnapSeed application on my iPad. I was looking out the window of the Sa Pa Rooms hotel second story over the roof tops.

Several years ago my husband and I were in Kowloon for a few days. We were just fresh off the boat and did not have all our technology with us. All we had was the sun and the seat of our pants. We wanted to walk to the water and I insisted that we needed to go to our right and not our left.  It turned out that right was wrong. That was when I discovered that confusion is the universal language. A Chinese man recognized that we were lost and helped us read an English Language Chinese and got us turned around. We ate at a small restaurant and ventured in stores like the tourist we were. It was so much fun and really not anything we would have ever found in a travel book. I liked that day a lot.

Frugal Traveler talked about how the guide books and websites can be invaluable. But, in the end, he also said that putting the books down and turning off the computer is a good thing. Walk out the door and take a right turn at the corner. Just start walking. You may end up in some very interesting and unusual place. (Be sure to read the articles below...don't be afraid to venture out.) Think of the stories you will have to tell. Travel is about bragging rights anyway.


Using TripAdvisor? Some Advice by Seth Krugel

Traveling Hopefully and Fearlessly, Retire In Style Blog
Retirement Travel, Retire In Style Blog

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  1. I'm usually shy about seeing new places on my own - until I get out there and do it. Then I'm thrilled and delighted.

  2. It seems that I need to go through that anxiety every time we start out. I have to relearn the bargaining and learn to ward off the scam artists. But in the end I am not afraid but just annoyed at myself for not realizing what is coming. Shy may the word I have been looking for.



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