Why I’d Rather Stay At Home Than Go On A Package Tour.
When it comes to vacation time, there are many things to consider, and one of the most important issues is how to actually start preparing the entire trip.
For a lazy couch-potato it might be the right thing to browse through some “let’s flyaway” websites, on which the right destination will be found soon for sure; of course all inclusive, paid via the internet, with the invoice printed in the same moment. Now you only have to wait until the departure day arrives, pack up a few things and that’s it. There’s nothing more to do. Once you’re at the airport, you can start scanning your fellow travel buddies at the departure gate and start choosing some possible holiday flings as well.
That can’t be all, can it?!
But luckily there are other ways to start a vacation as a travel photographer: Scanning the atlas is a good start, because after all, there are many places yet to be discovered. For example the Austral Islands. We came across these tiny islands somewhere South of French Polynesia. But actually getting there took more than a few evenings of checking relevant websites (all in French, so we could prove our high school French skills at the same time). No sooner said than done, we started our 48 hour journey to French Polynesia…. And only one day after arriving in Papeete, we continued to the Austral islands. Since we were up for an adventure, instead of waiting for the next passenger ferry, we hopped onto the cargo ship, which provides these islands with all the goods the people need every couple of weeks. It was a smooth trip but turns out, we were quite lucky. Just a couple of days earlier, the ship had to conquer giant monster waves that crushed its hull. Must have been one hell of a trip…
Something like this would definitely never ever happen on a package tour. These “normal” tours are on the safe side most of the times … unless of course you’re captain thinks he’s a big shot and wants to impress some cute blonde waitress for example – then you’re relaxing honeymoon vacation can turn into a real nightmare. Still, in most cases, the greatest excitement comes along when you find a cockroach in the shower, and then the booking company can fasten their seatbelts, because heavy complaining will come up… Come to think of it, are package tours any fun at all?
We’ve had our share of horrible package tours.
A really strange (and that’s actually a nice word here) experience that we encounter was during a booked trip to the Great Wall of China from Beijing. We stayed in one of these hotel chains and due to limited time, we thought it might be better to book a tour, instead of getting there ourselves (plus it was also our first visit to China). Big mistake, as we already found out an hour later when the bus turned into a huge shopping centre full of Jade shops. It was an unwanted stop for half an hour, yet still most people actually bought something?! The guy in charge wanted us to go inside as well, but Jade simply doesn’t do it for us…
So after about 30 minutes, the bus continued to the Great Wall and just as we arrived, we were told to be back in one hour because lunch was provided somewhere else. No idea why but we didn’t want to make a big deal out of it. So after walking around a little bit, we returned to the bus as the last ones of course, which didn’t help in bonding with our fellow travellers. Anyway, the drive only took about 10 minutes until we turned into a gigantic (it really was gigantic) complex. We got out and were led into a waiting room, not the slightest idea what was going to happen next…
Well, turns out that before we could have lunch, we got a doctor’s consultation. 3 men in white robes entered the room with an interpreter explaining that we can get a medical check now and further more, get a prescription for Chinese medicine. Wft?! The doctors stated asking people if they had any bone aching, stomach problems, high blood, diabetes, sleeplessness or any other general sicknesses. And, believe it or not, most of the tourist admitted some problems and were happy that these doctors had solutions for everything. Heck, if I would have told these “Gods in White” that I had a brain tumour, I’m sure they would have given me some magical snake slime mixed with horse hair to make things better. So anyway, they started selling all kind of herbs and this was the time when we escaped again, with the excuse (we didn’t want to offend anyone) that we were healthy as a child … but instead of being happy for us, the tour leader gave us a grim look.
Anyway, the food was a bit dreadful as well. We sat at round tables and a huge pot was placed in the middle, which caught our attention. We opened the lid and an entire boiled rooster stuck out … that must have been the Chinese version of chicken soup, It might not have been so bad, but we mostly stuck to rice.
After arriving back in our hotel, we said never ever again … yet we did come across another package tour in Vietnam once (Ha Long Bay), but that’s another horror story I want to spare you of.
What about you? Any experiences with package tours?