A question that we regularly get asked as travellers is “which is your favourite country?”. It’s actually a really difficult one to answer as we have visited so many amazing and diverse places that it’s hard to even begin to compare them. And we’ve genuinely found tonnes of things we’ve loved about the vast majority of places we’ve been to, from delicious local foods to incredible views.
We tend to try and keep this blog as positive as possible and generally only write about the places that we really love. But no one can fall in love with absolutely everywhere they visit!
So today we’re in reflective mood and talking about those places that, for one reason or another, really didn’t light our fire. Since starting The Whole World Or Nothing, we’ve visited 13 countries (luckily we’re not superstitious!) across South America and Asia so it’s inevitable that we’d prefer some over others.
Here are 5 places that weren’t our favourites, some of these may well surprise you!
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Pretty much every person we met who’d been to Laos said that Luang Prabang was their favourite place, so we were really excited when we left Vientiane to make our way north. The journey there was an experience in itself as we travelled on a crowded local bus along the rolling, windy roads that connect the cities in Laos. It’s always slightly concerning when they hand out sick bags at the start of a journey!
While we try to avoid the snobby attitude some travellers have about needing to “get off the beaten path” and avoid popular places, we really hadn’t anticipated just how touristy Luang Prabang would be.
The night market in Luang Prabang
The centre of the town seemed to have been specifically created for tourists with every building being a bar, guesthouse or tour agency. The night market was full of overpriced trinkets and keepsakes and seemed very unauthentic. Though we really enjoyed our trip to Kuang Si waterfalls, it looked completely different to the picturesque images we’d seen previously as the rains had made the water a murky brown instead of its usual aqua blue.
The rest of Laos was absolutely incredible, Luang Prabang just didn’t float our boat unfortunately!
We’d heard so many great things about this place that we really couldn’t wait to get there. Hoi An in Vietnam is famous the world over for its walled Ancient Town packed with beautiful yellow buildings, the light festivals where thousands of floating candles are released onto the river and the stunning beaches that crown its coastline.
For us, two words spring to mind – wash out.
We visited Hoi An at the height of rainy season and of the 6 days that we spent there it rained torrentially for 5 of them. For the first couple of days Sarah decided to fall ill, so we spent them holed up in our guesthouse watching the rain pelt against our steamed up window. The next couple of days we wandered miserably around the Ancient Town in our ponchos, ducking in and out of historical buildings and cafes to avoid the frequent downpours.
Rainy days in Hoi An
On the one dry day we were blessed with we decided to visit the beach, but it turned out the rains had been replaced with gale force winds. Even though it wasn’t raining, we didn’t even bother sitting down on the beach as it was grey and overcast and sand was relentlessly whipping into our eyes.
To top it all off we had borrowed some bikes from our guesthouse to get around town on and on our final evening there they were stolen! Well that’s what we thought when we arrived back to the spot where we’d locked them up to find they had completely vanished. It turned out that, for reasons still unknown to us, the police had cut through the locks and taken them away to put them in a compound. After some stressful negotiations and a bit of running around we managed to locate them and get them back.
We’re pretty sure we could have a great time in Hoi An if we went back at a different time of year with no sickness issues. Unfortunately it just didn’t work out for us.
Everything seemed to go slightly wrong for us in Chile’s capital Santiago. We only had a few days to spend here and thought we had planned it quite well, but on the day we’d set aside for sightseeing nothing was actually open. The Museum of Memory and Human Rights, the Palacio de Moneda and even the local park we tried to visit were all shut.
It turns out that in Santiago on a Monday, pretty much everything is closed!
Palacios de Moneda Santiago
Clearly this was our own fault for not properly checking opening times but it meant we didn’t get to see much of Santiago or learn as much of the history as we’d have liked. In fact we didn’t have the opportunity to do anything that we wanted here. Next time.
The islands in Thailand are world famous for their chilled out vibe and beautiful beaches, so naturally we were keen to go and check them out for ourselves. Koh Samui was the first one we visited and though we loved the beach and the clear, warm waters, the atmosphere was not what we had expected.
Larking about in the sea on Ko Samui
Thailand is nicknamed “The Land of Smiles” but in all honestly we struggled to understand why whilst we were on Ko Samui. Maybe it was just us, but we didn’t feel particularly welcome or that people were very friendly. Atmosphere is a difficult thing to put your finger on and define but when you don’t feel it you don’t feel it.
Still, we were there for some serious R&R and we spent most of our time on the beach – nothing was gonna kill that vibe.
We loved our time in Japan but we just didn’t find much of interest to do in Osaka. It’s a great place if you’re into shopping and it’s known as Japan’s kitchen for it’s incredible food. But there’s not a lot to actually do there!
We stayed quite far out of town in a very residential area with not much going on and that didn’t help either. With the benefit of hindsight we’d probably have chosen to spend our time in Kyoto which is quite nearby and do a day trip to Osaka.
The Glico running man in Osaka
We always find that our impressions of new places are often affected by where we have just left and we’d spent the week prior in Hiroshima which is jam packed with loads of amazing things to do. It was probably inevitable that we’d find Osaka a bit boring in comparison. I’m not sure it’s somewhere we could ever fall in love with but we’d definitely go back for another try.
Despite these 5 places not being our favourites, we’d still like to go back again someday to each of them to see if that would change. We always try and see the best in places and invariably find something that we love about each destination. So it seems a shame to have bad memories of places we know have more to offer than what we experienced.
Where have you been that didn’t ring your bell and why? Have you been to any of these places and what was your experience of them?
Travel lover, professional writer and football (soccer) obsessive, James loves nothing more than getting outside and exploring little known corners of the globe. He’s also very partial to a drop of Guinness.