Postcards, we’ve all seen them before. They can make even the most boring place look exciting. While this IS a negative post, it is not a rant. It is important to be realistic and even-headed with our travel experiences. I like to be as positive as possible, and while I have found something good about everywhere I’ve been, let’s face it, not all places live up to expectations.  In the past, I went anywhere that was recommended without double checking. These days, I am far more careful about where I spend my money, as I take drastic measures to save it, and am not as easily fooled by touched up ‘postcard pictures’ anymore. Here is a short list of three places that I thought were over-hyped. I am not saying the whole place is not worth visiting, but there are established ‘truths’ of each city that deserve a second opinion.

1) The Beaches of Los Angeles:

Fantastic beach in Tulum, Mexico
This is what a great beach looks like.

This is easy for me to say, since I was raised most of my life in LA. You become desensitized to a place if you spend way too much time in it. When I was little, I often went to the beaches with my family and of course, always had a great time. While in high school and college, I had the good fortune of being able to go whenever I wanted, living no more than 15 minutes from the shore. But, I didn’t. In fact, I sometimes made excuses not to go to the beach. “I’m just not a beach person,” I told myself. But, since I knew that the response to uttering those blasphemous words out loud would be, “Who the hell is not a beach person?” I kept my true feelings a secret.

I was wrong; I AM a beach person, just not an ‘LA beach’ person, and I think I know why. There is no nice way to say this: The beaches in LA really suck. LA has this aura of being a beach capital of the world. Now that I live abroad, I am often told that the main reasons people want to go to LA are the weather and the beaches. I agree with the first one. The weather is awesome, with over 300 days of sunshine. However, the idea that you can spend more time at the beach than at home needs a reality check.

People go to the beach in LA for the sand, not the water. The beaches in LA are cold, year round. I didn’t really realize this until I went to Mexico’s beaches where the water is so warm, it feels like a sauna. In LA’s beaches, you are told that “you will get used to the temperature soon enough.” Why should anyone have to “get used to it.” That is like eating liver and convincing yourself that it tastes great because ‘you are used to it’ now. In addition, while some of the beaches do an overall good job at keeping the sand and water litter-free, it is hardly transparent, and not that deep-blue you see in great beaches. LA has a nice beach culture, but if the water is too cold to swim and you can’t see your feet, it defeats the main purposes of a  good beach. Almost every other beach I have ever been to has been warmer, far more beautiful, and far less over-hyped.

2) The Casinos in Macao

The Lisboa Hotel and Casino in Macao is the most iconic building in the entire city.
The Lisboa Hotel and Casino in Macao is the most iconic building in the entire city.

I hope my coworker is not reading this because he teased me so much about how I wouldn’t shut up about Macao. Like I said, I like to be positive, and I did have an overall great experience in the pseudo Chinese state. However, everything I have ever read about Macao promoted its casinos. I am from LA, so I often went to Las Vegas when I was in college. “Macao is bigger and better than Vegas,” I was told, pointing out facts that Macao had surpassed Vegas as the gambling capital of the world. While that may be true in terms of how much MONEY is lost in Macao, the cultures couldn’t be more different.

Macao has absolutely no entertainment culture outside of just gambling. Absolutely NOTHING goes on outside of the casinos on the “Cotai Strip.” The first time I went to Las Vegas was part of my first travel experience ever, and I was underage. I couldn’t gamble, but I still had tons of fun. Vegas is great to just walk around year round, with amazing buildings, free (and paid) shows, and a good overall atmosphere. Macao is all about gambling. Free shows are non-existent and paid shows just started being introduced. The casino buildings, with the exception of the Venetian Macao, are also not as lavishly designed internally as the ones in Vegas, giving you little to do except gamble. While there were a few clubs, getting in is even more of a hassle (if you can believe it) than in Vegas.

“But,” you might think, “I’m a gambler, is the gambling part good?” Well, that depends on what kind of a person you are. If you are okay with losing $1000 (US dollars) in gambling, then sure, it might be very good for you. However, if you are like me who doesn’t like to gamble away large amounts of money, then no. Macao is designed for high roller Chinese customers as it is the only place in all of China where gambling is legal. The minimum bets are higher than even the high-end casinos in Vegas. Digital blackjack, for example, starts at $50 Hong Kong Dollars ($8) where it’s 25 cents in Vegas. Real blackjack starts at about $300 HKD (50 USD), compared to $15 USD at the high-end Vegas casinos.

Macao is a great introduction into gambling culture, especially for those who have never seen it before. However, don’t make the same mistake I made thinking it’s Vegas 2.0.

3) The ‘Views’ of Naples

This view is as amazing as it looks in the postcards.
This view is as amazing as it looks in the postcards.

I am sure you have seen this picture before (the one above). It is a fantastic view of the bay of Naples, Mt. Vesuvius, and the rest of central Naples to the left. So, how exactly are the views ‘over-rated?’ Have you ever seen any other pictures of Naples? Didn’t think so. Naples has THIS single view as its highlight. While the city has its charms, especially when it comes to food, don’t come thinking that scenery like this are a dime a dozen.

When I was planning my trip to Italy last year, I did what most people do these days, I conferred with friends and family who had been there already. My brother in particular, was rather vocal that it was ‘not the most picturesque,’ to put it nicely. Like I often do, I stubbornly ignored everyone’s advice, and went anyways. It was on my way from Sicily to Venice, so I thought, “why not?” While I loved the surrounding area, Pompeii in particular, and wish I had more time to explore the Amalfi coast, I was overall disappointed with central Naples. It is a bit run down, and definitely the least beautiful out of all the Italian cities I visited.

Naples did redeem itself a bit as it had my favorite meal of the entire trip, an ambrosial fettuccine alfredo . While I’m willing to say that is it a foodies dream, don’t come thinking that you will see one picture worthy moment after another.

What are some places you visited that did not live up to the hype?

If You Liked This Negative Post, You Might Enjoy These:

1) 5 Signs that Traveling is NOT for You

2) 10 Overrated Things to do While Traveling

If You Are Ready for Positive Posts, Check These Out:

1) Top 30 Things to do in Seoul (things to do that would take a month straight of exploring)

2) Evaluating: Mexico City (best city on Earth)

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Julio Moreno

Julio is a California native who has lived abroad since 2009 as an expat in South Korea and New Zealand. He is especially passionate about experiencing other cultures and visiting as many UNESCO World Heritage Sites as possible.
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2 thoughts on “Travel Destinations With Deceiving Postcards

  • May 1, 2013 at 3:26 pm
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    Haha this is a great article! It’s sometimes hard to let yourself admit that you’re disappointed about a place, especially when everyone else keeps talking about how great it is.

    Postcards can really be deceiving, but what’s almost as frustrating are photos of hotel rooms that look entirely different when you show up!

    Reply
    • May 10, 2013 at 2:25 am
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      Oh, I feel you on the hotels, especially if you paid a lot for them. If I am staying somewhere even a little bit on the nice side, I make sure to carefully read the reviews. I’ve had really good luck with hotels. I have had a few times when I was pleasantly surprised, and it was better than expected :).

      Reply

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