on tourist traps …

My friend and boss sent me some pictures of her trip to Memphis where she's attending a conference.  She went to Graceland … one of the 1000 places that I have determined that I must see before I perish.  According to S. it is a "tourist trap" but she enjoyed the visit nonetheless.  That got me thinking and I came to the realization that you know … I freaking LOVE tourist traps!!!  The intellectually elitist snob in me knows that I am supposed to turn my nose up at places like Disneyland, Graceland, Epcot Center, the Grove Mall in LA, Mann's Chinese Theater in Hollywood, etc.  but the truth is that I LOVE them.  Now when I travel, I don’t necessarily want to JUST visit tourist traps, but I find that when I attend them, I tend to be a satisfied customer! 

One of my favorite things from my first European trip was the Sound of Music Tour in Austria.  Imagine a whole bunch of old white haired American tourists (and me and Al, my best friend since the 8th grade … two Asian guys from Hawai'i) riding in two motor coaches through the hills of Austria singing to the sound track of the Sound of Music and you kind of get the idea … (Apparently only Americans take the tour as neither the Von Trapp family story nor the movie are very famous except in America … go figure …).

In China, one of my favorite places was this very charming old neighborhood in Shanghai with traditional architecture where the shops had some of the most beautiful crafts that we saw in all of China.  Our guide showed us around, then gave us time to explore the village on our own.  Well, he told us after we left that the guides and locals call the place “Chinatown in China” because it is a mall the was designed to look old, but only built in the last five years.  I was shopping at the freaking Grove of Shanghai!!! 

For a short time, I attended classes as a visiting student at a very prestigious institution of higher learning in California.  During one discussion all of the students in one of my classes mocked people who wanted the "tourist version of California" … "They want the fake Golden Gate Bridge rather than the real one in San Francisco … the fake granite bolders of Santa Barbara instead of the real thing … they want to do a fake hang gliding trip over California rather than get out and do the real thing …"  Everyone in the the class nodded in knowing agreement and all the while my Deluxe Annual Passport to the Magic Kingdom and Disney's California Adventure were BURNING a big whole in my pocket!!!  What can I say … I don't know how to freaking hang glide and I'm afraid of heights so, yes … I want to be strapped onto what is basically a crane and made to feel like I'm Soaring Over California and doing the real thing!!!  I LOVE San Francisco and the real bridge, but to tell you the truth, it is nice to see the fake bridge and not have to worry about the homeless people begging your for money at the scenic lookout point …

I'll admit, I feel bad for people who are too afraid of the real world to get out and enjoy it for what it is–the real world, but I'm just saying that a tourist trap can be a lot of fun and an enjoyable experience so long as you keep in mind that is ISN'T the real world.  The world can sometimes get to feel like a pretty tough place.  I want to do my share to save the environment and to house the homeless, but I also think that it should be okay for me to escape to a good 'ole tourist trap for a few hours and enjoy it for what it is …

And that is why I’m a sucker for tourist traps!


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