A touristy place mostly gets me a touristy experience, which is related to how people commodified certain things to accommodate me, as a tourist.
I can say this from my experiences traveling to some places in Indonesia and other countries. Sometimes, this kind of experiences alienates me, and as a stranger intentionally stranding myself in a new place, I don’t want to feel alienated. I want to feel welcomed-but-not-as-tourist! It is a complex feeling, believe me, I struggle with this kind of human-feelings-and-identities in my study.
Morning at one of Banjarmasin city’s docked-floating markets. South Kalimantan, Indonesia, 2014.
There are many things we can do to simulate the locals, or let us interact with locals in a not-so-touristy setting. Simple things such as taking the public transportation instead of renting a car and a driver (actually, from experiences, renting motorbike will grant me more interaction with locals), visiting public places on weekdays, getting lost in non-touristy places, or waking up early to go to the traditional market!
Why would I want to do things like locals? I am not locals anyway!
Well, let me tell you the perks of doing things like locals!
First, I get to know how the locals do thing normally–it’s their daily lives, granted that it might be boring, but might be a total different routine from what I do in my normal situation, which will be refreshing for me! Also, by being a good observant, I can learn two or more things that can be handy in my traveling!
Secondly, one thing that I love doing the most when traveling is eating like locals! The only action in life that I can do wherever and still feel familiar.
For me, tasting local food/drinks/treats is very essential when visiting a new place. Eating like locals will enhance the experience of traveling. To do so, I don’t have to be at the most recommended place. Sure, recommendation gives me some kind of assurance about the food and experience, however a random place that I have no idea before, just a small eatery right beside that road that I walked by the night before, might be a pleasant surprise. One definitely plus side, I get to eat the food in a more comfortable setting without feeling alienated. I guaranteed that it will have different ambiance than when you eat at a restaurant set for tourists.
Trying Thai’s street food at street night market. Chiang Mai, Thailand, 2014.
A tip for when you are not feeling adventurous about food for fear of stomach ache, then stick to a place that serves chinese food. Chinese food is everywhere and most likely you are already familiar with some of the menu. Chinese food, though, usually comes with its own local qualities! For example, chinese noodles in Bangkok have different taste than the ones in Jakarta–but it is the chinese noodles that you know, anyway.
Thirdly, I get to interact with locals, in a more genuine setting. This is important! Because people in a touristy place are trained and more inclined to accomodate what I need and want (not that it is a bad thing, but sometimes it feels like they are in it for money only!). Trust me, a more genuine setting usually offers more unique story and glimpses of locals’ views. That, my friend, will be a far more treasurable experience than just eating in that special sunset-view-bar of that famous restaurant.
Fourth, do-like-locals actually helps the local businesses to grow! Other than eating at local eateries, time and again, I have to remind myself not to buy things from a national or international chains of mini market, but buy things from the local stores! Why?
Stocking up our mineral water at very cheap price at Pasaraya Warta before continuing our journey to Batu Caves. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 2015.
Because the prices are most likely cheaper when we buy things in places where locals usually buy things! It is a very rare thing that you will get a friendly price without bargaining your ass off in a touristy place.
Thus, I commend to do like locals when you are a stranger! It is for more enhanced experiences with the locals, with many side-bonuses, including the budget-friendly situation!
Have things to share about do-like-locals experience? Share with me in the comment! 😀