Within ten minutes of arriving in the Vietnamese town of Dalat I was ready to throw in the towel. Lost, hungry and tired of playing chicken with millions of scooters every time I crossed the road, I was prepared to jump on the next over-crowded bus out of town.
Nicknamed the “Little Paris” of Asia, what I was expecting was pretty French-style cafes and people riding around on bicycles with baguettes; instead, what I got was the kind of hustle and bustle I thought I’d left behind in chaotic Ho Chi Minh City.
But then the sun went down, the market sprang into life and I found myself actually quite enjoying my time in the city of eternal spring (the same city that’s home to the peculiar Valley of Love).
Which got me thinking: what other places give off bad first impressions? Here’s the first three that came to mind:
England’s second city has the worst football hooligans and weather in the country, or so I thought when I arrived in the city on an incredibly bleak and rainy day which also happened to be match day for both Manchester football clubs.
The city had battened down the hatches for the derby between the two local sides – Manchester United and Manchester City – and I felt as though I’d arrived amidst a not-so civil war.
The city did eventually sort itself out, the police presence gradually declined and its pubs were safe once more for innocent bystanders to stop in for a pint. The weather never did get any better, though.
By night, however, Athens is fantastic. The iconic Acropolis lights up above the city and seemingly every restaurant has a view. Meanwhile, as the temperature drops to a bearable level the city’s populace come to life at the enchanting night market – which is so calm and relaxed compared to Asia standards.
The king of bad first – and last – impressions, Naples is a dog’s dinner of a travel destination. Filthy, fast-paced and dangerous, no-one ever falls in love with Naples at first sight. Fact.
I’ve visited the city twice. The first, the culmination of almost a month in Italy, saw me leave the nasty place just as soon as I could. I stayed in Naples again three years later only because I had to; it was too expensive to stay on the isle of Capri.
I knew what to expect the second time around: mountains of rubbish on street corners populated by rats the size of small dogs, kamikaze scooter riders seemingly aiming for you as you crossed the street, the best pizza in the world.
It’s a city where knowing what to expect makes a big difference. And, over two visits, I found it had grown on me.
So, what do you think? What other places give off bad first impressions? Do I have any of these wrong – and if so, what was your first impression like?