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.
Athens doesn’t get a heck of a lot of good press from backpackers and fancier travelers alike and that’s understandable. By day the Greek capital is often hot, polluted and incredibly frustrating.
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.
First impressions count but they don’t count for much when it comes to travel. You really do have to spend more than just an afternoon in a place before you can judge it.
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?
I’m with you – except Naples, it has never grown on me (visited twice, only stayed once). I also think its so much about expectation management. Your example of Dalat is spot on, you expected Paris in Vietnam and when it didn’t materialise it was disappointing. But then all was revealed 🙂
Haha, I don’t know why exactly I love Naples. I certainly didn’t care for it much the first time I visited. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much rubbish – or so many rats making said rubbish their home!
Totally agree. I have been to iots of places like Singapore and Hanoi that on first impressions I didn’t like but after taking some time I really enjoyed them. No place was more like this than India!
Hanoi’s a good one because I, too, didn’t like it much at first (5am after a sleeper bus) but after a good night’s sleep it was great!
Totally agree with you that Manchester should be on the list! I suppose it all depends on when you arrive with places like that… I recently went to London and arrived quite late at night on the train… people were hanging around and looking shifty everywhere, it scared me half to death haha. Completely fine in the day time though!
I find most often first impressions depend on the time of day – and the weather. In that case I imagine travellers don’t always get the greatest first impression of London, Manchester or anywhere in England!