Vacation Aesthetics

Why do you travel? What is your idea of fun on vacation? What kind of tourist are you?

Having just returned from A’Famosa Resort in Malaysia, I definitely have a new outlook on tourism and travel. A’Famosa blends the golf vacation with packaged fun in the form of: Water World, Animal World, and my favorite Cowboy Town. Just like visiting travel theme parks the resort attempts to provide a little bit of everything in the same location. Interestingly enough, the resort has almost no true Malaysian culture and instead offers commercialized theme parks that just sell photo opps. Regardless, more facinating than the cheesiness of a few Malaysians dressing up as Cowboys and Indians is the people who eat this stuff up…

The resort is most popular with Muslim families and mainland Chinese tourists. It was rare to find a Hong Kong family much less an American like me, even though almost all the staff speaks some English. What seems like a place mostly for kids, actually goes over really well with these adults. I personally can’t stand the fakeness of yelling Indians on horses or jungle safari caged trucks. But that in itself points to the fact that different cultures have different “fun” aesthetics. The key is figuring out what appeals to whom. Are you the kind of tourist that likes taking pictures? or the one that enjoys seeing shows? or the one that likes to just relax?

Are Americans just hard to impress since we have a lot of entertainment at our fingertips to begin with? A place like A’Famosa wouldn’t fly with an American kid who has already been to a water park three times each summer since he was able to walk and has seen so many cowboy cartoons that the “real” thing would fail to impress. American adults would notice the lack of “polish” of the resort: the lack of landscaping, the dirty bus, etc.

Maybe I’ve just lost my youthfulness (okay, I admit, it never was there) but I realized that I much more enjoy exploring unique cities. I visited the historic trading city of Malacca (Malaka) near A’Famosa, and found it enthralling. The city combines a Portugese colonial history with a lot of Chinese residents, several mosques, and a super American shopping mall to form this unique Malaysian hybrid. I’d love to spend some more serious time in Malacca and perhaps visit Kuala Lumpur someday.

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