The term “Hole in the Wall” has been used around the world when talking about restaurants that look like nothing from the outside, but offer amazing food as affordable prices. After travelling for months around the world, I realized that this term could also be apply to cities. Introducing the concept of hole in the wall cities.
What are “Hole in the Wall Cities”
When talking about hole in wall cities, we are talking about cities that aren’t even on the Lonely Planet. Cities that have next to no images on Google. Cities that go about their daily routines, seeing virtually no tourists.
That’s the type of city you want to go to when you are trying to get lost. Many long-term travellers spend the majority of their time in such cities, as they offer a look into the true cultural habits of a place.
Why would I want to go to one of these cities?
Do you ever feel as though the famous places you go to are putting on a show, rather than being the real deal?
More Authentic Experience
If you get that feeling, then it’s probably because it’s true. Before becoming a major tourist destination, every major town/village/city that is featured in the Lonely Planet and on major blogs was once a hidden gem.
Take Pai, Thailand for example. What was once an authentic Thai hippy paradise has been twisted into a cheap backpacker haven with 2+ million tourists a year. It’s a fun place, but don’t think for one second you are living something authentic.
Another great example is Sapa, Vietnam. Feel like going in the mountains of Vietnam to join hundreds of thousands of other white tourists and money-hungry vultures? Walking down the street and seeing fast food chains and North Face stores while the village next to them still doesn’t have electricity? Instead you should consider going to Ha Giang, one of Vietnam’s last undiscovered frontiers.
As I enter my 8th month of travel, I have to say that almost every true authentic experience that I’ve had was either in one of these random cities, or in transit between known cities. It seems everyone is stuck to the Lonely Planet routes, or the major cities you find on the bigger blogs.
Leave your comfort zone and allow yourself to discover how the locals truly live. You won’t regret it.
These smaller towns will charge you local prices, rather than the inflated tourist price. Everything is cheaper.
- Cheaper Food
- Cheaper Massages
- Cheaper Accomodation
- Cheaper Beer
- Cheaper Everything!
Discover New Cuisines
All the best and most authentic foods I’ve had during my trip came from small towns like these. I had the best Tom Yum in Sa Keao Thailand. My best Pho was in Yen Minh (Hagiang Province) Vietnam. Amazing pupusas in Juayua El Salvador and a quesadilla of the heavens in Rio Dulce Guatemala.
And the list goes on.
How to find “Hole in the Wall Cities”
Cities like this exist everywhere. This may sound backwards, but the best way to find them is not to look for them. Here are a few ways to get you started.
Place your finger on a map
Take out a map. If you don’t have one, take out your phone.
Place your finger on a map, and go there.
Drive to get lost
You don’t have to take a flight to travel. This weekend, go out and get lost in your own region of the world. If you have a car or motorbike, great. If you don’t, rent one.
Drive for 1-2 hours in a specific direction, taking turns when your gut feeling tells you to do so. You are bound to come across wonderful places you never knew existed.
When travelling in developing countries, drive 3 hours in any random direction from a major city, and once you find a place that seems nice stop for the night.
After hitchhiking 1800KM from Siem Reap, Cambodia, to Luang Namtha, Laos, I can say this is also a great way. You can view the entire story here, but here is a synopsis. The entire trip took a total of 5 days, with only 4 days of car riding. To be honest, Emie and I did 1294 KM in two days, half in a brand new 2017 Cadillac Escalade going 150km/hr, and half in the back of an uncomfortable truck going 60km/hr.
Hitchhiking is probably the best way to find random cities. You should always have a final destination in mind, but be willing to enjoy the ride and stop in random villages along the way.
This is Travel
Why do you travel? To experience new cultures, foods, and adventures? To see amazing landscapes? To escape your life and work back home? If any of these are your reasons, then try going to a few hole in the wall cities and I guarantee you will learn something new. Something you would never be able to find in a travel guide.
Until Next Time,