Despite the long queues, over-priced accommodation and pressure to have an amazing time, we all like a good old festival (don't we?)
Call me a misery (“Misery!”) but festivals leave me feeling anything but festive.
Take Carnival. Most see it as the Planet’s Biggest Party! (exclamation mark obligatory): a joyous bevy of Brazilian booties being shaken to infectious rhythms; truckloads of pretty ladies wearing nowt but feathers.
I see: noise, fuss and a personal bikini complex. Then there’s India’s Kumbh Mela: an awesome chance to join 17,000,000 Hindus on the banks of the Ganges – the ultimate participation event, no? I think: my, what a marvellous opportunity for the spreading of air- and water-borne diseases.
Even something like Sydney’s Mardi Gras leaves me cold. Yes, it’s colourful. And yes, the ‘Dykes-on-Bikes’ and processing Priscillas do raise a smile. But it’s really most inconvenient if you’re trying to cross a parade route, and it causes awfully long queues for the loo.
The dictionary definition of ‘festival’ has rather moved on from its original ‘holy day’ roots; it’s now a catch-all sense of revelry and merrymaking. But I’d prefer to make merry elsewhere, thank you kindly.
For the festival pay-off is so seldom worth the hype. For a start there’s the money. Like the words ‘wedding’ or ‘pregnancy’, put ‘festival’ in the vicinity of an otherwise reasonable item and the cost will skyrocket – flights, hotels, sandwiches, comedy hats.
And quality often plummets – bet that hotel room is the size of that hat, and the hat won’t last past midnight. Then there’s the disruption – heaven forbid you happen to be in a town where a festival’s occurring that you don’t want to be part of. Not only are you paying over the odds for your hat-sized room, you can’t leave! No buses are running, there are no outbound trains. You are stuck. And you WILL PARTICIPATE! Or you’ll need some jack-hammer-resistant earplugs to get you through.
And gathering that many revellers in one place freaks me out. Don’t get me wrong – people, especially locals, are great. But too many at once and you can feel alienated. Far from the sense of inclusion you’re encouraged to expect, the sight of a nation rejoicing over its shared religion/music/radish-carving prowess can leave a timid tourist (with no flair for shaping vegetables) quite out in the cold. There’s nothing more depressing than watching others – thousands of others – having a really good time.
Nope – you can keep your Boi Bumba and your Bastille Day, your Tomatina, Thaipusam and Timkat. I’ll visit those cities after the parade has passed by, thanks – my hotel room will be bigger. And I can cross the road when I please.
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