NOW everyone can fly”. That’s the catchy tagline of the pride and joy of a Malaysian brand that we are all proud of — AirAsia.
With the budget-friendly airline also comes “postmodern tourism”. It’s a term given to the sociological theory of wanting to seek the “extraordinary” travelling experience. In the past few years, Malaysians have come to gain a reputation as seasoned travellers. Scroll through their Instagram timelines and you will see how they share different breakfast, lunch and dinner in different locations ever so often.
Postmodern tourism is associated with the discovery of new exotic places that the corporate sector has overlooked in commercialising. Examples include “Heritage tourism” and “Nature tourism”, which have manifested into Kuala Lumpur’s own Heritage Walk and Mount Kinabalu climbs in Malaysia.
It sets to reiterate the supposed definition of being a tourist, to allow people to see, experience and learn. This contrasts with the stereotype of a typical tourist — the foreign-looking man walking around the city with a backpack wearing a Hawaiian T-shirt and sun hat, with a camera strapped around his neck and map in his hand.
The olden days of ideal travelling, including a stay at a five-star hotel, no longer cuts it. An aesthetically-pleasing shophouse or brothel turned into a minimalistic home listed on Airbnb.com will, though.
Why? Because of its relative authenticity compared with hotels. Reflecting on lifestyle magazines, such as Hypebeast, Cereal and Kinfolk, and our very own Malaysian Musotrees and Desiderata, the common travel packages and group guided tours around a city is no longer as attractive as a lifestyle magazine’s is.
The millennial generation grew up watching movies and shows that gave a visual image of what is out there. Despite never stepping foot in Las Vegas, it’s safe to say that my friends and I have gained a good picture of the American city just by religiously watching the CSI television series.
Postmodern tourists explore a city in a different manner. They use walking guides and explore the passages that no group tours offer to take photos of people and places that do not decorate the covers of mainstream travel magazines.
The social media is decorated with posts of the “insider’s guide”, personal travelling blogs and itineraries, such as travelling to “exotic places” that one has not even heard of as tourist destinations in the past year.
Three years ago, destinations, such as the Maldives and Lombok in Indonesia, were unheard of. Nowadays, it’s probably a must visit for Malaysian millennials.
Soon enough, North Korea may also be on top of the list of the Malaysians’ “must visit” destinations. This is especially so since Malaysians are one of the very few who can enter North Korea without a visa.
It is interesting to note how we seek the uncommon and shy away from the mainstream and crowds. It could be because we are scared of the large number of people in tour groups. Or maybe it’s the easy access to materials that fabricate the infrastructure and looks of the historical sights and monuments, as everything is just a Google away.
You can even be on Mount Kinabalu on Google Earth now. As a millennial, you will be met with disapproval if you shared your travelling urges with anyone who used to travel in the 1970s (Trust me, I tried). B
ack then, the concept of travelling was different. It was a luxury for the few. The Internet was non-existent and neither was the ease of getting information. Differing cultures were still exotic and historical landmarks were waiting to be explored, captured in pictures and experienced.
Beautiful paintings in museums were waiting to be stared in awe. But now, you’d be lucky to catch a glimpse of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre in Paris among the many tourists blocking your view.
It may even be difficult to get a decent photo of yourself with the Eiffel Tower in the back without a photo-bomber.
But, that is the reality of today. Postmodern tourism is indeed a growing and good phenomenon as it shies away from the corporate and commercialised holiday packages.
Thanks to the Internet, one can easily plan trips without a travel agent by just simply browsing a lifestyle magazine, and experience an instinctual attraction once one is physically there. It encourages a new demand in the unexplored sector and, in the long run, may aid the preservation of heritage buildings and sites.
Especially in Malaysia, it may set a domino effect of good things to come, as corporations will strive to preserve old attractions for postmodern tourists, instead of tearing them down. It will obviously keep Malaysia’s history intact and allow for its continuation of life.
It will also encourage an onset and challenge for the Malaysian architecture industry in attempting to accommodate historical remnants, while fulfilling the needs of the ever-developing country.
Maybe then, and hopefully being referred to as a hipster traveller may not be so bad, would it? Although it must be admitted that with the absence of a McDonald’s and drinks’ stall, it will not be akin to a relaxing beach holiday.
But ever the more, travelling should be about stocking experiences, and postmodern tourism seems to be the perfect choice if it is one’s cup of tea.
The writer, Tengku Nur Qistina Petri a granddaughter of former prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra al-Haj, is a fresh law graduate trying hard to find her place after spending time in northern England during her years at the University of Manchester. Always probing into discussions, she most often regrets not doing politics, philosophy and economics