Let's talk about something that's been bugging me for a while. Now that Penang is known for our street food, there's lots of articles out there listing places to visit and food to try. Some of them are really good! Some of them are... less good.
But there's one piece of bad advice that seems to pop up very often: "Go where the lines are." Or it's more benign sounding cousin, "the line is long, but that's how you know it's good!!" (usually accompanied by no less than two exclamation points.)
Guys, to me, this is bad advice. It discourages people from exploring and trying things outside their comfort zone: which is the reason we travel in the first place! It creates a herd mentality, where we see lines on social media or on blogs & websites and then go line up there, then other people go online and see us lining up there, so they line up there, and so on. It's a self-reinforcing cycle, until another place pops up on the radar a week later and all the queues go there.
The worst thing about it, is that when it comes to food places, the lines don't always mean the food is better!! (Yes, I have also used the double-exclamation. It's that serious.) Sometimes, it just means something is trending on social media. Or someone has written a blog post about the place. But all the locals are just cross the street at a stall with good food and shorter lines :D
Technology has made travel and exploration so much easier in the last couple of years. It's now so easy to go somewhere you've never been and to find things to do once you're there. But there is a down-side as well. Sometimes, social media (and to some extent, Google) result in repetitive suggestions and derivative experiences.
I've seen this "go where the lines are" advice pop up many times over the last few years and it always makes me a little bit sad. George Town is a city that is perfect for exploring. It's safe and interesting and it really has a personality. There's so much history and heritage here hidden away from the trending pages on social media, and sometimes from the first page of Google search results. But that also creates an opportunity for a unique and enlightening experience, if we're willing to leave our comfort zone.
So, take my advice. Don't just go where the lines are. Go explore, walk down unfamiliar streets, and follow a whim. And if you aren't sure what to make of all the strange and wonderful things you see, ask us. It will make for a much more nourishing experience.