Tourism of BurmaBurma Tourism
The places we went to in Burma also had a rough look that shows in our photographs, especially the stunning dusk and dawn we saw. But on the other side, we have also come across a more ugly side of Burma's rising tourist industry, which has caused us to challenge our position as travelers and the harm we can unknowingly cause.
As we are always looking for'authentic' experience and long to reach the true hearts of a target to experience its'natural' state, the act of our being can also stain a place. While it can provide financial advantages for indigenous peoples, it can also completely change a tourist resort - probably the most serious.
While we like to have real interactions with the peoples of the lands we are visiting, we must also acknowledge that many of these peoples see us only as an opportunity to earn wells. For some we are just a necessary scourge. How do you handle these questions and travelling in a responsible manner without having a detrimental effect - is that even possible?
These were the problems we faced during our journey, but especially in Burma. When Ohan came up to us in Bagan, we thought he was another typically kind native who wanted to talk to us. Mr. Ohan was telling us about his Mandalay study days, when he was in Bagan to visit his wife and daughter's wife and the tragic tale of his friend who was recently killed in a motorbike crash.
So well we willingly accepted to let Ohan show us the best temples: "Free so I could practice my English," he said to us. Approximately half an hours later Ohan took some woodcarvings out of his rucksack and asked us to buy them; then the pfennig fell and we realized that the whole get-together had led to this sale conversation.
Consternated and clumsy we rejected the woodcarvings, while Ohan became more and more stubborn and restless. We later that night we saw Ohan talking to another couple of tourists; although we were only a few meters away, he totally ignored us. It wasn't the only times we felt uncomfortable traveling in Burma.
In Luang Prabang, Laos, in a repetition of the day's fiascos, several hundred visitors were watching as they talked aloud, stepped in front of the parade and took pictures of the monks' faces. The next thing we did was to visit one of the old towns, which is located on an islet that can be reached by a steer.
By the time we got to the isle we were encircled by folks who asked us to rent a car and a horses, which we also decided never to do. It was a very poor tasting experience in our mouth, especially as we had seen such friendliness from other Myanmar citizens we had known.
Is it our fault? When I look back on these events, I cannot reproach the Myanmar tribe for how they have dealt with us. That is the more ugly side of the tourist industry, which would not be there if we all remained away from the land, so can we really accuse the public of sometimes seeing us as running cash machines or blaming us for refusing to buy their goods or to use theirs?
In contrast to neighboring nations such as Thailand, Burma does not yet have a sophisticated touristic infra-structure and the visitor is still a little new. Whilst most of us were welcomed as welcome patrons and did not demand anything from us, a majority sees the rising trend of modern travel as an economical business and they may consider it a curious, spoiled westerner (a true interpretation).
Why shouldn't the Myanmar population take every chance to earn with us, especially when there are still so many policy challenges in the nation and so much suffering, violence, corruption and repression? For us there was another aspect to these issues: the fact that Burma was colonized by the British.
There was no way around feeling guilty, especially when we read George Orwell's Burmese Days on a trip around the state. Many of the folks we encountered kept asking us about our life in England and our past careers - all telling us how happy we were and how much they wanted the possibilities we had.
Some of these problems can be found in all the Asiatic lands we have been to, but since they are relatively new to the tourist industry, we found them most clearly in Burma. What do you do about the nasty side of the tourist industry?