Mass tourism at Sensoji
If you travel the world only to oppose and impose your views against others, you better stay home.
It has never been before that tourist behaviour is under intense scrutiny. Do you remember the notorious ‘Tourist, go home!’ graffiti from your recent travel to Barcelona? Maybe when you were in Bali recently, you heard the Czech couple, who visited Ubud, Bali, sparked criticism over inappropriate behaviour. Sabina Dolezalova’s laughed as she hiked up her skirt. While her boyfriend Zdenek Slouka splashed her backside with holy water at a sacred Hindus temple--The couple later offered an apology to the Balinese. Tourists turned up a large number all at once in the medieval, preserved heritage city of Dubrovnik, Croatia. These are a few inappropriate behaviours that spark criticism across the globe, causing authorities to act upon the damages caused by tourism. The Thai body is forced to close Maya Bay, Koh Khai islands and Koh Tachai island for tourists due to environmental damage. In Australia, the traditional owners of Uluru, Anangu people, has come up with the decision to close the site for any climbing activities on 26 October 2019. At the time I am writing this article, thousands of people are flocking to the Monolith only to memorialise their last moment with the Uluru. If you think tourism and travelling help locals to earn more incomes than causing damage, you have to think again. Global trotting should be an experience to understand and respect culture, tradition and belief. Therefore it shouldn’t be a burden for the locals, but a mutual benefit for both locals and travellers. The following are a few things you can avoid when you travel apart from spending money on local businesses.
Whether it is a historic building or a preserved nature, every site around the world is not for tourists visiting in a large number. So be mindful to avoid over-tourism by going somewhere else or to a quieter area that deserves attention as much as the main attraction--if you can’t come earlier or later to avoid the crowds. Travelling isn’t about visiting, but it’s more about the experience. I never knew I would find one of my favourite gardens in the world when I visited Arashiyama Bamboo Grove in Kyoto. Apart from being so Instagramable that the bamboo grove gains its popularity, it is also becoming a tourist circus. People will think twice to visit Okochi Sanso garden just next to the site because they have to pay for a ticket. But alas! If you can spend your money on having a meal at a fancy restaurant, and you have a problem with paying a little amount to purchase a garden ticket, I should say it is an absolute non-sense.
Wherever you travel in the world, animal exploitation is cruelty, and you shouldn’t involve yourself, engaged, or be a part of the exploitation. Many years ago, I visited Phuket musical show called Fantasea. Think about Cirque de Soleil show, but in both contemporary and traditional Thai performances. There was a catch to the show; it involved animals. The show opening was a duck or chicken running across the stage. Everyone was cheer and clapping. Many years on, I regretted visiting the Phuket Fantasea because of the nature of the show that involves animal exploitation. The show even ended with lines of elephants greeted audiences of the show. Whatever shows they put on stage, animals aren’t conditioned to perform on stage. It is not in their nature to be trained hours and work under the intense heat of stage lightings in the evening where they are supposed to rest in their natural habitat. Animals shouldn’t be a part to entertain humans from imitating human’s actions to being a prop for our selfies.
Five years ago, I travelled to Ubud, central Bali. The driver took me to a coffee plantation where the cats called Luwak that looks like a possum, eat coffee cherries. Farmers then collect and separate the coffee beans from the poo. This type of coffee beans known as ‘kopi luwak’ is said to be the most expensive coffee beans in the world. If you care about animal exploitation, think again before you buy them. Coffee cherries are indeed one of Luwak possums main diets in nature, but here is the catch. Farmers don’t go around the coffee plantation to collect the poo from wild possums. Instead, they domesticated the animals from the wild, caged them in a tiny box, and during the day chained them, let them eat coffee cherries in the plantation, and send them back to their small cage. Luwak, by nature, are nocturnal. I don’t need to research this one because I saw it myself. The image of chained possums, living in a tiny cage, is still haunting me until now. You can see the kopi luwak in any shops throughout Bali, and even they are packed and sold exclusively at the Bali International airport. My advice is you better spend your money somewhere else.
I agree with you that you do not do harm by taking your selfie with a wild animal, or maybe right now you are on your way to Uluru with thousand others. When you travel, think the impact of your action again before you press ‘post’ on your social media account. You might not be unaware that you promote animal exploitation to the world by encouraging and inviting others to do so. You claim you are a clean, responsible traveller who doesn’t leave any trash whatsoever in Uluru, but the fact that it is not about you. Climbers have damaged the world heritage of Aboriginal rock arts, and it is as bad as it can, E. coli from human excreta pollutes the rock pools--there are no toilet facilities on the site.
You might not be aware that not everyone shares the same belief as you. Uluru is the sacred site for the indigenous Australian, just like your church you go to, or mosque you visit every Friday, and shrines you visit to pay respect for Japanese Kami. If your incomprehension of their culture and belief is how you justify your inappropriate behaviour and disrespect, you are just an ignorant, social-media-sensationalist narcissist who thinks the world revolves around you.
You have travelled the world, and you should know that many cultures, traditions and beliefs around the world share the same views though they are not necessarily interconnected. I only want you to understand the word ‘respect’ from learning your local culture, your national identity first. Mountains and rocks are sacred places for many cultures around the world. From America down to South East Asia, mountains and monolith sites are sacred. In Bali, mount Agung is the highest point of the island. It is a holy place where the gods dwell. The tallest temple of Besakih lies on the foot of Mount Agung. In Japan, Mount Fuji is the sacred symbol and the national identity. In New Zealand, mount Taranaki is considered Maori’s ancestor. Hence climbing to the top of the mountain is considered standing on the ancestor’s head. The iconic Devils Tower, also known as Mato Tipila in Wyoming, United States, has the legend surrounding the Monolith. It remains sacred for the indigenous people that hold ceremonies at certain times of the year.
What you believe is the accepted custom in your country can be as inappropriate or even unacceptable to others. Most of all, If you travel the world only to oppose and impose your views against others, you better stay home. Travelling is for those willing to open their mind, or those open-minded ones to endeavour quirkiness and unlikeliness of the world.