Tag: Dark Tourism

‘So Everyone You See Here That’s Over 35 Lived Through the War?’

Over at Matador, World Hum contributor Lauren Quinn wrote a long, layered story about a visit to the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh, her childhood friendship with the daughter of expat Cambodian survivors in Oakland, and the silence that seems to linger over the war.

Here’s a taste:

Our tuk-tuk rattled along the unsteady pavement, taking us closer to the mass-grave execution site that is one of Phnom Penh’s two main tourist attractions. The other is the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, the former S-21 torture prison under the Khmer Rouge. All the travel agencies along the riverside advertise for tours of the two, sometimes combined with a trip to a shooting range where travelers can fire AK-47s left over from the war (ammunition costs not included).

Most travelers stayed in Phnom Penh only long enough to see S-21 and the Killing Fields, then scattered from the city. It was what Cindy was doing, and what I, if I hadn’t come for my particular project, would have done as well. I’d been putting off visiting the Killing Fields, not wanting, I’d rationalized, to spend the $12 tuk-tuk fare venturing out solo. Cindy offered an opportunity to split the cost—but more than that, she offered a buffer, a companion.

The wind grew stronger without buildings to block it, and I blinked bits of dust and debris from my contact lenses. By the time we pulled into the dirt lot in front of the Killing Fields, stinging tears blurred my vision.

“This happens every day here,” I laughed, and dabbed my eyes.

President Obama on the Gulf Coast: ‘Come Down Here and Visit’

The POTUS is visiting the Gulf Coast today—and he’s urging other Americans to do the same. USA Today’s The Oval blog quotes Obama:

There’s still a lot of opportunity for visitors to come down here. There are a lot of beaches that have not been affected and will not be affected. If people want to help, the best way to help is to come down here and visit.

The Oval dubs the suggestion “oil spill tourism,” but I’m not sure voyeur-style disaster tourism is quite what Obama has in mind. Still, whether it comes in the form of beachgoers who manage to avoid the spill or the morbidly curious aiming to witness its effects, it’s good to see tourism to the beleaguered area being encouraged.

Can’t make it in person anytime soon? World Hum contributor Robert Reid is tweeting from the Florida panhandle. Elsewhere, The Big Picture has a sobering photo essay illustrating the spill’s effects nearly two months in.

Sewage! Smokestacks! Corroded Shipping Containers! It’s the Urban Ocean Boat Cruise.

This ain’t whale watching. From the Los Angeles Times:

The aim of the Urban Ocean Boat Cruise—run by the Aquarium of the Pacific and Harbor Breeze Cruises—is to ply Southern California’s most compromised waters to show the environmental effects of trade, fishing, industry and other human activities.

The tour balances lessons on tainted seawater and polluted air with an appreciation of the port as a bustling commercial hub that remains home to sometimes surprising amounts of marine life. Or as tour guide Dominique Richardson puts it: “The multiple and conflicting uses of our urban ocean.”

Aquarium president Jerry Schubel, who came up with the idea after taking an architecture cruise last year in Chicago, said he asked himself: “What is it about Long Beach and Los Angeles that’s distinctive? And I realized that Southern California is one of the most heavily used areas of coast in the nation.”

Good story. Great idea.

World Travel Watch: Typhoid in Fiji, Khmer Rouge Tourism in Cambodia and More

Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

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Photo You Must See: Two Girls in Cape Town

Photo You Must See: Two Girls in Cape Town REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly

Two girls lean against metal shacks near a B&B in Cape Town's Khayelitsha township.

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The Titanic Memorial Cruise: Tasteless or Touching?

Miles Morgan Travel, the company behind the Titanic Memorial Cruise, tells Reuters it has “come in for a little bit of criticism,” but stresses the upcoming trip is meant to be “a commemoration not a ghoulish recreation of the original journey.”

It may or may not be ghoulish, but it is a recreation. The cruise will depart Southampton, England on April 8, 2012, 100 years to the day after the original Titanic’s departure. On April 12, 2012, it will stop at the exact spot Titanic sank.

“I’ve had several people in tears on the phone,” Miles Morgan said. “I was reading the itinerary to one woman and she literally broke down.”

Schott’s Vocab on ‘Grief Tourism’

The New York Times blog of modern words and phrases picks up on grief tourism. It defines it as: “Traveling to the memorial services or home towns of those who have died, in order to pay one’s respects—despite having no personal connection with the deceased.” It’s an offshoot of dark tourism, which Frank Bures examined for World Hum a couple years ago.

Dead American Poets: The Grand Tour

Walter Skold has found a novel use for his summer vacation: traveling around the U.S. in search of the graves of poets, and tracking his efforts in a photo blog. The Book Bench offers a quick review: “There’s little in the way of written musings, but the photos do a lot of talking. Dorothy Parker’s gravestone, reflecting the glare of a harsh flash, reads: ‘For her epitaph, she suggested: ‘Excuse my Dust.’’”

Risky Business: Playing the Numbers Game

Risky Business: Playing the Numbers Game REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani

On the intersection of place, politics and culture

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Asia’s Disaster Tourism Over the Line?

As we noted yesterday, two new disaster-themed tourist sites are set to open in Asia this month: a museum to commemorate the 2004 tsunami that leveled Indonesia’s Aceh province, and previously off-limits ruins and a museum related to the May 2008 earthquake in China’s Sichuan province. We can debate the pros (local economic development) and cons (unwelcome voyeurism) of disaster tourism, but the descriptions of these two new sites seem to me to cross a line.

Of the tsunami museum, the BBC reports, “Inside, visitors enter through a dark, narrow corridor between two high walls of water—meant to recreate the noise and panic of the tsunami itself.”

At the Sichuan earthquake sites, AFP reports, “Tour groups will be able to go boating on a ‘quake lake’ and visit a museum featuring an ‘earthquake simulation.’”

There’s a fun house aspect to this that I don’t like at all. It’s one thing to establish a museum to educate the public on a disaster’s impact and pay homage to lives lost, but to make the experience entertaining? It’s just plain inappropriate.

When I visited New York’s Ground Zero about four months after 9/11, I found staring into the gaping hole in lower Manhattan unforgettable enough. No simulations needed.

Come Back to Chengdu

I’ve never been much for Mandarin pop music—the word saccharine immediately leaps to mind—but if it succeeds in bringing tourism back to China’s earthquake-riven Sichuan Province, it can’t be all bad. Chinese pop star Jane Zhang, who gained fame as a contestant on China’s version of American Idol, recently lent her talents to a theme song and music video (below) to promote local tourism in provincial capital Chengdu. The lyrics aren’t exactly imaginative—“I Love This City,” goes the English chorus—but in my experience, this kind of pop ballad has a bottomless fan base in China, so it just might work.

National Public Radio recently reported on the rise of “earthquake tourism” in Sichuan, among those who want to gape at the devastation wrought by the May 2008 temblor, but the video is clearly designed to remind people why they loved the laid-back Southwestern city in the first place: tea drinking, pandas and hot pot.

In related news, a film titled “Chengdu, I Love You,” is scheduled for production this year, based on a storyline similar to that of “Paris, Je T’aime.” (via Cfensi)


Deadly Ricin Found in Las Vegas Motel Room

The discovery was made Thursday at an Extended Stay America Hotel. Seven people, all apparently in good condition, have been sent to hospitals for observation. It puts the whole bedbugs debate into perspective, doesn’t it?

Illuminating ‘Dark Travel’

The "Lonely Planet 2007 Blue List" and Adam Russ's "101 Places Not to Visit" spur Frank Bures to contemplate why travelers don't always want to be delivered from inconvenience.

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