10. Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans – USA
In the weeks after Hurricane Katrina walloped New Orleans, residents of the Lower Ninth Ward began to notice a new crop of people wandering through their debris-strewn streets. They weren’t relief workers or returning residents. They weren’t even journalists. These strangers coming in by the bus-full, it turns out, were paying tourists exploring the neighborhood on a so-called Katrina tour. The City Council quickly approved an ordinance in 2006 banning the tour groups from crossing the Industrial Canal and entering the besieged neighborhood, but that ordinance went largely unenforced until last year when City Councilman Ernest F. Charbonnet spoke out in support of residents. “They’re tired of being gawked at like they’re sideshow animals in a zoo,” he told IBTimes last October. “It has a humiliating aspect.” Charbonnet and the tour operators have since come to an understanding, but the tours remain a touchy subject for area residents.
9. Padaung Karen Reserve, Thailand
Thailand has an estimated 1.2 million hill tribesmen, but rights groups like Plan International say of those, some 500,000 are not considered Thai citizens, excluding them from owning land, voting or accepting state-funded health care. One such group, the Padaung Karen (inaccurately referred to as the “longneck” women), live in an artificial hill tribe village near Chiang Rai set up purely for the purpose of tourism. The women are fitted with brass rings that deform their chests and shoulders to give off the illusion of an abnormally long neck. Some say tourism provides them with a way of preserving their culture, while others claim the industry exploits these stateless women in exchange for tourism dollars (most of which go to the Thai tour operators). Whether or not these women have the freedom to leave there situation is yet another matter altogether.
8. Dharavi Slum in Mumbai, India
Asia’s largest slum, Dharavi, lies on prime property right in the middle of India’s financial capital, Mumbai. It is home to more than a million people. Many are second-generation residents, whose parents moved in years ago. The idea to take the tour of Asia’s largest slum may be quite hard to justify, but one thing is certain – it is a sobering visit. Oppressive odor, heart-breaking conditions and poverty that goes beyond imagination are a depressing reality for about 1 million people. Now that it’s been popularized by the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire, Dharavi draws countless visitors willing to “get the real taste of distress”. On the one hand, the revenues from the tours are said to go directly to the community, which is very honorable. On the other, there is something inherently strange about wanting to watch other people’s suffering, isn’t there?
7. London Dungeon, UK
The London Dungeon is a popular London tourist attraction, which recreates various gory and macabre historical events in a gallows humour style aimed at younger audiences. It uses a mixture of live actors, special effects and rides.
Laughing at death is one thing, but making fun of somebody’s suffering is quite another. The Dungeons are undoubtedly one of London’s premier attractions, basically created to give an account of macabre medieval history. However, it has evolved into a graphic spectacle of torture and a bloody bunch of rather tasteless exhibits. There is a sense that all those special effects, fun rides, and grim humor do not serve educational purposes but only provide entertainment. And that’s scary.
6. Devil’s Island, French Guiana
Devil’s Island is the third largest island of the Îles du Salut island group in the Atlantic Ocean. It is located 14 km off the coast of French Guiana in South America just north of the town of Kourou. Known as “the Green Hell” and described as one of the world’s most notorious penal colonies, Devil’s Island ranks high among French Guiana’s tourist attractions. Run-down cells, the prison headquarters and an infant cemetery are all part of the agenda. But is the once disease-plagued island, where thousands of convicts died in horrid conditions.
This relatively lawless, predominantly uninhabited mass of rock, ice and penguins is truly the last frontier. It’s a place to be inspired, humbled and dumfounded, and is the ultimate destination for one-upping your globetrotting friends. But is it ethical to visit? Once inaccessible — save for a few intrepid scientist and explorers — Antarctica is now open to the everyday tourist for a small window of time each summer in the Southern Hemisphere, and it’s easier to get to than you may think. The remotest continent attracted about 35,000 people this season. That’s down from a high of 46,000 in 2007, but it’s the highest number in years, and there are concerns that visitors could be bringing diseases or seeds that may disrupt the fragile Antarctic ecosystem. All prospective tourists are encouraged to book with the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators, whose members promote safe and environmentally responsible private-sector travel to the Antarctic.
4. Plastinarium in Guben, Germany
Plastination is a technique used in anatomy to preserve a body for study purposes, but it turns out that it can also be a good source of revenue. Dr Gunther von Hagen’s museum has stirred as much controversy as it has received applause. What you can see here among other things are techniques of dissection presented interactively and real human bodies “involved” in all sorts of activities.
While nobody is denying the huge contribution Plastinarium makes to the training of medical students, was it really necessary to seat the exhibits at the poker table or on a bike? And why would anyone other than a doctor or a young adept of medicine want to see all this from up close? The truth is however that since the opening in 2006, Plastinarium has received over a 100 thousand visits.
3. North Korea
Landscape wise, North Korea could be the world’s prominent tourist magnet. Dramatic mountain scenery, pristine lagoons, waterfalls and amazing Buddhist temples are enough to tempt a visitor. But, it may be one of the least visited countries in the world. There seems to be a moral dilemma whether to sponsor a state that’s infamous for its nuclear weapons program and inhumane practices. Even if you decide to go to look for the truth, at all times you will be accompanied by a government-appointed guide. In the end, all you get is false historical accounts and laudatory speeches instead of a real experience. Then why go at all?
2. Jarawa Reserve, Andaman Islands
The Jarawa are one of the adivasi indigenous peoples of the Andaman Islands in India. First exposed by tribal rights group Survival International in 2010 and brought to light by anunsettling video uploaded by the Observer last January. That showed women forced to dance by an off-camera policeman. With a view to protecting the Jarawa tribes, the Supreme Court on Monday banned all kinds of commercial and tourism activities within a five-kilometre radius around the Jarawa Tribal Reserve in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. But reports surface periodically claiming that the human safaris are, in fact, still going on.
1. Vang Vieng, Laos
Vang Vieng is a tourism-oriented town in Laos. The town lies on the Nam Song river. The most notable feature of the area is the karst hill landscape surrounding the town. Vang Vieng, deep in the jungle of Laos. is a backpacker paradise where there are no rules. Last year at least 27 travellers died there. and countless more were injured. Laos has the reputation of being one of the most dangerous places for tourists in all of Asia. Drugs, death and drowning. These are the words most often associated with Vang Vieng.