Tag: guide books

Is ‘black’ or ‘dark’ tourism ethical?

Woman carrying firewood – Agra

Some people chase fire trucks, others follow typhoons to get the best photos, while war journalists or photographers, because of their job, are often in the most dangerous parts of the world, but what about tourists?

As soon as trouble breaks out (dengue fever, earthquake, tsunami, or civil unrest) it’s tourists, often with group travel arrangements, who cancel their bookings, while solo travellers, looking for the differences, the culture and the food of another place, who usually continue with their travel plans. Is it ethical to go to places who have had an earthquake or other disaster? What about places with chronic poverty?

Do you indulge in dark tourism? Defined as travelling to places historically associated with death, has been around for ages.  Concentration camps in Europe; the killing fields in Cambodia; the site of the twin towers in New York; and Pompeii in Italy, just to name a few.  I’ve been to many places that could be considered ‘dark’. The Anne Frank house in Amsterdam; the Colosseum in Rome; John Lennon’s garden in New York, the motel where Martin Luther King was assassinated.  I’ve also been to the 1692 site of my ancestors’ notoriety, Glen Coe in Scotland.

Of course, more recently I’ve been a constant visitor to my home city, Christchurch New Zealand, where 80% of the inner-city was lost due to quake damage.  (See more that I’ve about Christchurch – as it was two years ago  2016)

Black or dark tourism is nothing new but when it’s recent many people think it is insensitive to go – or for novelists to write about it, comedians to joke about it, or films to be made.   I believe it depends on the traveller’s attitude – are they chasing fire trucks or cyclones?

Think of slum tours in India, do they help the locals or not? It’s all about ethical travel – are you taking from a place, or are you adding something?  Are in locals involved?  Did they set up the tours with community involvement, or is it someone making money out of another person’s misery or are they interested and supportive?

As a travel writer I am often conflicted about taking photos – sadly, poverty and misery often produce fantastic photos.

In Christchurch tourism dried up just as if tap was turned off and the water stopped flowing.  I heard and read many articles and blogs and sadly, advice given by uniformed travel writers, tourist companies or information centres, advising people not to go, there is ‘nothing there’ or ‘you will only be in the way’.  In the beginning I know locals thought some other locals did ‘get in the way’ of clean-up work and considered  them ‘rubber-neckers’ by other locals who felt their privacy, and misery, were being invaded.

However, ethical travel may just another word for green travel which is about leaving money behind in a community so can dark tourism be ethical too?

Perhaps travel agents and guide books sell us too narrow a view of places to visit. Along with our tickets they, (and guide books, blogs or articles) often give us a list of sites we ‘must see’, activities ‘we must do’, or places we ‘must’ stay. It’s not for nothing the popular Lonely Planet books have been nicknamed the ‘travellers’ bible’ as many won’t eat, visit, stay or see anything or anywhere until the guide book is consulted.  Sadly examples of unintended consequences can be the six accommodation places are mentioned are full – while three, not in the book, and maybe better, are empty.

This is not a new problem. Read books written years ago and the same complaints are made by travellers and owners – some places over booked others empty. Tell friends you are going to Bali or Timbuktu, Christchurch or Botswana and immediately you will be told that you should have gone there two, five, ten, fifty years ago, ‘before it was discovered’, or in Christchurch, New Zealand’s case, ‘before the earthquakes’.

So, what can we travellers do? Well, I don’t know what you will do, but what I do is travel slowly, travel cheaply, support local businesses and use their home-grown products whenever I can – and this is even more needed after a disaster whether it’s man-made or a so-called act of God.

I asked on Facebook for people’s opinion about disaster, or dark tourism. One person sent me a link to a blog she’d recently listened to and believe its well worth giving you the link too – BBC World Service: The Why Factor.  In it the reporter visited Auschwitz and the site of the Grenfell Towers disastrous fire in London.  I’ve not been to either – and chose while I was in Poland not to visit Auschwitz.  If I was in London I would also not visit the Grenfell Towers – I don’t need to be at either site to know how appalling the events were.  Others of course will disagree with me.

My father was a fireman in Christchurch New Zealand when they had the worst fire disaster in our history – Ballantynes, 1947.  He was so distressed about attending the fire and having to recover bodies, that our family were forbidden to give the store any patronage – I have broken this rule two or maybe three times.

The Christchurch earthquakes 20101/11 have produced things that also could be considered dark tourism.  The Memorial Gardens at the site of the highest number of deaths, a memorial wall on the banks of the River Avon, and a museum exhibition – which for me triggered the smells of dust that hung in the air – and up my nose – for ages.

Tram outside Arts Centre

The owner of Beadz Unlimited (one of the many shops damaged inside the Christchurch Art Centre – and now in the historic New Regent Street) posted on my Facebook page  where I was asking about dark tourism said ‘actually we desperately needed people to come and put money into the community because we were all hunkered down just trying to survive.  It was a necessary evil.’  She did not clarify what was ‘evil ‘.

In the UK there is an Institute for dark tourism research and they have studied many facets of this topic if you want to delve into it! Wikipedia says “Scholars in this interdisciplinary field have examined many aspects. Lennon and Foley expanded their original idea [1] in their first book, deploring that “tact and taste do not prevail over economic considerations” and that the “blame for transgressions cannot lie solely on the shoulders of the proprietors, but also upon those of the tourists, for without their demand there would be no need to supply”.

New Zealand heritage has website and touring map  for some war sites in the Waikato region and its hoping to eventually have one for all NZ land wars and other fighting – perhaps some will consider this ‘black tourism’ too

What are your thoughts. Do you believe you are an ethical traveller – and why? And, do you indulge in dark tourism?  What black tourism spots have you been to –  after all it seems we all do that at some level.

I’d really love to start a conversation about all this in the topics – so before you board your next flight, or bus or train, will you please join in and add your opinion ?

 

Gifts for travellers – whether armchair or on the road often

Gifts for travellers, whether they are armchair travellers or on the road often, can be problematic. Let me solve the problem for you with these ideas. Food, travel and tales … these books have it all.
I have all these books and know fellow travellers … or food lovers … will love them. Of course I know they would also love my travel memoir too Naked in Budapest: travels with a passionate nomad. I always get great feedback from readers about it. Available for all e-readers from Amazon and Smashwords (etc) and as a hard copy directly from me.

Global food and travel issues (and recipes) are in Lonely Planet’s new book Food Lover’s Guide to the World (published October 2012.

Even if you can’t travel, you can take your taste buds around the world in this book. With more than fifty authentic recipes, it also has contributions from celebrity food-lovers, such as chef Fergus Henderson (co-founder of St John restaurant, London), chef, restaurateur and food writer Mark Hix, Dan Hunter (chef at the Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld, Victoria), Tessa Kiros (author of Limoncello and Linen Water), chef Atul Kochhar (Benares restaurant, London), Eric Ripert (head chef at Le Bernardin, New York) and Ruth Rogers (River Café, London).

It has introductions by Mark Bittman, lead food writer for The New York Times Magazine; and James Oseland, Editor-in-Chief of Saveur magazine.

For travellers you can also find the best places to find local dishes in cities great & small and most importantly, many cultural tips and how-to-eat etiquette.

I have already blogged about Lonely Planet’s latest guide to New Zealand (published Sept. 2012) but it’s worth giving you another heads up about it. While many people travel with tablets and smart phones, a huge percentage still love the paper copy in their bag. See my blog about it here.

And finally, Better than Fiction (November 2012) is their fifth literary anthology edited by Don George. It has 32 international fiction authors telling their real travel stories from across the world: this will fit perfectly in anyone’s Christmas stocking (or birthday gift). For beside the bed, or in the backpack or suitcase, mine is beside my bed for dipping into. Wonderful writing!

 

Christchurch, New Zealand. Lonely Planet gives a thumbs up to city and people

Christchurch, New Zealand. Lonely Planet gives a thumbs up to city and people

As a  frequent visitor to Christchurch, New Zealand, (last time only days ago) it’s good to see Lonely Planet’s new edition New Zealand Travel Guide, released today, pays tribute to the strength of New Zealand’s people in the wake of a series of challenges. It particularly gives a thumbs up to the city and its people.

“There’s no denying it,” the guidebook says, “New Zealand has had it tough over the last few years.” (p.638)

Reflecting on the past two years in which the country has endured the vagaries of the global economy, the Pike River coalmine explosion, the Rena oil spill, and two Christchurch earthquakes, the guide says “in the midst of all this … New Zealanders have soldiered on stoically, with the people of Christchurch proving remarkably resilient.” (p.639)

The new edition hails the energy and creativity on display in Christchurch, saying “nowhere in New Zealand is changing and developing as fast as post-earthquake Christchurch, and visiting the country’s second-largest city as it’s being rebuilt and reborn is both interesting and inspiring.” (p.480)

Christchurch International Airport wins international awards

New Zealanders’ welcoming nature and eagerness for travellers to enjoy their visit is unchanged, and the guidebook says, “you might be surprised by the extent to which the average Kiwi will genuinely want you to have a really, really good time during your stay.” (p.639)

I note Lonely Planet also reports “that in December 2011, the influential United States magazine Foreign Policy nominated Christchurch one of the urban centres of the 21st century,opining that the ‘massive rebuilding effort is a unique opportunity to rethink urban form’. Draft plans for the city’s rebuilding over 20 years include a compact, low-rise city centre, neighbourhood green spaces, and parks and cycleways along the Avon River. Coupled with the endurance and energy of the people of Christchurch, the city’s future promises to be both interesting and innovative”.

The Sign of the Kiwi has great views of Christchurch, Canterbury, and Lyttelton Harbour

Christchurch-born and educated (& now living in NZ’s capital) each time I return I’m both saddened and encouraged and I know visitors will be amazed at the regrowth already.  I saw in the paper last week that the City Council has granted about 80 permits for new buildings, 17 within the “four Avenues’ which mark the centre of the city and where lived at the time of the September 2010 quake – see this blog for photos I took within hours of it, and many blogs written since.

If you are coming to NZ, make sure Christchurch is on your list, do a quake tour, tuck this latest guide-book under your arm, and note all the new things that will have popped up since the book was published  (things are happening fast here)  and, make sure you let LP know too for their next edition!

NOTE: New Zealand (16th edition) is the first of four new guidebooks to NZ that Lonely Planet is publishing in 2012.  New Zealand’s North Island (2nd edition) and New Zealand’s South Island (3rd edition) will be available in October, with Discover New Zealand (2nd edition) following in November.

Te Araroa: the long pathway allows you to hike the length of New Zealand

Te Araroa means The Long Pathway – and its 3000 kilometres (1850+ miles) link one end of New Zealand with the other and takes some 5 0r 6 million steps to complete.

The trail starts here at Cape Reinga, Northland.
Tanera Park, Wellington

 

All over the world there are many long walks, what makes this one different is that it doesn’t merely traverse one geographic feature but covers all the variety of terrain of one country: coastline to forests; from river valleys to mountain passes, from lakes to volcanoes!  It even passes through Tanera Park, and beside my allotment, here in our capital city, Wellington.  

 

So, if you plan on walking all or some of the trail you could do no better that use the book by Geoff Chapple, published by Random House, Te Araroa: a walking guide to New Zealand’s long trail.

 

Lonely Planet city books – get one free

guide books, whether in print or on e-readers are essential to most travellers – this is just a corner of my bookshelves

One of the biggest sellers of such books are Lonely Planet, and two new books I have from them to road test are from a series of great cities

great pocket books

In May 2012, Lonely Planet launched its new Pocket Guides series – they cover some of the world’s most popular cities: I am road testing the Prague book next month.

AND I am offering the Pocket Barcelona one as a free gift to the lucky reader who signs up for my blog before I leave New Zealand for Europe in 10 days – or the person, already on my blogs mail list, who leaves the best comment on this page

Highlighting each city’s top sights along with the best local experiences, Lonely Planet’s Pocket Guides are perfect for a quick city break or a business trip.

Pocket Barcelona “Barcelona could just be the coolest city on earth.”

 

Pocket Berlin “Berlin is a bon vivant, passionately feasting on the smorgasbord of life.”

 

Pocket London “London has something for everyone, from art to grand museums, dazzling architecture, royalty, diversity, glorious parks and irrepressible pizazz.”

 

Pocket Los Angeles “LA runs deeper than her blonde beaches and celebrified hills would have you believe.“

 

Pocket Paris “The world’s most romanticised city … has a way of seducing you every moment of the year.”

 

Pocket Prague “Thrills visitors with dramatic Gothic architecture, cool cubist design, down-to-earth pubs, ornate cafes, cutting-edge art and the grand Prague Castle.” (NOTE: I’m happy to have the pull-out  map that’s included in each guide and know I’ll use it for my 3 days in this beautiful city –my first time there for about 12 years”)

 

Pocket San Francisco “Fisherman’s Wharf sea lions and Telegraph Hill parrots agree: this town is totally wild.”

The Lonely Planet Pocket Guides feature:

* Fast access to the information travellers need, so they don’t waste any time on their short trip.

* Comprehensive coverage of the city’s ‘must-sees’.

* Guides to areas that the locals really love, so travellers can get to the heart of the city.

* Lonely Planet’s trademark great mapping – updated and improved for easier navigation.

* On-the-ground research, each and every edition.