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That damn backpacker bubble...

Posted by somtam2000 on 23/1/2006 at 09:35 admin

I found this interesting piece in The Guardian via the excellent Singapore blog Popagandhi. It's taking a look at the backpacker bubble that so many say they're dodging, but really don't:

"Is there some sort of banana pancake beam that sucks us in? In a sense, yes."

Full story here

It's amusing that the author picks on banana pancakes in particular, though I guess I'd rather be teleported by a banana pancake beam than a muesli and yoghurt beam... He gives some suggestions on how one could break out of the bubble -- playing squash, learning to cook, going skiing -- all with locals. All with the aim of leaving with a collection of phone numbers rather than passport stamps.

How did you try to break out of the bubble?

#1 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,062

Posted by earinsound on 25/1/2006 at 12:34

As long as travellers stay where guidebooks tell them to then they'll never break out of the "bubble." I'm unable to fathom how inspiring it is to eat and drink the same foods as back home, watch the same crappy movies, and talk the same b.s. with other travellers. Backpacker areas are just Western culture in a safe, comfortable, little nutshell. But then the other extreme is to be one of those "intrepid" types who need to make their dent into remote areas and brag to all and sundry about their exotic adventure to places blue eyes have never seen. Basically an open invitation to Starbucks in 5 years time.

No matter where you go you will eventually *****-up your host country with banana pancakes, topless sunbathing, desire for McDonalds, need for spas, etc. The world is fast becoming another consumer product. Sad. Better to find exoticism and adventure in your own backyard then trample through someone else's.

#2 earinsound has been a member since 25/1/2006. Posts: 2

Posted by somtam2000 on 27/1/2006 at 09:03 admin

The irony is indeed that people go somewhere because it is perceived as being so different to where they're from, but over time, as earinsound says, it just gets turned into another version of home.

People who visited Khao San Road in the early 80's would roll over in their grave if they saw it now -- Burger King, McDonalds, Boots and Starbucks etc...

When one of the Travelfish researchers first visited Vang Vieng, there was two guesthouses and one restaurant. He was the only tourist there for three days. When he was asked to go there last year to update it, he refused to go, saying he'd rather treasure the memories...

Sad, but what is the alternative?

The Burger King, McDonalds, Boots and Starbucks are all owned by Thai business people, the "Friends cafes" in Vang Vieng are all owned by Laotians -- its patronising to say these places shouldn't develop, it's just a shame they don't develop in their own way rather than to feed the tourism beast.

Don Khon in the far south of Laos in Si Phan Don (Four Thousand Islands) is specifically using Vang Vieng as an example of how they don't want the island to develop -- hopefully other destinations will follow their example.

#3 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,062

Posted by travellintroy on 1/3/2006 at 07:53

I completely agree with all of you...Tho havent been to S.E.A. yet, am planning to be there later in the yr...Last yr travelled India&Nepal on an Einfield motorbike and really was in places that hadn't seen westerners at all or for a very longtime..Very surreal experiences, especially in the north of India and thru Nepal..

I found the trip more enjoyable and enlightening not following the crowds and staying on the outskirts..

#4 travellintroy has been a member since 1/3/2006. Posts: 2

Posted by somsai on 26/3/2006 at 18:13

Let me see if I’ve got this straight Admin. A researcher for what is arguably the most informative web site on independent travel in South East Asia, refuses to return to Vang Vien because it has become too touristic? This has to be tongue in cheek right?

I’ve found the parties responsible for this cultural crime and they are us.

I too went to VV in the mid 90s, so what. If I had to get upset over a town getting wrecked I’d rather weep for Luang Pra Bang.

End of Rant

#5 somsai has been a member since 1/3/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 566

Posted by somtam2000 on 27/3/2006 at 09:03 admin

Hi Somsai,
Welcome to Travelfish, and glad to hear you think the site is pretty informative!

The researcher refused to go, so we sent someone else -- there is little point sending someone to review somewhere if they've decided they're going to hate the place before they even arrive.

While I agree with your comment about Luang Prabang, I think the scale of the damage (from nothing to traveller zoo in ten years) done by tourism to Vang Vieng is far greater than LP...

#6 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,062

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