The tiny, gorgeous kingdom of Bhutan decides it only wants high-rollers, making the assumption that if you have scads of money you will be a good tourist
Look. I don't blame countries which are getting overrun by badly-behaved tourists when they try to control the rabble. Peru, for example, and places like Ecuador's magical Galapagos have seen way too many folks come and crap all over their magical places, leaving a mess and not only angry hoteliers and the like but damaging the environment along the way.
I don't blame them at all. That of course is hardly limited to places like Bhutan, however. In Colorado, where I spent some fifty years, poorly-behaved tourists overwhelmed lovely Conundrum Hot Springs with their crap:
Well-behaved people pack it out.
Too many are not well-behaved. Witness what happened when witless people headed to the National Forests under Covid and trashed and trashed and trashed and TRASHED the beautiful lands entrusted to us all. Frankly, we are pigs.
Here's a prime example, and there are thousands:
Oh, I could add hundreds more stories just like this.
We. Are. Pigs.
However, more money doesn't make a pig a gentleman or a lady. They are still pigs with lipstick or a tie, and their behavior changes not a whit. So I take issue with Bhutan's assessment that the well-heeled are not heels.
Yeah, they are. Check out social media, examples abound.
That said, I see their point, and absolutely understand why.
Places like Bhutan don't want such rabble any more, and I can't blame them. The problem is that the people making this decision are assuming that the folks who can afford the stunning nearly $600 a day are better-behaved.
That hasn't been my observation at all.
Countries are in a tough spot. They want the tourist dollar, but they are bone tired of bad behavior. In some cases it costs them more to clean up than they were able to clean up with lots of cash.
There is no easy answer. For places which are terribly dependent upon tourism, like Thailand, the local conservative Buddhist population is weary of people flaunting their body parts and not respecting temple requirements for covering up. I'd be unhappy with us, too. But that's all of us, not just Americans.
We. Are. Pigs.
When a country which attests to the world that it is everything Buddhist turns to such rank capitalism, I am deeply saddened. What that tells me is that not only can I not afford to go there, the folks in charge, in my opinion anyway, have been infected by greed, and uninformed greed at that. It's been my experience that no amount of money imbues anyone with class, grace and common sense.
There are as many good, kind, respectful and well-behaved folks who have no money as those who have some, like me, as those who have much.
So using money as the way to determine who is "discerning," well.
I've been in Egypt watching well-to-do Japanese tourists take photos where the sign CLEARLY states DO NOT TAKE FLASH PHOTOS.
I've been in Cambodia visiting Siem Reap, watching clearly well-to-do tourists wander all over the sacred Angkor Wat temples, their bodies exposed and breaking off bits and pieces to take home and brag about. Every hotel room in town has a flyer asking us to PLEASE cover up and honor this marvelous site.
We. Are. Pigs.
People rich enough to climb Everest or Kilimanjaro or any big mountain leave their shit and trash all over the place.
These folks have plenty of money. To head up Everest will likely cost you a hundred grand if you do it safely. You can leave your poop with everyone elses':
You see my point. Money does not make us good travelers, respectful of places and people and their cultures.
Good upbringing does.
That crosses all cultural and financial lines, which is why it is idiocy to make a blanket assessment that we want "discerning travelers" and use finances as the way to try to better ensure that folks won't sit and shit in front of your precious Buddha statues.
Or, here's a sampling:
We. Are. Pigs.
I don't blame Bhutan. I honestly don't blame any country for trying to weed out the witless, selfish, self-centered who have the manners of a wart hog.
But being rich isn't the answer. Plenty of wart hogs out there wearing designer duds and driving Bentleys.
I don't have a better solution. Sadly, as someone who studies Buddhism and most dearly wished to visit Bhutan, I am priced out of the country. My operator says the prices will go even higher in 2023.
We do not deserve the beautiful world we have been given.
However, cordoning more and more of it off to the rich doesn't solve the problem, either.
I want people to travel, for it is the great teacher. The sad part about it is that too many of us don't know how to be in the world, how to respect cultures and places, their sacred sites and animals.
I fully expect to see other countries to follow suit.
In the meantime I am going to continue to adventure, to read the provisos ahead of time and show up informed and prepared for the culture I visit. With any kind of luck, I hope to dispel the feeling that the Western tourist has overstayed their welcome in the world's pretty places.
Dear Walkabout Saga Reader:
If my work appeals to you, may I kindly invite you to consider joining those Patreon supporters whose generosity keeps the gas in my tank as it were. There are many more of you reading, which I appreciate very much. However as with National Public Radio, many more read without supporting, and I am asking you to consider offering the cost of a coffee to help me do more than just keep the lights on. That said, if you find value in my writing, and are so inclined, I'd be grateful for what support you can give. If you know others who could benefit from what I produce here, please let them know.
My purpose is to Move People's Lives. I can do more of that with your help.
However you decide to partake of my writing, again, thank you.