These opinions are my own and do not in any way represent those of any other person or company.
Last night we arrived at the beautiful Victoria Hotel, Cần Thơ, This has long been my favourite hotel on the Tour and thank goodness GRJ have now reshuffled the Tour days to allow clients to enjoy a Free Day in this lovely resort. The hotel used to have a semi-tame water buffalo named ‘Bravo’ in the gardens. I was rather fond of him. He combined the lovely placid,calm and stoic nature of these creatures with the occasional day when he woke up in a good old fashioned bad mood and was stroppy with those who came to see him (we’ve all been there). I had been telling my clients about Bravo, and we were all looking forward to seeing him.
On arrival we discovered that there had been complaints received from Western Tourists about Bravo’s captivity (even though he returned to the farm every evening). His life was perceived to be “wrong, cruel and exploited”. Faced with a barrage of complaint the hotel unsurprisingly returned Bravo to the farm and gave up on the idea. My initial enquiries revealed that he was leading a happy life in some sort of abused Water Buffalo Nirvana. Later enquiries revealed that since he was untrained for work in the fields he is most likely to have ended up as dinner. This makes me cross, but not for the reasons that you might expect.
I’m bound to ask what those who complained about Bravo’s welfare thought he would do instead of living comfortably as he did? Write his first novel? Learn to Dance? Needlepoint? Water Buffalo don’t roam the free range. Like cattle they are there to produce milk and meat, and also to work. They were introduced to the landscape by people, for a purpose – an un-romantic and unemotional truth, but a truth none the less.
Tourism, at its’ best is an opportunity for people of the world to see and experience other cultures and for both Tourist and those hosting them to understand more of each other’s lives, beliefs and experiences – it’s a two way process. I resent those who travel and then seek to impose their own culture, standards and beliefs on those visited, usually with little or no understanding of what they are seeking to change, or of the unintended consequences of that change. This is little more than a form of Western cultural proselytising, in my view. The well-meaning arrogance of assuming that your own cultural standards and world view are “correct” and should be exported is depressing. Travel should surely teach us that things tend to be “correct” for wherever they are and also that we must allow others to live in the way that they wish. This is true of animal welfare, arranged marriage, eating chicken feet, spitting in the street and the myriad of other activities and practises in the East that we find unattractive but that are part of life in these parts of the world. The Freedom to be a Tourist is a little like Freedom of Speech – It involves accepting that not everything that results from it may be to your liking.
There we go… rant over I feel better now. If you don’t, tell me why in the comments below, but keep it polite please.