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Vienna | 22.6.2007 | 19:10 
God, what's happening in the world! A reality check on the web.

Chris, DaddyD, Zita

A Reality Check into Dark Tourism: "Dangerous" Destinations.
  Well, it's the final Saturday Reality Check of the season (before the Summer Pause) so we thought we'd go out on a bit of a holiday theme. An investigation into a travel trend that has been growing over recent decades; that of tourist destinations with a darker or let's put it this way - an off-the-beaten track feel.
The Great Leader Welcomes you!
  Let's head straight for the Axis of Evil. Kim Ill Sung-sville is opening its arms to happy visitors. You can go there (visa pending) but don't count on the usual fun and freedom-to-roam thing. As you'd expect it's pretty much lockdown at your hotel. You'll dine mostly in your hotel-restaurant and if you want to wander around the corner to buy a packet of cigarettes, your friendly hotel manager will order a minder to accompany you to help you out with any language difficulties and make sure you don't get lost. (In other words, don't try fraternising with the locals!)
Foto: EPA
  I used to call it Mynamar. In fact most countries in Asia call it Myanmar and I thought I was distancing myself from my countrymen's colonial past by refusing to call it Burma. But Zoya Phan from the Burma Campaign in the UK told me "please call it Burma... the military authorities changed the name to Myanmar and to do so, in a way, helps to legitimise them". Okay, so having got the name right - should we go? In fact, when I lived in Singapore, Burma wasn't overly perceived as a pariah state and copies of nice Burmese tourist sites were often on display in travel agencies. According to Zoya the answer is a flat "no". Any money you or I pay to anyone (even local traders) goes straight back to the military regime who use it to oppress the people and particularly minorities that they have forcibly displaced to refugee camps in the border regions. We may be greeted by smiling locals but as soon as we leave an area, the secret police are in there questioning people about what was being said to them by the western tourists.
Foto: EPA
  I asked Tom Hall (Travel Editor with the Lonely Planet Guides) what was his tip for heading off the beaten track. Having just come back from Eritrea, it was high on his list. In his own words:

"I think Eritrea is a classic example of traveling somewhere that is considered a tough off-the-beaten track destination ... the outside perception is that of a lawless country - one when there is constant danger of being kidnapped. (But) when you arrive there, people are incredibly hospitable, they are very glad that you visited. Eritrea has a beautiful art-deco capital, stunning mountains that you can go and do some trekking in and it has an old port city with hardly anyone there ... you can just go wandering ... a great Arabic feeling. It's a wonderful country!"
Bild: AFP
Keep your wits about you...
  All the experts say (basically) the obvious. If you are going into the axis of wherever, do all the research beforehand about what's safe, what's not... don't go into any war zones cos if things get a bit tricky you won't be exactly priority no.1 to be hauled out of there. When you are there, keep an eye on the news in case events suddenly take a turn for the worse.

And have a great Summer exploring the weird, the wonderful and the great global unknown!

Reality Check on Dark Tourism: "Dangerous" Destinations can be heard on Saturday (23.6.07) at 12 midday on FM4. After the show you can download a podcast by clicking here.
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