TOURISM in Asia has developed massively in the past decade with people swarming to places like Thailand, India, Vietnam, Philippines, Hong Kong and Singapore. However, crime, war, lawlessness and political tensions mean that some places are off limits to the average tourist. Unfortunately, many of these places are among the most beautiful and fascinating in the region. Here is a look at four of the dodgier places to visit in the region. Some of these are accessible, while visiting others will take a lot of red tape and plenty of guts.
A few decades back Afghanistan was an essential stop-off on the famous hippy trail. Those were more chilled out times, when a relaxed atmosphere and copious amounts of ganja drew our long-haired friends to this often beautiful country in droves. Once known for its mountains, trekking opportunities, historical remnants of the Mughals and delectable cuisine, it has now deteriorated into one of the most dangerous places on the planet. Not surprisingly, the tourist industry is negligible nowadays and visa restrictions are tight. However, for those with a spirit for adventure and the cash to hire a good bodyguard, this is probably the top danger tourism spot in the region.
PAPUA NEW GUINEA
Tens of thousands of tourists flock to Papua every year, and for good reason – it is one of the most beautiful and unspoilt places remaining on this planet. But like many places that have not yet been ravaged by the onslaught of development, all manner of dangers lurk. True, it’s home to ethnicities and tribes, but before you start dreaming of wandering off into the jungle on your own for a chat with the local tribesmen, bear in mind that some of these people will eat you. Papua is widely believed to be home to some of the world’s few remaining cannibals, and just this June a Kiwi traveler was shot with arrows by tribesmen. Even in the urban areas law and order can be severely lacking. That said, this is one of the few truly unbeaten paths remaining in the region and definitely worth taking a few risks to enjoy.
Over the years many clichéd terms such as ‘heaven on earth’ and ‘paradise on earth’ have been used to describe the extravagant natural beauty of Kashmir. Now, the region is now referred to as the ‘Lost Paradise’. Its sapphire lakes, abundant greenery and ethnic houseboats tempt a lot of tourists to explore the region. Unfortunately, a lot of people refrain because of the conflicts and terrorist attacks. India and Pakistan have been fighting over the ownership of the state for decades now. This has lead to civil wars and armed attacks. Even though tourists are not necessarily the targets, getting trapped amidst an insurgency could happen. The last couple of years, the situation in Kashmir has been relatively calmer, however, it is still far from being the tourism haven it deserves to be. We’re hoping this will change very soon.
Not an obvious choice, but Bali gets an honourable mention because, at the time of writing, a 14-year-old Australian kid has been languishing in jail for weeks for buying some weed. Luckily for him he will be allowed home after serving two months. Most tourists, however, do not enjoy such leniency and often go away for decades, or are even sentenced to death, for relatively minor drug offenses. Tread carefully with drugs here. After a couple of years in an Indonesian prison, getting shot with arrows (see above) might seem like a good thing.