The Body of Chairman Mao

Getting into Tiananmen Square was hard enough. We joined a large crowd of Chinese people, shuffling slowly forwarded. We waited while people looked at us strangely, pointed at our feet and laughing, not knowing if joining the group was even the right thing to do. Eventually we arrived at a security checkpoint, where our bags were x-rayed and our passports checked.

We were in.

The Body of Chairman Mao

Monument to the People’s Heroes

Tiananmen Square was a large open space where traffic was prohibited and areas roped off from pedestrians with guard posts throughout. At one end Tiananmen Gate, which lead into the Forbidden City, where a large portrait of Chairman Mao hung.

The Body of Chairman Mao

 

At the other, Mao’s Mausoleum, a building built solely for the purpose of housing his embalmed body. Our first port of call.

But first we had to jump through a number of hoops in order to enter.

The Body of Chairman Mao

Guard in front of the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong

First we headed to an entirely different building, where we would have to check in any bags or cameras. While I was travelling in Vietnam I was able to visit the body of Ho Chi Minh so I had an idea of what may be required here in order to enter.

Back at the mausoleum we joined another queue, this one had a lot less people in it, and another security check point, this one just a visual inspection. As we approached the entrance there was a vendor selling white flowers. Almost every Chinese visitor in front of us purchased multiple flowers to take in with them.

The Body of Chairman Mao

Revolutionary statue in front of the mausoleum

Once we reached the entrance and went inside we were greeted by a large seated stone statue of Mao. In front of him a table so full of the white flowers they had been piled up on the floor behind. We watched as visitors placed their contribution with the others and then as a man with a large cart collected up the excess and wheeled them back out to the shop.

Moving through the corridors we came to a small room where the glass coffin was held. Inside lay a black haired Mao in a grey suit. It was a very strange moment which lasted less than a minute. We were ushered around the edges of the room before passing out the other side and into the gift shop.

The Body of Chairman Mao

National Museum of China

No one was prepared for Mao’s death. Like Ho Chi Minh he had requested to be cremated but after his death it was decided his body would be embalmed. Accounts vary but it is thought the process was rushed and ill prepared due to rocky relations with the Russians at the time. They were thought to be the experts as they had already used the technique to embalm the bodies of Stalin and Lenin, as well as assisting the Vietnamese with Minh’s body. It is said that instead they had to settle with verbal instructions from the Vietnamese and try their best.

The Body of Chairman Mao

Restricted areas and guard posts

Since 1977 his body has been here, in his purpose built mausoleum for the world to visit, with some days visitor numbers reaching well into the thousands. Today, who really knows if the body that lies there is in fact Mao’s. Rumours persist and it’s often thought that due to the process not being entirely effective the body had been replaced with a wax figure, highly believable as the process leaves the skin looking shinny and even wax like.

Further Reading:

Preserving Chairman Mao: embalming a body to maintain a legacy by The Guardian

A visitors account from 1997 Resting in Peace or in Pieces

The Tiger Temple

It has been a while since I have talked about tourism related topics on this blog but after seeing the news from the Tiger Temple in Thailand I couldn’t ignore it. For those who aren’t familiar with the recent news or the Tiger Temple in general I will quickly recap.

The Tiger Temple is a place in Thailand run by Buddhist monks with, supposedly, conservation at its heart. They allow the opportunity for tourists to see tigers at close proximity and even the chance to have a photo with an adult tiger or feed tiger clubs, of course for an extra charge.

There has always been speculation about the true intentions of the Tiger Temple and even about the welfare of the animals. It has been believed that the animals are sedated, as they were so relaxed around people and some even saying that their teeth and claws had been pulled when they were clubs.

Now in recent news their has been a raid on the facility and shockingly 40 frozen tiger clubs had been found in a freezer. What the tiger clubs were doing there is still unclear but the most likely reason is the temple has been breeding tigers and selling them to China for medicinal purposes.

When doing a Google search for the location of the Tiger Temple I was happy to see the message ‘permanently closed’ on my screen.

The Tiger Temple

To me this shows that conservation is far from their priority and the temple has always put making money first. I have travelled in Asia and also Thailand, I have visited Kanchanaburi (the province where the Tiger Temple is located) and knew about the Tiger Temple, but I never visited. Asia is full of these attractions created for the tourist dollar and I had decided to stay away from them. People are fooled to believe that their money or entrance fee is going to conservation or helping the animals in some way but, more often than not, that is far from the truth.

My closing message would be that we think carefully about how the money we give is being spent, especially when visiting less developed countries like in Asia. Of course many of us would jump at the chance to see a tiger close up, I know I would, but we have to ask ourselves at what cost. Do your research and if you are happy that the animals needs are put first, like they are in many zoos, then go ahead.

The Tiger Temple

Taken in Australia Zoo, Queensland

Further Reading:

Tiger temple scandal exposes the shadowy billion-dollar Asian trade – The Guardian

My experience on the Death Railway and Kanchanaburi, Thailand

The Darker Side of Tourism

Tromsø Revisited

2015 was a big year for tourism, the number of international tourists rose by 5%, seeing 1.2 billion of us travelling aboard. Even with the threat of terrorist attacks people weren’t deterred, France remained the most visited country even after the tragedies in Paris.

Where was the best place you travelled last year?

Out of the few places I was able to visit last year Tromsø has to be the stand out. The landscape in Norway was magnificent though the country is a little expensive. Last year I shared many of my photographs from Tromsø but I still have others that I would like you to  see.

© Our Shadows Will Remain

See my other post from Tromsø HERE.

The Royal Family

Buckingham Palace, London

Buckingham Palace, London

The Royal Family costs ever taxpayer in the UK £1.33 per year. Some people argue that the cost of the Royal Family is largely compensated by the tourism that they bring to the country. This number can’t actually be estimated but the Royal Family does at least play a large part in creating our national identity.

Buckingham Palace is a part of my post The Lost Landmarks.

Indigenous Tourism

In recent posts I have been talking about the Sami, a people who traditionally inhabit the northern areas of Norway, Sweden, Finland and a small part of Russia,  and their history, culture and involvement in reindeer herding.  Now I would like to look at their involvement in tourism.

The sub-segment of indigenous tourism is defined as the ‘indigenous culture, traditions and heritage forming the basis for tourism development.’

Indigenous control is an important factor when considering indigenous tourism, these control factors include limiting tourists use and access when regarding time and place. These limitations will allow the indigenous people to retain some control over the development of tourism but to also develop sustainable tourism.

Many western tourists are looking for authentic experiences among the Sami people, their primary motivator for travel is authenticity with the possibility to develop a personal and semi-spiritual relationship. There is often difficulty when discussing tourism relating to “endangered cultures” such as the Sami. If the development of tourism causes discomfort amongst the Sami it could lead to problems but on the other hand attractions without some commercialisation would attract hardly any visitors. For this reason and because the Sami have assimilated into modern society visitors are often offered staged attractions.

Even with the risks of tourism development many Sami are attracted to the idea of tourism, especially when it is becoming increasingly difficult to make a living from traditional methods such as reindeer herding. Sami people who have adjusted to the role of tourism are able to combine tourism with reindeer herding. This allows the Sami to spread information about the Sami and their culture to visitors.

Indigenous Tourism

Consumers are increasingly looking for new experiences and adventure outside of the ordinary products and services. Stories can help to improve the power of experience and can complete a service or product by giving it a deeper meaning and a more memorable experience. These stories can come from historic happenings or inspired by myths from the Arctic nature, local culture and finally the traditions and beliefs in Finnish Lapland. Being able to use these stories in tourism in a creative way while presented in a suitable place can lead to authentic experiences. Foreign visitors come to Lapland in order to experience new cultures. By being offered information and traditions based on cultural heritage can help create an experience that exceeds the customer’s expectations.

There is a tourist demand for tourism involving Sami culture that may even grow in the future. Sami culture is fragile and tourism may jeopardise the indigenous culture and harm the environment in which the Sami live. It is important to remember that Sami tourism does face some challenges and with an increased research into the opportunities and risks they will be able to develop a flourishing and sustainable industry for both host and guest.

For more about indigenous cultures you can see my posts about Australian Aboriginals and their role in tourism.

Ecotourism

In recent years it has become difficult to distinguish ecotourism from nature tourism, sustainable tourism, wildlife tourism, adventure tourism and how it relates to other forms of tourism. In nature tourism the attraction and the enjoyment comes from nature and the natural environment. Ecotourism is a sub-segment of nature based tourism along with adventure tourism and wildlife tourism. What distinguishes ecotourism is the inclusion of an educational aspect or sustainable management.

Ecotourism is a more strict form of nature tourism where education and sustainability are used as components to create an ethical experience for the consumer. Ecotourism can be described as a more sustainable form of nature based tourism that primarily focuses on experiencing and learning about nature. It is managed to be low impact, non-consumptive and locally orientated. It typically takes place in natural areas and should contribute to the conservation and preservation of those areas.

Lapland, Finland

Lapland, Finland

It can be predicted that ecotourism will see continued strong growth as it is seen as self-reinforcing, as people experience something new, exciting or scary they might create an interest to explore more powerful experiences. Ecotourism is generally small scale which helps to reduce the negative environmental and cultural impacts, this also guarantees unique experiences. As activities have little impact on the environment and are largely unproblematic from a cultural perspective a large share of nature tourism fulfills the criteria for ecotourism.  Now, we can notice a growing trend in ecotourism as it is increasingly offered in a wide variety of locations and creates new products strategically marketed to create new markets.

Generally there is a greater awareness of the environment and its issues that include pollution, deforestation and global warming. Governments and environmental organisations are taking these issues seriously at both a national and international level. People’s interest in these issues has changed accordingly and they want to engage in nature or ecotourism and partake in activities that have a benefit to the local environment.

Due to this increased awareness it has become easier to manage protected areas as people understand the need for this action. To promote eco-friendly tourism it is important that there is a development in partnerships between tourism, environmental and community interests. These partnerships need to have a shared understanding in the processes and the benefits in producing eco-friendly tourism.

When you travel is preserving the environment and local surroundings important to you? What experiences have you had as an ecotourist?

Film Tourism

Game of thrones is on a lot of people’s radar at the moment. It has helped changed the face of TV but it has also changed the way we travel. Since appearing on the show destinations such as Ireland and Croatia have become top places to visit. And the tourism industry is starting capitalize with themed tours and activities.

Books and films play a large part in modern culture. When a certain medium hits the global audience it can then affect other areas including tourism. These affects could be anything from more visitors to areas of particular importance to the increase in employment. This is a fairly new tourism phenomenon that is increasing rapidly as books and films are brought to a larger audience, acting as an advert for destinations.

Lord of the Rings changed tourism in New Zealand. Due to the success of the movies and fans of the books there has been a surge in what is now called Tolkien Tourism, which is when people visit areas associated with the films, the book or Tolkien’s life. New Zealand has seen a reported 50% increase in tourism since the release of peter Jackson’s trilogy in 2001.  I have never been to New Zealand but after seeing Lord of the Rings it has definitely made its way onto places to visit in the future.

With the increase in these areas and the demand for new services relating to this phenomenon there will continue to be a large market and people reaching new and interesting areas. The success that New Zealand has seen will not be the first, currently Iceland is experience in the same thing as it has been picked as a filming location for many recent science fiction films.

The future for these destinations looks great as they are able to negotiate for better benefits and attract tourists. The latest Avatar sequels are due to be filmed in New Zealand over the next few years. The studio has made a $400 million deal with the New Zealand government involving the filming and production of the movies, this will lead to an increase in employment and possibly a further increase in tourism as people see the movies. 

Films and TV have changed the way we make our travel choices. Where have you visited since your saw it on the big screen?

Film Tourism

Game of Thrones fans may recognize this as Meereen.

Find out how to visit Klis Fortress HERE