Saturday, June 22, 2013

Idiots

I tried to think of a clever title for this post, but obviously I failed. I also failed to provide a 'weekly update' yesterday. Doesn't take me long to leave a series by the wayside, I guess. Anyway, instead of giving you a bunch of articles, I'm just going to share one that particularly disturbed me this week.

Earlier this year news of a proposed casino and resort in Ha Giang, Vietnam's most northerly province, was reported by local press. Specifically, this construction was slated for the UNESCO-recognized Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark. Widely considered one of the most stunning areas in the entire country, the plateau is known for its mind-bending geography and undeveloped isolation. Many rightly criticized that the plan made no sense. There had been no news since, so I simply assumed the asinine project had been shelved. Well, it recently reanimated, like an unwanted zombie.

According to the story, at a meeting on the 14th a few officials insisted that the proposal was still in play. Now, it also includes a golf course. Why anyone thinks this is a good idea is beyond me. What really has me worried are a few of the quotes provided in the linked article. Here we have Ma Ngoc Giang, deputy of the plateau's management: "Unlike bioreserves, wildlife sanctuaries and other heritage sites that need to stay intact, the plateau can be both preserved and developed at the same time." Yea that makes sense.

Giang's verbal diarrhea continues when he argues that the development of the resort/casino would bring in affluent tourists. While revealing his true colors, he says "Unlike wealthy holidaymakers, who wish to relish the serene, fresh environs and local culture, lower-income earners are most likely to do harm to the plateau, if there's any harm at all." Oh yes, I forgot that rich people never damage the places they visit. Wait, you're telling me they hunt rare big game in Africa? And carve their names into Egyptian pyramids? Nonsense!

Especially in Vietnam, ALL visitors do damage, no matter the income level. Everyone litters and generally treats the environment as if it is their personal toy. The officials also argue that the plateau is huge, so the casino won't have much of an impact, and that they've seen similar projects in other parts of the world.

Finally we come to the most incomprehensible quote, this time from an unnamed official: "Without such services (the casino, golf course, etc.) the plateau will be simply full of karsts and remain unappealing in modern times, just like it was millions of years." Pffft, yea man, nature is so 3rd century. Give me a casino facade any day of the week. Seriously, WTF? How did people like this get jobs on the board that is supposed to protect this place?

Ha Giang is one of only a handful of areas in Vietnam that hasn't been drastically changed by commercialization and thoughtless planning. It is also one of the poorest parts of the country. While I do hope the people who live there are able to have a better standard of living someday, opening a high-end resort in their backward isn't the way to do it.

This story also illustrates everything that is wrong with Vietnam's tourism industry. For some reasons officials seem to think that natural or historical things aren't enough to entertain people. They always have to add something cheesy or off-putting. Examples: Da Lat is beautiful in its own right. Why do we need ponies painted like zebras and small Vietnamese men in cowboy hats at the town's central lake and at the waterfalls in the countryside? The Marble Mountains south of Da Nang are amazing, but recently somebody built a giant elevator into the side of one of the hills so that tourists can be lazy instead of walking up the stairs. It looks horrible. Dong Van doesn't need a casino. Just leave it alone, or start some poverty-reduction or literacy programs instead.

For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, this is what the plateau looks like:

That's just screaming for some gamblers and golfers.

(Full disclosure: I'm going to be motorbiking through Ha Giang in about three weeks. I would punch somebody in the face if there was a resort here.)

1 comment:

  1. That is a beautiful place. Please do punch someone if you see a resort there. Most preferably the manager or an official.

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