Myanmar, or Burma, as it used to be called was top of my wish list for years. So when Aung San Suu Kyi said tourists could visit as long as we tried to spend money with the locals, not the government, we booked to go.
Closed for Business
Sometimes it feels like the world is closing for business. The Foreign Office advises against travel to parts of :-
Algeria, Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Burma (Myanmar), Cameroon,
Colombia, Djibouti, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Georgia, Haiti, India, Iran,
Israel, Ivory Coast, Jordan, Kenya, Kosovo, Lebanon, Madagascar, Malaysia,
Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Republic of the Congo, Russia, Saudi Arabia,
Sudan,Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda,
Ukraine, Venezuela and Western Sahara.
Of course I’ve been to the safe parts of many of these countries, often with mainstream travel companies without a problem (and without telling my children of the F.O. advice!)
But worse than this the Foreign Office advises against all travel to Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic,
Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo,
Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo,Iraq, Libya,
Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Palestinian territories, Somalia, South Sudan,
Syria, Tunisia, Yemen and now Gambia.
This means for your own safety you really have no choice, you just shouldn’t go.
Some of these countries were (apparently) safe not that long ago. We had a fabulous holiday touring Tunisia a few years ago but I missed the boat on some of them.
I wasn’t any good at the hippie thing even in England and I’d never have made it to the hippie trail’s ultimate destination of Afghanistan.
Now many of its treasures are destroyed even if you could go there safely.
I left it too late.
And Now Gambia
While it’s OK for me to moan about places I can’t go to its the Gambians I really feel sorry for. This wonderful country is sometimes known as Africa Lite because English is widely spoken and there are western standard hotels.
Its only six and half hours from London with no time difference and as a cheap winter sun destination its unbeatable.
I am sad for the lovely people we met when travelling around the country.
Now thousands of tourists are being brought home.
The tourist industry that provided 20 % of the countries income will be lost, maybe for years.
Everywhere we go I try to ignore the politics of the country – we have no right to an opinion about the politics of somewhere we only spend a week or two. But just by talking to our young guides the tensions within the country were clear. Now amid a state of emergency many Gambians have fled across the border to Senegal. Senegalese troops are waiting hoping to force Yahya Jammeh to step down and hand over the presidency to the rightful election winner.
This may happen quickly or the country might descend into civil war.
Either way for the moment the lives of people we met and befriended just a short time ago are being destroyed.
We can only hope they can recover and that one day soon we will be able to return.