Associated with death and suffering, dark tourism has attracted a great number of people since a long time ago: from the bloody gladiatorial games in ancient Rome, the cruel public executions in the Middle Ages, to the morgues visits in Victorian England. At present, dark tourism is still a widely-known tourism form and becoming increasingly popular among travelers. However, some people might find themselves falling into a dilemma: Shall we visit dark tourism sites since they're closely related to victims' misery and suffering?
To go, or not to go? That is the question.
This was one of the cells of Tuol Sleng Prison, Cambodia, where the victims were badly tortured.
Visiting dark tourism sites is not a regular holiday schedule that is often relaxing and enjoyable; instead, this kind of visit makes visitors feel heavy most of the time. Some people avoid visiting these sites as they are unwilling to see the negative side, and more importantly, they don't want to disturb those people who are still buried in grief.
An obvious case is the reaction of the residents in New Orleans, where was badly devastated by the Hurricane Katrina in 2005. After the terrible storm swallowed the city, the residents of the Lower Ninth Ward found that many tourists were wandering and taking pictures in their community. Residents were uncomfortable and unhappy with being gawked at as if they'd been animals in the zoo. Although the tour was quickly banned by the government, tourists still sneaked in.
Perhaps, some of us really have no idea whether the disaster is better to be remembered or forgotten.
Talking about this recalls my memory back to my visit to the Killing Fields (Choeung Ek) and Tuol Sleng Prison Museum in Cambodia, which witnessed the nightmare that happened to two million Cambodian people in the 1970s. In 1975, the Khmer Rouge got the control of Phnom Penh, and with the goal of turning Cambodia into an agrarian utopia, they began to persecute people who were educated or with religious beliefs, because these people were considered had been influenced by foreign values.
Today, these two sites have become a very important memorial and educational centers for visitors.
This was the truck stop that witnessed the suffering of the victims.
It was one of the most memorable trips I've ever made.
When I passed through the gate, I found that everything was so quiet and peaceful. But as I walked deeper and deeper, my feeling was becoming heavier. I could hardly imagine what happened to these victims: little infants were killed with their head smashed by the rock, children were beaten against trees, women were brutally tortured before being thrown into the pits and lots of people were beaten to death because bullets were considered more valuable… It was disturbing, sorrow and a hard pill to swallow.
Thousands of victims were killed in horror.
This was a deeply heartbreaking experience, but I was thankful I did it. It made me know more about the past and get a better understanding of the country. Cambodia was much more developed than neighboring counties, but after the nation was shocked by the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia lags behind the rest today. As for its people, all most every Khmer who's over 40 years old has lived through this horror. After I walked out, I couldn't help thinking: Do they survive now?
Walking along the street, I could see many smiling faces of people who are in their 40s and above: the cheerful old lady selling vegetables, the friendly middle-aged taxi driver, and the gentle restaurant owner… They had survived. I'm glad to see that the Cambodian people have come to healing as individuals, and fortunately, it turns out that this nation is growing and getting better. I hope it continues.
The country has survived and smiles are everywhere now.
Apart from this, there are many other dark tourism sites in Asia, like Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum (Japan) dedicated to documenting the atomic bombing in WWⅡ, Cu Chi Tunnels (Vietnam) recording the local fighters' life during wartime, War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) presenting an important history of the appalling legacy of the war that has ravaged Vietnam decades ago, Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall (China) memorizing those people that were killed in the Nanjing Massacre, as well as Aceh Tsunami Museum (Indonesia) designed as a symbolic reminder of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami disaster, etc.
Shall we visit dark tourism sites? As far as I am concerned, the problem doesn't lie with the destination we choose, but the intention of the choice. Before we go, we need to ask a question to ourselves: Are we traveling for a broader understanding, or just to show off? Taking smiling selfies and giving the thumbs up at these places? No. We visit these sites to prolong the memory for those who can't tell the story for themselves, and it's very important to know what, when, why, and how these cruel things happened. So, don't turn our backs on the reality! And we must open our eyes to prevent similar things from happening again.
Now, I believe the answer to the question of the title is already in your mind. If you want to visit these dark tourism sites, you could contact us at . We have rich experience in tailor-making meaningful visits to dark tourism sites, and our knowledgeable local guides will share vivid historical stories behind them with you. The tour will certainly improve your understanding of the country and change something in your life.