Asia, People, Travel Stories

‘Beg-packers’ Invade Southeast Asia

That headline might read like a bad B-movie title but it’s not.

What are “Beg-packers”?

“Beg-packers” are not some fictional terror. They are very real. “Beg-packers” are typically younger Western tourists who sell knick-knacks, play music, or beg for money on the streets of in order to fund their travels or to buy plane tickets home.

Photos of some of these beg-packers have gone viral having recently been widely circulated all over the internet. In one picture a pair of them is seated behind a sign reading: “Support our trip around the world” as they attempt to peddle postcards. Another shot shows a beg-packer playing songs on harmonica and guitar next to a sign with a similar message.

The Southeast Asia Beg-packer Controversy

Truly needy people in southeast Asia normally beg on the streets for money for but a few reasons: poverty, sickness or survival. However, more and more the poor there are being joined by comparatively wealthy backpackers who are only begging in order to finance their traveling. This recent trend has upset the locals because these beg-packers are taking money away from those who really need it simply to fund a choice of lifestyle many people think of as a luxury.

Residents have reported seeing mainly caucasian tourists begging in the streets of Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand in order to garner the cash for their trips. They have responded with mixed emotions. Some only find it strange.  Other locals are quietly outraged.

Backpackers vs. Beg-packers

Backpackers traditionally are seen as a positive antithesis of mass commercial tourism and overly organized trips. Unfortunately, even the romanticized image of carefree adventurers seeking to broaden their horizons has changed. It has been somewhat tarnished by the more recently publicized questionable image of the beg-packer.

Backpackers are now seen by many in Southeast Asia as little more than Westerners who wish to travel for free at the expense of the natives. What’s worse, in many of the countries they visit, these beg-packers are often openly flaunting strict laws regarding street solicitation. In Singapore, for example, visitors are only permitted to busk if they have a work visa.

Other, Assorted Wannabe World Travelers

There are still other would-be world travelers causing some controversy. These “wannabe travelers” as they are sometimes called, do their own hi-tech version of beg-packing via the internet. They start crowdfunding projects hoping to raise funds to finance big trips.

Travel Porn

Experts on the subject say that this beg-packing culture is just a smaller part of the burgeoning “travel porn” phenomenon. Travel porn is actually much less exciting than it sounds.  Travel porn simply refers to multiple travel blogs, social media accounts and all the nigh endless images of exotic, faraway travel destinations.  It’s meant to inspire a sense of wanderlust in others.

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