Should Pollution Stop You From Traveling?

Shubert Ciencia, Flickr

Unless you’re traveling in the far backcountry, you’re bound to experience some pollution on the road. Go to New York City and there will be grime on your face when you return to the hotel room at night. But does the amount of pollution in a city or country stop you from traveling there?

In China, tourism has seen a serious drop in response to the country’s “airpocalypse.” In January the air was designated as hazardous to human health for several consecutive days, and the travelers haven’t been the same since; from January to June, tourism has dropped by 5%. In Beijing, it’s even worse, with the number of foreign tourists visiting the country’s capital falling by 15%. “… the air pollution trends in China will be difficult to reverse and their impacts will be significantly negative on the tourism industry,” said Tim Tyrrell, former director of the Center for Sustainable Tourism at Arizona State University.China isn’t alone. In northern Thailand, Chiang Mai has experienced a similar situation, with tourists avoiding the city during the spring when a lot of “slash-and-burn” farming takes place — that’s burning forest in order to make room for fields. And in Rome, you can’t cruise the Tiber river anymore on account of all of the trash in it.

But when it comes to pollution and tourism, it’s a two-way street. The effects of tourism on the state of air quality and beyond is just as big of a problem. Then of course there are those travelers who are moved to seek out the polluted areas of the world. But should pollution stop you from traveling?

In places where pollution is a serious issue, it’s a factor worth thinking about. In India for example, air pollution is the fifth leading cause of death. Not that a visit to the Taj Mahal will inevitably be your last, but if you think that you as a traveler are immune, think again. Check travel alerts and be aware of the air quality of the places you are traveling. Being informed is better than being sick.

Hot Travel Trend: K-Pop Style Wedding Photography in South Korea

korean wedding photo shoot
one-11, Flickr

We’ve all heard of destination weddings, but would you travel to another country just to have your wedding photos taken? That’s the latest travel trend in Asia as increasing numbers of well-to-do Chinese couples head to South Korea to have their marriage immortalized on film.

Some Chinese feel that South Korea is more sophisticated when it comes to things like fashion, makeup and urban style, and believe that getting their photos taken there will result in a more glamorous finished product — not to mention give them bragging rights among friends and family back home. The idea of South Korea as a chic destination has been growing in China thanks to Korean pop videos, such as Psy’s “Gangnam Style” as well as South Korean TV shows.Newlywed couples take part in glamorous photo shoots in the city’s upscale neighborhoods, hoping to mimic the lifestyles of their favorite South Korean celebrities. However, it’s not just real locales that provide the backdrop for the wedding snaps — interestingly, many Chinese also get their bridal portraits taken in front of facades that resemble the Loire Valley, Bordeaux and other European destinations. Apparently, the Western sets look better when you’re ditching the traditional Chinese wedding attire for a white ball gown.

The whole concept has been a big boon for South Korean photographers, some of whom see 50 to 60 Chinese couples a month. But South Korean glamour photography doesn’t come cheap — wedding travel packages that include transportation, assistants and hotels can set a couple back $2000-$4000.

What’s Making Chinese Travelers So Angry?

Air travel delays in China are becoming epidemic. According to an article published today in Time, only 18 percent of flights departing from Beijing in June took off on time.

Chinese travelers are understandably frustrated with this problem, but their collective anger has taken a turn for the worse. Physical altercations, as seen in the video above, and arguments between travelers and airline workers have been documented. The latest protest tactic enacted by the travelers affected by the prevalent delays are sit-ins: passengers have been refusing to leave grounded planes that were subject to delay until compensated for the inconvenience. On July 28 in Dalian, passengers on two separate planes allegedly refused to exit and stayed put in their seats instead.

But staging a sit-in or becoming aggressive toward airline employees isn’t going to affect the problem because the core of the problem is centered in the very infrastructure of Chinese air travel: poor management by airline operators. The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has attributed a whopping 42 percent of delays to mismanaged operations of airline carriers –- a problem that trickles down to individual flights from the top of the corporate airline pyramid, not the other way around.

The problem has gotten so bad some airlines are training their crews to defend themselves.
Chinese Airlines Train Crew in Kung Fu to Defend From Irate Passengers

Morning Rush Hour In Beijing Is Pure Madness (VIDEO)

If you think your rush hour commute is a nightmare, the scene above from a morning commute in Beijing might be the reality check you need. Not only do commuters pack onto subway trains, but the automobile traffic there is ranked the worst in the world, too. It really is no wonder record pollution has been suffocating China’s capital city.

And by the way, if you thought the traffic in New York, Los Angeles or Washington, D.C. was bad, you might be surprised a U.S. city doesn’t even make it into the top ten list of worst commutes. Beijing, Mexico City and Johannesburg round out the top three.

China’s State-Controlled Media Recommends Top 10 Nude Beaches

nude beach patmos greeceLooking for nude beach recommendations this summer? You probably wouldn’t think to consult Xinhua, China’s state-controlled press agency, but here comes editor Yang Yi’s list of their “Top Ten Sexy Nudist Bathing Spots Around the World.” I stumbled across the link to the slideshow while checking out an article about their new English language travel website and had a few good laughs reading the photo captions.

According to Yi, Australia’s Lady Bay Beach “is one of the legitimate nudist beaches announced by the Prime Minister in 70s,” and the entire city of Rio de Janeiro is “the most ‘eye-candy’ beach” where visitors will “find many graceful statures and beautiful faces in beach activities.” In “Cape Down” (sic) South Africa, Yi recommends Sandy Bay Beach because it has “inconvenient traffic,” which makes it feel “away from the world.” Other entries included San Gregorio State Beach in California, and beaches in Negril, Jamaica, British Columbia and St. Martin. The entire state of Hawaii also made the list. Aloha!In recommending Paradise Beach in Mykonos, Yi opines, “Europeans are always full of reverence for human body … In other European countries, restrictions on public nudity are very relaxed. Say nothing of other countries like Netherlands, France, and Spain, even England, which is strict and conservative in some people’s eyes, possesses officially-recognized nudist beaches.”

It’s obviously a pretty half-assed list and some of the stock photos they used look like models from cheap ’70s porn sets. But it’s nice to see that state-controlled media in China is letting its hair down and chasing clicks just like every site in the West.

I hit a couple clothing optional beaches in Greece last summer and can highly recommend Plakias on the island of Crete and Psili Ammos beach in Patmos. Somehow I don’t think editor Yi has spent much time on nude beaches, so if you want more detailed recommendations consider checking out Captain Barefoot’s Naturist Guide to the Greek Islands.