Vacationing After the Tsunami


Why should one of the most devastating tragedies in history stop them from getting a tan? More pics here.

I have received more than a few emails speculating on whether or not those photos were photoshopped. I have no idea if they were or not and we all should take anything we find on the web with a grain of salt. But I would not be surprised if they did turn out to be genuine especially after reading stories like this:

PHUKET, Thailand – While volunteers struggled to collect bodies washing up on the once-pristine beaches of this upscale resort isle, ghoulish tourists rolled out their towels yesterday, doffed their bikini tops and vacationed like nothing had happened.

On Patong Beach and Kata Beach – where hundreds died or disappeared four days ago – the smell of suntan lotion wafted from the shore as a new influx of tourists determinedly ignored the carnage around them, frolicking in the surf or reading under umbrellas.

An indignant Russian who arrived at the Novotel Phuket Resort on the day after the tsunami loudly complained that there was no champagne reception.

BBC News also has an article about it.


  1. I think I understand what you’re trying to point out here: Callous, rich and fat, the Westerners stay.

    My question is what alternative you present? These are vacationers who ended up here after a tsunami. They had no control of the circumstances. I’m sure they neglected to bring their shovels and bulldozers. So they should….? They should what?

    Go home?
    How does that help?

    Stay inside?
    How does that help?

    Volunteer to aid victims?
    Perhaps, though we are all told money is the best thing to present as aid and these folks represent money.


    I just don’t get this kind of snarky argument

  2. They should be getting off their hind quarters and helping people clear away junk and rebuild wherever necessary. Perhaps, yes perhaps they are resting from having done this in the time besides from which this picture was taken, but I think the flagrant showiness of their obvious wealth (in comparison to the utter downtroddenness in the background) is starkly high-horse and seemingly oblivious to the need that encompasses them.

  3. R wellor, there’s something called “decency” you might not be familiar with. These vacationers did not just “end up here after a tsunami” as you assume, they chose to go there because they just didn’t care that their vacation spot has just been victim of the most horrific disaster of the century. Somebody in the blogosphere compared this type of callousness with the NRA organizing their rally at Columbine one week after the shooting tragedy. But you probably can’t see what’s wrong with that either.

  4. I find this kind of thing very interesting (from the point of view of someone who still doesn’t use his BA in philosophy) because it treads the line between rude and immoral. It’s very bad taste to keep sunbathing – no question – but are they morally obligated to help? *We* would feel better if they had just gone home, but if they’re not going to help, they can not help just as easily there as in their home country. So not helping = not helping. Geography doesn’t play into it. It’s extremely tacky to flaunt their lazy obese asses like that, but morally there’s not difference.

    Personally I find it extremely distasteful that the news is mostly reporting on Thailand (with 5000 dead) and virtually ignoring India (15,000 dead) simply becasue Thailand has these damaged tourist resorts. So I think we’re all guilty of this sort of tacky selfishness to some degree. I understood these photos as sybolic of the developed world in general, and not so much critical of these tourists in specific.

    I also think this is the longest comment I’ve ever posted to a blog.

  5. Well,

    The place depicted does depend on tourism, so in a way they are helping by having their fat arses spread around.

    Kind of a pickle really as it boils down to the schism between poor and rich. Visually it looks really bad as you can readily see the difference between the two, but if the rich left that’d be even worse.

    I’m kind of on a fence, I feel conflicted here. Not sure what to think. In an ideal world the tourists would lend a hand. But is that being realistic?

    Anyway, I have read a bit on the plight of India. There was a story I think I read on the Dhalits on ChristianScienceMonitor that went on to talk about the caste system and how they are being denied tsunami relief and a host of other humanitarian measures. Sick really. The Dhalits are the low man on the totem pole so they basically get screwed no matter what. Oh, and supposedly a horde of beggers have descended on the hardest hit Indian areas to get some of that free swag.

    The inhumanity of it all!

  6. Thanks for the comments everyone. You all have made really good points. If I were to place myself in this situation, of a stranded tourist, I cannot see myself on the beach with such devastation literally yards from me. We are not talking about a small incident but a huge natural disaster with numbers that I can’t even comprehend. I realize tourism a bit part of their economy and so on however there is no way I would book a vacation over there unless it was to volunteer my services. Just my opinion on the matter.

  7. While most of us are offended by the idea of tourists lounging about in the midst of such a crisis, it is important to note that the re-establishment of the tourist economy will save tens of thousands of lives and improve the standard of living of hundreds of thousands over the next ten years. In addition to donating money, we all should consider vacationing in these areas.

  8. Sean, your comment made me laugh so I hope you were being ironic. Either that or it’s the new White Man’s Burden, to civilize the savage nations through tourism.

  9. Cardinal Biggles, I wasn’t trying to be funny. I used to work for FEMA and have a sense of what it takes to recover from large disasters. How many years did it take Jamaica to recover economically? It will take a decade or more for these areas to see the same quality of life they previously enjoyed. International support will dry up when things start to “look” normal.

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