I spent the week working on a piece about the tourist experience in Sikkim. Mostly I just pounced on while people I saw at MG Marg and demanded the Truth, in the name of Journalism. One thing I didn’t really get into is the hordes of non-western tourists that visit Sikkim, most from Southern India. I don’t know much about how local people feel about these guys, but I know how I often feel: sketched out.
For some reason, white people are just as much a local attraction to South Indian tourists as beautiful monasteries, monks and mountains. I went with some American friends a couple weeks ago to Rumtek Monastery, and these guys couldn’t keep their cameras off us. They put their arms around us and wave to their friends’ cameras. They are especially creepy towards white girls.
Granted, I probably take the occasional picture of these South Indian tourists, but I can’t tell which brown people are residents and which brown people are tourists. With a few strange exceptions (like me), if you see white people at Rumtek or in Gangtok, they are tourists.
I’m not sure what the deal is here. Why are we so fascinating? The same thing happened a couple years ago when I visited the Taj Mahal. Indian tourists kept coming up and asking for pictures with me, as if I were as significant at India’s most famous tourist attraction. I started charging 10 rupees a photo (about a quarter a piece), and made enough for an ice cream cone.
I must admit, these weird experiences with South Indian tourists here in the North turns me off to going to South India.