Beware of my holiday destinations

The joke among our family and friends is that, when I choose to visit a particular part of the world for a holiday, something dramatic often happens there.

I suppose it started when I made a first visit to what was then Czechoslovakia in 1988. The following year the country overthrew Communism in its ‘velvet revolution’ which triggered other revolutions in Central & Eastern Europe.

In 2003, I made a visit to Nepal when the Maoist insurgency was still active.The day after our arrival in Kathmandu, the chief of police, his bodyguard and his wife were killed while on an early morning walk on the outskirts of the capital.

In 2008, I made a visit to Cuba. Just two weeks before our departure, Fidel Castro announced that he was stepping down as the world’s longest-serving president after an astonishing 49 years in power.

Then there was my trip to Iran in 2009. When the disputed presidential election led to massive demonstrations and brutality in June, the British Foreign Office advised against travel to Iran and we wondered whether the trip would actually go ahead. Fortunately the domestic situation became calmer and we were able to make the trip in the first week of November  even though this coincided with fresh demonstrations around the 30th anniversary of the taking of the American Embassy hostages.

The saddest occurrence was the follow-up to my  trip to Syria in 2011. Just a couple of weeks after our departure, demonstrations started that soon led to armed conflict and then a full-scale civil war that is still raging. As the conflict enters its seventh year, more than 465,000 Syrians have been killed in the fighting, more than a million injured and over 12 million Syrians – half the country’s prewar population – have been displaced from their homes.

Four years ago, I visited Bangkok as a break on the flight to Australia. The next year, there was a coup d’état in the country which is still ruled by a military dictatorship.

Three years ago, I made a tour of Central America, visiting Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. Three of these countries have had brutal civil wars which are now thankfully over, but three have them are ravaged by violent street gangs and drug groups, with two of them having the highest murder rates in the world outside of actual war zones.

This week, I returned from a two-week holiday in Sri Lanka. All the time I was there, there was talk of the late arrival of the south-westerly monsoon which they have at this time of year. Clearly we were travelling out of season which is why our hotels were so empty and I was able to save so much money by not having to pay a single supplement.

But I have just heard the news of massive flooding from the arrival of the monsoon. At least 100 people have been killed and nearly 500,000 displaced. So sad for the wonderful people of Sri Lanka.


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