Critics slam the rise of the Western tourists 'beg-packing' in South East Asia
After a photo of a young female tourist "meditating for money" went viral on Instagram, Vietnamese authorities have instructed foreigners to refrain from "beg-packing".
Beg-packing has become a common sight throughout South East Asia, particularly in Vietnam – where street begging is actually banned – as foreigners attempt to fund their travels via the generosity of locals in developing countries.
Tran Chi Dung, tourism chief in Kien Giang province, told a local newspaper that "no exception" would be made, "no matter how polite" the privileged panhandlers were.
"They play music, sing, perform magic tricks or, in the recent case, meditate, to ask for money," he said.
Dung's statement came after a picture of a tourist meditating next to a beggar's bowl in Phu Quoc, apparently soliciting cash, went viral on social media.
The director of Kien Giang's department of foreign affairs, Van Cong Dau, told Tuoi Tre newspaper that foreigners coming to Vietnam to work must have a "legitimate labour contract in accordance with Vietnamese laws".
"And I have to make it clear that street begging is not considered a job in Vietnam," he said.
In a commentary for the Traveller website, writer Ben Groundwater slammed the new trend for "young, healthy, well-off travellers going around cap in hand begging people to fund their holiday".
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"How can any backpacker be self-entitled enough to sit there on the street with their hand out, ignoring the incredible amount of privilege that got them there in the first place, asking residents of developing countries to donate to the cause of their own enjoyment?" he writes.
"If, right now, you don't have enough money to fund your holiday around a developing country, then you don't have enough money to go on a holiday.
“Wait a bit longer."