Nepal Bans Pockets To Fight Bribes

2 07 2009

 

Staff at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan international airport are being issued trousers without pockets in an effort to eliminate bribe-taking. Nepal’s anti-corruption body said there had been a dramatic increase in public complaints against bribery and it was felt that trousers without pockets would help the authorities “curb the irregularities.”

 

Sadly, bribes are quite common in many parts of the world, although often – as in Kathmandu – they tend to be aimed at locals rather than tourists. However, that doesn’t mean that visitors cannot be subjected to this special treatment, and when they are it does present a bit of a challenge.

 

It’s all fine and well to tut-tut at home and say you would never give a bribe no matter what the occasion or location, but it’s completely different when face-to-face with someone of authority, wearing a uniform, in a strange land – or strange language – who has the power to make your life difficult. It takes a strong person to say ‘no’ and stand their ground. Or perhaps just a foolish or naïve one.

 

Not for one moment do I advocate giving bribes and certainly in my own surroundings, I would never contemplate it. We all know that bribery is wrong and that paying a bribe perpetuates the cycle, but no matter how distasteful it can be, declining to pay one can land you in serious trouble and a decision must be very carefully considered. Of course, offering a bribe when one hasn’t been solicited is considerably worse!

 

I have been in taxis in Cancun, Nairobi and Zanzibar and stopped by police. Upon command, the driver handed over his license with a small fold of notes sticking innocently from the corner. The officer checked the license, returned it – devoid of the cash – and waved us forward already looking for more victims. The exchange was made surreptitiously so as not to upset the tourist. But in remote Zambia, the tourists were the target.

 

It was late afternoon and we were approaching a very long, low bridge that spanned a languid river. A lone soldier waved us to a halt on the approach and walked menacingly up to the cab of our truck with a rifle slung over one shoulder.

 

“You can’t cross” he said severely. “Only one vehicle is allowed on the bridge at a time.”

 

Straining our eyes forward, we could see another vehicle broken down on the side of the approach road on the far bank.

 

“He’s not on the bridge” we attempted to explain, as friendly as possible.

 

“Yes he is” said our armed companion. “You can’t cross.”

 

We explained that we were trying to reach Lusaka before it was dark and asked if there was anything at all that he could do to assist us. He looked inside the truck, then back at us.

 

“I am a hungry man,” he said, matter-of-factly, stretching his arms in the air and arching his back leisurely.

 

Two tins of beans and a couple of cigarettes later, we were driving onto the bridge with our new friend cheerily waving good-bye and wishing us a good trip.

 

 

Photo and post by: Simon Vaughan © 2009

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Flu Free Guarantee

14 05 2009

Cancun

When old soldiers gather together they exchange tales of brushes with death while comparing old war wounds. When old travellers gather together they exchange tales of brushes with death while comparing tropical diseases. Because, let’s face it, you really can’t claim to be an adventurer until you’ve lost a digit to frostbite or started a conversation with “When I had malaria…”

Likewise, I would bet that anyone who sidles up to a bar now and casually says “I’ve just got over Swine Flu…” would likely be plied with free drinks until they tell the full story of their bout with H1N1.

Of course, there’s nothing humourous about diseases, especially tropical ones that kill millions of people in the developing world each year. But the occasional well-treated and thoroughly-defeated exotic disease for an intrepid traveller is a badge of honour that can be great fodder for dinner conversation for decades to come. Now however, such an infection can actually provide a free vacation…or three.

The recent outbreak of H1N1 has made headlines throughout the world, claimed the lives of more than 60 people and practically decimated Mexican tourism. But Mexico is fighting back!

So confident is Mexico’s Caribbean coast that the risk of contracting Swine Flu is over, that earlier this week several hotels on the Mayan Riviera offered free vacations to any tourist who catches H1N1 while on holiday there. Forget t-shirts and postcards, it’s a good virus that visitors are queuing up to take home these days!

“The ‘flu-free guarantee’ assures three years of free holidays to travellers who present flu symptoms eight days after returning from their trip,” explained one hotel group.

Another resort explained that the offer applied only to Influenza A-H1N1 and that guests “…must provide positive blood results, taken within five days of departure from the resort in addition to the certification of the doctor who performed the test in order to redeem the three free stays.”

“The guest must also not have been previously diagnosed with Influenza A-H1N1 prior to their stay,” they added.

No word as to whether the offer also applies to people who don’t wash their hands,  get enough sleep, eat properly, sneeze without covering their mouths…or don’t listen to their mothers!

Post by: Simon Vaughan © 2009

Photo by: Cancun Convention and Visitors Bureau