Of Dragons And Beggars

You only go to Komodo Island for one reason: to see the dragons. This guy may look like he’s smiling, but if he bites you there’s a good chance you won’t survive, thanks to the creature’s serrated teeth and some nasty venom conveyed by their bite.

The dragons are found on only a few Indonesian islands, and Komodo Island is the only one that’s a national park, and allows visitors in an organized way. It’s very remote.

See that little dock in the distance? That’s the cruise terminal, such as it is. Obviously a huge ship can’t get in there, so we drop a bunch of small tenders

and bustle ashore.

And speaking of small boats, as soon as we get near the island we are greeted by these kids in boats. At first I think it’s charming. They’re calling out to us continuously, and I imagine they’re welcoming us. But finally I can decipher what they’re saying, over and over, possibly 20-30 times a minute. “Papa, money. Papa, money. Papa, Mom, money please. Ok?” 

I see a couple of items tossed to them, until the captain says it’s not allowed. But why are they begging?

We take a very hot walk, accompanied by park rangers, to see the dragons. They water this spot, making a mud hole where the dragons like to congregate, so that visitors can see them. They make much of keeping us on the path, saying that dragons and even cobras can be anywhere along our trail. But in fact the only place we see the dragons is the spot where they take us.

The rangers and guides stand around vigilantly, holding forked sticks to fend off any marauding dragons.

But in fact the dragons show little to no interest in us.

As we walk back to the ship we come to an area of gift shops, selling an assortment of tacky stuff that’s of no interest to me. However, walking through there almost requires a forked stick to fend off the children.

I didn’t take any pictures of them, because it sickened me. Kids that looked like they ranged in age from four to twelve were begging everywhere. Dozens and dozens of them. A few had some little items to sell, but most just flat out begged, with the most universally pathetic expressions on their faces, coming right up to grab our sleeves. “Papa, money. Mom, money.” I found it horrible. Who taught them to do this, in such a remote place? Why are they asking in English? Do they even have a place to spend money?

And what will happen when they get older? Have we created a whole generation that will grow up to be beggars? If you look around online you’ll see lots of comments about how this is a “must see, once in a lifetime experience.” I’m not so sure about that. I’d rather see the big lizards on YouTube than see a bunch of kids learning to beg as soon as they learn to walk.

I was happy to leave, and I wouldn’t go back. I don’t know what the local culture was before the cruise ships started calling there, but I’m pretty sure we’ve ruined it forever.

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3 Comments on “Of Dragons And Beggars”

  1. Wow, what a bummer of a story. One of my friends, who visited India, said that she was at first compassionate toward the beggars and wanted to give money to them all. But then, because there were so many of them, she became annoyed. And then later, they became invisible to her. I guess it’s the only way to cope.

  2. Heidi Husnak Says:

    I went to Mexico City in the 80’s and lasted less than 24 hours because of the children begging. I hightailed it to Vancouver. Los Angeles had a komodo dragon incident a while back! https://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=93137&page=1

  3. Heidi, I remember that 2001 incident! Maybe Sharon Stone was trying to get rid of her husband because she divorced him two years later. LOL. Here’s another more recent story involving Sharon and a Komodo dragon. https://www.thecut.com/2018/06/sharon-stone-komodo-dragon.html

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