When we’re away from home, it’s tempting to cut loose and forget our inhibitions. A recent piece in The Guardian UK points out the dangers in partying: Vang Vieng, Laos: the world’s most unlikely party town.
The article explores how the small Lao town has blown up into a hotspot on the Southeast Asia backpacker trail. While revenues and amenities have increased, safety measures have not. The reporter warns of injuries sustained by backpackers who failed to take the proper care.
“Tubing” is a popular pastime in Vang Vieng. This involves riding down the river in an inflatable tube. Along the river are a strip of bars and pubs to cater to thirsty travelers. A quote from the piece is sobering:
Frequent tragedies occur as a result of mixing alcohol with tubing, and other river stunts. Vang Vieng’s tiny hospital recorded 27 tourist deaths in 2011 due to drowning or diving head first into rocks, including that of a 23-year-old Dorset man, Benjamin Light. A senior doctor at the hospital, Dr Chit, says the overall figure is higher because “many fatalities are taken straight to Vientiane”.
The Lao government seems hesitant to confront the issue. The writer mentions that many of the bars are owned by powerful interests who have a strong stake in keeping the tourist dollars flowing. Any bad press could put a damper on that. At the same time, backpackers seem unaware of the potential risks in drinking and tubing.
How do you stay safe while partying abroad? Please share your tips and stories in the comments.