Laos river tubing, turbulent waters

Crowds of tourists wait to go tubing in Vang Vien – SOURCE :

While most visitors leave Vang Vieng with nothing more serious than a hangover, the once tranquil setting in Laos is now a craze of river tubing and riverside bars, making this latest ‘must do’ activity also the most dangerous place in Laos for travellers.

To many adventurous travellers visiting Laos, a highlight would be floating down the Nam Song River on a tractor tyre inner tube, while riverside bars serve just about any alcoholic beverage you please.

In the past month, two Australian travellers have died while ‘tubing’ in Vang Vieng, with reports at the time counting at least 22 deaths in the river last year. These recent deaths have sparked concern about the safety of the craze and the impact on the local tourism.

A local organic farmer Thanongsi Sorangkoun told Sydney Morning Herald that tubing was dangerous because everyone goes there and they are drunk, with the unregulated bars “very bad” and a disaster waiting to happen.

"They don’t respect any law, regulations. There’s no inspections, no control. Two years ago it was paradise," Mr Sorangkoun said.

Twenty-three year old Melbourne woman, Brooke Pritchett described her experience after she injured her ankle while jumping off a Tarzanrope and hitting a rock in shallow water while in Vang Vieng on Christmas Day in 2010.

Ms Pritchett said getting medical help proved a nightmare as she was piggybacked by a fellow backpacker up a hill to where a tuk-tuk driver could take the Australian woman to small hospital in town, a 30-minute drive away.

While the recent deaths are being described as a ‘freak accident’, it appears to be more of an accident waiting to happen, with The Department of Foreign Affairs does advise "extreme caution" when undertaking "river-based sporting activities including in Vang Vieng".
Source = e-Travel Blackboard: K.W
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