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Vang Vien in Guardian

  • somsai

    Joined Travelfish
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    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/apr/07/vang-vieng-laos-party-town with interviews of some famous personages.

    #1 Posted: 7/4/2012 - 22:49

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  • MADMAC

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    "Vang Vieng natives such as Frichitthavong and Sorangkoun say responsibility lies with the Lao authorities to enforce regulations with regard to problems like noise pollution and wild behaviour, and to improve water safety – all of which wouldn't take much effort."

    But would reduce the number of tourists coming. The more rules you add, the fewer people show up. The fewer people who show up, the less money you make. It's simple math.

    "The Laotian authorities, he adds, do nothing because they have vested interests in the river bars."

    This presupposes that "something should be done". If people want to engage in foolish and risky behavior, they have a right to do so. It's not the job of government to tell people not to engage in dangerous behavior.

    "We believe there are evil spirits in the water because so many young foreigners have died."

    This is hillarious. Yeah, it's the evil spirits. Wouldn't be people engaged in moronic behavior or anything. Nope. This reminds me of the obsessive (and equally stupid) Thai belief in ghosts (not to mention their malevolence). The people aren't dying because they are getting drunk and high and doing foolish things... noooooo it's the evil spirits. Alrighty.

    #2 Posted: 7/4/2012 - 23:52

  • caseyprich

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    27 deaths in 2011 . . . I wonder how that compares to other places

    I skipped VV back in 2008 but since then have seen more and more reports on it (news kinda snowballs like that though as lazy journalists pick up stories from other pages like The Atlantic). When I visited Si Phon Don last year and Tad Lo (along with Mung Ngoi in 2008) I could see the possibility of a party trail forming through Laos up from Siem Reap . . . mostly I've heard that crowd will stick to Cambodia and FMP for now . . . maybe a skip over to Vietnam . . . with any luck VV will simply stay the focus of their "I visited Laos" credibility check-list and they won't venture any further.



    #3 Posted: 8/4/2012 - 00:39

  • somtam2000

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    Thought it was a fair wrap, though I was misquoted a coupla times in that piece - the sub must have had too many buckets before work.

    #4 Posted: 8/4/2012 - 02:42

  • Rufus

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    Mac, you are misinterpreting this one. It is not the evil spirits that are causing the deaths. The dead become the spirits.

    #5 Posted: 8/4/2012 - 05:38

  • neosho

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    The authorities have vested interests in the river bars. Hmmm, sounds like Thailand to me. :)

    #6 Posted: 8/4/2012 - 06:56

  • somsai

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    I've come around to your view Somtam. I dislike towns buried under tourism but party scene tourism has to be the most stomach turning variety. It's been three years now since I've been there, more concerned with parent/teacher conferences and the garden, hope all is well in Bali.

    #7 Posted: 8/4/2012 - 10:51

  • MADMAC

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    "Mac, you are misinterpreting this one. It is not the evil spirits that are causing the deaths. The dead become the spirits."

    Of course - what's the matter with me? How did I miss that one? OK, so the morons think the dead are evil spirits in the river. Whatever. The entire line of thinking is moronic!

    "I dislike towns buried under tourism but party scene tourism has to be the most stomach turning variety."

    Hey, it's a free country, you don't have to go - oh wait you're right, it's not. I forgot for a moment. Why do you hate party scene tourism? I get it that you don't want to play, but does that mean that Daytona beach, Ibiza, Pattaya and so forth should just close down because some people don't like it? If not VV where? If not Daytona where? There's always someone who wants to piss on someone elses parade.

    #8 Posted: 12/4/2012 - 15:06

  • Nokka

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    I broke the long journey from Luang Prabang to Vientiane with a one nighter at Vang Vieng in late 2009. I have to say I found the place truly awful, though perhaps I wasn't the demographic it is aimed at as I was 50 at the time. Its a shame there isn't somewhere nicer to stop off on that long stretch.

    I spoke with some of the kids about the place, both there and in other places, and they generally seemed to love it. They considered it to be a highlight of their time in South East Asia. In the main these were nice enough kids out to have some fun. However, I was left feeling rather depressed that they felt that tramping all over someone else's cultural sensibilities was acceptable. Kids, though huh. I have found it a characteristic of quite a few gap year kids that they haven't really grown up enough to understand fully what 'travelling' is all about. For many that seems to come later. I don't say that in a superior way - maybe at 18 I wasn't that much different.

    Should it be closed down ? Not for us to say really, is it. That's up to the Lao authorities, though this kind of negative publicity can't help its cause. Was it really 27 people killed there last year ? That seems an extraordinarily high number.

    Perhaps part of this is due to western Health and Safety policies. Kids in the west are so wrapped up in cotton wool that they often aren't able to assess risk properly. As soon as they find themselves in a country where people learn from their mistakes, where lots of things are potentially dangerous so best be careful, they just can't cope.

    #9 Posted: 13/4/2012 - 08:22

  • MADMAC

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    "However, I was left feeling rather depressed that they felt that tramping all over someone else's cultural sensibilities was acceptable."

    Nokka, this is part of the arguement I just can't swallow. The environment of VV has slowly but surely been nurtured by the Laos. Not the kids, not evil corporations, but the Laos business owners and Laos government authorities. The ones who aren't interested in the Laos cultural sensibilities are the Laos government authorities and the Laos business owners. That's where the blame begins and ends. They promote it and they profit from it. If you create an environment that caters to this behavior, and then you invite these kids in knowing how they are going to behave - indeed encouraging it. You can't blame the kids for being "culturally insensitive".

    "I have found it a characteristic of quite a few gap year kids that they haven't really grown up enough to understand fully what 'travelling' is all about."

    What is "travelling" about? I don't even like the word. Because again, it takes on an elitist connotation. "Travellers" are tourists. And in the modern day sense, they don't even spend a small percentage of enough time to do anything other than be voyeurs. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as you are self-aware. But a lot of "travellers" are not. They think somehow they are going native, or respecting the local culture (vice party tourists who are crude, crass, uncouth, etc.) but they don't have enough time to even faintly comprehend more than the nonsense they learn from Lonely Planet (which takes the culture of 40 years ago and pretends it's current). These kids are not disrespecting local culture anymore than anyone else. They don't behave like this outside this particular environment. Just like Daytona Beach partygoers don't behave like that when spring break is over. If there is something wrong with VV, that is a reflection on Laos, not the kids.

    Now, that isn't the same thing as not saying they aren't being moronic. They are taking significant risk for insufficient gain - at least in my view. But that's on them. And being moronic is not the same thing as being culturally insensitive. Two completely different things there hombre.

    And lastly, this isn't a "western Kids" thing. Yes, in VV it is, but look at Songkran here? The kids are psychotic (hell half the adults are too) and the death rates are through the roof. Some girl on the back of a pickup (and I am in provincial Thailand where there are very few white guys) flashed her chest to me today. Everyone was drunk - my whole street. A loud roar was rising from the main streets as revelers partied from sun up to sun down. This kind of behavior emerges from time to time with all humans even in SEA.

    #10 Posted: 13/4/2012 - 10:04

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  • chinarocks

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    "Travellers are tourists"

    Not according to G.K. Chesterton, who once said "The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see."

    MADMAC, out of interest, while you call people who travel "voyeurs", how many SE Asian countries other than Thailand, and probably Laos, have you been to and experienced properly? Your tone towards travellers does take on a very patronising tone at times. It is possible to enjoy and "experience", say, Cambodia without being able to speak Khmer or without staying 2 months on a farm in Ratanakiri eating rats for dinner every second day.

    #11 Posted: 13/4/2012 - 10:38

  • MADMAC

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    It is not possible to properly understand a culture without the learning the language. Language is culture. You can see a few interesting things and make a few interesting observations, but that's it. Months are not enough time. Weeks obviously even less so. I have lived in Mukdahan , Thailand for five years. I go to school every week to learn to read, write and speak Thai. I have a lot of Thai friends, and I am still trying to figure out the local culture. I speak, read and write German well, my son is German, and I lived in Germany some 17 years (give or take) and I think I've got the southern Germans pretty much figured out. I was able to figure out the Somalis a lot faster because I am a lot like most of them in a lot of ways (they having a warrior culture). On the other hand, I lived in Haiti for 6 months, and I scraped the surface there. Ditto Bosnia, where I spent a year (Sarajevo is a great place if you get a chance to check it out). So I have no problem with people experiencing tourism in whatever form they desire. That's what free choice is all about. I just object when they start labelling themselves in someway superior or greatly enlightened (not to say Nokka was doing that - he's seems like a good guy). I have experienced these types at Good Mook Cafe here in Mukdahan who have been in Thailand for two weeks and are now trying to tell me what's what. It's impossible to stomach.

    As for definitions you can experience anything in any amount of time. The quesiton is what does that mean? I can say I have experienced Sakhon Nakhon because I drove through the place on the bus. Doesn't mean I know anything about it though. The rub I have is with the sancitmonious types who put themselves on pedalstals and look down upon beach tourists or party tourists or other kinds of tourists. That's why they like a different label - that doesn't use the word tourists. Tourists are hedonists, travellers are enlightened. You know the deal. It's BS. Travellers are tourists by a different name, Mr Chesterton not withstanding.

    #12 Posted: 13/4/2012 - 11:04

  • Nokka

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    Mac, there is some truth in what you say about it being the Lao themselves who have put together what Vang Vieng is. Its difficult to dispute that. I noticed the sign at the place where people get the tubes mentioning that the operation is a co-operative - there were loads and loads of names as joint owners - most of the town probably. Tubing in itself isn't really the problem though. There are also signs in VV asking that tourists respect local sensibilities - to dress appropriately - to show some respect to what is, generally, a modest culture. It seemed to me these were routinely ignored - kids happily wandered around the town shirtless or in bikinis. Hardly a major problem in a western seaside town, of course, but a little disrespectful in Laos when signs ask you not to do that, don't you think ?

    I have no truck with all this 'traveller' bullshit either, by the way. I consider almost everyone to be a tourist. That was the point I was trying to make in my post above. Many consider themselves 'travellers' - yet really they haven't much of a clue. Personally I don't consider anyone a 'traveller' who hasn't even bothered to do sufficient research of where they are visiting to understand what may or may not be culturally acceptable.

    This isn't to say societies should be closed to new cultural norms or see different ways of doing things. All societies need to change constantly and that comes about from new ideas from elsewhere. Where having some drunken foreign imbecile vomiting in your high street fits in with that I'm not so sure though.

    #13 Posted: 13/4/2012 - 11:58

  • MADMAC

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    "Hardly a major problem in a western seaside town, of course, but a little disrespectful in Laos when signs ask you not to do that, don't you think ?"

    Not really. All the cops have to do is enforce it. They don't - why? Because they want the money these kids bring. Everyone wants it. VV brings in tons of money. You can't have it both ways. Party town dragging in the bucks and also culturally sensitive people who are careful not to upset local sensibilities. And everyone knows it. I'm abslutely not sympathetic on any level here.

    Other than that, we pretty much see eye to eye though.

    #14 Posted: 13/4/2012 - 12:21

  • Rufus

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    "If not VV where?"

    I suggest your living room Mac. How about it?

    #15 Posted: 13/4/2012 - 22:25

  • MADMAC

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    Do I get the money Rufus? If yes, my living is currently in disuse and I am sure we can make something happen there.

    Now, if you said my town, I said fine. That will jack up my property value, I can sell off and make more money for a new, better place. Who knows, maybe some of those kids can dance to boot.

    #16 Posted: 13/4/2012 - 22:40

  • SBE

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    Brilliant Rufus! (Went right over his head though I think)

    I'm not sure where you got the idea that MM has extensive knowledge of Thailand and Laos Chinarocks. He lives in Thailand but has done very little traveling there. I think his knowledge of Laos is limited to a few hours in Savannakhet when he was doing a visa run once. He's never even passed through Vang Vieng on a bus and has never done any backpacking.

    So the only way he'd ever get to see the Vang Vieng mob for himself would be for them to show up in his living room. He's no expert, just very loud and opinionated, appears to sit on the computer all day long, waxing lyrical about himself and making disparaging judgmental remarks to other posters who actually do travel in the hope he can get a fight going.

    Sad really, but at least you can safely ignore his posts and know you're won't be missing anything important.

    #17 Posted: 14/4/2012 - 04:29

  • MADMAC

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    Never done any backpaacking? I lived for four years of my life out of a pack - not even a hotel.

    And I am not an expert on Thailand at all. I know Issan well and have spent time in every province but three. Obviously anyone who lives here spends time in Bangkok - you have to for some essentials like visa paperwork.

    And you can't do a visa run in Savanakhet in a couple of hours. Not for a type O. They're overnighters starting in the morning. Come in in the afternoon, and it's two nights.

    And yes, you are free to ignore me (although periodically you find that difficult, for reasons I don't know).

    #18 Posted: 14/4/2012 - 05:59

  • MADMAC

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    Hey Rufus, was there an element there I missed?

    #19 Posted: 14/4/2012 - 06:04

  • Nokka

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    MadMac can be opinionated, sometimes rude, sometimes infuriating and I often don't agree with what he's saying. He loves an argument - no doubt. However, I think he's an invaluable forum member - his opinions are different from many contributors on here, but that makes the forum go round, surely. If we all felt the same way the world would be a less interesting place. Having a contradictory view to someone can help us form our opinions surely.

    I've also learned things I didn't know from Mac. He is one of the few expats on the forum and gives a different perspective to many issues, including often the niceties of Thai society. Its true he comments on places he admits he hasn't been to, but all the same overall he adds a bit of spice to TF. It'd be a shame if he stopped posting on here, or was hounded off, but I doubt that will happen - I'm sure he's got a hide like a rhinocerous.

    Just occasionally though, Mac, admit that you're wrong - like when you're debating with me :)

    #20 Posted: 14/4/2012 - 08:10

  • MADMAC

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    Nokka,
    Indeed, a Rhino ain't got nothing on me.

    SBE doesn't bother me at all. She doesn't know me. Why should I be upset about something someone who has never met me says about me? That would be foolish. She's perfectly entitled to her opinions.

    The ironic thing is, here in Mukdahan, I am considered very polite and very respectful of local culture. Numerous people have told me that. Funny huh?

    #21 Posted: 14/4/2012 - 08:31

  • chinarocks

    Joined Travelfish
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    Should this website be renamed for MADMAC - "issanandimpatronising.org"

    To those of us who have actually travelled and tubed (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) yeah bro!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    #22 Posted: 14/4/2012 - 19:33

  • Rufus

    Joined Travelfish
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    Mac is also biased when he talks about the Indo China war and the reasons behind it. As he was a soldier I guess it is not surprising that his views are one sided and often incorrect as otherwise his raison detre would cease. However I enjoy debating with him and pointing out his errors.

    #23 Posted: 14/4/2012 - 19:46

  • MADMAC

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    Rufus
    Are you telling me that the other side of that coin isn't biased? You know as well as I that the Dong perpetuated that war, and in Laos there would have been no war if there had been no Dong. That particular fact is not disputable. The war in Vietnam itself is more complex than that - I'll grant. But it wasn't America who escalated it. It was again the Dong. Had they stayed north of the DMZ and terminated armed support for the VC we would not have been in Vietnam at all either. I'll grant you that they saw the war in terms of a liberation as well as an idelogical struggle, but in the end it was about the Dong winning and controlling all of Vietnam regardless of the cost. On a wider scale it was about the Soviets (principally) expanding their influence in the world at the expense of the western democracies. Pretending that one side wasn't a superior form of government to the other, and that it was an era in which one had to make a stand, is foolish. That's like saying the US should have simply stayed neutral during WW II by acceding to Japanse demands in the pacific. To look at the situation in 1965 you have to look at the situation in 1950 when the North Koreans crossed the DMZ. This is how South Vietnam looked to us then. The Dong didn't want peace. They wanted victory. The fighting and killing happened because they wanted it to. Why do they get a pass for that?

    And yes, I loathe communism - don't you? It's a failed ideology, and failed for a very good reason. The dictatorship of the proletariat never moves forward after it has cleansed the state of its enemies. It simply remains a dictatorship. Laos thankfully has one of the softer versions, at least you are free to leave if you can find a way to do that. In China today you have to have state permission to leave.

    For the leftist political movements of the 60s, the communist ideal had great appeal. They simply disliked and rejected the human condition as inherently flawed and wanted a utopia. In my view they allowed that desire to cloud their vision and judgement and become unrealistic. Have you ever wondered why all the communes (including the one in striking Bisbee Arizona which I have visited in my travels) are now gone? Well, because living in a commune turned out to be less fun that people thought it would be.

    China - we got to be fair here. I've lived in 7 different countries. Doesn't that constitute a form of travelling? And I've seen as much or more of Issan than anyone else here on travelfish.

    I comment on ideas and places I've been. I do not comment on places I haven't been unless it's to caveat it with "I've heard..." I ask questions about other places.

    I guess my biggest contribution is I've functioned as tour guide to four travelfishers who have come through.

    Stuart is free to chuck me just like he did Bruce. I'm sure that would make SBE happy. Otherwise, the kid will keep posting and people here are free to ignore that or bash it at will. It's all good.

    #24 Posted: 14/4/2012 - 23:53

  • exacto

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    Here's a random comment not intended for anyone in particular.

    I've always thought there is a difference between a debate and a discussion. In a debate, we try to define the terms and talk over the other people to win the arguement. In a discussion, we take the time to ask questions so we can better understand the other's point of view. We don't need to agree, but at least we have the opportunity to seek common ground and maybe even learn something in the process.

    I've always liked discussions better. They go well with a Beer Lao or a glass of bordeaux.

    #25 Posted: 14/4/2012 - 23:58

  • MADMAC

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    Exacto
    I kind of agree with you. But my first post here started when I was in Savankhet and this young backpacker couple verbally assaulted a middle aged gentleman who was with his youngish (25 or so) girlfriend / wife (I wasn't sure). There are certain times when a discussion is a great way to fill an information gap. There are other times though, when that's not the point. The point is to make a point. Those kids were rude and obnoxious to a guy who was minding his own business. On top of that, they were pontificating about "respecting local culture" with a guy who spoke Laos - the language he and his girlfriend were maintaining their dialog in. It was over the top and it got me to thinking about how tourists see this place vice it's reality.
    I was reading a book last year about living in Thailand and blending in (within the limits possible presumably). One of the contributing authors was a woman who was a professor at Hua Hin (who knows, maybe it was SBE). The thing she hated about Thailand was seeing older anglo men with young Asian women. She had a long diatribe about gender inequalities and so forth. But what struck me was the failed to notice (or maybe didn't care?) older Asian women with younger Asian women. I see guys running around with their Mia Nois and "Giks" all the time here. It's normal. These guys are paying these young women for their company, in one way, shape or form. Sometimes it's for a long period of time. Sometimes short. But it's the same dynamic whether or not the guy in question is white or Asian - yet you can bet if those kids in Savanakhet had seen an older Asian guy, vice a white guy, they wouldn't have said a thing. They want to respect local culture. Pretty tough for me to stomach.

    So I guess from my point of view, sometimes it's a discussion - if there isn't already an opinionated focal point which draws people to a debate. This thread, for example, began with an article that was trying t attack an idea - that VV should be closed down as a party destination (although the author isn't so bold as to come out and say that - you got to read between the lines) and should be a peaceful place where people can enjoy it's natural beauty. When the thread begins with one of these ideas being proposed, it's kind of tough to have a discussion since the gauntlett has been thrown down.

    Just like Rufus did by bringing up the war again. He knows I am going to react to that. It's the furtherance of a European leftist ideal - America bad.

    #26 Posted: 15/4/2012 - 00:20

  • caseyprich

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    he said "dong"

    #27 Posted: 15/4/2012 - 01:18

  • caseyprich

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    anyway . . . I think the first time I ever directly interacted on this board it was to talk back to MM, some discussion about bus rides being fun or something like that . . . he is also the only person on this board that I've met, and a friendly host.

    I often try to play the foil on some of his points, but I have to fall slightly on the side of having little sympathy for a local that in the pursuit of the tourist dollar allowed things to get out of hand, and can't find a way out. The only way out of this may be a major clamp-down, the repercussions of which could impact the tourist industry across Laos (if only from word of mouth/press that gives many travelers the sense that the authority is unfriendly to all tourism).

    There was a similar thought on the thread about the village chiefs of Mung Ngoi being upset with what was happening, but I saw it sliding that way 4 years ago (and my other thoughts are posted in that thread). I feel for the people who live in the town, and I have no love for the people behaving like fools, but the locals could always stop serving the buckets of lao-lao for a start.

    #28 Posted: 15/4/2012 - 01:25

  • SBE

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    Or the locals could simply put up the price of a bucket of lao-lao. Fewer sales, same money. I wonder why they haven't done that already?

    #29 Posted: 15/4/2012 - 02:54

  • Nokka

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    This thread was originally about the Guardian article and the fact that 27 deaths were reported in VV apparently. If that figure is true it equates to a death once every 2 weeks or so, which is a huge number. VV gets quite a few tourists, but not THAT many to consider 27 deaths as acceptable. Does anyone know where the journo got this figure from - and is it true ?

    If it is then maybe the Laos Govt should be taking a look at safety standards there. There's a lot of stupid people about, but 27 deaths ???? Poor quality boats in Halong Bay have caused deaths, which hopefully will improve standards. Maybe some improved standards need to happen in VV. I mean - 27 deaths.

    One of the things I like about South East Asia is that you can do things there which you can't at home. It can be a great antidote to what comes over sometimes as the nanny state at home. The downside to that, though, is often it attracts the 'wrong' kind of people, those who wish to do things which are found morally wrong in the West. In addition, we all need to be that little bit more careful in what we do - and how we do it. Assess risk in other words. Sadly, some people don't seem to be very capable of doing that - or assume wrongly that someone else has already thought about the dangers.

    I rather like the image of my local Council's clipboard clutching Health and Safety people taking a look at those bars on the river. They won't even let cleaners use a footstool without having full and proper training.

    #30 Posted: 15/4/2012 - 03:27

  • MADMAC

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    Nokka
    I am profoundly uncomfortable with this idea:

    "The downside to that, though, is often it attracts the 'wrong' kind of people, those who wish to do things which are found morally wrong in the West."

    Your wrong is their right. They find the morals of the west confining and unacceptable.

    I think we can agree that pedophelia is wrong, but after that, I suspect we are going to find our range of right and wrong at with huge gaps.

    The backpacker is the worst kind of tourist from the point of view of the people here. He / she is spendthrift. They spend no money. Your average sex tourist or high end beach tourist drops more in a day than most backpackers spend in a week. Much of that money ends up back home improving the home of the family or buying baby forumla and diapers for the kids. Yet backpackers often think they occupy the pinacle of the tourist hierarchy. In this very concrete sense, they don't. They are the bottom end. The kids going nuts at VV are spending while they do it... big plus for the local economy. When those same kids head to Savanakhet, that becomes a small plus, because they are stayed and the money dries up.

    As for the deaths - nobody cares. I guess that's hard for some people to get their head around. They see this as a "problem" to be fixed (and see government as the agent to fix all social problems). It doesn't occur to them that officialdom in Laos doesn't give a ****. I am a libertarian, and believe people should be allowed to be foolish if they so wish. So I don't give a **** either. If you want to take large risks that's on you. If you can't figure out that there's a lot of risk by just looking at what's going on, that's on you too. The world is a dangerous place.

    SBE
    The market usually optimizes itself. The price range is what the market will bear. I suspect if they raised the price, they would see fewer sales and eventually less profit. But if the flow continues and the market can bear it, the price will climb.

    #31 Posted: 15/4/2012 - 04:41

  • SBE

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    SBE
    The market usually optimizes itself. The price range is what the market will bear.

    Huh? You seriously believe the market wouldn't be able to bear it if drinking water became cheaper than drinking lao-lao??

    #32 Posted: 15/4/2012 - 19:02

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    "Huh? You seriously believe the market wouldn't be able to bear it if drinking water became cheaper than drinking lao-lao??"

    It would bear it for drinking water.

    You got to remmember that the primary market for Lao Cao (which is horrible) is the local market, not the expat or tourist market. And if one shop were to price high (beyond the others) then people would just go to other shops. That's what regulates pricing. So you see small differences between shops (unless you are taking high end catering to rich), larger differences between locals - but if you are a business owner in this kind of business it's easy to price yourself right out of the market.

    #33 Posted: 15/4/2012 - 22:57

  • Rufus

    Joined Travelfish
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    Location Laos
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    " I am a libertarian, and believe people should be allowed to be foolish if they so wish."

    So people should be able to drive cars and ride motorcycles if they are drunk? Fine if they hurt themselves, but what if they injure others.

    Some other random comments:
    " I'll grant. But it wasn't America who escalated it. It was again the Dong. Had they stayed north of the DMZ and terminated armed support for the VC we would not have been in Vietnam at all either."
    Really? What about the clandestine support given to the French? What about the appointment of Ngo Dihn Diem, a puppet, Catholic PM in a country of Buddhists?

    Regarding your comments in another thread about cluster bombs or bombies, (Yes they are colloquially referred to as bombies). Are you aware hat over 90% of the casualties in Xieng Khouan today are a result of cluster bombs of US manufacture? Source MAG Office, Vientiane.
    Regarding carpet bombing:
    Are you aware that in 1969 the findings of a US sub committee headed by Sen Edward Kennedy found that over 400,000 Lao were rendered homeless as a quote "direct result of US bombing". Do you know that n the war's heydays 1000, yes, 1000 bombing missions were launched daily?

    "To look at the situation in 1965 you have to look at the situation in 1950 when the North Koreans crossed the DMZ. This is how South Vietnam looked to us then."

    Yes I agree, that is how it look to the US then. The US did not want to look at it an any other way. I suggest you read Hans Morgenthau on the failure behind the policy of Containment in SEA. The truth is that US foreign policy in the 50's and sixties was dominated by the spectre of McCarthyism on domestic politics and based on incorrect premises. Had the US worked with the Nationalists in Vietnam, Lao etc, then the situation would be quite different today.

    #34 Posted: 16/4/2012 - 00:01

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    "So people should be able to drive cars and ride motorcycles if they are drunk? Fine if they hurt themselves, but what if they injure others."

    What if they drive sober but recklessly? What if they are drunk and get in a fight (many drunks become belligerent). The issue isn't being drunk, the issue is the behavior and it's consequences. What if I am drunk and get in an accident because the other sober guy was reckless (I know of a case just like this in Germany where the drunk driver was not at fault - but of course was cited for driving drunk)? Being drunk isn't the problem, being reckless is. Hence if I am drunk and cause an accident, I am guilty of vehicular homicide. It's simple really.

    "Really? What about the clandestine support given to the French? What about the appointment of Ngo Dihn Diem, a puppet, Catholic PM in a country of Buddhists?"

    The French were done by 54, and we are talking the escalation of 65. So that's not really relevent is it? The support for Diem was simple - the enemy of my enemy is my friend. It's an Arab expression, but a truisim nontheless. Had Uncle Ho not marketted himself as part of a global communist movement (and aligned himself with the CHICOM and Soviet forces), we would not have given a ****.

    Are you aware that in 1969 the findings of a US sub committee headed by Sen Edward Kennedy found that over 400,000 Lao were rendered homeless as a quote "direct result of US bombing".

    Did you know that tens of thousands of Germans were killed in the fire bombing of Dresden? That's killed, not made homeless. Again, we were bombing eastern Laos because of the presence of TEN, count then TEN, Vietnamese divisions. It wasn't just for target practice.

    "Do you know that n the war's heydays 1000, yes, 1000 bombing missions were launched daily? "

    In SEA - not in Laos. Eastern Laos along the trail was used as a dumping ground (and rightly so) when bombers could not, for whatever reason, engage their primary target in Vienam. That just made sense, since we were trying to close down the trail without committing US ground troops.

    Hans Morgenthai is an *******. I have read his slanted work. It's BS

    I say again, the US was the principal power responsible for containment of communism during the cold war. Without the US, it would not have been contained and countries like West Germany, France, Italy and Great Britain would have had Stalins boot right their asses. The war in Vietnam has to be seen in that context.

    It's also important to remmember without US assistance Thailand would have lost it's war against the communist.

    Again, it was THE DONG who bear responsibility for the war in Laos. It's not even debateable.

    #35 Posted: 16/4/2012 - 02:37

  • SBE

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    You got to remmember that the primary market for Lao Cao (which is horrible) is the local market, not the expat or tourist market.

    It's clear you haven't got the faintest clue what you're talking about.

    Tourists are the primary market in Vang Vieng. They outnumber locals by 15 to 1 and they don't buy their buckets in shops either.

    #36 Posted: 16/4/2012 - 03:05

  • Nokka

    Joined Travelfish
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    Location United Kingdom
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    The Vang Vieng story was a main article in yesterday's Sunday Times (UK) Travel section. Again this figure of 27 deaths 'In 2011 27 tourists were pronounced dead at Vang Vieng's tiny hospital, but doctor's say the real number was higher, because other fatalities were registered in Vientiane'. It also mentions the Foreign Office (FCO) has updated its advice to travellers to Laos.

    I guess this could go 2 ways. Either the Lao Govt recognise that they have a duty to protect all its citizens ( and, by extension, guests in the country) and there is a clampdown - or at least a review of safety procedures. There may, in addition, be some diplomatic activity from nations whose kids are dying. Or - nothing happens at all and all this extra free publicity means more people go there to test their bravery floating down a river in a rubber ring, while dead drunk.

    #37 Posted: 16/4/2012 - 04:11

  • somtam2000

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    From memory the 27 figure is a tally of the deaths that have been reported in the foreign media. I'm not sure who came up with it, but I had heard it before Abigail (the author of the Guardian story) repeated it to me on the phone.

    The problem with the figure is it only totals the deaths that have been reported in the foreign media and so is almost without doubt, an understatement. Other accidental deaths, drug overdoses, bike accidents etc and other random stuff don't get the same coverage as 18-year-old killed having fun on the river.

    I've not read all of the above comments (at a glance looks like it skewed off topic for a bit), but regarding what the authorities could "do", I think I've mentioned before.

    * They could stop tires being hired in the afternoon. Reduces volume of people on the river late in the afternoon/early evening

    * The swings which have "caused" fatalities could be removed. No brainer

    * The practise of bar "staff" towing tubers into bars could cease. Reducing the pressure to keep drinking

    * People could be stopped from entering the riverhead after a certain time - say 4pm. Reduces risk of being trashed and disorientated on a river in the dark.

    The above would all be fairly straightforward to setup and wouldn't have a huge effect on the fun people are having, but it would introduce a modicum of safety to what is happening at the moment.

    I do think the foreign media will continue to beat the drum -- I've been contacted be another media organisation since the Guardian story (which ran in a modified format in the Sydney Morning Herald, Age and (I think) SCMP) also keen to get up there and cover it -- as the deaths continue, so will the coverage -- and at some stage, sooner or later, some base safety measures will be introduced.

    Cheers

    #38 Posted: 16/4/2012 - 08:27

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    SBE
    "It's clear you haven't got the faintest clue what you're talking about."

    When Casey mentioned this, he was talking about Mung Noi - I guess that went over your head.

    I was talking about the market for the product in general, vice the market for the product in VV. Obviously that went over your head as well. The primary consumer for Lao Cao is Southeast Asian, not tourist. In my wife's village it is consumed in large quantities daily, and I dare say throughout the region.

    In VV if one outlett were to significantly raise prices, they would lose business to those who maintain lower prices. Internal competetion is going what keeps the prices down. A gradual increase, however, is inevitable. But if the prices of everything in general rapidly rose, there is a chance you lose your market. Global comparisons, however, bode well for an eventual increase in pricing to the benefit of the businesses in VV. Name Cachet and an established customer reputation will often allow momentum to be maintained in spite of pricing increases when this increase is a gradual process. Rapid, overnight increases are noticed by the consumers, however, and that can negatively impact an area (just as additional regulation can).

    Stuart,
    The kind of measures that you recommend all will have a negative impact on cash being spent and start out with the basic premise that the Laos authorities care. If they care, they are awfully slow to demonstrate it. They like the fact that VV drags kids into the country to spend money (and almost no one goes soley to VV - or if they do they stay there a fair amount of time. VV's spin off effect is doubtless a cash maker for other locals in Laos). Again, there is a dominant western idea floatring through this thread that says this should be a more controlled environment to ensure the safety of the participants. But the whole reason the participants come is because it's uncontrolled.

    I was having a conversation with a young kid last night who teaches at Mukdahan school. Nice kid from New York. And he said to me: "People back home think they are free. But there are rules for everything. I have much more personal freedom in Thailand than I do in the US (I told him he ought to go to Germany if he wants to see regulation). " The number one reason I enjoy living here is I have a lot of personal freedom. We modified our house after we bought it - I didn't need permission from the city. We opened a business out front - I didn't need permission and don't need to maintain docuementation. I cross the street where I want. etc. etc. etc. For some people the danger inherent in such a society (like Rufus' example of driving while drunk - almost all drivers here after ten at night are drunk) is an ill that should be corrected. For me it's a risk inherent in a free society. The more free it is, the more risk there is as people abuse their personal freedoms.

    Most people tend to think that the social structures extent when they grew up are optimal or normal - unless those strcutures were so oppressive that such an orientation is difficult (mind you not impossible. There are still unreconstructed Soviets who pine for the "good ol days"). I come from a libertarian tradition, which probably explains why this area appeals to me so much. Europe does not have this tradition, which explains why Rufus does not find it appealing. There will always be outliers, but I think in general you will find these observations to be pretty accurrate. We deride the Nanny state, but state regulation of risk in VV would be a classic example of it.

    #39 Posted: 17/4/2012 - 00:47

  • Nokka

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    I get your point, Mac, but I think you're taking it a bit far. Of course there has to be some form of regulation in place if things are inherently dangerous and the numbers of people dying or having very bad accidents is unacceptable. Otherwise we get total chaos and all sorts of products and services available which are completely unsafe. You ride a bike, I believe - I'm sure you don't want one where there's a possibility the wheels fall off at any time ? Or maybe you do, I dunno.

    Stuart's suggestions may make some sense. I doubt better safety will radically change the numbers of people going to VV. I think really what most young people want is the feeling that something is quite risky, but actually isn't. Otherwise we'd see a whole load of bungee jumping places open where the risk of the the rope snapping is high. If people really did like a lot of risk there'd be a long queue at those places - and nobody at those where the ropes don't snap.

    #40 Posted: 17/4/2012 - 06:27

  • 9preciousGe-
    ms

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    Is it still worth visiting Vang Vieng ie can you still visit and ignore the tubing and explore the area/landscape on moutnain bike?

    #41 Posted: 17/4/2012 - 07:56

  • eastwest

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    @ Mac. You're taking it all into the very abstract. Try to imagine your son going to VV and having an accident. I hope it never occurs but would you just say "oh well, he was silly but that was always the risk and the price of freedom"? Young adolescents need some guidance, especially when it concerns safety.

    Anyway, with all the attention going on and that death rate, I think it won't be long until governments start threatening Laos with a negative travel advice unless they will put in safety measures and regulations.

    #42 Posted: 17/4/2012 - 08:17

  • chinarocks

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 684

    @ Mac. You're taking it all into the very abstract. Try to imagine your son going to VV and having an accident. I hope it never occurs but would you just say "oh well, he was silly but that was always the risk and the price of freedom"? Young adolescents need some guidance, especially when it concerns safety.

    Anyway, with all the attention going on and that death rate, I think it won't be long until governments start threatening Laos with a negative travel advice unless they will put in safety measures and regulations.

    The most sensible thing said throughout this thread.

    #43 Posted: 17/4/2012 - 08:38

  • MADMAC

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    Eastwest
    I understand that it's tragic for those families involved. But I also understand that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. If I wanted to live in Germany, I'd live in Germany. It's as if people want to see all risk removed from life and everything is a controlled environment. I don't want to live like that and I don't want SEA to become that either.

    I noticed this at the public swimming pool in Mukdahan two weeks ago when I went swimming with my daughter. The kids were running around and there was no lifeguard. No whistles blowing. No suntanned kid saying "Stop doing that" "Get off that" - it was up to the parents to deal with that. I was with my daughter the whole time watching out for her safety because that's a parents job - not the cities job, not the swimming pools job, the parents job. We played and had a ton of fun without someone telling us what to do. That's how I want to live. If you want a controlled environment, stay in Europe or the US or Australia.

    My son is more responsible than I am, so I don't worry about him doing foolish things like getting drunk and going diving. But my son, too, hates the Nanny state.

    You can't have it both ways - nice and safe and still free to cut loose. It's one or the other.

    #44 Posted: 17/4/2012 - 13:37

  • stefanw

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    The reason people go to VV is so they can get smashed and they jump into the river. They don't want to to just one of those because that can be done anywhere else in the world. The attraction is the ability to drink and then get it the water.

    I can guarantee that any other country with reasonable safety measures wouldn't serve alcohol (and encourage heavy consumption of it) at a tubing venue. That is what is making VV unsafe and why people are dying. It's not that the tubing is so ridiculously unsafe.

    Unless they only allow sober people to go tubing there will be a lot of deaths, but that will never happen and shouldn't happen. It's hard to make things a lot safer without affecting the experience. The experience currently offered brings in the crowds and to be honest with the amount of drunken stupidity that goes on I'm surprised there isn't more deaths.

    #45 Posted: 17/4/2012 - 17:20

  • caseyprich

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    As someone who has been tubing and canoeing on Michigan rivers since I was a teen I take umbrage to the statement, "Unless they only allow sober people to go tubing there will be a lot of deaths." In Michigan it is common cause to tube down a river with your wasted friends and colleagues on a sunny Saturday, one or two tubes being specifically set aside as cooler transporters. We make a big fuss whenever someone dies in Western Michigan, not much happens there, and I can't remember the last time I heard about a tubing related death. Mind you, the ripcurrent on the Lake takes a number of lives each year. I think it must be all these Europeans and Aussies who were the ones telling me a bout the "cool tubing in VV" when I was in Laos . . as it didn't sound like anything new or exciting to me. (just picking on nationalities for fun, don't take too much offense).

    That said, I agree with stefanw's final statement that this is what is bringing in the crowds and has made VV a destination and not just an overnight stop between Vientiane and Luang Prabang (if it would even be much of that for most of these people who would probably just push right on between the two with no stop if not for the reputation as a party post).

    I think the big surge in the number of backpackers that have begun to add Laos to their itinerary instead of skipping it for the usual Thai-Cambodia-Vietnam only adventure has been partially (if not in large part) because of 4,000 Islands and Vang Vieng. Luckily they are near the fringes of the country and many just dip in to get the passport stamp and dip in to the rivers for a couple nights, then head back out.

    #46 Posted: 17/4/2012 - 20:27

  • stefanw

    Joined Travelfish
    10th December, 2010
    Posts: 50

    I don't think is is the tubing that actually kills people. They don't die while floating down the river. They die when the go down slides, fly off ziplines etc. I can't see the Laos authorities and/or businesses getting rid of these or slowing down the building of bigger, better ones.

    On a side note, does anyone actually know what the atmosphere amongst the other travellers is like in VV when there is a death. Is it "that could have been me" or "pfff that won't happen to me"?

    #47 Posted: 18/4/2012 - 02:13

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