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- By Amelia Harris
- From: Herald Sun
- February 10, 2012 1:22AM
IT’S a laidback lifestyle attracting adventurous Aussies, but it can be lethal.
The Department of Foreign Affairs estimates about 30,000 Australians visit Laos each year and the death of three in a month has put the South-East Asian nation in the headlines.
One recently returned Melburnian, who didn’t want to be named, said Aussies loved Laos because drugs were plentiful and cheap, and booze came in buckets at tubing town Vang Vieng.
Tubing, in the Laotian sense, means floating down a river in a tyre tube, going from bar to bar.
Public servant Debbie Young said she and her husband weren’t out to party when they went to Laos as part of their recent honeymoon, but plenty of others were.
“Vang Vieng is like Thailand is, just pretty much bars, places you can get food and Aussies,” said Mrs Young, 34.
“There were groups of people there at two or three in the afternoon who were absolutely slaughtered. (Others) said they were on acid and smoking opium.”
Monash University student Ben Pollard, who returned from a five-week trip to Laos, Thailand and Cambodia last Saturday, said the death of Sydney man Lee Hudswell a few days beforehand didn’t put him and girlfriend Holly off tubing.
“People we’d spoken to in guesthouses were saying if you’re sensible and you don’t get s…-faced you’re going to be fine,” said Mr Pollard, 24.
“A lot of menu signboards in the street had happy this and happy that, meaning the food had marijuana in it.”
Intrepid Travel managing director Geoff Manchester said 200-300 travellers went to Laos in 1993 when the company started tours there.
They took 1500 Australians last year.
“I think most younger people who have got friends who are backpackers would know someone who has been,” Mr Manchester said.
“It is a pretty amazing country to see because it’s very different from the rest of Asia in that it’s only got a small population, nearly the whole country is mountainous and it’s much less developed than the other ones.”
Travel to Laos has the lowest DFAT travel warning, encouraging Aussies to exercise normal safety precautions.