When Travel Destinations gets Trashed and People Die

The headline distressed me.

“22 year old Australian man dies on flying fox in Laos”

I didn’t have to read any more of the article to know what had happened.

Copious amounts of alcohol in Vang Vieng and common sense lost.

Yep.

Confirmed, and I was also shocked to read that 22 people died on this famous river tube pub crawl last year.

river tube swing Vang Vieng Laos
River tube swing Vang Vieng Laos

This should not happen. Travel should not be about going so crazy that you trash a beautiful small river town with Western excess and debauchery, and people die.

I think back to other places I know that have been trashed in the same way. Full Moon parties in Thailand, check- Australian died last year; Muscle Bar at the Running of the Bulls in Pampalona; Kuta Bali;

The Hofbrauhaus Beerfest tent.

Walk into that tent during Beerfest, and then walk into another tent that is mostly filled with Germans and Europeans, and you’ll know what I am talking about.

A lot of my horror comes from the fact that I know a large proportion of the people who trash these places are Australians.

What is wrong with us?

I’ve been to all these places, and I try to cast my mind back to see if I behaved in these appalling ways. I wonder if my horror is merely a result of me being much older and wiser now, a mother with two children, who I like to think has a bit more decorum and respect.

I did get really drunk at Beerfest… I was on a tour group with a bunch of Aussies. I ran into a lot of friends from home. I spent most of my time in the feral beer tent.

Fun at Beerfest
Fun at Munich Beer Fest 1997

We stood around laughing, drinking, dancing on tables and chatting with people from all over the world. Not too bad.

Previous to going, I had heard of the 100 club, a disgusting Beerfest rite of passage for Aussies and Kiwis. You stand around, take a shot of beer every minute for a 100 of them, and if you need to throw up or go to the toilet then you are out.

The problem is that when you are out, you have to lie in the middle of the circle where the judges can serve up punishment. Punishment which usually results in them throwing up on you, pissing on you, or even worse (yes it involves other bodily waste and fluid.)

But don’t worry if you make it through the 100 minutes you can do the same back to the judges.

Are we a nation that is mad?

“There is no way I am going to watch that or participate.” I told my friends. ” I came here to enjoy myself and experience the culture.”

Running of the Bulls, Pampalona

Before going to the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, we heard that the Muscle Bar was the place for Aussies and Kiwis to hang out. We had a big party in the campsite the evening before and meet some cool people who we were going to hang out with for the day.

First stop Muscle Bar.

We grabbed our sangrias and headed out to the square in front of the statue. The place where drunken idiots would climb to the top of the 3 metre high statue. They would point to their equally drunk friends below to catch them as they dived head first into the crowd, hoping they would stop them from falling on the concrete and chards of broken glass.

“You know the Spaniards hate the Aussies here?” a spectator beside me spoke. “They come here and trash their celebration and create accidents and deaths where there should be just dancing and having fun.”

I wanted to be swallowed up by the broken glass.

A young girl climbed up the statue, fist pumping the air with her bravery and pointing to her friends below. Who knows what happened to them when she jumped, because none of them caught her.

A silence transcended over the crowd, as the paramedics, waiting in the wings, pushed their way through. I almost threw up.

“I’m sorry guys, but I can’t stay here. I came here to have fun not to watch people die.”

My friends’ solemn faces spoke their reply as they spun on their heels.

We spent the rest of the day dancing and singing in the back streets with the local Spaniards. It is the best festival I have ever attended.

San Fermin Pampalona
The Running of the Bulls Begins!

Throughout the day, the sirens could be heard racing back and forth from that Muscle Bar and I shrank in shame a little each time at the appalling and disrespectful behaviour of my fellow countrymen.

Full Moon Party, Thailand

I went to the Full Moon party in 99. We danced and drank and had so much fun. It wasn’t as crazy, I don’t believe, as it is now. But the party sure went for a few days.

For some reason it just never entered my head that a sane thing to do would be to go swimming in the ocean or jump off the rocks when I was wasted. Why do some people have these common sense things missing from their brains? People should not be dying in these ways.

From what I’ve heard of Full Moon now I wouldn’t go back again. It sounds like another place that has just been ruined by drunken idiots where too many people die.

Kuta, Bali

I can’t even put into words how I feel about that place now after reading about it on Wandering Earl’s site, “When Tourism Goes Terribly Wrong.”

It was my first overseas holiday; it created an intense desire in me to make travel my lifestyle forever.

And now that feeling has been replaced with horror and the sadness that comes with knowing that we travellers think we own the world and don’t need to respect the culture of the people whose homes we are visiting.

It seems like a lot of Australians have died in Bali lately or been in trouble. Can we please get it into our heads, that taking drugs, buying them or trying to traffic them will land you in a prison in these countries and possibly graciously give you a noose for your neck?

Vang Vieng, Laos

And now Vang Vieng. We loved this place when we first visited in 2006. We spent a lazy day floating down the river on tubes, popping in for a few beers here and there. It seemed pretty sedate and casual.

river tubing vang vieng
River tubing Vang Vieng- Laos

I swung out on a rope, sober, and as soon as I hit the water decided that it probably was not a good idea anymore and would rather sit, relax and enjoy myself.

My life is too precious to cut it short on stupid risks.

I’ve seen recent pictures of the partying in Laos, of people with words like “c**t” and such and such “is gay” and “takes it up the arse,” and “slut” written on their backs. This is not cool or funny or honouring the beauty that lives inside each of us. It’s trash in its purest form.

I value the culture of the land I am visiting, and the beauty of the landscape to trash it with irresponsible, outrageous behaviour. I want to give my country a good name.

It doesn’t mean we can’t have fun. But why do people have to die as a result of fun gone wrong?

All I could think about was that young man’s mother. Now that I am a mother I understand.

being a new mother

To hear that your son’s life was taken while he was out on a river pub crawl having fun and probably not making smart choices. Or, maybe he was, but the area he was in has been so trashed now by travellers that the local people have lost their senses are they are trying to cater to the demand in order to make a living.

It’s not until you create a life that you realize the devastation that can only come when that life you created, the greatest love of your life, is gone. I couldn’t imagine the pain of it. I couldn’t imagine how I could ever survive it.

Sometimes parents have to face the loss of their child overseas while travelling. We lost a friend in a tragic accident in Africa (Strangely enough it was Waz who first told us of Vang Vieng.). His mother took some comfort in knowing that her child was doing what he loved and it was just a tragic accident. Imagine knowing that it was a result of something so avoidable and a result of behaviour spun out of control.

Respect and Have Fun at the Same Time

I don’t think my disgust comes from me just being older and out of touch, I think it comes from me just wanting our society to be better than for a change.

To respect our own lives and that of others around us. We don’t have to trash things to have a good time. We can still get drunk and party and have fun without losing so much control.

To all the young travellers, I say go out and have a ball. Go to festivals, go to parties, drink and be merry. But please be culturally sensitive and make smart choices.

Think of your mothers, who are at home, worried about their babies. Please make choices that don’t risk you losing your own life and destroying that of your parents, who love you more than anything.

You’re too young and life is too beautiful for it to be cut short just in the name of drunken fun.

Have you experienced places that have been trashed in this way before by bad foreigner behaviour?

 

Caz
Caz Makepeace is the co-founder of y Travel Blog and has been traveling the world since 1997, first solo, then with her husband, and now with her two daughters. Get her free email series on the 4 best ways to reduce travel costs. Follow her on Google+

60 Comments on “When Travel Destinations gets Trashed and People Die”

  1. Great read

    I really do think the Gen Y mob try out the boundaries to another level in this day and age, or am I just getting old.

    I see these idiots in a foreign airport and can instantly pick 5-10 Australian blokes on a footy trip and I do everything not to associate with them abroad.

    I do feel for the locals who are left with the mess..

    Jack

    Reply
    • Oh the Aussie male footy trips- stay the hell away! They are some scary and crazy boys right there.

      Reply
  2. I think part of the stupidity of young travelers comes with that feeling of invincibility thinking nothing can happen. Call me a nerd or that annoying kid who always was seeing who was misbehaving but none of this stuff ever appealed to me. I haven’t spent enough examining myself but I was always careful, made smart decisions, and didn’t like to put myself at risk and didn’t want to get in trouble. Some may have called me boring but I never looked at my life that way.

    I read some of the things you are talking about and I hang my head in shame. There is something great about being young but at what expense? Some people are too selfish and stupid and don’t care about anyone else but themselves and their fun.

    Maybe it is just kids being kids or young adults being young adults. However, you allude to the parents back home – maybe (and I don’t really know if this is right or not) we can do a better job as parents to raise responsible, respectful kids who make good decisions and treat other places and cultures respectfully.

    I don’t have the answers here as I really can’t relate to these behaviors at all. Maybe others can and have more insight than me.

    Reply
    • I did read somewhere awhile back that there are studies that prove the ability for people to think about the impact a decision made now may have on their life several years down the track doesn’t actually develop until their early twenties. It was a fascinating study which could definitely account for foolish teenage behaviour.

      BUT, then again there are so many young people who behave sensibly so if they can why can’t others?

      I think it does come back to parents doing a better job, but not always. Sometimes young people are too heavily influenced by their peers.

      That is why I am so happy to travel with my children at such a young age as it will, hopefully become just a natural part of their thinking, to respect and understand other cultures.

      Reply
  3. Anita Mitchell

    I went to the Oxford – Cambridge Boat Race my first year in London and was appalled at how my fellow Kiwis and Aussies had turned something so historical in to just another booze fest. The side of the river between Hammersmith and Ravenscourt Park had beer tents with DJs and the footpath was covered in empty bottles/beer boxes/rubbish bags. No one even watched the boat race! It was embarrassing.

    I have friends who spent their whole two year visa boozed with no money to do any travelling. And not only that, they were boozing in the Walkabout or Redbank (Aussie bars)! What’s the point of travelling all the way to London to drink Kiwi/Aussie beer with other Kiwis/Aussies?? Just stay at home, the weather is nicer and you won’t have to pay for expensive flights!! It’s something I’ve never really understood. Thankfully none of my friends have had alcohol fuelled serious accidents but I have often seen situations where something bad could happen!

    Personally I’m far more interested in learning about a place and it’s culture than getting boozed beyond recognition! Maybe I’m just a nerd like Jeremy :)

    Reply
    • Oh Wow! I had not heard of this one and am so surprised as it always seemed like such a toff event. I had always wanted to go but never made it. So so sad. How could you not watch the race!!

      I used to go to the Walkabout whenever there was a big Aussie sporting match on, but other than that we were mostly going to some great English pubs. And the REdback- I hated that place. As you said why pay all that money and go all that way to hang out with your own kind? Nothing wrong with it either, but if you are going to travel you want to mix it up and meet new people from all around the world and see the area you are in as well. IT’s all about finding the balance.

      Reply
  4. Well, I visited Vang Vieng back in 2001 and there were just a handful of guesthouses and river tubing could only be done if the guy who owned the tubes was not out of town for the day. And every time I read a post or see a tweet about Vang Vieng now, my reaction is similar to yours. I am disgusted.

    Yes, it’s perfectly okay to have a good time and even to party while traveling. But as you said, it all comes down to respect and as the world gets smaller and more and more people are able to travel, respect seems to be a dying concept. I personally cannot understand how anyone can show up in a foreign country and be so selfish as to think that they have the right to do whatever they want, without paying any attention at all to the culture around them.

    And sadly, it doesn’t seem as if the deaths of foreigners overseas makes anyone think twice about participating in the exact same activities.

    Like Jeremy, I have no idea what the answer is either. All I know is that the list of places around the world that I actively avoid is growing, not because I don’t have a desire to explore the culture but because I don’t have a desire to be surrounded by travelers who lack even a drop of respect.

    Reply
    • I so agree Earl and it baffles me. I always see travel as being this amazing journey that opens your mind up to how others live and helps you form connections with strangers who are so vastly different to you, but become a friend in an instant.

      I can’t understand how so many miss this and just use it as an excuse to take advantage and lose all self control. When you think of that beautiful Vang Vieng riverside town, it just breaks your heart to hear how it now is. There are so many places now that I want to run and bubble protect from fear of it being destroyed.

      St Lucia would be one of them!!

      Reply
  5. Well the old saying definitely goes…there’s always a few that spoil it for the many. It’s just sad because they often spoil it for themselves in more ways than one…

    Reply
    • I think you are so right there. It does ruin it for them the most. At the end of the day it all comes back around.

      Reply
  6. We all have moments when we are drunk we would sooner forget or glad we don’t remember, but when people disrespect themselves and other countries it becomes an embarrassing problem. Fortunately, I think most people judge people for who they are not because they have fellow countrymen that are idiots ( and they come from all countries, not just Australia). Good post and a sobering reminder to young travelers to have fun, but stay in control. You are in a foreign country having the time of your life. For god sakes try and remember the good times.

    Reply
    • Exactly! All that money you spent to travel in the first place, you want to remember it. I have gone a little crazy on occassions as well, but I can mostly remember everything, and I know that it has always been filled with laughter and making beautiful friendships with strangers from all over the world. I wouldn’t want it any other way. How could you let death from stupidity tarnish it? I think a lot of the time those who aren’t from the Western World watch us blow through their countries in such disrespectful ways and are so glad that they are not Western.

      Reply
  7. I’m in Kuta, Bali right now and I’ve decided to catch up on some work — it’s just not my cup of tea here. Same with Vang Vieng — I’ve been hearing so many stories since arriving in Asia 7 month ago, that I’m avoiding it all costs. Booze is fine, but not when you’re risking your life.

    Reply
    • Definitely not. I take a sharp intake of breath when I know someone is in Kuta. It’s shameful as to how it now is. I just can’t help but think what must all those who pass through there think of Aussies..

      Shame, it never used to be that bad.

      Reply
      • Okay — I just had to share this one with you. I was out last night for a bit, and when I was walking home around 1 AM, I ran into a crowd of raucous Aussies coming out of a mini market. No biggie, except one girl in the group had an open beer in one hand, and her baby clad in only a diaper in the other. AT ONE O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING!! I nearly swiped the baby and called the police…

        Met some really nice Aussies here too though. But it’s people like her that ruin it for you guys.

        Reply
        • Oh dear. Hiding under the couch in shame. That is so so so bad. That precious little baby.

          I often see fathers picking up their children from school with bourbon and coke cans in their hands (in Oz you can buy them premixed) It always breaks my heart. What chance to those children have- and the vicious cycle continues.

          Reply
  8. Youngsters seem to be pushing the boundaries even more and I think it is the group factor that drives stupid behaviour. If they were traveling solo, or just with one friend then chances are they would not put themselves in life threatening situations. it is the ones they leave behind that I feel sorry for. Knowing that your son/daughter/sister/brother etc died for nothing is heartbreaking

    Reply
    • It frightens me now being a mother, especially to two beautiful girls. I don’t want them growing up feeling like they need to impress a group with crazy antics just to be loved and appreciated.
      We recently had this ridiculous craze sweep through Australia called planking and lots of young men and women died. They would plank on the edge of balcony rails, drunk and then fall to their deaths 10 stories below. All just for a bloody stupid photo. I just don’t get it.

      Reply
  9. Awesome post about a very sad topic, Caz. I am a young traveler that definitely likes to have fun, but I always try to remember BALANCE. It’s one of the most important concepts in life, and especially in travel. Have fun, but don’t go over the top. I agreed with Ted, though; Australians are not the only culprits!

    Reply
    • Balance is definitely the key. I’m definitely a party girl and have had nights I’d rather forget but I’ve still managed to maintain a level of respect and kept the fun to fun only.

      Reply
  10. Such a timely post as more and more of these stories pop up in the news…I hope it makes some people think before they act dangerously. I was at the Running of the Bulls in 2004 and remember seeing people leap off of the very same statue you describe. Pure insanity, and you’re exactly right, it’s not in the spirit of the event at all.
    Traveling does a lot of great things, but it doesn’t make any of us invincible!

    Reply
    • It takes some people a lot longer to lose the superman syndrome. I forgot to add as well that I always hated how girls would run with the bulls at Pamp. I’m not against women being equal or anything like that, but it is a Spanish festival, and by their custom it is a mainly thing to do. Girls are not welcome and it is frowned upon women doing it. I’m sure Spanish women are probably even forbidden.

      I found it so rude and disrespectful that non-Spanish women would run just to try and prove their hero like qualities. It’s about respecting people not getting others to look at how clever you are.

      Reply
  11. Great post Caz. I don’t have much to add really – I generally travel for the scenery rather than the party. Seems odd to me to go a great distance around the world to just repeat in another land what is easy to do at home. Although.. tubing in the UK is a bit colder. My main concern is when my travelling experience is tarnished as a result of the actions of those who have gone before me, where people assume that because I am from Country X that I am going to behave a certain way. :(

    Reply
    • I know I hate that too. I found that a lot with Americans. Whenever we met them on the road, they would start apologizing for being American. It always struck me as being strange and I felt sad that they would feel they had to do that.

      I don’t think I could ever go to Kuta again, from total shame that I would be look at as another disrespectful Aussie.

      Reply
  12. Excellent writing as usual, Caz. You’ve made several excellent points here. Aussies definitely can’t take all of the blame because I know my fellow Americans are pretty terrible with things like this as well. I’m all for going out, drinking and having fun, whether at home or in a foreign country, but clearly the whole “moderation is key” concept is lost on some.

    Reply
    • Maybe the moderation idea is just fading out and people don’t understand the concept anymore- and respect is definitely a dying art too. Sigh

      Reply
  13. Caz, I am completely with you on this and glad someone finally wrote about it. I have specifically avoided places like this in my travels. I cannot count the number of times other travelers have tried to peer-pressure me into drinking more or going to places I know I won’t enjoy.

    I do not enjoy drinking so much that I do not remember what happened the next day, or worse, make stupid decisions and do things that are unsafe. I certainly enjoy a few beers or glasses of wine during my travels, but travel is not just about drunken partying for me.

    Reply
    • The partying is fun, but not to the extent that it happens in some places. It seems as if more places are getting swiped off the list, and it is a really bad negative reprecussion of travel.

      I’m so glad I was able to enjoy a lot of places before they changed so much.

      Reply
  14. I don’t drink so party spots do not really appeal to me, I also travel for the scenery and for the photographic opportunities. Even here is America, there are spots to avoid because of groups of people acting like they own the world. Shame really.

    Reply
    • I think every country has its place where people act like they own the world- it is so sad.. The world is here to be enjoyed and shared between us all. no one has a stake in anything. It’s up to us all to look after it and each other.

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  15. Brava, Caz! Well said and I totally agree. I’ve been around a while, seen a lot of things and had much fun. But even when things got a little wild and crazy, it never would it occur to me to disrespect or destroy as in the situations you’ve mentioned. I have seen some pretty stupid behavior, but nothing like the 100 Club. Disgusting.

    Reply
    • The 100 club has to top the cake really. The stories I have heard have turned my stomach and I just don’t get why anyone would want to do that or subject themselves to that. You have to think really poorly of yourself and others, it is definitely not what I would call fun, cool or funny.

      I just wonder what is missing from so many people’s thoughts to think it is okay to be disrespectful and trash things. There’s way more than just the alcohol fueling that, because if it were just that then we would all act in that way.

      I think we all need to meditate more :)

      Reply
  16. This is such an interesting and poignant piece. No doubt Americans also fall into the category of being excessively drunk. I have never been to Australia, but wonder if, like here, there’s a different attitude toward drinking than Europe. From a young age in many European countries, it’s acceptable to have alcohol at dinner, but here it’s something hidden away from sight and conversation until you rebel as a teen and start getting shitfaced. There’s no modeling or discussion about appropriate ways to treat and use alcohol and it then becomes synonymous with partying and having fun. It’s almost what you’re expected to do when you want to have a “crazy” time…and it just doesn’t have to be that way. If you have to drink to have a good time, then there’s a much more serious issue there, you know?

    Reply
    • I understand where you are coming from and agree. Europeans do have that more responsible and mature approach to alcohol. I think when you do hide it away there is that human tendency to then want to rebel and go crazy.

      I’ve been thinking about it quite a lot with my children lately and I hope I can teach them that they can have a great time just being themselves and they don’t have to go crazy on the alcohol. Enjoy a drink but don’t rely on it.

      Reply
  17. I am of a nationality generally associated a lot with drinking (Russian). Unfortunately, Russian people are notorious for getting drunk and doing stuff like this. I am ashamed that they earned the whole nation such reputation. Hopefully some of those folks read this thought-provoking article and learn something :)

    Reply
    • I hope so Jane. It’s sad when you see your nation’s reputation tarnished by a a few. Hopefully all the youth of our countries can start raising the bar a little

      Reply
  18. As much as I love Australia and Australians, I make a point of avoiding drunk Aussies on my travels. I heard about the drunk Australian tent at Oktoberfest, and thanked my lucky stars I was there with German friends. There are a fair few drunk Americans out and about–usually the ones in the 18-21 age bracket who can’t drink at home yet and then just go crazy because they can–but Aussies definitely take the cake in the drunk-holidaymaker category. It’s a shame–I’m traveling through Thailand now, and I’m not partying much–but I feel like so many beautiful places have been ruined just to become one big party. Phi Phi is one great example, and I’m not even tempted to go to a Full Moon Party now–it just doesn’t seem safe. Would rather save my pennies and have a fun night out in San Francisco with friends!

    Reply
    • The Australian tent at Oktoberfest was pretty feral. It wasn’t too bad though, most people were just drunk and happy, There wasn’t a lot of rude obnoxious behaviour. IT was at the campgrounds before it where the disgusting 100 club was. Actually I probably didn’t make that clear enough in the post.

      I forgot about Phi Phi. I’ve only been there once in 2002 for our honeymoon and it was just a big party then, I can only imagine now. Shame that so many places have been ruined, and I love Thailand so much. I’d say save your pennies. Full Moon used to be on my list of things you should do before you die, but now it just seems to have lost its allure.

      Reply
  19. Hi Caz,

    As a fellow Aussie I can understand completely where you’re coming from. I often cringe when I come across yobbos, especially in South-East Asia. I went tubing just a few months ago, and didn’t really notice any overly badly behaved Aussies – all nationalities contributed to the mayhem that day!

    I’ve got a bit of a theory about why things get out of hand, would be interested to know your view: http://www.imnothome.com/featured/tubing_death/

    Cheers

    Reply
    • Thanks MAddy and for sharing your post. I enjoyed reading it and hearing your thoughts. Totally agree on so many of them, but I think we need to do a better job of respecting the local country in our quest to be liberated.

      Reply
  20. Sad. Whenever I see an injured traveler walking around anywhere in Southeast Asia I think to myself, “probably another casualty of Vang Vieng”.

    I agree, it’s possible to have fun while being respectful of a destination, its people, and yourself.

    Reply
    • Yep. Just heard today that another Aussie died there this week. That is three in a month. Terrible. This one though was found dead in his room and his Dutch girlfriend is missing. I can’t believe how out of control this place seems to have gotten.

      Reply
  21. Great read Caz, I couldn’t agree more with some of your points…Add Ios to the list of feral destinations! I now prefer places like Bangladesh, at least you wont have problems with alcohol abuse there. I recently travelled to North Korea, it was amusing to see some people getting smashed there, I had to leave the hotel bar a few times, because I was worried what the authorities would do.

    Reply
    • Ios was madness when I was there in 97. GREAT fun, but. There wasn’t too many bad things happening just a lot of drunk people. I have heard about how much South Koreans drink. I would be very nervous getting smashed in North Korea as well. Must have been a great experience going there.

      Reply
  22. [...] stop, on yTravel Blog, When Travel Destinations gets Trashed and People Die. Around the time I first started Runaway Juno, one of the post I wanted to do was about how [...]

    Reply
  23. You make some great points here about travel and being responsible no matter you nationality. Having studied abroad from about 18-22 years old, I think a lot of Americans go crazy abroad mostly because they can’t drink in the U.S. at these ages. I went to La Tomatina a few years ago, mostly surrounded by Australians. I did see a girl getting carried away. Those crowded atmospheres are never a good recipe if you’re drunk.

    Reply
    • A dangerous mix. I think there needs to be less of a focus on creating rules in our society and more on raising responsible children

      Reply
  24. I was in Vang Vieng a few months ago, simply because it was a good place to stop to break up the long journey from Vientiane to Luang Prabang. The traveler I was with was also early 30s like me, and she had no desire to get trashed in Vang Vieng. We did go tubing, sober, and a little earlier than the party crowd came out. We saw the younger travelers walking around all afternoon/evening in their bikinis with stuff written on their arms, and I was pretty disgusted too. I think it’s partly an age thing. Most backpackers tend to be early 20s and still think they’re invincible, so even though many have died before them, they think it will never happen to them. That of course doesn’t take into account the lack of respect for the culture though. I’m not sure what the solution is, but it all makes me weary of traveling to certain places people rave about.

    Reply
    • Yes, I think it could be an age thing which makes me feel old. I mean I used to party like there was no tomorrow, but I still held my respect. I’m not sure why a lot of the young uns these days can’t. It makes me a little frightened about what the world will be like in twenty years. But maybe they will learn along the journey of life.

      I think if you want to go to places like this you have to do what you did, go a little earlier and just stay clear of those areas that get a little crazy.

      Reply
  25. Global Visas Complaints

    I was in Malta last month. I travel a lot and have realized one thing that accidents occur all the time and there are few destinations which are risky to travel but taking precautions can minimize a lot of risks.

    Reply
  26. Hi Caz
    The story about the tragedy in Vang Vieng is so sad for many reasons. Obviously for the terrible loss of life but also because of what has happened to the town itself. I was there in 2000 and while there were backpackers it was this sleepy little town where people would gather at the river in the afternoons. Kids would play and there were a scattering of laid back places you can have a quiet drink. I have a beautiful peaceful sunset shot taken there. Now it’s party-ville and people are dying. I remember going to the caves and crawling around on my hands at one point. There was only my friends in there at the time, I am sure it’s totally different now. Such a shame.
    As you mentioned his poor family.
    Cheers
    Thea

    Reply
    • Wow it would have been awesome in 2000. It was so different just in 06. As you said such a pretty sleepy town and now it is something so different. REally sad. I guess that is one of the negative impacts of travel

      Reply
  27. We went to Tomatina this past summer and saw some similar insanity with the drinking and the climbing on things. I can’t think of any specific incidents, but definitely a lot of the people there were Aussies.

    From what I have read, beer is quite expensive in Australia, so maybe it has some roots in economics to drink so much when it is cheaper. As you mentioned in a comment above, the “risk association” part of the brain does indeed develop in the mid twenties. I would guess it is different times in different people and to different effects. For me it ended up in panic attacks. But anyway, before that time the thought process doesn’t seem to go beyond the next action. Even so, some restraint should be learned.

    That thing about Beerfest is interesting. Is that Munich Oktoberfest, or something else?

    Reply
    • For some reason I have only just seen this comment now!

      That was Munich Oktoberfest. It used to be held in one of the campsites that was frequented by Aussies and Kiwis. It could possibly be no more. I hope so!

      The price of alcohol is ridiculous in Australia, but it doesn’t stop people from drinking copious amounts and going crazy. Maybe it has something to do with convict roots? Just a thought

      Reply
  28. Great post! Vang Vieng has been on and off my places to go list. I have wondered if I was a little too old and frankly, bored with drunks. It’s nice to know that not everyone goes there to act idiotic.

    Reply
  29. Great post, Caz! I think it’s important to try to experience the culture you’re visiting…. not just the place, the lax safety regulations or the cheap beer or drugs. You’ll inevitably bring your own culture into it a bit, but realize what it is you came for and be a part of that.
    Amy recently posted..It’s All Greek To Me- Travelling in the Land of the Gods
    Amy recently posted..It’s All Greek To Me- Travelling in the Land of the Gods

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  30. Just seen this post after writing about our experience rescuing a drunk Danish girl who passed out on the river. (below)

    It seems to have changed a little bit for the better but some of the terrible decision making remains.
    Lee Carter @ Global Goose recently posted..Tubing In Vang Vieng, Laos and the Dangers of Traveller Stupidity
    Lee Carter @ Global Goose recently posted..Tubing In Vang Vieng, Laos and the Dangers of Traveller Stupidity

    Reply
    • So scary Lee, especially seeing that picture of her slumped in the tube.

      I had heard that the dangerous rope swings etc had been taken down. Still people need to go easy on the alcohol. Mixing it with bodies of water is never a good idea.

      I much better like your way of doing it. A few drinks and relaxed conversations and gentle floating. Far more memorable. It is such a beautiful place why miss out on it for the booze

      Reply
  31. Gahh isn’t it awful. I feel the same about Vang Vieng, we had such a lovely relaxed time when we were there but we could just imagine it getting out of control. We met a Swedish Dive instructor in Koh Tao who told us he never wants to go to Australia even though the diving would be great because there are too many Aussies there…. The Aussies on Koh Tao have given him such a bad impression he never wants to visit our country. How embarrassing is that!

    The other story that horrifies me about Oktoberfest is that apparently every year at least one person dies by peeing off a bridge onto a power line and being electrocuted. Imagine being the mother of that person!

    I really, really hope the image of Australia overseas gets better….
    Trudy recently posted..Vancouver – walking the Seawall and strolling through Stanley Park
    Trudy recently posted..Vancouver – walking the Seawall and strolling through Stanley Park

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    • That breaks my heart to hear the bad impression so many people have of Australians and it is such a small minority of our culture. It’s probably something Tourism Australia should listen to as they are wondering why their tourist numbers are low!! Maybe then the government might install better programs to teach our children respect and responsbility instead of creating too many rules–rules that make us all go crazy when we go overseas and finally have a much longer rope to play with.

      Reply
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