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In Laos, tubing can be deadly

Two Australian tourists turned up dead in Laos this month.
Laos vang vieng inner tube 2012 01 25Enlarge
Deflated inner tube. (David McNew/Getty Images)

A teenager from Melbourne was on vacation in Laos when he did what most backpackers do. Flung himself into an inner tube in the town of Vang Vieng and went sailing down the Nam Som River.

Nestled amid jagged karst mountains, Vang Vieng has become something of a backpacker mecca. As Laos has opened its doors to tourists in recent years, Vang Vieng has gained a reputation for drinks by the river and tubing fun.

And now it is gaining a reputation for something else.

Daniel Eimutis, 19, was reported missing in Vang Vieng on Monday, when he didn't show up at his guest house after going tubing. His body was found Tuesday, an apparent drowning.

Another Australian tourist, 26-year-old Lee Hadswell, died in Laos earlier this month, Jan. 10. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that he leapt into the river from a zip line and landed badly. Attempts were made to resuscitate him, but he succumbed to his injuries.

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Buckets of booze but not a lot of first aid. Has this backpacker mecca turned disaster magnet?

It's unclear how many people have died while engaging in reckless and/or drunken tubing (a reporter is actually looking into this now for GlobalPost), but eye witnesses say it is not uncommon to see tourists wandering around Vang Vieng with casts on after tubing accidents.

One eye witness to Hadswell's accident told the Sydney Morning Herald that, last year, Laos saw 22 tubing-related deaths.

And here, one Australian tourist tells about how she badly hurt herself and had a difficult time receiving adequate medical attention.

Jonathan Adams describes the scene along the river for GlobalPost:

Tourists crowd onto trucks that drive them to a spot upriver from the city. By the launch site, hordes of shirtless and bikini-clad Western tourists gyrate to deafening techno music, as others hurtle into the river from rickety wooden platforms three stories high.

Enterprising locals have built riverside bars hawking the national pride, "Beerlao," and jerry-rigged flywires over the river. Lao touts tempt passing inner-tubers by throwing lines at them; if you're thirsty you just grab on and they pull you in.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/the-rice-bowl/laos-vang-vieng-inner-tubing-tourism-southeast-asia