Monday, December 13, 2010

Don't get hurt in Laos, they'll chop your leg off

"It's the buffalo whisper," travel companion Jenny appropriately said quietly pointing to a middle-aged, sun-bleached blonde man, who tens and tens of minutes before was in the Nam Song tripping his nuts off on an untold cocktail of drugs and lao lao and communicating with a herd of massive water buffalo.

This, a few inebriated slips and tell-tale crutches and bandaged ankles in town were miraculously all we witnessed while passing through Vang Vieng, Laos, a town made over into a backpacker destination for its tubing and renowned for its scale of partying, death and drugs.

Accidents are also very frequent.

Two weeks before my first lap through VV, a tuber died after hitting the bottom of the river after plunging face first from a slide. A few days before my second visit, a girl broke her leg in six places. Since Laos lacks adequate or any, really, decent hospitals, her leg wasn't set and placed in a cast, but amputated above the highest break.

The stories, rumours and quickly issued warnings about the river's appetite for turned ankles, broken bones and lives lost too early were sobering reminders that too much fun is possible and excess is capable of extinguishing.

Gemma, Jenny and I made a sober pact that we were to mind one another and absolutely not allow each other onto the dodgy swinging trapeze, crudely engineered flying fox or fourth-grade-science-project slides.

Learning upon arrival at the launching point that tubes had to be hired from the cartel in town, we were limited to stopping at makeshift bars we could walk to. This didn't prove to be a problem as we quickly found ourselves at the bottom of another lao lao bucket and not an early grave on the Nam Song,

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