DRUGS, alcohol, drink spiking, scams, assaults and even death. Despite being touted as must-see places during an itinerary in Asia, the following notorious party places are where many backpackers have also gone adrift.
Vang Vieng, Laos
The beautiful riverside village of Laos is often a highlight for travellers to Laos. Tranquil and peaceful it is no longer, however, due to the number of party bars along the river and the incidents of theft, and even death, in and around town. At least five people have died on the river thanks mostly to accidents involving drugs or alcohol.
Australia’s Today Tonight outlined a lot of the dangers in this 15 minute piece. And this video, put together by backpackers, outlines the dangers of tubing on the river and some practical steps to enjoy it but have a good time.
Koh Pha Ngan Full Moon Party, Thailand
The full moon party on this island in the Gulf of Thailand is suitably famous and has been for a long time. The island was also in Alex Garland’s 1996 novel The Beach.
The monthly dance party can attract anywhere from 10,000 to 25,000 party goers on Haad Rin Nok Beach and that in itself can spell trouble with the presence of drugs and alcohol, scams, fights, robberies and even assaults. There are also some dangerous activities like fire skipping ropes and the use of alcohol buckets. The police presence has been stepped up in recent years in relation to these things and there are road blocks with stop and search procedures and undercover police who patrol the party.
While the Full Moon Party remains a must stop on an itinerary in Asia, some governments now warn tourists to be careful when attending. This article in the Sunday Telegraph outlined some of the risks.
In recent years the beautiful village of Pai in northern Thailand’s Mae Hong Son Province has become a popular tourist destination. Nowadays the town relies heavily on tourism and is full of guesthouses and restaurants. Tourists come to enjoy the laid back atmosphere and nearby waterfalls and hot springs.
However the increasing number of tourists renting and riding motorbikes has led to an escalation in the number of accidents. According to livingthai.org Pai is the most dangerous place to ride a motorbike in the country with 250 accidents a year.
In recent years there have also been some policing issues in Pai. Police have stepped up the enforcement of closing-time laws, attempted to clean up the drug trade and other safety issues in town. However there were allegations that some of these measures were illegal and heavy handed.
In 2008 Pai even made international news when an off-duty police officer shot and killed a Canadian tourist and wounded a second. An eyewitness said the officer was drunk at the time, police accounts were very different.
Bali has become another trouble spot for people looking for a good time. There have been numerous cases of foreigners convicted of drug possession or trafficking ending up in jail or worse (Indonesia carries the drug penalty). Recently an Australian teenager spent several months in jail for drug possession.
Foreigners have also been targeted in terrorist attacks in Bali’s nightspots around Kuta beach. More than 200 people died in a 2002 bombing and another 20 in 2005.
Motorbike accidents are also high on the island. According to Yahoo News last year there were some 5,400 traffic accident victims of which 200 died. Fifteen percent were not wearing helmets.
Australian schoolies, teens celebrating the end of their school education, are starting to choose Bali as a popular destination for the weeklong bash. However access to drugs, prostitution and alcohol is far more relaxed in Bali and the outcome is often reckless hedonism at best. Today Tonight carried this report.
Goa has long been a draw card for travellers and has something of a hippie reputation, particularly around Anjuna.
Drug overdoses, rapes and assaults, excess alcohol, spiked drinks, drownings and motorbike accidents are just some of the problems tourists face here. There are also those strong currents in the beautiful Arabian sea to contend with.
Some reports have dubbed Goa the most dangerous state in India for foreigners. According to the Times of India, one foreign tourist on average has died per week for the last three years in India. Of the 161 deaths, 16 died from motor vehicle accidents, 15 were from natural causes but most were from alleged drug overdoses.
See this report on rapes from the BBC, although it does date back to 2008.