Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Scams and warnings

Some recent scams and warnings from Lonely Planet

The first night I arrived in Vientiane I was walking down the street with two girl friends. We were across the street from the mekong, near a seated police officer, in a well-lit, well-traveled area. These conditions, along with the consensus suggesting how safe Laos is, lulled us into believing all was well. However, a man came running up behind us, grabbed my camera case, and struggled with me for it until the strap broke and he ran off with his prize. I screamed, but absolutely no one came to help, not even the seated police officer. My arm was hurt, scraped, bruised and swollen from the struggle, and so we went into a restaurant to recover. There we were informed that the number of attacks against women is growing tremendously along with the use of amphetamines. Every day since I have met one farang woman who has experienced a purse snatching on the same road near the river.

On the same note, one of my travelling companions, the same night I was mugged, had a man break into his hotel room at 3 am while he was sleeping. Fortunately it happened to a man big enough to shove the intruder out and barricade himself against further attack.
I'm afraid too many tourists go about here with a false sense of security. I think a more serious warning about the disintegrating situation in the capital would do some good.

Kathleen Ellen, USA (Sep 05)

I would like to let young people travelling know of the dangers of swimming in rivers and waterfalls. My daughter Mia-Lucy Rose died whilst swimming in the Li-Phi water fall on Don Det, 4000 islands, in Laos. A strong current took her legs from under her and swept over the water fall, it was three days before we found her body. There were several people swimming in the same pool as Mia There are no danger or warning signs about the water and this island is very popular with travellers from all around the world. Mia is the fourth person to die in this way at the same spot. Apparently there was a message written in German (a paper note covered in plastic pinned to a tree) giving warning as a young man had died there recently.
Pauline Rose, UK (Aug 05)

For the benefit of future travellers we want to bring to your attention our bad experience with crossing the Laos-Cambodia border. There are 2 options for crossing the border and heading to Stung-Treng: pick-up truck/ bus or speed boat (the option we chose). After talking to the driver we agreed to pay 15 $ for the trip. After stamping the passports at the Cambodia immigration post and 5 minuets crossing ... the boat engine conveniently broke down in front of the driver's village.(not the usual route we learned after). 10 minutes after we got stuck, a friend of the driver came and offered to take us for 60$. We asked him to take us back to the border (we were stuck in the village with no other transport) in the hope of finding another boat for a regular price. Eventually two of our company took a small motor-boat with one of the fisherman back to the boarder. When the boat drivers found out about our plan him immediately phoned someone. When the two arrived at the border the prices were all 50-100$. The drivers also told them that they know about our "situation". In the end we were forced to pay the money. Please warn future travellers in your next edition. Even if the all scam hadn't occurred, we would have preferred to take the bus over the dangerous boat.
Ariel, Yuval, Moshe and Mayan, Israel (May 05)

I have just recently done the 1 day kayak trip from Vang Vieng to Vientiane in Laos. Here's the heads up; this is potentially dangerous, I noticed you had a tubing warning but the same should be said for kayaking. There is one set of rapids on this trip that is rated as class 3 by the tour companies. I'll confirm it, it definitely is class 3. Inexperienced paddlers should not be on this kind of water in these conditions. The rescue gear carried by the guides is non-existent, life jackets are ill-fitting and sub-standard in quality. Most guides are not trained in river rescue and could not help you if they had to. We scouted this rapid and I saw the reaction of my fellow paddlers when they saw what this rapid looked like. I have paddled water bigger than this at home and I took a step back when I saw this water, and this is the dry season.

I have extensive experience guiding school trips for my school. I have a Swiftwater Rescue course, I'm a Canadian Recreational Canoe Association certified instructor and I have a couple of White-water Canoeing certificates. I would not take a school group on this river, it must be crazy when it is the wet and the river is in flood.

Of course no one backed out of running the rapid because they may not have known the danger, and of course there is the "macho factor" as well. It was a great day I thoroughly enjoyed myself and no one got hurt. Travellers need to think big picture with these trips. If something happens on this river there is no Emergency Response team that will airlift you out of there. At home when we do these trips we expect a certain standard of care, in fact we probably don't even think about it, we just assume it's there. We assume the guides are trained and qualified, and the gear is top notch. This same standard of care just doesn't exist for this trip so travellers need to be advised of what they are potentially getting into.
Trevor Hale, Canada (Mar 05)

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