August 2008

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the mother of the Australian tourist lost for 11 days in Khammouane province, Laos, was chased by giant lizards off a cliff.

“Then these horrible lizards, almost komodo dragon size, came out of nowhere…and started chasing him and he had nowhere to go but over the cliff so he went over the edge to escape them and of course lost his footing… so he tumbled down and down and down and he said he thought he landed in a creek.”

This story is crazy. I’ve often heard rumours of tigers (used as a humorous way to scare tourists) but never of attacking giant lizards.


I’ve been mulling over the idea of setting up a Lao website containing information such as:

– FAQ for Vientiane living and visiting.

– Reviews of restaurants and entertainment around Vientiane with map listings linking to the Hobo map.

– Getting user comments from people in Laos for recommendations on what to do (and what not to do)

– Setting up a discussion board for people living in Laos to talk about events, news etc.

If you know of any English website that already does this please let me know if the comments. Otherwise, I’d like to know if any readers have any other ideas they’d like to share.

Ideally I’d really like to use the website as a way of promoting development organisations and sustainable tourism in Laos, in addition to being something useful for people living or visiting Laos.

The Sydney Morning Herald have more to say about the lost Australian tourist in Laos.

It’s reported that heavy rain washed away the walking track and caused the man to become lost.

As reported on, a forty year old Australian man was lost for 11 days in Khammuan province after trying to walk to the Tadsanam Falls. The Australian Embassy and Red Cross organised a helicopter search party to find the man. A local village had been unsuccessful in helping to try and locate the man. The man was found at another nearby waterfall. It took villagers four hours to carry the man on a stretcher through the jungle.

It sounds like the Australian Embassy have done some great working in locating and helping this man. The local villagers should also be commended for their generous assistance.

The story reminds me of something a guide told me when I visited the caves in Vang Vieng. He told me that a Western tourists went into one of the caves alone and never came out. The local villagers with the help of some foreigners searched the caves for several days looking and calling out for him. Sadly they found him dead and stuck in a crevice.

General advice for visiting the caves in Vang Vieng:

The caves are quite safe to visit if you go with a local guide. You can get to the caves by bicycle or tuk tuk. Maps are are available from shops and guest houses around town. Local guides wait outside the paths to the caves for tourists they can take inside. The prices they charge are very fair. You don’t need to book a tour in town if you want to check out the caves, you can definitely go visit them by yourself. The torches you’re given are quite primitive but they’re water proof. You can buy your own head torch from a shop in town if you take your caving seriously. Some caves are quite wet, I actually went swimming inside one, so make sure you bring suitable footwear for this. Visiting the caves in Vang Vieng was one of the best experiences I had in Laos.

Here are some decent blog posts by tourists visiting Vang Vieng’s caves:

Chilling by the river

Caving in Vang Vieng

From the Vientiane Times.

The Mekong is now receding in Vientiane. The town centre looks to have avoided any serious flooding.

Lao Bumpkin points to an excellent article on non-destructive tourism in South East Asia by Lonely Planet author Joe Cummings.

Quaking Blog mentions annoying tourists in Luang Prabang, Laos:

“My impression of Luang Prabang: the contemporary city, is that it exists solely as a tourist destination.  It is now “Low season”, yet the town was absolutely crawling with tourists.  The overwhelming majority of them were dirty, smelly, loud, obnoxious, drunk young europeans and americans.”

I had may share of similar experiences, but thankfully not so many. An aid worker in Vang Vieng once expressed to me her fury at the tourists’ behaviour there. The good thing about Vientiane is that there aren’t too many tourists.

My tips on how to behave appropriately as a tourist in Laos are:

1. Remember that things will be different than from home because you’re in a least developed country with a life expectancy of 56 and GDP per capita of $2100 per year.

2. Don’t get angry or annoyed. This is much, much less acceptable than in a Western country. If you can see the funny side of things it will make your journey much more pleasant.

3. Everything will be late, and generally very late. Things break down too. Prepare for this.

4. Lao people tend to be very friendly and very rarely take advantage of tourists. In my experience in spending an entire year there I can only remember one or two occasions where I thought I was overcharged on a restaurant bill.

If anyone else has any tips or experiences to share I’d love to read about them. Please write a comment.

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