The small town of Vang Vieng in a remote part of Southeast Asia appears to be one of the world's most dangerous destinations for backpackers.
The Sunday Times reports that students who are preparing for gap-year travels have been warned to take care in Vang Vieng, which is five hours north of the Laotian capital Vientiane, as at least 27 backpackers died there in 2011.
The town has grown from a rural hideaway and is now home to a half-mile of riverside bars, where excessive drinking and drug abuse have become the norm.
Some bars offer free shots of home-brewed Lao-Lao whiskey and milkshakes laced with marijuana, opium or methamphetamine.
The town is also a popular location for river tubing, which involves riding downstream on inner tubes. This is how a number of backpackers, many of whom had been drinking or taking drugs, were injured or died.
In 2011, 27 tourists were pronounced dead the town's small hospital, but doctors say that the real number was higher as some fatalities were registered in Vientiane.
The Foreign Office has recently updated its advice to travellers to Laos, saying: "White-water rafting, kayaking, tubing and other water-based activities are dangerous and incidents of drowning and serious injuries have been reported."
The adventure tour operator Exodus told The Sunday Times: "There are dozens of outfits reining inner tubes and, once you get in, you're on your own. Nobody counts you in or out. It's just too dangerous for us to promote the activity."
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