I read in the New Zealand Herald, “If teenagers ruled the world, it might resemble Vang Vieng.” It only took about five minutes to see why…
We rolled up to the small, dusty backpacker town for an overnight stop on the way to Vientiane, the Laos capital. Vang Vieng’s main event is the Nam Song River with its towering limestone karsts and noted inner-tubing-based party scene. I say noted… though I’m not sure those who experienced said party scene on the day we visited were noting much of anything.
Laos revelers try to wake their intoxicated friend
Still in the throes of celebrating the year 2554, the usually placid (and clean) river was crammed full with thousands of hard-partying Laotians and falangs. The party was in full swing when we floated up on our tubes in search of fried rice.
The wildest week of the whole year in Laos
Vang Vieng was fun I suppose, but I would rather have experienced the beautiful river and the town in a more organic setting. Each side of the tubing stretch of river is lined with bars and restaurants blaring Miley Cyrus and the Black Eyed Peas, and each place has rope swings, ziplines, water slides and other semi-dangerous attractions. Fun? In its own way. It’s a unique stop on the trail to be sure, but it doesn’t reflect Laos culture at all and was absolutely filled to the brim with drunk Westerners. It could be any river in any college town… except apparently mushrooms & marijuana in the form of “happy shakes” are legal and on the menu here.
To be fair to Vang Vieng, it does offer loads of other activities – climbing, hiking and visiting with the local tribes, but if I’m being honest, one day here was more than enough for me.
Up next… Vientiane!