Vang Vieng is a small town surrounded by cliffs. It is the river, the rock and the people that define Vang Vieng. More than 2 years ago the biggest attraction was the no holds bar tubing. Basically you would float down the river in a tube going from bar to bar.
At these bars you could jump off the edge into your tube with no regard for safety. That was until people started dying and the LAOS government had caved to pressure from the Australian government. What was 25 bars became 3 and that’s going to 5 as we get to high season.
The day I arrived there were several vacant spaces but just before I left the place began to take on a whole new character with more restaurants being quickly constructed and soon all the empty spaces were full, this is the prep work for high season.
If you go to a restaurant they will be mostly showing Friends or Family Guy. I didn’t have the courage but if you are they ask if they have anything else besides that. I barely watched Friends when it was on air and I got sick of it after day 2. If anyone is from LAOS we don’t watch only 2 shows.
Vang Vieng is a town built on tourism but many of the locals have a contempt of tourists because of what they observe on a daily basis. I can’t say I didn’t join in the drinking and one night I got very drunk but that was 1 night out of 7. Mostly I liked getting to know the other travelers and the westerns who were working for food, drink and a roof.
I was contemplating doing the same but since I am not the biggest drinker I thought it better not to start down the drinking daily path. What I like about traveling is how you can know a person for a day and become fast friends.
At home wherever that is for each of us it doesn’t happen nearly as much. People have their own groups and there just isn’t that impetus to meet people the same way when you are traveling and even more when you are solo.
Traveling means ignorance on all sides. The people in towns such as Vang Vieng base their entire view of westerns based on what they observe and many travelers are may not be aware of the local curtseys of the area. If someone doesn’t say something how can you change your behavior to respect what you don’t know?
I’d suggest Adam’s because he and his team know all facets of what it takes to climb not just climbing in it of itself but also how to find new routes and maintain them as well. I went with TCK before I knew this and it was a lot of fun but knowing what I do now I would go with Adam’s if and when I go back just to support them and what they do.
Vang Vieng is a great base to explore the area, I didn’t do nearly as much as other people because I’m on a tight budget but the list is long on what I could have done. If I wasn’t alone I would have taken a mountain bike out and explored the country side away from the paved roads and out into the wilds.
I visited the Blue Lagoon which was brown because of the rainy season but the real sight was the cave. You go up an uneven set of stairs and enter a big wet cave. There is a Buddha a little ways in and then you have to climb your way until you reach a large dark cavern on the other end but it’s worth it to try, just don’t be stupid and you’ll be good.
I met many people that were only supposed to stay in Vang Vieng for a few days and ended up staying for weeks. I’m writing this in Bangkok cause I had to get out. I loved the people I met. There was a few times when I could feel the cynicism the locals had for foreigners and there was one time where a tuk tuk driver was outright vile but that comes with the territory.
Never take it personally, respect their customs, stay alert, stay aware and when drinking make sure to have some backup in case a good time becomes a shit show.