What a town...
11/23/11 - 11/24/11
There are very few words to describe Vang Vieng.
Vang Vieng has become a backpacker-oriented town, with the main street featuring guest houses, bars, restaurants, internet cafes, tour agencies and western tourists. Attractions of the town include inner tubing and kayaking on the Nam Song River, which is lined with bars selling Beer Lao and Lao-Lao, and equipped with rope swings, zip lines, and large decks for socializing.
I was told Vang Vieng was like a 3rd world amusement park, and that is a fairly accurate description. Everyday, all the backpackers head down to the river with tubes, you get numbers drawn on your arms to identify you (you have to sign like 50 forms to get a tube, and they need passport numbers and ID in case anything goes wrong), and then you float. However relaxing that might sound, the second you step into the river people start throwing ropes at you, once you grab onto one, they pull you into their bar and give out a free drink. Sounds awesome right?
It would be really fun if there wasn't bars every 25 yards down the river. You can't make it 2 minutes on your tube before getting pulled into the next bar. And sure enough, each bar has zip lines or swings or trapeze things or giant decks to jump from 3 stories up. Needless to say, many people die in this river each year, as mixing all the bars with the really sketchy "thrill rides" doesn't end well.
But with that being said, Vang Vieng is a TON of fun. I met up with the two Australian guys (from Sapa and HaLong Bay) and the 3 Canadian girls (also from Sapa), and we had a blast in this town.
They ask you return the tubes by 5, so that the river clears out before dark, and then the party transfers back into town. All the bars on the river also have sister bars in town, and during the day you collect bracelets that are all different colors from each bar you visit. At night they give discount drinks to anyone with the right color bracelet - quite the business model!
This town, unlike Luang Prabang which has a 10:30 curfew by the way, has zero temples or monks. It is purely based on the business brought in from the tubing-backpacking-20-year-olds who stop by on their way through Laos.
After two nights in this town I was ready to leave, I don't know how some people stay there for weeks and repeat this everyday! In the morning on Wednesday me and one of the Australian guys caught the bus heading to Vientiane for one last day in Laos.