(c) December 2007 Oliver Bonten
I didn't spend more than one night in the infamous backpacker paradise of Vang Vieng, mostly out of curiosity, and to break the long trip from Luang Prabang to Vientiane in two. Vang Vieng has a reputation as the backpacker place in Laos, but it is an economic law in tourism that backpacker places gentrify over time, and this is visible in Vang Vieng already. Though it still is pretty much a traveller spot and practically all restaurants have a Big Booming TV showing episodes of "Friends" and offering "happy" menus which are not hamburger set meals but probably spiced with local mushrooms or regional hemp or poppy products.
The trip to Vang Vieng is already pretty scenic: the road passes through the Lao mountains and across a number of passes, and the landscape is, in the morning mist and also when it recedes, beautiful. We had an additional break due to a flat tyre on the bus.
Vang Vieng itself is a pretty spot. It is rather flat, but close to the mountains, and in the vicinity of some karst and limestone crags that are frequented by rock climbers. I'd never get the idea to climb rocks but I can understand why for someone who does so, this is a spot of choice.
A popular pastime in Vang Vieng is "tubing": to float in an inner truck tube down a river from bar to bar, having a beer here and there, play Tarzan with some vines hanging from trees, arriving back in town either totally drunk or drowned. Well, I spent only one afternoon and one night there, no time for any of this, but on the plus side, one option that would attract me in Vang Vieng is to rent a bicycle and explore the area a bit.
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