Vang Vieng: Why did the chicken cross the road?

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July 3rd 2012
Published: July 5th 2012
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And so, dear reader, do you wonder what we did? We sit at the bus terminal south of Vang Vieng awaiting our a/c mini bus to take us to Vientiane. A day early. Congratulating ourselves for not succumbing to the backpacker way of insisting you tube if you come to Vang Vieng or even Laos. Lauren's dad will be happy, it is the one thing in all our plans he did not want us to do!

The reason? Well several things contributed to us not partaking in this "sport". Firstly when we arrived out of town and thrown amongst the reckless tuk tuk drivers we had no place to go, we had chatted to another British couple and decided to have a leisurely beer and pour over the lonely planet guide and trip adviser app. We came to a decision of where to try and get a room but it was horribly expensive, more than the book quoted for the high season. We found somewhere else and overpaid from our $10 budget by $2. Still the room seemed ok new with wooden furnishings and a balcony overlooking the river. We went out with the couple for dinner choosing trip advisers number one, not something we had been doing but we went with the flow. Ben had a version of pad Thai and Lauren a "steak" just not sure from what animal! Think it will be vegi from now on!

So far so ok. We couldn't understand the draw to this place is was a small collection of dirt roads with pop up shops bars and guesthouses in the middle of nowhere with a fast current running river in the background. It was a mess full of drunken backpackers that want to get high by any means. Except it wasn't full. For a party town it was dead. We asked a couple of Aussies why and they said because it was full moon. This meant that as this was only a destination for travellers and in another country full of travellers something big was happening they abandon ship like a herd of sheep.

Now we appreciate we are travellers and we too will go to next months full moon party but we sit here realising why travellers get their reputation and decide then and there to get away from that preconception. We do not want to be tarnished with that brush and we age about 5 years no longer the assumed just out of uni and what should we do with our life mode.

So is this why we decided not to tube? And when we say tube it basically means sitting in a tractor tyre floating down a dirty river that when Lauren asked what was in it the reply was it is far too dirty and infected for anything to survive in it! No the reason as we started this blog was numerous, the feel of the place just didn't present itself as one of comfort. People come here and stay for weeks thinking they have found paradise, in reality they have come solo or as a group without a partner and enjoy that you are expected to be drunk and/or high. Lauren's brother would love it! It is the Ibiza of south east Asia permanently, except at full moon where Koh Phangnan takes that role. Now Lauren did Ibiza and loved it but that was six years ago pre uni, pre Ben. Things change and again we age a little bit more.

There was no atmosphere to this quite frankly scene from a bad disaster movie, the roads and even food full of dust! We didn't attempt the chocolate bars although wrapped but friends did and we were grateful not to!

Lauren also predicted correctly it would rain and that it did, a cold river in rain was not appealing especially having just gotten over colds and we didn't fancy anything worse plus we still had Lauren's battle scar of a large open wound on her leg! The river is said to have a pretty strong current and when raining people really underestimate it culminating in more than twenty deaths per year. We still thought maybe we would try it, we did stop off here and that is when we thought we stopped here to prevent a 12 hour journey of uncomfortable unfinished roads so in fact we are the chickens crossing the road and the cows, joining the hundreds we passed here on the way and now it seems on the way out of this horror film.

The film turned to horror when we returned to the room. Prior to this we had drunk a beer Lao and a Lao Lao whiskey made from rice which was tasty and walked the unstable bamboo bridge to the island. This was separated from the mainland with the river and where the "party" was happening. We saw about ten people! There were numerous bars all neon lit and hammocks plus fires. Thinking about it, if it was busy it could be a lot of fun. Then you get to the bar where we made our excuses to leave, in black and white is the drugs menu. The country where you are hung if caught smuggling drugs now openly sells it?! Apparently the police turn a blind eye unless you cause a fuss then it's a $500 fine in their back pocket and on you go. So back to the room we went with flyers thrust upon us for free buckets of whiskey and energy drink for an hours time (11pm) when the party starts. Oh. So people get wasted on the tubes stopping at all the pop up bars, throw themselves down man made slides go to hospital for slings and then sleep it off to start again at midnight, please where do we sign up!

At the room the horror started though, Ben entered and Lauren was told to stay back where he slayed the biggest spider he ever saw then a cockroach stirred refusing to be killed until the tenth strike from his shoe then a gekko fell off the curtain. Oh hell. Lauren cried and the other couple told us how to enclose ourselves in our, as yet, unused mosquito net. With a tent created Ben fell asleep and Lauren whimpered! It was a long night of staring at the walls for any movement! The net came down a few times having been erected with duct tape making us jump but we got through it. We then moved a bag in the morning and another spider jumped out and Lauren screamed "that's it we are going!"

With that we booked the bus and got some dry pancakes, watched Friends on re runs, a common scene in all bars, awaiting 1.30. We looked around still seeing nothing and no one so decided to wait in the hell of the guesthouse lobby and distract ourselves Ben playing games on the iPad, Lauren reading another craze, "fifty shades of grey".

And so we got to the bus terminal but low and behold to add to the disaster there was no mini bus but a big bus! Which we could have got for cheaper!! Feeling even more annoyed and thankful to leave we got on. Only to break down about an hour in as the driver decided to actually put his foot down, a rarity for Laos, but hit something breaking the suspension. So we wait for a new bus for about an hour and half in extreme heat and only little bit of water and no food!

We eventually get on our way and begin another three hour journey to the capital where we have already decided to cut our time short and changed our flight to Hanoi for a day early. Ben was looking forward to going back to a place he has been to but Lauren was looking forward to not having to come back. Lets hope Vientiane redeems the bringing down Vang Vieng brought!

Things of note: Ethos of the town- drink triple,see double,act single.

Every traveller wears the same bright coloured best showing they tubed- well done you survived!

The advertising in Lonely Planet was come with an open mind and want to party- it is very true but also come with slings and a lot of antiseptic.

There is supposed to be other attractions like caves and climbing but travel companies don't really expect business except for booking buses and arranging visas.

What would we do differently: Not come or come single - only options


Near misses: too many with all gods creatures plus the bus!

Fallouts:0 Ben was really supportive and got his call of duty mode on blasting anything in his way!

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