According to its former reputation of party destination, Vang Vieng should have been the last place i’d imagine to visit. After having been on the “banana pancake” trail and regularly invaded by young backpackers that chose this small village to spend the wildest weeks of their gap year, the place seems to be back to a semi-normality.
Famous for its “tubing” scene, it took some dozens of tragic deaths in order for the government to regulate the activities in town. Now almost all the riverside bars have shut down and instead of dreadlocked 20-somethings roaming around half naked, the place is quickly filling up with Asian mid range tourists from China, Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore and Taiwan that seem to prefer more relaxed activities than the crazy concoction of cheap booze, semi legal drugs and techno music.
If i had to choose from these two evils i wouldn’t know which one to pick.
The recent invasion of tourists with less time and more money brought a subtle transformation in the landscape: horrible concrete buildings are now destroying the panorama and dune buggies now run around the dusty streets of an otherwise rather sleepy countryside village: they’re normally hired by massive groups of Koreans who go to visit the Blue Lagoon, a once beautiful secluded pond of turquoise water whose only fault was to appear in a famous Korean movie. The place is now completely gone, with cars parking right near its waters and tourists jumping in the water shouting while their girlfriend document everything with Gopros, smartphones and selfie sticks.
Thank God there are more lagoons to be explored where the atmosphere and the landscape are not that spoiled yet.
As soon as i arrived in Vang Vieng it didn’t take long to understand that the best place to be would have been on the quieter side of the river: it’s less crowded, and accomodations seem to be cheaper and more in a traditional style.
I reserved a cheap bungalow with a phone call from Vientiane and the owner seemed surprised that i showed up: he said these days no one books by the phone.
I told me i’m an old school boy.
The room was just what i needed: a cozy bamboo bungalow with a comfy bed, mosquito net and a small wooden terrace overlooking the garden.
As i noticed the thick duvais laying on the bed i realized i wouldn’t need a fan at night: a good change from the high night temperatures of Indonesia and Malaysia.
I woke up the next day quite early with a cold nose and surprisingly no early roosters.
I had a breakfast French style and decided to rent a mountain bike for the day.
It took all day to complete the 26 kilometers loop that takes you through lovely little villages and lagoons.
For me, the main reason to be in Vang Vieng was to observe the famous surroundings that reminded me of an imaginary movie that could be a cross between King Kong, Mission and Platoon.
I love taking pictures so i just concentrated on the landscape and the beautiful light that here in Laos seems to be even more special than usual.
I’m not into any adventurous sport or crazy experience but i rather take in the vibe of a place through bike rides and early walks in the nature.
I have to say that despite my expectations, once you go 10 minutes away from the madness, real Laos is there for you to enjoy!