En route from beautiful Luang Prabang to boring Vientiane, there’s a little town called Vang Vieng. Here a stunning natural backdrop of limestone cliffs and mountainous rivers is at conflict with a characterless, overly touristic inner part – so very similar to Phi Phi. Or another Thai parallel: it is what would happen to Pai, if it chose to turn into Phuket. In short, it’s cheesier than American cheddar.
It provides what the youngest segment of backpackers demand: alcohol, drugs and bite-sized doses of adrenaline without troubling much over such insignificant details as clean streets, good roads or comfortable accommodation. Does it matter where you end up passing out after all?
Vang Vieng is boozy and outdoorsy – a weird and often dangerous combination, but not deprived of its own fun. Hard to kayak while being stoned? No worries, there’s leisurely tubing with dozens of riverside bars that will challenge the sturdiest of eardrums and the mightiest of livers. Plus numerous oversized water slides, giant swings and mudpits tug-of-war (don’t ask me why). Vang Vieng is to water sports what karaoke is to music…
I know this all very well before investing into a Vang Vieng-bound minibus ticket, but I go anyways. You see, it’s very easy to make me change even the most meticulous travel plans – it takes only one word: “limestone”. Tell me something about limestone anything – caves, cliffs – and I’ll happily endure a 24-hour bus ride through hell. The ride to Vang Vieng, however, is not one through hell by any stretch of imagination – vice versa. A minibus trip from Luang Prabang is scenic and relatively short: it divides the trip to the capital into couple of smaller bits and provides a break with a view.
A tipsy, dopey break with a really, really good view… I can’t say ‘no’ to that now, can I?!