Vang Vieng is Laos’ party central. Think Florida’s spring breakers meet Ibiza’s euro trash – and all amidst a stunning landscape of limestone karst formations. Travelers come here for three reasons: drinking from buckets, tubing on the Nam Song River, and more drinking from even bigger buckets. The party crowd is as ugly as the countryside is beautiful, and perverse curiosity made us break our long journey up North in Vang Vieng.
What probably intrigued us most about coming here was a Belgian’s comment about Vang Vieng smelling like vomit. We just had to see it to believe it. Our first impression was that of a sleepy town, at least during the day. But as night came around, I could see where this was headed. From shirtless guys and scantily dressed girls watching Friends reruns to mushroom shakes and happy pizzas to flyers promising free tequila shots, love, body painting and condoms. Need I say more?
If you are like us and you are more into tranquility, it’s easy to get away from all of it. Having been warned about the loud music, we picked a hotel 15 minutes walking distance out of town. Instead of tubing and binge drinking, we explored the nearby caves on mountain bikes. And as for sunset, we didn’t indulge in hash brownies but, instead, had a beer overlooking the river. And when we left town early the next morning, Vang Vieng, once again, had turned into a sleepy little town.