Vang Vieng is a bizarre backpacker enclave that reminded me of a cross between Asia’s Wild West and the saddest scenes from The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. The town appeared to be desolate and isolated, but it was a magnet for those seeking hallucinogenic answers to life’s puzzles.
The bus ride from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng took roughly 6 hours. The ride was pleasant, however the bus was blaring out terrible Loatian love songs the entire time. The songs’ music videos were shown on TVs on the bus. Every time I raised my eyes to the screen, I saw a sad-looking man on the phone or staring mournfully into a phone. In Loas, it appears that a lot of romance takes place over the phone.
Driving across the country was beautiful, and it made me want to acquire a scooter and go exploring.
I noticed a hotel room with this large placard in it. Not only did the sign warn me not to eat the mushrooms, but the man who checked me into the hotel also warned me. This motel has to have had a lot of long nights with tripping guests, I’m sure. If your mushroom dose was actually fatal, Vang Vieng seemed like the kind of spot where you’d be dumped in the river.
In Vang Vieng, I was able to rent a scooter, but there was no choice for a long-term rental with a return on the other side of the country. So I merely rented the scooter for a day and went exploring.
Some other folks were hiring scooters at the same time as I was. They were, I guess, Chinese visitors. When a man got on his scooter and pressed the gas, he quickly lost control and crashed into the cafe tables across the street. Fortunately, no one was injured. I’m not sure if the rental guy let him keep the scooter or if he returned it to him.
I went out for a few hours to take in the scenery.
It was interesting to explore the nation, but I wanted to travel further. The fact that I’d have to return the next day made the experience less enjoyable. I’d gotten the concept of longer scooter journeys into my brain, and I’d decided to pursue it. This day trip was only meant to be a tease.
I returned to town to investigate the other side of the story. It appeared to be really good. If I had stayed here instead of on one of the city’s main highways, I’m very sure I would have had a better impression of the city.
It was incredible to see the steep, jagged mountains. I spent a lot of time in this type of environment, but this was the first time I felt completely encircled by it.
“Tubing Stop” is written on the bridge. Tubing down the river is one of the most popular tourist activities in Vang Vieng. Your group is driven upstream, and you and your innertube slowly make your way down the river. It sounded like fun, but I get sunburned easily and didn’t want to go it alone.
I ended up spending a few of nights in Vang Vieng. It was a decent establishment with western cuisine. My room was also very comfy.
Drugs are another famous tourist attraction in Vang Vieng. On the menus of many restaurants are the words “Happy” and “Magic.” You can order any shake or pizza with the words “Happy” or “Magic” on it. They put weed in it to make it happy, and they put mushrooms in it to make it magical.
A bunch of tourists walked in and sat at another table while I was enjoying my joyful pizza. A magic shake was requested by one of the customers. The guy couldn’t barely walk before they went because he was tripping so badly. I attempted to assist his buddies in getting him on his way. They informed me that he needed to travel to the bus station in order to catch a long bus ride. Tripping so hard on a bus full of strangers sounds like a nightmare. Hopefully, he missed his bus, because there’s no way of knowing where he ended up.
Vang Vieng is noted for its abundance of pubs and eateries, all of which show repeats of Friends on their televisions. I’m not sure how this came to be, but it’s odd. Although I’ve never been a fan of that television show, I can see how it would appeal to some viewers.
Vang Vieng, on the whole, felt depressed to me. Perhaps I was the one who was depressed. I’m not sure. But, when I was leaving, I was glad I had seen it and that I was leaving. If you’re with pals, it’s undoubtedly a lot of fun, but it felt like a cartel-run town.
I boarded a bus to Vientine, the capital of Laos, which was my next stop. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I’d be back a few months later. I hope you’ll join me for that post tomorrow!