Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Vang Vien

Vang Vien reminded me a lot of Koh Pha Ngan but on a river rather than in the middle of the ocean. It had that same sort of vibe just without the ocean views and slightly worse weather.

The town itself literally had nothing to it. It was just hostels, hotels, and lots and lots of restaurants. Apart from that there was pretty much nothing else other than the odd convenience store and (expensive) Internet cafe. I really have no idea which came first. Did Vang Vein spawn tubing or did tubing spawn Vang Vein? The only reason I think this is that apart from tubing there is literally nothing else there to do. There isn't really a night life as the daily tubing sessions from 11am till 6pm suck all the energy out of everyone so that there is no real need for massive all night clubs. Obliviously there are a few but if you aren't tubing you really aren't going to have much of a night out here. It was a mystery to me how this place grew up!

The most striking thing about the whole place though were its surroundings. The town was surrounded by this little mountain peaks which were covered in trees and other vegetation. Was a spectacular back drop to a fairly simple little town. Every morning when I woke up and looked out the window to see the morning mist hovering half way up the mountain was stunning and was such a good start to the day.

One thing that made me laugh was that every restaurant here was the same, it was mad. They all had the same things on the menu apart from the odd one which would specialize a bit more in curries or something! The most annoying thing though is that they would only either have Family Guy or Friends on back to back everyday from morning till night on about 10 TVs around each restaurant. I have no idea what the residents must have thought about us westerners. If we weren't binge drinking we were just sitting on our arses all day watching Family guy or Friends. It was odd. It was so strange how there was just no diversity at all. It was like well no one else has South Park, or even American Dad on so maybe if I put that on I will attract some more customers. It was just Friends, Family guy or nothing else! By the end of day 2 I was sick of both of them, it was terrible!

I also had a good chuckle one day when I walked past a load of men at work building a house just off the main street. As you can see from the picture (at the bottom) there was bloody hundreds of them forming a chain so they can get the cement to the upper floors as quickly as possible. I guess the term "Too many cooks..." doesn't exist out here. I assume there can't be much of a shortage of jobs out here as well!

As sad as it may sound I don't think I would have come to Vang Vien or even Laos for that matter were it not for the tubing. A 55 year old French man that I got talking to at one of the bars along the river summed it up perfectly when he said that it was "Insulting" to the people of Laos and their history that so many people were coming to Laos and seeing and doing nothing else but the tubing, myself included and I agreed with him. I think had I had more time I would almost have definitely headed further up north to Laprabang and see a bit more of the country. However I only had a short amount of time so thought I would skip all that history and culture shit the country had to offer and just get pissed on a river instead.

All in all Vang Vien was an unusual place and I couldn't really understand what the place was about. Like I said apart from tubing there was literally nothing else to do. I guess they offered a few tours and treks to some of the surrounding area but that wasn't part of Vang Vien itself.