Firstly, a note on the title. While in Asia we've seen a decent amount of people who look like they could actually be Backpacker Jesus. Maybe none more so than one particular backflipping, whiskey skulling man right here in Vang Vieng.
|Blatantly stolen from AdventurousKate.com because I'm waiting for people to upload photos.|
After a six hour hungover bus ride along some more of Laos’ atrocious roads (I mean bad, really fucking bad. The windiest, steepest potholiest excuses for transport you could ever imagine), Vang Vieng needed to be pretty great. It was. It is. I just don’t want to leave.
I should explain. About a decade ago Vang Vieng was just a tiny river town in Laos which few westerners had even heard of and even less actually visited. I’m not sure exactly what happened, other than some enterprising backpackers had their way with the place and now it’s a hedonistic paradise.
There’s a river, giant rope swings, giant towers, giant buckets, giant inner tubes and what seems to be every beautiful mid 20s westerner in Asia. After what I said about Phuket, I know it seems hypocritical for me to love this place, but I can’t help it. It’s Phuket done right. It’s a place where even shy people can feel comfortable walking up to almost anyone there and having a chat. The bars actually employ people to go around and start up party games and just generally get everyone having a great time.
As a party destination, I couldn’t imagine anything better. But it’s just as great completely sober (even if it’s pretty hard to avoid the tiger whisky they shove down your throat as you go into the bars). Although there’s a good chance the river isn’t quite as healthy as it once was, the surrounding mountains are just as picturesque as ever. You're deep in conversation with an absolute stranger, tearing up the dancefloor or throwing yourself off ten metre plus platforms into the river and then all of a sudden you look up. You're surrounded by astounding natural beauty. And I mean astounding, those mountains which dominate every single part of the town never failed to make me double take. The feeling's almost impossible to explain. Try to picture the best night you've ever had, and right in the middle of it you realise you're right there in the most beautiful picture you've ever seen.
In this place, it's impossible not to have a good time.
And rope swings. Seriously, rope swings. These things are insane. Coming from Australia where OH&S has ruined most things, they’re such a breath of fresh air. I’ll admit they’re a little dangerous (several tourists die every year) but that’s mostly stupidity (code for way too much alcohol/magic mushies/backflip attempts) rather than actual danger from my experience.
If you need a summary, or a TL;DR version here it is. Vang Vieng is the coolest damn place on earth and if you’re one of my close friends you can expect to be dragged there before you’re 30.
Next post: I'll talk about the darker side of the town. I'll try to explore it with a less selfish "This is the most fun ever!" mindset.