This has been spliced off from an original question asking "Is VV a good destination for a family travelling with kids". See the original thread if you have an opinion on the kids aspect please.
Below are comments as the conversation veered off into Vang Vieng Vs Lao culture Vs foreign involvement Vs Daytona Beach. It may seem a bit out of sync, as I've just transferred the ahhhh "relevant" comments...
Somsai is the word of wisdom here. The kids who are partying in VV aren't hurting anyone. "Not respecting Laos culture?" Nonesense. I don't doubt that there are some Laotians complaining about the drunk kids, everywhere in the world people complain about drunk kids having fun. It's one small part of the country that's become a little party town - what's wrong with that? Nothing is the answer to that question.
If that activity makes you uncomfortable or you don't want your kids to see it, then just don't go there. The country has a bunch of other places to visit. Just go see them instead of complaining about it.
#2 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
And everybody doesn't go to Laos to experience Laotian culture - just like everyone doesn't come to Thailand to experience Thai culture.
#3 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
I 110% agree with MADMAC on this...
#4 smash has been a member since 21/6/2009. Posts: 162
"Have you ever been there or only read over the top posts from people with an axe to grind such as some some of the posts on this board?"
Who has an axe to grind? I go to Vang Vieng frequently for work purposes.
Mac if "The kids who are partying in VV aren't hurting anyone. "Not respecting Laos culture?" Nonesense." is really your attitude, then I feel sorry for you. You appear to have the cultural sensitivity of a twobefour.
"Oh and by the way, when you work with and speak to the Lao and hear what they have to say, then I would say that your comments have some validity."
It is the Lao who permit this to happen. The Lao own and run the bars. The Lao buy and sell the booze. The Lao built all the water sports. Lao officials sanction it, Lao individuals profit from it. So, if it's such a big issue for "Lao culture" then why are the Lao permitting it and engaging in it?
"is really your attitude, then I feel sorry for you. You appear to have the cultural sensitivity of a twobefour."
Not to be pedantic, but it's "Two-by-four" - it's a measurement for wood beams. And to tell the truth, I view the issue of "cultural sensivity" as way overblown. It is the excuse made to condemn people doing things that you don't like under a slightly more academic guise. In the same way the PC crowd uses the phrase "inappropriate" when someone is doing something they don't like. If it is someone from your own cultural circle you say they are being inappropriate. If it's a visitor they are being "culturally insensitive". It all adds up to the same thing. That is not to say that there is no such thing as cultural sensitivity or awareness of same. Just that it doesn't apply in this case.
If you sit in a bar in Pattaya and feel up a girl are you being culturally insensitive? That sort of behavior is certainly illegal and offensive in mainstream Thailand. But in that particular environment, that is the cultural norm. Same in this case.
In Daytona is the drunken hoard disrespecting southern culture when it descends on the city like pillaging huns? The city allows it, profits from it immensely, and could easily stop it if it wanted to. It doesn't want to. Same with VV.
I am not effete. Everyone doesn't have to behave just so... in order to spare the sensibilities of the pathetic. Rufus you are trying to paint a picture of one size fits all for Lao cultural norms (which is never true in any society in the world) and you are leaning towards the conservative interpretation of same. Just because you don't enjoy the VV environment and are seeking to validate your criticism through an academic lens doesn't make the observation valid. Culture is a moving animal, just like language is. It changes constantly. Everywhere, always. The political and buisiness leaders of VV made a conscious decision to cater to this market (the drunk kids market). If you take issue with it, then take it up with them. I'm sure they'll be very sensitive to your complaints.
#7 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Mac, "twobefour" was deliberate. That is Oz slang.
Anyway to answer your comments, SOME Lao allow it to happen and SOME Lao profit from it. When you are there, go to the Mulberry Farm and talk to the owner; get his views and see what others, (dare I say the majority?), think. I work with, talk with, drink with and eat with these people.
By the way, referring to as me PC is very amusing. If you knew me, you would probably agree.
It's not that serious y'all. It's just the nature of travelling and clashing cultures. Happens worldwide - it isn't just a phenomenon restricted to Vang Vieng, or South East Asia for that matter... Bottom line is, if you don't like it, don't visit. I don't see what is so hard about that?
#9 smash has been a member since 21/6/2009. Posts: 162
Wel Wangering's video made me decide to go... and I don't even like Laos. I'm going to get drunk, and go down the water slide. Then I'm hitting the cables... Too much potential for fun not to try it out.
#10 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
And Rufus, like I said, if people object to this sort of thing - don't blame the "culturally insensitive" tourists, blame the local government and buisiness leaders who have sanctioned and resourced it. It is the Laotians who are being culturally insensitive here - to their own culture.
#11 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
You know I am right here. Locals set up bars, set up the water sports that attract a very specific sort of clientel... entice the kids to come and drink and party... then we want to complain the kids are being culturally insensitive? WTF? This is NO DIFFERENT from Daytona beach.
Life is hard enough without a bunch of people whining about some kids just having a good time. Leave em alone. If you don't like it, don't go. The country is big enough to avoid the place.
#13 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
I agree with Bruce that Vang Vieng is worth a look, if only for a quick overnight. The scenery is stunning, and there is plenty to do even if partying 'til you puke isn't your scene.
But I suspect that Rufus is correct too that the majority of Lao folks are less than thrilled with how the place has developed. In fact, I think it was the fear of exactly this type of situation that created such concerns for the Lao Government as they slowly opened the doors to tourism in the first place.
Like others have said in this thread, apart from the wonderful scenery, Vang Vieng doesn't have much to do with Laos or its culture. It is more of a tourist stop on the backpacker trail, a banana pancake haven, just like Samui or so many other places. So be it. I like banana pancakes now and again, and I liked it there in Vang Vieng too and wished I had a few extra days to explore the area as well. It was an inexpensive, fun place to relax and unwind before hitting the road again.
Mac, when you are there, go to the Mulberry farm - its worth a visit anyway, and its actually a nice play to stay. Anyway, speak to the owner, Lao, and ask him what he thinks. It is a small group of people, who unfortunately have connections, who are the bar owners and the polluters in the area. Speak to the owners of the Thavisouk Resort, (not the guesthouse in town), and ask them their opinion.
The place has enough natural beauty and potential for eco tourism to be able to avoid the rubbish that goes there now.
I thought that was cockney slang for whore.
I've ever referred to timber with the longer number first, making it four-be-two (from 4 by 2).
Here in Oz, we went decimals many years ago. 100 by 50 doesn't have the same ring.
Oh, I also know four-be-two as Oz slang for 'thick as a brick', and jew.
So, there ya go.
"The place has enough natural beauty and potential for eco tourism to be able to avoid the rubbish that goes there now."
Eco and cultural tourism are the only kinds of tourism that Laos offers everywhere else in the country. Besides VV, where is the "fun" tourism? The places doesn't have any beaches... VV is the only place in Laos that caters to this kind of tourism. And this kind of tourism brings in per capita a lot more money than backpacker types who are looking for cheap guesthouses and cheap food. Drinking and chasing women is expensive! Even in a cheap local it costs money. I'll bet these kids are droping 50 or 60 bucks per person per day, as oppossed to your 20 a day backpacker.
The government of Laos (or elements of it) obviously decided they wanted a slice of the "fun" tourism pie, but didn't want it all over the country. So it was in effect zoned for VV. That seems perfectly reasonable to me. The property owners property value has most certainly risen with the major increase in money spending 20 somethings running around. So for those who hate it, they can sell up and use the cash to move somewhere else more appealing.
Life doesn't stand still. For every change you will have people complaining about it because they liked things the way they were. This is a global truism. Of course, had we followed this impulse we'd still be living in caves. Caves suck.
#19 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
"The property owners property value has most certainly risen with the major increase in money spending 20 somethings running around. So for those who hate it, they can sell up and use the cash to move somewhere else more appealing."
Mac, now you are being silly. Why should people who were there first have to sell up? Further most of the 20 somethings at VV ARE backpackers. Why do you think there are so many cheap guesthouses? No, the real money is to be made in eco tourism, not in running a doss house or a backpackers bar. I think you will be in for a shock when you actually go there, as I think you have a totally different perception of the real situation.
I share your sentiments, but John's point is increasingly the 'way' with market economics.
We have the same 'problem' here in Oz. people who don't like change, but 'earn' property price increases are frequently advised to sell up and find somewhere that better appeals.
"Mac, now you are being silly. Why should people who were there first have to sell up?"
This is the arguement you would put forth no matter where the "fun tourism" location sprouted. I asked you before, if not VV then where?
The core arguement coming from the original poster is that this kind of vacation isn't legitimate - and certainly not in Laos. And that is the arguement I completely reject.
"Further most of the 20 somethings at VV ARE backpackers. Why do you think there are so many cheap guesthouses?"
They are dropping a lot more money on the bars than when they are spending the rest of the time being cheapo backpackers. I guarantee it. Furthermore, there are women there and the boys are playing. That's real money - don't think it isn't.
"No, the real money is to be made in eco tourism, not in running a doss house or a backpackers bar."
There is good money in eco tourism - no question about it. But one doesn't mean the other isn't generating revenue. The "culture tourist" though, the one who is looking for everything on the cheap and doesn't want to spend bar prices for booze and isn't interested in chasing women... that's the tourist that is dropping the smallest amounts of cash. Look on these pages to verify that.
"I think you will be in for a shock when you actually go there, as I think you have a totally different perception of the real situation."
It takes a lot to shock me.
#22 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
"vIt takes a lot to shock me."
You misunderstand. What I meant was that you will see lots of backpackers who don't spend much except on booze. By the way, there are no women there apart from fat backpacker scrubbers. Certainly no bar girls if that is what you meant.
"By the way, there are no women there apart from fat backpacker scrubbers.
I'd suggest their mummy's and daddy's in their Lincoln convertibles and Hummers wouldn't see them like that!!!
- - -
Both John & Rufus...
If you could change ONE thing that would see a heap more money go to the local Laos in VV, what would that ONE thing be?
Mac you seem to have confused Vang Vien with Pataya.
If you go take a look you might be disapointed. Young people hooking up with other young people.
The spending per day is probably well below other areas. They are all backpackers of both sexes, rooms are cheap, they only spend on beer. Young folks have less money. The good part about Vang Vien is the sheer numbers, around 100 guest houses and hotels. That's a lot of money filtering down to the local economy.
The spending on "culture eco" isn't. Mostly money is spent on guest houses, cafes, trinkets. Same everywhere, number of folks who go on a paid trek is miniscule, looking at a temple is free.
"If you could change ONE thing that would see a heap more money go to the local Laos in VV, what would that ONE thing be?"
Education, without a doubt.
Bruce, there are no Hummers or Licon convertibles in VV.
There are certanly Hummers in Vientiane. However read Somsai's post above - there is no girly scene in VV involving Lao. It is backpackers hooking up with other backpackers. There certainly is a girly scene in Vientiane, however.
I hate to have to inform you of this Rufus, but there is a girly scene in VV. It is run by Lao and uses Vietnamese girls. Obviously I haven't seen it, but I've read about it.
#27 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Read about it where mac? I have been to VV many times for work and have drunk in many bars. I have never seen it nor ever been approached, nor heard about it from anyone, Lao or westerner, that I have ever spoken to. That includes many people who live there.
Have you asked?
There isn't a major town or city in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia or Vietnam were there aren't working women... I read about it on Pattaya Secrets. Some of the boys went there and posted about it.
#29 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Also, you never answered the question - if not VV then where? Where should the fun tourist spot be?
#30 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
""I read about it on Pattaya Secrets."
roflmao. You really are a hoot Mac."
I have my moments. I actually enjoy that sight. A bunch of mongers who get in vociferous arguements over issues of morality. I kid you not.
But there are also a lot of intelligent guys there and I get in quite a few good discussions on political issues that I am fond of. I think I am the only right of center individual there who supports Obama.
Anyway, Rufus, you continue to avoid the question. If not VV then where?
#32 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
A little of topic but since you guys have obviously been around the region I was hoping for some help. This Winter I was thinking of going to South East Asia for a two and a half weeks or so. I know it's a really short time to travel for, but I'm in law school and honestly I don't know how many more times in the next few years I'll even be able to take that long off. Anyway, to the point, while I appreciate seeing a nation's real culture, I do like to have a drink or two and chase some girls (skinny backpackers, or fat if I'm drunk enough). I was wondering if you guys had any tips or ideas what would be a good itinerary in the Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia area that could be done in under three weeks?
Soon to be unhappy corporate lackey
#33 jclarkson has been a member since 10/9/2009. Posts: 35
Oh, and please excuse the poor grammar and spelling mistakes. I've been proofing an appellate brief all day and really can't be bothered with proofreading so much as a message board point at this point.
#34 jclarkson has been a member since 10/9/2009. Posts: 35
Here is an example itinerary for the region: http://www.travelfish.org/trip_planner/laos-vietnam-cambodia
Give it a look and perhaps start a new thread with questions.
I know it's not YOURS. But it obviously is somebody's right? At heart you are attacking the legitimacy of the activity itself - as opposed to where it's taking place. Same with the original poster who referred to it as
Vientiane is the capital, and by international standards a slow and sleepy one at that. I don't think it desires to become Bangkok. VV is trying to market itself as a sort of Laos version of Ko Samui. A place where the kids can go, cut loose, and do what 20 something kids do. The point that I think you and the culture freaks are slow to pick up on is that everyone isn't interested in culture. They aren't traveling to foreign countries to experience their culture. A lot of people come to SE Asia because it's cheap. There's nothing wrong with that. If Laos wants tourist dollars, then obviously it behooves Laos to provide those things that draw tourist dollars. I get the feeling that you want tourists, but on the "right kind of tourists". The bottom line is that the government of Laos permits this. Since that government easily has the power to shut this activity down and does not, who are you to complain about cultural insensitivity when they not only don't complain, but sanction it? Certainly complaining about the kids themselves is ludicrous. The responsibility for this activity rests on local government. Go lodge your complaint there and see how far it gets you.
Do you find this kind of behavior culturally insensitive when it happens in Australia? Or should we be extra sensitive about cultural norms when traveling in Laos? Certainly nobody gives a **** about cultural norms when traveling in the US - I know that.
#37 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
I live in one of England's most beautiful cities. It is visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists from all over the world each year. People come for its beauty and its history, to wander the medieval streets.
Unfortunately, at weekends, it has now become a magnet for stag and hen parties. They come because the place looks nice; but also because there are lots of bars and pubs in quite a small area. When I leave my business at 5pm on a saturday evening, they are already rolling drunk. They stagger around the streets in huge groups, blokes usually with the same t shirt on with a picture of the groom on it; women with those dongly things on their heads, or wearing pink cowboy hats. Original they are not.
I am sure that there are some businesses making money from these people, so all us locals should be happy, right ? Wrong. I've never spoken to anyone who is happy that they come. Many people don't go into the city centre on saturday nights any more due to the drunken groups. A walk through the city on a sunday morning can mean stepping round the puddles of vomit.
So, the local council can stop it ? Not easily; once the genie is out of the bottle its difficult to get it back in again.
My city isn't the only one to suffer in this way. Dublin, Prague and many other beautiful cities have had their own problems with drunken (usually British) stags and have had to grapple with the problem once it becomes embedded.
Well, we could just ban alcohol right? Look, if the people of the city object, then lobby your representives. Or elect new ones. That's how your system works.
Unfortunately for the Laos, their system is probably not going to be responsive, as a local would not be inclined to badger a government official.
But the bottom line is this - if the kids are just having fun and are not breaking any laws, don't blame them. And certainly give the intellectual justification for being a prude a rest.
#39 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
"women with those dongly things on their heads": photo please.
As far as VV is concerned -- I agree with the thoughts that better to keep it in one place -- it's not like lao people don't get hammered as well -- they just tend not to require the swings and cable lunacy that goes with it in VV.
I'd have preferred to have seen this all develop somewhere else (where, good question) as VV was an especially great place before any of this got there, but as Nokka says, once the genie is out what is one to do?
All the guidebooks and a lot of websites (this one included) say the place is a debacle and perhaps best avoided, but we've all been saying that for nigh on 20 years about Ko Phi Phi and nobody is listening.
The silver lining in this especially leaden cloud, is that many who make a beeline for VV are going to stop almost nowhere else in the country ... and that's good right?
Unfortunately, when there are large numbers of people drinking large amounts of alcohol, crime is often not far behind. A & E Depts have a rush every saturday night due to fights; vandalism is commonplace, sometimes problems can get much worse.
Unfortunately, we have a problem with a minority who indulge in yob culture in the UK. Some decisions made by Govt have made the problem worse. We have seen the creation of mega-bars often catering to exactly the people who cause the problem, who drink the most; that's where the profit is. Ironically, the smaller, local pubs are closing down in droves.
Now, some may see this as not being a problem. Yobs have rights too, huh ? I beg to differ; we do have a problem. Its just that we don't know how to deal with it without curtailing freedoms for the rest of us.
By the way, I haven't been to VV, but doubt the scene there is quite as bad as it could be. I have a feeling that most of the kids there are just gap year kids having a good time - ie a bit of drunkenness, but little or no yobbishness.
Well frankly, after living in Europe for 16 years (and don't get me wrong, I like it), one problem that is pronounced there is a criminal justice system which allows people to commit some pretty serious crime without serious penalty. The problem isn't drunkeness, it's behavior (the alcohol is no excuse). Sentences for violent criminal behavior tend toward the very lenient.
"All the guidebooks and a lot of websites (this one included) say the place is a debacle and perhaps best avoided, but we've all been saying that for nigh on 20 years about Ko Phi Phi and nobody is listening."
I am going to Laos to visit my cousin in Vientiane and to go to VV. It appeals to me precisely because of the water sports. Not only is nobody listening, the "place is best avoided" is its best advertisement.
#42 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
"Do you find this kind of behavior culturally insensitive when it happens in Australia?"
THIS sort of behaviour? No, because there is an Australian tradition of booze. Other sorts of behaviour, yes. For example walking around with a burkah or sending a kid to an Islamic school.
"a local would not be inclined to badger a government official."
Really? That comment is quite funny.
Are you saying the Laos don't have a cultural tradition of drinking or getting high? You're kidding right? Maybe they all come here to Thailand to get drunk and obnoxious - because we have Laos in the clubs here all the time getting drunk.
A friend of mine met a man in Laos almost two decades ago. He was a poor fisherman in Savankhet. The Army confiscated his boat "for the state" leaving him without a means to make a living.
I have never heard a non-connected Lao say anything positive about the governments responsiveness there. As you know, here in Muk a great many Laos are working.
#44 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
It's actually how we are when high and drunk that chafes. Sloppy dressing, loud talking, agressive behaviour etc. Lao drunks act similarly and are also frowned on very much. Someone not so loud, neat and clean, freindly drunk is ok. Amongst the party faithfull drunkedness, promiscuity, smoking, displays of wealth, all frowned on. I like it. Wish I could send loud drunks to boy island to dry out for a couple of months with a snap of my fingers.
Vang Vien is more a boogey man for us than them. In the minds of most Laotians it's just a more succesfull tourist town, similar to Luang Prabang but not as pretty.
There are laws about entering government buildings wearing the wrong cloths, during some special occasions, ASEAN meatings etc, women have to wear the sinh in the capital district. $5 fine for jeans.
Positive on government? I'd have to say most are fairly satisfied, much more so than here in the states. Maybe English speaking ex Lao nationals are telling you what you want to hear Mac.
"It's actually how we are when high and drunk that chafes. Sloppy dressing, loud talking, agressive behaviour etc. Lao drunks act similarly and are also frowned on very much. Someone not so loud, neat and clean, freindly drunk is ok. Amongst the party faithfull drunkedness, promiscuity, smoking, displays of wealth, all frowned on. I like it. Wish I could send loud drunks to boy island to dry out for a couple of months with a snap of my fingers."
Somsai, the question isn't whether or not we like it. There are a host of things people do that irritate me. But in a society with a lot of people, you just have to live with that. For example, I can't stand polite society. All kinds of hypocritical nonsense, everyone pretending they're refined... it's all a lie of course. They're just like everyone else. I don't particularly like sloppy drunks either. They're obnoxious. But that's not the point. This isn't about whether one likes it or not. That's irrelevent. This is a question of whether that behavior should be tolerated or not - Rufus and company want to comdemn it on the basis of culture - when that's obviously nonsense. As you yourself have pretty much pointed out here too.
"Vang Vien is more a boogey man for us than them. In the minds of most Laotians it's just a more succesfull tourist town, similar to Luang Prabang but not as pretty."
I will take your word for it.
"There are laws about entering government buildings wearing the wrong cloths, during some special occasions, ASEAN meatings etc, women have to wear the sinh in the capital district. $5 fine for jeans."
Sounds ridiculous, but I can't say surprising.
"Positive on government? I'd have to say most are fairly satisfied, much more so than here in the states. Maybe English speaking ex Lao nationals are telling you what you want to hear Mac."
Single party governments abuse power. There are no exceptions. It's natures law. People in the States are more vocal because they can be. Suggesting the US copy Laos style of government is beyond ridiculous. You should know better.
#46 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
When I was in VV a while back I was very surprised by the number of locals getting over-the-top drunk, and smoking pot and opium. They were having a better time than the tourists.
One of the things I noticed that was different compared to similar behaviour in Thailand was that in Laos, women were right in there with the men getting bent, smoking and singing. I have still never seen anything like that in Thailand, or anywhere else I've been to in SE Asia. Gotta say, it was quite refreshing.
"One of the things I noticed that was different compared to similar behaviour in Thailand was that in Laos, women were right in there with the men getting bent, smoking and singing."
Tilapia, you obviously weren't getting out much in Thailand. Women like to party here just as much as they do back home. This is not a conservative society. Whenever I go out there are lots of women drinking and dancing and singing - just as many as men. I'll dare say I've been to every night spot in Mukdahan, and it's always the same. Same in NKP. I also have been out quite a bit in Ubon. Maybe it's different down south... where I don't go.
#48 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
"This is not a conservative society."
You obviously have never lived in Prachinburi or in any of the country's smaller villages. Singing and dancing is one thing. They all love that kind of stuff. Getting drunk and smoking, like the ladies in Laos were? No friggin' way! That's about as non-riproy as you can get, next to being a prostitute.
I lived in a village in Yasothon... and the women there sit and drink and smoke with the men all the time. Now I live in a city, and the women go out all the time. It isn't ANY different from Ausburg, Germany, where I used to live. In this respect, not even a little different. Maybe Prachinburi is different from Yaso and Muk.
#50 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
For living, I couldn't stand Prachinburi. It was one of the most boring places I'd ever been to in the country, and I had to work and live there. There was one club where teens and twenty-somethings would go to dance. A sort-of western bar beside the bus station where guys would smoke and booze it up, while the girls would sit quietly with their Coke and maybe get up and dance together ... or spend time cutting up their boyfriend's gai yang.
Nakhon Nayok, Kabinburi, Sa Kaeo, and all the towns around me were the same. My neighbours and friends' families all behaved the same way.
However, I noticed that this was not the case in places like Chiang Khan and Nong Khai, Udon or Loei. I think that the places are different from each other, and that maybe Thais in Issan really are more "Lao" than Thai?
They are lao, in the same way that hispanics living in New Mexico are Mexican. Ethnically essentially the same people. Some small differences, like Mexicans in New Mexico. But not major differences. I think this is what you were noticing.
#52 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Hmmm. . . here we go again. I'll say Chicano's living in Colorado that come from here are Hispanic, and culturaly too, but a vast difference from Mexico. Different food, different way of talking, might not even speak Spanish here. Mack you aren't generalizing over brown and yeller people are you?
But I'll agree Isaan Lao and Lao Lao women drink, don't know about that smoking though, never seen that except ciggies by ladies of leisure.
I lived in Arizona... they're very, very similar peoples with the same origins. Which is why they're very similar. And unlike the Lao and Isaan peoples, they don't share language with their host country. Thai and Lao being close cousins.
I'll give you another example, Anglo Canadians and Anglo Americans. Linguistically, culturally, these are the same peoples. My sister has lived in Toronto since 1975 - no meaningful differences. I've been there a great many times. No meaningful differences.
Or Austrians and Germans. The Austrians ARE Germans - ethnically speaking. Culturally the differences are so slight as to be negligeable to a foreigner coming to Germany or Austria.
Do you want some more?
#54 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
And when discussing ethnicity you should remember it's not race based. The three principal issues in determining ethnicity are race, language and religion. Guess what the people of Isaan and the people of Lao share?
#55 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
What is the dominant religion of Laos?
What is the dominant religion of Isaan?
What is the dominant language of Laos?
What is the dominant language of Isaan?
What is the dominant racial makeup of Laos?
What is the dominant racial makeup of Isaan?
You're argument was that Laos can't be characterized since there are so many groups. That is obviously an arguement I reject. That's not to say you won't find exceptions - but when talking IN GENERAL, these two regions share MANY similarities and have FEW distinctions.
If you look at the US, white southerners and whites from the Northeast have a number of linguistic, cultual and social differences. I can spot someone from the north or south right away. Especially after they talk. Yet ethnically, these are the SAME PEOPLE.
#57 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
What is the dominant religion of Laos?
Theravada Buddhism and animism
What is the dominant religion of Isaan?
Buddhism, not of the theravada variety.
What is the dominant language of Laos?
What is the dominant language of Isaan?
What is the dominant racial makeup of Laos?
About 87 different ethnic groups, give or take a few. (The Govt gives the number as 30 odd, but they don't count some very small groups of hilltribes.)
What is the dominant racial makeup of Isaan?
Quite a few less than the above.
First of all, if you start talking minority groups then the discussion means nothing. That means Laos isn't Laos, but rather a collection of different ethnic groups that happen to live in the place we call Laos. You can't attribute anything to them. So for the purposes of this disucssion what is relevent are the low land Laos - the dominant ethnic group.
Secondly, for the purposes of ethnic group dicussion, Bhudism is Bhudism. Using your arguement, the Bavarians (majority Catholic) and the Swabians (majority Evangelical) aren't of the same ethnic group.
Thirdly, as for language, Isaan and Laos are the same language. That is, they are mutually intelligeable. Again, I will refer you to the German example. High German is the German National Language, Bavarian is a dialect of that language spoken in Bavaria. Germans who are not from Bavaria understand Bavarian with difficulty, but it is undertandable - i.e. it's the same language. That's the definition of language. In the US southerners use different expressions and have a different accent. They speak with a regional dialect. Yet I can understand them. Same for the British or Australians.
I will grant you that there are plenty of different ethnic groups that aren't Laos in Laos. But that's irrelevent to the discussion. I was talking DOMINANT. I can cite minorities in almost any country, almost any variety. Africa is like this as well. But that's not to say we can't attribute certain characteristics to the Ethiopians for example (which also have over 80 different ethnic groups within their borders). It's also not to say that ethnically Ethiopia and Eritrea are largely comparable locations - just like Isaan and Laos.
#59 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
First of all, if you start talking minority groups then the discussion means nothing"
You asked what the makeup was; I didn't.
"Secondly, for the purposes of ethnic group dicussion, Bhudism is Bhudism"
So Catholicism is equivaalent to Lutheranism to Methodism? roflmao!
"Thirdly, as for language, Isaan and Laos are the same language"
They ar related; they are not the same. Is Dutch the same as German? Is Plattdeutsch?
Give up Mac. Ethnologists and linguists have stated you are wrong.
Yes, Catholics and lutherans are BOTH CHRISTIANS. Christianity is the name of the religion, which has many different sects or branches. Using your arguement, Bavarians and Prussians are different ethnic groups - i.e. not Germans.
"Thirdly, as for language, Isaan and Laos are the same language"
They ar related; they are not the same. Is Dutch the same as German? Is Plattdeutsch?"
They are mutually intelligeable Rufus - therefore by definition they are the same language. They are different DIALECTS, but of the same language.
Dutch and German are NOT mutually intelligeable, therefore different languages. That's the division line between a different dialect and a different languae. My wife watches Laos TV and understands it without a problem.
Lao and Thai are more like your Dutch / German comparison (althgough they are closer - say like Italian and Spanish).
The people of Isaan are ethnically low land lao. No matter how you slice it or dice it, that's what they are characterized as (check out a map that shows Thai ethnic breakdowns) and that's what they are.
#61 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Of course you refuse to do the same - cause you're convinced you are right.
I see you like the Somsai method of argumentation: When you disagree with someone and think you know it all, call them ignorant.
I cut and pasted this from the (in)famous wiki:
"In the beginning 20th century the region of northeast Thailand was officially named as Isan, a term adopted from Sanskrit that means “northeast.” The Lao-speaking people from this region, who comprise a majority of the population, distinguish themselves not only from the Lao of Laos but in addition also the central Thai by calling themselves as Khon Isan. The Khmer and Kuy (Suai) who live in the southern part of the northeast region of Thailand communicated in languages and follow custom that are more similar to Cambodia than to the tradition of either the Thai people or the Lao people. 
Agriculture is the main economic activity, but due to the socio-economic conditions and hot, dry climate output lags behind that of other parts of the country. Isan is Thailand's poorest region.
The main language of the region is Isan, which is similar to Laotian. Considered by some to be a dialect of Laotian, but written in the Thai alphabet, Isan is among the Chiang Seng and Lao-Phutai languages, which are members of the Tai languages of the Kradai language family. Thai is also spoken, with regional accents, by almost everyone. Khmer (the language of Cambodia) is widely spoken in regions near the Cambodian border (Buriram, Surin, and Sisaket). Most of the population is of Lao origin, but the region's incorporation into the modern Thai state has been largely successful."
Now, there is no question that as peoples are separated by geograghic boundaries (or physical ones) that they slowly take on their own regional characteristics. Hence the eventual forming of new ethnic groups. This is true. If you want to make that arguement that this subtle line in Isaan has been crossed, and the Isaan are now essentially their own, new ethnic group, that's fine. But I would disagree. In the same way that I would say that Anglo-Americans and Anglo-Canadians are ethnically essentially the same peoples. Certainly in my German example, if you want to say that Austrians are a seperate ethnic group (that is, not Germans), then you have to say that Bavarians are as well, as their language and culture are certainly MUCH closer to Austria than to "central Germany".
#63 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
"I see you like the Somsai method of argumentation: When you disagree with someone and think you know it all, call them ignorant."
Wiki usually depends on who writes it. In this case why copy and paste it Mac? Seems to negate your arguement, they call the language and the poeples different names?
I believe you used the phrase buffalo dung, vice simply Buffalo.
I see you did not read the above carefully enough.
"The Lao-speaking people from this region..."
"The main language of the region is Isan, which is similar to Laotian. Considered by some to be a dialect of Laotian"
"Now racially there's been a lot of inter-breeding going on down here for a very long time. Some peoples were isolated long enough to retain certain characteristics, but for the most part the Thai and Laos aren't very different racially. Like the French and the Germans. I can't look at a Frenchman, a German, a Dutchman and a Dane and tell you who's who. The people of Laos and Isaan come from essentially the same racial, as well as linguistic, stock."
As for religion, really for the purposes of analyzing ethnicity major faiths are all that matter. However there are exceptions - principally in how peoples see themselves vice how they actually are. An example here would be the Serbs and Croats - who view themselves as different peoples even though they are both Christian (Serbs eastern orthodox and Croats Catholic). However most of them aren't religious. Thus the difference between the Serbs and Croats is that the Serbs don't go to Eastern Orthodox services and the Croats don't go to Catholic mass. And the difference between the Bosniaks and the others is the Bosniaks don't pray to Mecca five times a day. In fact, if a Serb and Croat sat down and talked about a baseball game - they could not tell whether the person they were talking to were Serb or Croat. My translator in Bosnia used to pretend he was Serb when in Serb areas - although he was in fact Croat. Lots of guys did this.
For foreigners on vacation, however (and that is what we are talking about here right?) subtle things are irrelevent - particularly in language which they can't understand anyway. For practical purposes, the Low Land Lao and the Khon Isaan are the same peoples. Like the Austrians and the Germans they themselves might disagree with you in a moment of passion - because they aren't objective about it. But the reality is what makes them different is too small to characterize them as a separate ethnic group.
#65 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Mac, don't quote Wiki. Any idiot can post anything there, so you lose all credibility. I suggest you read some of Robert Cooper's books, or better still go and talk to him when you are in Vientiane.
Grant Evans is an excellent source of information, and I suggst you read his material.
I'll be happy to - although there isn't anything that was in there that you particularly disagreed with is there?
I will leave you with this thought. One of my dance students is a 50 year old woman who was born in Mukdahan, but who's father was Laos and born in Savanakhet. She was a school teacher here, after a hard scrabble life as a kid, and I asked her if she enjoyed going to Laos (she does often). Oh yes, she loves it - except in the villages. I then asked her if she considered herself Laos or Isaan. She said "It doesn't matter, they're the same."
This woman is not f#$#@# bog ignorant.
#67 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Back when I was a teacher, one of my students was a 50 year old woman who was born in Roiet, but who's father was Lao and born in Ban Nocket. She was a school teacher in Roi et, after a hard scrabble life as a kid, and I asked her if she enjoyed going to Laos (she does often). Oh yes, she loves it - except in Dao cafe Savaneket. I then asked her if she considered herself Lao or Isaan. She said "It doesn't matter, anyone who quotes anonymous anecdotal sources on the net is as convincing as the maeng kii kwai that live under buffalo dung."
Her exact words.
You and I both know there isnt' the smallest chance that an Isaan woman would say "anyone who quotes anonymous, anecdotal sources."
And I'll admit it's a single source. Which means by definition small sampe size. Fair enough. But nevertheless it's true. Everything I quoted. So you could say her perception is just one perception, and therefore insufficient supporting information - and I wouldn't argue with that. Statistically you would be correct. Nevertheless I respect this womans opinion - not to mention my own observations on this side of the Mekong...
I also think "Maeng Kii Kwai" that "live under buffalo dung" is somewhat redundant. Repeating "buffalo dung" twice in one sentance - a writing faux Pas.
#69 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Mac, the people I teach and speak to regard themselves as laos and say there is quite a cultural divide between themselves and Northern Thai. As some of them are from various ministries, I suspect they carry more weight, (figuratively), then your 50 y.o. dance student. Anyway, I am out of here - this is boring me.
I would say that the Austrians would say the same thing - that they are not Germans, that there is a big cultural divide... The reality is there is a small cultural divide and they are Germans.
#71 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
OK, now this is an area which I REALLY know plenty about. Austrians are Germans - period, end of story. Same race, same language, same religious orientation. So how are they a different ethnic group? What definition are you using?
#73 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
I lived in Augsburg for 16 years Mr. Anthropolgist. My son is German and lives in Berchetesgaden (and Altoetting). Now, tell me, in measurables - with emphasis on measurables - what makes the Austrians a different ethnic group?
This is like saying Anglo-Canadians and Anglo-Americans are different ethnic groups - which is, of course, ridiculous.
#76 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
So far your last five posts have consisted of the following line of arguementation:
1. I know more than you, therefore I am right.
2. You are ignorant.
Now, maybe I am missing something here, but this method of debating an issue probably isn't going to be very effective in most circles.
Tell me something, do you consider Bavarians to be "non-Germans"? Are they their own ethnic group?
#77 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Sounds like a case of "pot calling kettle". I doubt you have looked at any of the sources I have suggested. Mac, the fact that you have a German son is nice for you, but is not evidence of anythin. (By the way, I lived near Neuoetting, interestingly enough.)
OK, I have a degree in German literature (even though I hate literature), speak German, and lived there for a very long time. Spent plenty of time in Austria as well.
Agian, let's get down to brass tacks here. How do you define ethnic group?
#79 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
I have to say after reading this entire thread, I have to say rufus and MAC, you are both doing the readers a service more than you realize I think. It's almost like I was watching CNN and actually getting both sides of the issue. It's like a liberal vs conservative debate... I agree with multiple points from each of you, and am very glad I took the time to read this.....
I'll give my opinion after my visit this winter, although its just a pass by for the scenery since i dont drink, not staying long lol.
I also wanted to make one point regarding this:
What is the dominant religion of Laos?
Theravada Buddhism and animism
What is the dominant religion of Isaan?
Buddhism, not of the theravada variety.
This is not the case from my expierence,as the Theravada orest tradition seems most prominent there. I visited all over the region and have stayed in dozens of monasteries including a long stint at Wat Pah nanachat and Wat pah pong in the theravada forest tradition in Ubon, even ordained as a pakhow.
The Ajahn Chah tradition has 100's of monasteried in the region.
Yes they are!
and I spent a few months at WPN, and during that time the community took a trip to WPP to spend time there, visit the chedi of Luang por Chah, and see the roots the tradition, since WPN was only started because Ajahn chah had a soft spot for us "farangs" and wanted a place to train english speaking monks.
During my time at WPN, I had my head shaved after 3 days, and moved in a small kuti ( hut ) in the forest with a few HUGE lizards living on the inside ceiling lol
The routine is very intense yet not, since 4-6 hours of meditation is the scheduale, but no one actually watched to see if you follow it, your on your.
the most memorable events were the funeral, where we were told to meditate on death while watching a body burn... which takes 6-9 HOURS by the way..... you never look at life the same after you see that.
the other thing was the people. I went on the alms round carrying bowls for monks once they were full, and i must say seeing the people of bung wai give balls of rice while only haveing a torn shirt and one sandle at 7 am is just touching....
its rather funny actually... my first trip to thailand was to WPN... not travel. my plan was to ordain as a monk for good, as they handle visas for monks making you a "de facto" Thai citizen while your in robes. it didn't work out and after leaving had 3 weeks left on my visa so i traveled and got addicted to it, and my life had a new direction from there....
i left on uneasy terms after a few months due to the treatment of women at the monasteries as second class.... long story there.
ive typed too much off topic already :-P
A lot more relevant off topic than most, I mean at least you're in the right country talking about something you've actually seen and done.
Maybe start an idle banter thread about why don't they have women monks, something I've always wondered about, and no, "it's not the Thai way" isn't an answer.
The "reason", ablbeit Sri lanka DOES have female monks, is that in the thai tradition, the monks feel that the line of Bhikkuni's ( female monks ) Dies out centuries ago, and since to ordain a nun you need 10 nuns to perform it, there is no way of bringing back the nun's line.
The counter argument is that the line of female monks in china never died out and so they could use them to start the line over. Sri lanka did this, thai monks would rather die first. literally.
thai monks in general, and in there defense buddhism literature at times points to it, that only males can attain enlightenment, so they believe females should wait until they die and are reborn as males first.....
wow - this post went from a slanging match over VV - i scrolled past another 60 or so comments to see the thread turning to "sri lankan monks".
Maybe this thread now qualifies to be moved to 'idle banter'...
#86 tristan99 has been a member since 25/11/2009. Posts: 10
to be fair though, my post number 80 was just a comment on an earlier post, #58 relating to culture in which buddhism is a large part there.
and before it got to out of hand i did create another topic in idle banter just for that subject.
"By the way, there are no women there apart from fat backpacker scrubbers"......
So does that mean that every female backpacker who visits VV is a fat scrubber??
A slightly negative comment I must say.
#88 scottyheather has been a member since 30/3/2008. Posts: 89
just wanted to add something from my experience here over the pasr few days. I wanna first start by adding that I think you can truly enjoy this place without offending anyone and having a good time without compromising yourself. I arrived and stayed at Thavisouk bungalows outside town with an amazing view. I spent alot of time there reading in a hammock getting sme R&R etc. Now I love friends but I don't really drink and the town is too much for me, so for food I ventured to the outskirts and did my best to find things outside the tourist areas.
Even the tubing I found a way to do it in a way I found pleasing. I went when I was the only one on the river. No seriously, I went at 10am and I was the only tourist on the river, with a red number 1 from the tubing place on my hand. I floated down the river solo, soaking up the views my own way, sober and with full appreciation of it.
I'm not judging anyone who parties here, just simply stating that vang vieng has some seriously great attractions and there is a way to enjoy it nowmatter the type of person you are.