Photo: Classic scenery surrounds Vang Vieng.

Laos forum

Alternative to Vang Vieng?

Posted by freezabird1 on 5/1/2011 at 02:04

Hey all,

Am planning my trip to Laos and Vang Vieng sounds and looks like a beautiful place I kinda don't wanna miss... Except I don't really need to get wasted and watch Friends with a bunch of Europeans all the way in Laos and it sounds that that's the whole thing in Vang Vieng. Is there anything real left about that place, is it skippable or is there a good alternative around? Mind you, loved the at parties Koh Phangan but that was 10 years ago and I really want something else for this trip :).

#1 freezabird1 has been a member since 5/1/2011. Posts: 2

Posted by svendj on 5/1/2011 at 02:38

It doesn't mean because Vang Vieng is mostly about "Tubing" and party's that the scenery isn't great all around. It's a beautiful town. You can stay just outside of town (south) in some bungalows if you like, enjoy the view, relax. make a day trip to the cave waterfalls and another to cave tubing and you got the totally different side of VV.

I'd never skip it all because what others say. I do still like to party but also like the other things around town as I've mentioned.

Check it out for a day or 2 and if you don't like it, just move on!

#2 svendj has been a member since 30/4/2010. Location: Belgium. Posts: 196
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Posted by christay2009 on 5/1/2011 at 03:23

If you dont want to party...pretty much everywhere else in Laos is an alternative. I'd still go toVang Vieng if you could squeeze it in and if you pass it anyway. As the above says, you can stay a little bit out of town if you like, you don't have to go tubing (Kayaking is a good river alternative) and not all bars play Friends 24/7.

Not everyone there is European either.

#3 christay2009 has been a member since 8/2/2009. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 414

Posted by jackymoon on 5/1/2011 at 08:29

I just spent nine nights in Vang Vieng over the holidays. I usually avoid places like that, for example I rather disliked Had Rinn and the full moon. However I fell in love with Vang Vieng. In eight months on the road it is the most beautiful place I have been. I found the people I met there were far more interesting than the wankers I met in southern Thailand. If you want to get away from the backpacker scene for the day it is super easy to disappear into the back of beyond on foot, bicycle or moto. Just a short way from town you will find waterbuffalo mud wallows, cultivated fields and friendly women selling textiles off the loom. Vang Vieng is on it's way to bein ruined, bit it isn't yet. Hope that helps, peace and love.

#4 jackymoon has been a member since 20/10/2010. Posts: 20

Posted by caseyprich on 5/1/2011 at 09:12

Last time I was in Laos I used Luang Prabang as a hub and didn't spiral out to Vang Vieng - instead I worked my way over to Phonsavan and north to Nong Kiaow .

The scenery around Phonsavan is not very splendid, but it is a very intersting place to visit if you have a mind for history. I'd recommend reading up on the region before you go to get the most out of any visit.

However, if you want beautiful scenery, I can't speak for a comparison to Vang Vieng but Nong Kiaow is a very relaxing and pretty spot. An iconic bridge over the river and some tall rock formations hover over the town. As well, it is the gateway to Muang Ngoi - what used to be a village that can only be reached by boat. Now it is a street of guesthouses that can only be reached by boat. However, there are many nice hikes to take in the surrounding countryside and the last time I was there the temple at the north end of town even had a little sandy beach by the river. I could see that place turning sour pretty soon as well - so it may be a good time to go now.

#5 caseyprich has been a member since 3/3/2010. Location: China. Posts: 1,281
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Posted by MADMAC on 5/1/2011 at 10:27

"Vang Vieng is on it's way to bein ruined, bit it isn't yet. Hope that helps, peace and love."

On it's way to being ruined? I would say it's on its way to joining civilization. And it still has a long way to go. Development is a good thing, not a bad one. And if you don't think so, why aren't you living in a grass covered hut in some remote village? Because it sucks, that's why.

#6 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by travellingsarah on 5/1/2011 at 11:36 TF writer

Posted from within Vietnam.

I guess it all depends on your definition of ruined.

Anyway, I agree that Northern Laos, around Nong Khiaw and Muong Ngoi, is stunning - definitely, for me, on a par with the scenery around Vang Vieng and easy enough to access from LP. We took a minibus to Nong Khiaw and stayed there, in a pretty grotty hut overlooking the bridge and river (there were nicer places!), for 2 nights. We hired a canoe and had one of the hardest but most rewarding days of our trip trying to paddle upstream with tiny wooden paddles in a solid wooden boat (we still have the blister scars!) then took a boat up to Muong Ngoi which we loved. For us it had the right mix of a good group of backpackers who were up for a drink and company, a peaceful village feel, and amazing scenery. A great place to chill and / or have a gentle trek out to some other villages.

That said, I wouldn't necessarily skip VV either - I thought I was past it but had a good fun couple of days in Vang Vieng as well as appreciating the great scenery around there.

#7 travellingsarah has been a member since 23/3/2010. Location: Vietnam. Posts: 681
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Posted by caseyprich on 5/1/2011 at 14:26

If we want to pick on people's words we could start by asking what defines "joining civilization". I didn't realize that grass covered huts were not a part of civilization. I guess you may be on to something as the Ancient Egyptians used mud instead of grass.

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Posted by MADMAC on 5/1/2011 at 16:30

I am married to a woman who grew up in a thatched roof house and the poverty that's associated with that. I assure you, it sucks.

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Posted by freezabird1 on 5/1/2011 at 17:50

Thanks for your suggestions guys, that was really helpful! Will def visit Nong Khiaw and Muong Ngoi, and will check out VV too :). Cheers!

#10 freezabird1 has been a member since 5/1/2011. Posts: 2

Posted by caseyprich on 5/1/2011 at 20:37

It's obvious that jackymoon meant it is ruined as a destination for scenery and serenity. Just as it is obvious that you meant civilization in a different way than I chose to address it.

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Posted by MADMAC on 5/1/2011 at 22:18

Nothing stands still. I doubt it will be "ruined" as a travel destination anytime soon - unless you consider it's further modernization ruined. I meant "civilization" in terms of electricity, water, modern medicine (you know, having your infant child die of something easily treatable because you have no access to modern medicine kind of sucks too), that kind of civilization. Tourism, industry... these are the kinds of things that generate the kind of money and expertise which brings with it modern infrastructure - perhaps decried by tourists looking for a photo op, but not by people who have to live without those things. 50 years ago Vang Vieng was just another shitty ass village with a high infant mortality rate and a civil war raging around it. Those, of course, were the "good ol' days" before it was screwed up by tubing. Now it's on the verge of being "ruined" - which is a perspective I find utterly ridiculous and slightly racist, if unintentionally so.

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Posted by exacto on 5/1/2011 at 22:44

Ko Chang was ruined too, as a tourist/vacation/chill out destination. Beautiful groves of palm trees and white sandy beaches were bulldozed to put in lots of concrete, and the natural order of the island was seriously damaged. I hear similar stories that the northern Thai city of Pai has also lost its charm.

That's the issue here. The loss of charm. That charm is the entire reason to visit a location while on holiday in the first place. Nobody is begrudging anyone access to clean, running water or adequate healthcare or modern conveniences and nobody is being even slightly racist, intentionally or otherwise.

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Posted by jackymoon on 5/1/2011 at 23:06

MADMAC is crazy and rude, but I like how he challenges the way we think of our selves as travelers and the places we visit.

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Posted by caseyprich on 6/1/2011 at 07:58

I know what you meant by civilization - I was making a point about intentionally misrepresenting someone's idea for the sake of rhetorical impact.

Anyway, I remember a guy in Shanghai whose big complaint about VV was that he wastreated badly by the corrupt police when he got caught with some grass, another guy had complaints about theft and intimidation by the local authority about some bar dispute -sounds like a place that is slipping away from civilized behavior to me.

I'm all for potable water and medicine, it's too bad that it often comes at the expense of local customs and community relations. I'm not blaming the people who take entrepreneurial advantage of the new tourist-hot-spot circumstance they find their community in, but rather the behavior that is brought into their community by the adventure seeker. However, once that element arrives, it is not only the photo-opportunity that is lost, the fabric of the social order can begin to fray.

In fact, I like to have some level of development where I travel. I'm not saying pave the world, but the difference made by a 5 hour tarmac bus ride and a 10 hour unsealed road is great for everyone.

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Posted by MADMAC on 6/1/2011 at 10:31

Yes, the charm factor will change. But take a look at what people are looking for here in terms of convenience, and then also overlay what the indigenous people are seeking in their own communities. You can't have running water, modern medical facilities, 24 hour power and decent infrstracture, but the same level of charm prior to those things. Those developments are going to bring unwanted things too - like trash for example, and more people.
For the indigenous persons, those things bring relief from very difficult lives. Of course, there are always winners and losers in such developments and I am sure you can find Lao in Vang Vieng or anywhere else that is trying to draw the tourist dollar that begrudge the "changes". That's unavoidable.
A tourist will go to Pai now and say it was great. A tourist who was there 15 years ago and is seeking the same experience will say "it's been ruined". That principally because he's looking for that "same charm" and it ain't the same. Doesn't mean it doesn't have charm though. It's just not the same.

Am I rude? I don't intend to be rude. Direct, yes. But not rude. I apologize if I offend anyone here. No intent to do so.
As for crazy? Maybe. They don't call me "MAD MAC" for nothing. But I married into the culture here, live here and have in laws and a lot of friends here. That gives me a certain perspective on things that's perhaps different from a tourist perspective. I go frequently to the village where my wife grew up. It has changed dramatically - and much for the better. We now have a clinic in the village, kids get vaccinated, we have power and water 24/7... as a result, crime is way down, people are heathier and life is better. 25 years ago they didn't have any of these things, crime was up, and quality of life was down. Now, perhaps someone who was there 40 years ago would come now and say the place has "lost it's charm", but for the people who live there, they do not rue that modernization and while they may complain about things that came with it (we have a lot of trash everywhere, and it's a lot noisier) they wouldn't trade them in for anything.

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