The tiny town that took Laos from obscurity to the front page of the New York Times as the craziest place to party in the late 2000s. Accessible only by bus through winding mountain potholed roads with an ever-present chance of landslide and flooding, Vang Vieng became the El Dorado of drug-snorting, binge-drinking backpackers. You know, the good kind. At its peak, Vang Vieng was host to over 20 bars along the Mekong, connected by rope swings, zip lines, and ramshackle jumping platforms. Rent a tube, float to a bar, and pick from one of two menus- Poisons come in buckets, joints, shakes, teas or powder. Despite the massive crowd of gap-year students and other backpackers, competition between the bars was so fierce that free liquor happy hours was standard, with the top tier bars even offering other drug specials. During peak season, Vang Vieng was the most dangerous place to party in the Mekong delta, claiming an average 2-3 deaths per month.
It’s been 10 months since the bars have disappeared, and with it, much of the infamy that surrounded Vang Vieng. Let me clarify- Only 3 bars were spared demolition and continue operation along the river. Even so, the remaining bars are a calm shell of the debauched past, and silent by night, as tubing ends at 6. Now, the former glory of Vang Vieng is retained only through stories from bar staff and professional backpackers.
Laotians are a laid back (lazy) people that prefer the slow life. This is mostly a good thing. Vang Vieng might not party like it used to, but there are a few things to do other than drink and fuck tourists. Pick up some Valium and Tramadol at a pharmacy and go biking. Three dollars and you can be buzzing like a tuning fork for days, biking to caves and karsts outside the city limits. Tubing is a nice time even sober, but most days during the wet season the township-run tubing company is closed due to the speed of the river. Rock-climb for half a day to get a fun workout and enjoy the limestone karsts up close. When you’re spent and your arms are pounding, head down to Full Moon bar, ask for their special menu and just sprawl out on a bed with your drug of choice.
Drug Prices (Sep 2013)