American [no longer] In Korea

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The New Vang Vieng

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)

72 Hours in Bangkok

On Imported Blog

Three days–that’s all I had during my first trip to Asia.

I was set to take off just a few days after spending 3 weeks traveling to Sri Lanka, the States and the Bahamas and I was dead broke. A few months earlier, I found out that I had won a free flight to Bangkok from my bank here in the United Arab Emirates and was determined to make the trip happen–even if it meant traveling to Asia with only $300 to my name. This trip would also be my first experience Couchsurfing AND on the Asian continent, so I was excited and nervous all at the same time.

One of the first things that I always do when I travel alone is purchase a sim card so that I can stay connected with family & friends. I arrived to Bangkok, bought my sim, added some minutes & a data plan and headed to the house where I was going to be staying for the next few days. Bangkok was everything that I thought a stereotypical big Southeast Asian city would be–sprawling with skyscrapers, intricate metro rail lines, crowded, dirty and lively with millions of things happening all around me at the same time. It was a complete sensory overload but I must admit–I loved the energy.

Couchsurfing is a popular way to travel. You stay in the homes of locals or expats in cities around the world–for free. I met my host Amy through a friend of a friend who had Couchsurfed in Bangkok a year earlier. Before my trip, I had Skyped with Amy and her roommates to get things situated for my stay at their house. On the first night, I made it to Amy’s house and enjoyed some welcome drinks and conversation with her roommates about Bangkok, living abroad and traveling. Each of them had come from various parts of the world (Europe, Australia and the US) to intern in Bangkok for different businesses and NGO’s and they were renting a 3-bedroom apartment in the Sukhumvit area. That night, as I lay down to sleep on the couch, I remember thinking about how crazy it was to be in a complete stranger’s house in a foreign country. One of the things that always blows me away about most travelers and expats that I meet abroad is how amazingly open and welcoming they are to meeting new people.

Early in the morning on my first full day, I borrowed a map and an old Lonely Planet guide from one of Amy’s roommates and hit the city. For a girl with less than $300 in her pocket, I couldn’t believe how much I was able to do and see. I spent the next three days traveling around in tuk-tuks exploring temples, hoping on and off of the Bangkok Transit System (BTS), visiting wats, shopping, meeting up with more friends of friends, gorging on street food and partying with fellow travelers on the infamous Khaosan Road. By the end of the trip, I was exhausted. I enjoyed every minute of it and even boasted mosquito bites as battle wounds.

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