You got me floatin'
Trip Start Jun 12, 2011
124Trip End Oct 22, 2012
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The thing to do in Van Vieng is tubing and in 2003 that meant getting a tuk tuk and an inner tube and heading to the organic mulberry farm out of town jumping into the Nam Song River on your tube to spend the day floating and admiring the amazing scenery with only the sound of the river and your companions
In 2005 I again found myself in Van Vieng. There were a few more restaurants and bars in town but the vibe was pretty similar. On the island though a number of bars had appeared pumping out techno and dnb and when tubing the cool boxes had turned into fridges and bamboo platforms and zip wires but still the vibe was same same and you ended in the centre of town so you could just walk back into town.
This trip I found Van Vieng almost unrecogniseable
The sleepy town I once knew has turned into an 18/30s style mess fest. It is a shame but as Laos is one of the poorest countries in the world I really dont blame the locals for trying to make a buck out of pissed tourists. It seems there has been a lot of westerners settle here assisting the development but its a shame they havent been more sensitive to the area so that its initial charm is now lost. I feel very privileged to have seen it before its boom and can safely say I wont be coming back to see what has happened to it in the future. I only hope that someone does something to make the tubing safer.
On the road out of Van Vieng I noticed that the for the whole of the 4 hour journey to Vientiane there was litter (mainly plastic) strewn everywhere and I started to think that the country must be struggling to cope with its rapid development. I wonder what, if any, infrastructure is in place for recycling or rubbish collection and it made me really sad to think that such a beautiful country is becoming so polluted. I also noticed that it seems to be a few families who were probably in the right place at the right time who are now profiting from tourism and suspect Laos is another case of the minority rich getting richer and the majority poor remaining so. The main industries here are tourism and beer laos although judging by the amount of development I suspect that the concrete suppliers are making a mint too
I've also noticed that there are a whole ton of children here that dont seem to be in school and I havent even seen many schools. In the towns none of the children seem to play or smile and lots of them are working, either learning the trade of shopkeeping, sandwich making or are selling trinkets on the streets. In remote areas the kids seem happier cos they are playing out but maybe only rolling around in mud or cooling off inthe drain water or playing with bugs or bamboo footballs. But of course there is little or no money to be had in these remote areas and their life is that of subsistence. I cant help but think sometimes that this subsistence way of living in bamboo huts looking out at the amazing scenery and living off the land may hold a richer lifestyle as people pull together to support each other instead of valuing the electronics etc that modern life has to offer. But then as I have the choice not to live like that I cant really comment on the hardships that no doubt are also faced by the villages.