Posted by: HelenRortvedt | 27 February 2007

Vang Vieng and Vientiane

Greetings from Vientiane, the world’s slowest paced capital city. Granted, compared to everywhere else in Lao, Vientiane is a crazy big city, but I am instantly relieved of any Asian-Urban-Stress here in Vientiane when I remember Saigon, Hanoi, Dhaka, Hong Kong, Kolkata…

Vientiane is growing and modernizing fast, but it is still Lao. We are only here for a few days. We applied for our Cambodian visas today, and we should be able to pick them up this afternoon still. It would have taken weeks in Washington, DC. Funny. There are at least a half dozen ATMs here as well. I guess word travels slower than I thought. At least a couple of the machines already accept foreign MasterCards and Visas. Also funny.

We have spent the last few days outside of Vang Vieng. Emphasis on the outside intentional. Vang Vieng is a backpacker’s haven in the midst of the wilds of Lao. Granted, not the type of backpacker I often choose to spend a lot of time with, but backpackers, nonetheless. A direct quote from a fellow traveler upon leaving Vang Vieng: “Man, I’m just trying to get through these countries so I can go lay on a beach somewhere in Thailand.” It’s people like this that are attracted to Vang Vieng. It’s so easy to forget you are in Lao in this town. TV bars line the main strip in town and dozens of zoned out (either by the TVs themselves or by any of the myriad drugs readily available at any shop in town) on these benches that are more like beds watching reruns of “Friends” and “The Simpsons”. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am far from being a hater of the Simpsons, but come on…in Lao?? I definitely did not travel all this way to pretend I was being lazy at home.

So, luckily, upon recommendation from Hads, we decided to stay at the Organic Farm in the village of Phoudindaeng, about 4km north of Vang Vieng and the den of debauchery, delinquency and duuuuuuuudes. The farm is host to a variety of community-based projects and relies on a modest guesthouse, an organic restaurant, and the help of volunteers passing through to promote their programs. We only spent 2 days there, but we were able to get our hands (and feet and knees and faces and clothes…) dirty by helping to finish the first stage of construction of a mud-brick building that will eventually become a seed storage facility for the farm. We may or may not have walked out with more mud on ourselves than on the building, but hey, the work got done and we had a good time doing it! Luckily, the Nam Song River was just steps away and we were able to wash away the spa-quality mud in style. Sadly, no pictures of this exist on either of our cameras, but we left armed with email addresses and promises for the pictures to be posted on websites, so hopefully you’ll be able to experience a bit of the mud for yourselves.

The rest of our time near Vang Vieng was spent straight chillin’. No other way to describe it. The late afternoon heat makes it difficult to do much of anything, save drinking organic mulberry shakes (mmmm…) and Beer Lao until the sun set.

It was a great respite, and now we are back to business in the big city. Jess and I are both beginning to realize that our time is drawing to a quicker close than we are ready for. I kind of feel like I have just hit a stride and now I need to start gearing down before too long. But, lots of adventures still await!

Hope you are all well. My camera has gotten a bit of a break recently, so there aren’t too many photos to post. Sorry! You’ll just have to use your imaginations…. (or, better yet, get over here and experience it for yourselves!). OK, signing off for now…

Peace in this world. That’s what I want.
Khop Chai Lai Lai.



  1. Glad you got a chance to stay out of Vang Vieng. Don’t you just love Laos! And I think your insights about traveling vs. tourism are really insightful. It’s a tough thing to figure out– and it’s easy to be critical of certain types of tourism, but then feel guilty about yourself as well. I’m glad your trip is going so well and I can’t wait to hear about Cambodia!

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