One of the highlights of my Southeast Asian journey was Vang Vieng, a small town in central Laos, a place of much controversy. In the last decade it became extremely popular and known for its stunning scenery and crazy parties. But it all went too far. According to unofficial data more than 20 people died in the river Nam Song in 2011 alone, by practicing tubing under the effect of alcohol and drugs. It all came to an end in 2012 when police suddenly shut down many tubing facilities and brought control, perhaps too much of it.
Having read so many different opinions I knew I had to prepare well for this destination. Nevertheless, the search for a place to stay ended at the very beginning. In Vientiane we met a friendly older man in our hotel, who was happy to share his experiences. He was just coming from there, where he stayed at ‘one of the most authentic places’, as he said. We decided to trust him, which was one of the best choices we made in the whole journey.
Maylyn Guesthouse is undoubtedly one of the best guesthouses I have stayed in recent months. Several cottages and bungalows are located on the other side of the river across the town, facing directly the beautiful karst formations. Since the town itself is not one of the most pleasant places, staying far from it and close to nature was a complete success. Nature is stunning, several mountain ranges surround the area, and you one can easily find yourself in the middle of it with a bike, motorbike or a boat. Even walking is a great option too.
The other highlight of the town is its ‘happy’ menu offered by restaurants with special permission. They most likely have some kind of a deal with the local police, so potential customers should have no problems. Over there one can try pancakes or pizzas stuffed with weed, mushrooms, or even opium. And that’s only the brighter side of the town. On the other side many tourists who visit Vang Vieng are heading there for the pleasure of crystal meth, one of the most dangerous drugs today.
Just like the town itself, my experience of Vang Vieng was quite ambiguous. The day of our arrival we met a nice Norwegian couple with whom we had one of the best times of our lives, travelling together for almost two months. A couple of days later, in the same guesthouse, we met a Basque guy living in Australia who gave us a headache. The overall result is quite satisfactory, so no complaints about it.
If I ever decide to visit Vang Vieng again, I will surely stay at the same guesthouse, and try to soak in as much beautiful nature as possible and integrate as little as possible with the town life. If I don’t go back, I still have two friends, because of whom I will never forget this place.