Vang Vieng, Laos – Secret War Site and Teenage Drugs Kitchen Finally Tamed.
Above Photo: The bottom item on this menu gets a special mention in BACK – It’s a bucket full of vodka with a mixer of your choice, laced with Ketamine, a strong horse tranquiliser (© agreenstedabroad, wordpress).
I set critical parts of my Vietnam War/Backpacker crossover novel, BACK, in Vang Vieng, largely because of its rich, Secret War history, but also because of its hedonistic, drug-fuelled, backpacker culture. Since I wrote it, the government has cracked down on excessive partying and drug-taking in Vang Vieng’s riverside bars, which they claimed was a major contributor to deaths and injuries on the Nam Song river and in the town.
On my last, brief visit, we didn’t go out to the area of former riverside backpacker bars, which have mostly been flattened, as I wanted to take some photographs of the old CIA-Air America airbase which still dominates the town.
However, I did notice Vang Vieng was definitely quieter than on my last visit, only a year earlier, with fewer backpackers around and many more affluent-looking retiree tourists in the restaurants and hotels. These groups were mostly French tour parties, something which I also picked up on in BACK.
Our hotel owner said she was happy with this, as older Europeans generally spend money in the wider economy, and have more of it to spend. They aren’t just getting pissed, stoned and puking up every night (if I can paraphrase her).
She was all for the backpacker partying drugs crackdown that has gone on in the town recently, although many business owners, who provided services to the backpacker contingent, are apparently not.
Still, there were plenty of backpackers around in Vang Vieng; it’s not like it’s become a ghost town. People still tube on the river and go cycling, climbing and walking in the magnificent limestone mountains that surround the town, and I’m sure they’re still getting stoned, except more discretely than they once were.
I also noticed posher hotels going up near the river, looking like they were aimed at wealthier Asian tourists, so perhaps Vang Vieng will quickly move on from its former hedonistic excesses that I so richly describe in BACK.
See the trailer for our new film, M.I.A. A Greater Evil. Set in the jungles of Laos and Vietnam, the film deals with the possible fate of US servicemen left behind after the US pulled out of the Vietnam War.
For POWs left behind in Laos, see also:
© Peter Alan Lloyd
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