Culture Shock :: Laos

27 02 2009

Laos is the most laid back, easy going culture that we’ve been to yet. The people are typically very friendly and the pace of life, even in the capital city, Vientiane, is almost sluggish. This has been a great country in which to wind down after the chaos of Vietnam. The culture here, although not very shocking or in you face, is probably the most different from our Western way of life. The difference is difficult to explain. It’s actually easier to explain relative to Laos’ neighbors. Thailand is shocking, but rather western because of their own efforts to modernize. Cambodia has a country wide case of amnesia (for good reason) and it appeared to us that their main goal is to act as western as they can. In Vietnam they have so much western influence from being colonized by the French that some parts of it almost seemed European. Laos had the French influence as well, but didn’t get the money that came with it. They retained much of their Buddhist culture and peaceful way of life. Though the country wasn’t as shocking as it was a pleasant surprise, there are a few things we thought were worth mentioning. Read the rest of this entry »

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Vang Vieng Eco Tourism

19 02 2009

Vang Vieng, Laos

Having rethought our original plan to visit random far-off cities in Laos, Gage and I decided to cut down on bus ride time and make smaller hops. From Vientiane the next closest destination is Vang Vieng. This is a city that we specifically wanted to avoid. Though said to have tons of natural beauty, it is also a major backpacker pitstop that seems to attract the worst type of travelers. Aside from landscape, Vang Vieng has two unique attractions, the riverside beer bars catering to people tubing the river and restaurants with platform beds setup in front of TV’s that play endless episodes of Friends. I have no idea how these sorts of things evolve, but they are now staples of Vang Vieng and attract the sort of people that want to get drunk while tubing down a river or veg out in front of a TV for hours on end. After unloading from the bus and crossing into town our fears were confirmed. Drunken, half-naked white kids in swimsuits were wandering around town and the colored lights of Friends restaurants glowed all the way down the street. We were scared. We thought we had made a mistake. But after checking into our hotel we decided to wander the town and give it a shot. When we got down to the riverside we saw this…. Read the rest of this entry »