I returned last week from a 10-day trip in northern Laos, traveling and shooting a few stories with a writer from Saigon. We had a few days to waste before we had to be in Vientiane, coming from Luang Prabang, so we crashed for three nights in Vang Vien. It was fun. Kind of. Though note that by the last morning we were so eager to be rid of our backpacking brethren that we hopped a rickety pick-up truck for the four and a half hour journey down to the capital without a frown or backward glance.
I think if I had been there (Vang Vien) about a decade ago, when I was a bit younger and more bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, it could have been amazing (who amongst us doesn’t like a bit of a raucous party now and again?). Like Asia’s Elysian Fields, filled with feel-good drugs and tanned flesh as far your eyes can see. But I’m not 18 anymore and these days it was just kind of depressing: a small town with beautiful natural surrounds overrun by hoards of backpackers and recent college graduates likely mistaking mushroom shakes and binge drinking for a meaningful cultural/travel experience in Southeast Asia.
Looking back through the pictures I took while there, a lot of them exude a certain sadness and sense of exhaustion. Something underneath the party. Or maybe I’m deflecting. It was a worthwhile stopover for sure but I don’t know when or if I’ll ever be returning. To Vang Vien. Laos I could disappear in for a few lifetimes. But that’s another post.