The town of Vang Vieng in Laos was once synonymous with backpacker excess, but now offers escapade activities that stimulate the most of its stunning location
I want us to preserve the mountains of Vang Vieng, the river and the culture for the future, Thanongsi Solangkoun told me as I sipped mulberry wine at his organic eatery on the Nam Song river in Laos.
Thanongsi, affectionately known as Mr T, makes some three tonnes of mulberries every year, 80 litres of goats milk a week, plus avocados, papayas and mangoes at his organic Lao Farm( dorm beds from 3, private rooms and mud shanties from 13 ), 2 miles north of Vang Vieng town. He also operates a restaurant, a guesthouse, a cooking school, a volunteer program, and a local educational project on the farm.
But when he set up the project in 1996, after quitting his government forestry task, he unwittingly launched a trend that would earn Vang Vieng a higgledy-piggledy township on the pea-green river with a background of rising limestone mountains a reputation as one of the worlds most unlikely, and dangerous, party towns.
After a days work on the farm, Mr Ts volunteers would relax in the Nam Song river employing the tractor-tyre inner tubes he provided. Over the years, the pastime of tubing down the river was transformed into a drunken float, with backpackers devouring buckets of cheap alcohol from the dozens of bars that set up on the river banks, messing about on bamboo swingings, and sliding down slides into the river.
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