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Travel the Globe to Watch TV?

LAOS | Sunday, 17 June 2007 | Views [834]

We arrived in the very scenic, beautiful town of Vang Viene, south of Luang Prabang by bus, about 4-5 hours. We traveled Route 13, the road where there's been recent attacks by insurgents. The Department of State, and US Embassy here in Laos has sent out warnings, and forbidden any US embassy employees to take the road. Similar to our experience in Nepal, after asking around, it didn't seem like such a dangerous proposition, and we felt a small mini-van transport option would be the safest.

We made it to our destination with no problems, and the town of Vang Viene was well worth the travels. This is the hub of adventure sporting activity, and depending upon the time of the year you are here, you will no doubt be met with adrenaline rushing experiences. Mid to late rainy season is when the rivers are running at their peak - we're just a little too early to hit it good. Vang Viene is also the ultimate in "chill out" towns - as the phrase here is used in SouthEast Asia to describe those areas, spots, restaurants, etc, that allow you to just veg and do absolutely nothing and not feel any sense of remorse or guilt. Majestic limestone cliffs rise from the banks of the river - the scenery exquisite. Thatched bamboo hut accommodations line the river banks, and it's a great place to just grab a hammock, and watch the river rush by over a cold Beer Lao.

The town is magical by itself, but has become severely overrun by backpackers, patronizing "Friends" TV Bars - yes, the streets are lines with a ton of little restaurants that have cinema seating raised platforms with bed cushions, all facing several big screen TV's under a tin roof... all blasting different episodes of Friends, The Simpsons, or the latest bootleg DVD movie. It's quite sad to see a beautiful little town that once oozed village culture & life, reduced to a community of people hanging out in pajamas, 7x24 watching TV re-runs. One night we sat at an outdoor restaurant on a prominent corner of town, and counted 5 different Friends episodes playing within an audible and visible distance from where we were seated. At any time of day, you can find young backpackers lounging or even sleeping at these restaurants on their cushions, with tables lined with empty Beer Lao bottles. While not necessarily the "travel town" ambience we'd span the globe to experience, we did indulge in Superman II over dinner, and enjoyed some cold Beer Lao to escape the heat. When in Rome...

Tags: The Great Outdoors


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