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April 8, 2007 at 3:17 pm Leave a comment

Vang Vieng and Lao notes plus VangVieng Hostels

So I get on the bus out of Vientaine and for the second time in Laos meet a man who’s obsessed with doing things illegally. Our last illegalizer was a british man obsessed with crossing borders illegally, this time is an American who doesn’t pay taxes and just lives in little third world countries most of the year. Naturally, this is interesting company and he advises me on how to avoid paying over 2 grand in taxes while abroad. We also count lumber trucks and  come up with an astonishing 17 per hour from the lumber site between Vientaine and Vang Vieng. Each trucks contains an average of 6 trees with an estimate of 1 square meter per tree. Hence, Lao is trucking off 102 trees per hour the country consists of 236,800 square meters. At our current rate of forestry and assuming the entire country is forested, which it isn’t, it would take 2,322 hours to deforest the entire country assuming they cut trees 5 hours a day 7 days a week we get 465 days to deforest the entire country and additionally of course this is just from one road other lumber sites do exist, but I’m pretty confident most of the wood goes down to Vientaine and over the friendship bridge.  The National Forestry page is here and here is an article on the decrease of trees in Lao. From that website:

In the 1950s, forests covered 70 percent of the land area; yet, by 1992, according to government estimates, forest coverage had decreased by nearly one-third, to just 47 percent of total land area. Despite the dwindling expanse, timber–including ironwood, mahogany, pine, redwood, and teak–and other forestry products– benzoin (resin), charcoal, and sticklac–constitute a valuable supply of potential export goods. The forest has also been an important source of wild foods, herbal medicines, and timber for house construction and even into the 1990s continues to be a valued reserve of natural products for noncommercial household consumption. Since the mid-1980s, however, widespread commercial harvesting of timber for the export market has disrupted the traditional gathering of forest products in a number of locations and contributed to extremely rapid deforestation throughout the country.

So I guess that guy knew what he was talking about. Deforestation here is amazing and continuing to grow. Anyway, I’m  in Vang Vieng which is situated in a valley next to some truly amazing limestone mountains. Staying at the amphone guesthouse. Across the street from Amphone is probably the best Indian place in Lao and the ladyboys are cute too. Aside from that, Vang Vieng has grown into a stoner’s village. Restaurants bear a resemblance to college town fair such as in Austin, everything is chalk boards, junk food, and televisions. It seems like Vang Vieng is specifically intended for stoning, just smoke up, get a pizza, and watch Friends at the local pub while reclining. It’s funny that Vang Vieng is far more touristy than Vientaine was, Lao food is hidden 3 or 4 pages deep in the menus and the town has little identity outside of it’s setting. While Vientaine has it’s own world and economy, Vang Vieng is perhaps lost in itself, unable to quite come to a fully fledged sense of it’s self, the town hence has become a backpackers paradise where carb loading and marijuna rule before hiking out to some of the most beautiful wilderness I’ve ever seen… except that while the town is packed in one day of caving I came across at most 4 or 5 actual backpackers. Maybe they’re all on the mountain trails?

Hostels (incomplete list, the town is small and easy to wander about)

Cheapest: Pan’s Place. 20,000 kip, shared bathroom

Erawan   6 USD

Babylon   5.50 USD

Chan-thanom 40,000 kip

Nana   6 USD

Viengsavanh    40,000 kip

Phouna   4 USD

Pany    4 USD

Dokkhoun   10 USd to 4 5 USD

Khamphone   5 USD

Amphone 30,000 kip (stayed here and liked it)

Khem-song   4 USD

VangVieng Orchid Guest House  5 – 10 USD 

April 8, 2007 at 3:50 am Leave a comment


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