This once-sleepy town in central Laos sits beside the slow-moving Nam Song River, which meanders past beautifully unique limestone formations. About 15 years ago, enterprising locals started offering rock-viewing trips down the river on inner tubes. Waterside bars, slides, and “Tarzan” ropes that swing out over the river were added through the years, and Vang Vieng eventually turned into a party destination for backpackers.
Litter became a common problem, as did serious injury (and even death) from inebriated rope swinging over the shallow water. The Laotian government finally cracked down on the bacchanal by enacting strict regulations. This has led to less noise and a more mature atmosphere. Today, the demographic has changed, but Vang Vieng is still very touristy.