Thursday 9 February 2017


I've just found out the my 'secret wallet' in the 'secret pocket' of my bag contains none of the $140 I had in there of emergency cash, aside from a few one dollar bills (not worth it, aye?) £15 of English notes were also taken... I'm not devastated by this; it isn't going to effect my trip or my life in any way. And when it comes decisions about spending money, I always think 'well, there's always more money to be earn't'. And this is the case. I'm not a rich man by any means, and this is more of a hindrance than anything. That was my border money and emergency cash if something went wrong. I do see it as a violation though. I am sure this happened in Vang Vieng, it had to of done, and Vang Vieng is a junkie and meth heads paradise, and imagining their Gollum-like hands going through my stuff is a pretty uncomfortable thought. At least they didn't steal my i-pod; having my music stolen would have been agonising. And they didn't take my laptop or camera either, as having my photo's stolen would have been devastating. It seems they were just after money; probably to spend on drugs. I hope they buy them with my money and overdose - not to die or be harmed in any serious way, just enough for them to be put down for a while and make them take a long, hard look at their life.
 I really wasn't impressed by Vang Vieng, at all really. I've been writing a lot since I've been back on the road alone, and this is part of a piece about Vang Vieng from a 4000 word-ish article I've been working on about long term travel and mental health...

   ...Vang Vieng in itself though, was a place that I loathed in many ways; a place in which Western hedonism is sold at a price, and the greatest price beyond Laotian Kip is that of the abandonment of Laotian culture, values and the ultimate respect of the people.
 The place does make sense in a business point of view. Laos is poor and corrupt (the police can be bought to turn a blind eye), and young Westerners like to get fucked up, and therein lies the market. I must admit, I did like the novelty of walking into a bar and seeing a back page of a menu listing numerous narcotics and the many ways in which they can be consumed. And I’m going to be honest here as I value transparency; I am partial to a bit of opium, as are a lot of Laotian people who live in the mountains. It’s part of their culture, and I find drinking a few opium teas, going back to the hostel, laying on a futon by a veranda that overlooked the mountains in the starry night, cuddling up and finding deeper levels of appreciation of music, life and people until the sun started to come up, doesn’t insult the people of Laos. Hanging out of a tuk tuk, pissed out of your face, probably on meth and mindlessly chanting as you finally get to show of your hard-worked biceps, does. As does walking around scantily clad in a bikini, advertising your body like a flame to stumbling men. Come morning piles of vomit can be seen on the pavement by the side of temples as young monks are spending their childhood learning the ways of Buddhism and praying.

Laos has had a very sad recent history. It’s, by far, the most bombed country in the world. The US did this for nine years (five of which were kept from the knowledge of American citizens) during the Vietnam War to stop supplies from the northern Vietnamese army to the south through the east of Laos. This resulted in more bombs being dropped on the country than were dropped in Germany and Japan combined throughout the entirety of World War Two. To put the onslaught into perspective, two and a half tonnes of explosives were dropped for every single person that lived in the country, of which only around 30% exploded. Aside from the displacement of thousands of people and the ensuing chaos of war, this has left a tragic legacy. To this day, at least one person, usually children, are killed daily from unexploded ordinance that still litter the countryside. The total cost the US spent on this carnage equates to $44 billion. This entire mess has held Laos back dramatically in its development. Imagine if a snippet of that money was spent in improving the country’s infrastructure instead. If children could go to school instead of working the fields the country would bloom within a few generations, instead of being in the poverty trap that it is in now. And it’s this desperation that allows Vang Vieng to be in existence. Those piles of vomit are a vile embodiment of a heartrending history and the following struggle for the existence existence of a very polite, warm, generous, conservative and respectable people, whose religious beliefs has formed their mannerisms (once you’re out of tourist towns). I’m not opposed to places like Vang Vieng existing in the world, I just wish they could exist in the West where there wouldn’t be such a detrimental impact to the people of another culture. In 2012 the government was forced to crack down as around twenty tourists per year were dying of meth and cocaine overdoses, as well as accidents in the river, which were probably drug and alcohol related. It wouldn’t sadden me if another crackdown happened again soon. 
 One early morning I was woken by an American girl, skyping and loudly banging on in her high pitched, drawn out accent (I probably wouldn’t be so judgmental if she hadn’t of offended me so much) about how amazing it’s to be in a place where you can just walk into a bar and buy meth and get “totally fucked up! You can just do anything here maaan!” No, it’s not amazing, a novelty maybe, but it’s depressing. As is meeting people who arrived there as tourists and who have become trapped, working in bars and hostels to be paid with food, accommodation and drugs for months on end. The morning I was due to leave I was woken up to the very graphic sounds (I could clearly hear the workings of anatomy) of people having sex in a room beyond the corridor of my room (the place was crudely, yet charmingly built out of wood with holes between the planks of the walls and floors). To be honest though, there was no better way to wake up in order to go outside and have vexed, self- loathing cigarette with a black coffee as I waited for the sun to come up. Some workers from the hostel were still awake - dilated pupils, involuntary jaw movements, with one on a three day bender on yabba; the infamous Southeast Asian amphetamine based ‘death-pill’. I don’t think you can stop whenever you want to if you’ve been doing it every day for four months, love. I was glad to leave. Maybe if I was ten years younger I would have run at it all head first, and I shouldn’t judge too harshly, but I would like to think that I would have still had my moralist reservations about the place.


  1. This is pretty sad to read. I didn't know there was so much bombing in Laos.

  2. Yes, it was pretty harrowing finding it all out. You can sometimes see bombs in villages, posing as posts for washing lines and such.