Vang Vieng is a picturesque town north of Vientiane that is known for its limestone karst formations. Located on the Nam Song River, the town is surrounded by karst hills, making it very scenic. This town of 25,000 people is popular with backpackers who come to tube and kayak on the river. Visitors also like to hike, explore caves and rock climb in the hills. Textiles are a popular purchase.
Sitting on the banks of the Song River, the rural town might seem serene now. But Vang Vieng has seen a tumultuous 15 years, evolving from an agricultural community to a hedonistic party capital when it was "discovered" by Western shoestring travelers in the late 1990s.
Excessive drinking, drugs, trash, concrete construction and fatal accidents were detrimental to the local community.
But in 2012, Vang Vieng's narrative changed completely when the government shuttered most of the problematic bars and activities and repositioned the town as an eco-paradise.