Bang Bang, Vang Vieng

21 Mar

View of huts and karsts, Vang Vieng, Laos

The View From Here

Vang Vieng, Laos. Sullied paradise. Stoner playground. Backpacker hell. Apparently not the ideal destination to explore with child in tow, silkscreen landscape, gorgeous river and tubing paradise notwithstanding.

My son, however, is loving the place, from our hippyesque hut on the river to the identikit TV bars, international restaurants, pancake stands and, err, brownie stores which line the main drag, producing a sense of total dislocation, even without any herbal assistance.

On our first night, following a slight falling out over French vs. Italian in Vientiane (colonialism has left the Lao capital a legacy of quite phenomenal steaks), I said he could pick where we went for dinner.

“I know exactly where to go,” he says. “There is an Irish restaurant near where we got off the bus that has bangers, mash and gravy! It’s going to be just like home. Maybe even like the Crown in East Rudham!”

Now, anything, anywhere, that declares itself an Irish bar is intrinsically suspect to me. And Irish food in South-East Asia gives me a real dose of the Benidorm horrors.

But I’d promised, so off we went, at a pace dictated by Z’s need to gawp at every single TV screen showing Family Guy or The Simpsons to a glazed, not to say fully basted audience, ensconced on cushions at low tables. That is, for the uninitiated, quite a few long pauses.

Bizarrely, though, we loved The Rising Sun. The cable TV was showing The Golden Compass. Z charmed the bartender into turning up the volume, ordered Cornish pasty, mash and gravy, then selected Tropic Thunder, which he’s been raving about for ages.

As Pink Floyd mercifully gave way to the inexorable force of Robert Downey Jnr in blackface, and I mused idly on watching Asian stereotypes in Asia, it became clear that both of us were really enjoying it.

Shortly after we return to our bamboo hut, which Z had written off as a “one night only” stopping place even before the owner warned us about late-night music and suggested we moved to a guesthouse he owned across the road, next door’s electro kicks in.

I wander off through the cow-proof fence to explore. Z comes and joins me. To his shock and awe, they have — and it is hard to emphasise quite what a result this is if your evil mother has insisted that your Nintendo DS stays in the UK– a 72-inch screen set up with X-Box and MarioKart.

Like I said, stoners and nine-year-old boys have rather a lot in common. Our humble hut is now officially cool.

And I am getting my ass whupped nightly.

Rather than gloating, however. Z’s line, repeated ad infinitum, runs as follows: “It’s not that you’re bad at it, Mum. You just haven’t had much practice.”

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One Response to “Bang Bang, Vang Vieng”

  1. Tubing Laos at 1:10 pm #


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