Is the party over in Vang Vieng?

Is the party over in Vang Vieng?

The government shuts 24 entertainment venues and sets new tubing regulations to clean up the famed Laos party town
nam song vang vieng
Partying along the Nam Song river. Vang Vieng is now Laos’ No. 1 party spot, though government officials are attempting to overhaul the area's reputation.

Drugs, alcohol, loud music and crazy games on the river. Laos' notorious party town Vang Vieng may sound like a teenager's holiday heaven, but it's become too much for the country's authorities. 

Officials are clamping down on Vang Vieng's hedonistic ways, shutting 24 riverside entertainment venues "being operated in contravention of regulations, including the provision of unsafe drinks to customers, while some also had no business licenses," reports the Vientiane Times.  

The English-language newspaper said the closures follow the findings of a task force made up of senior tourism, health and public security officials.

The group was sent to Vang Vieng to refocus the popular tourist destination following reports of problems in the district, from bars openly selling cocktails made with hallucinogenic mushrooms to several tourist deaths.

“We have set ourselves the target to bring a new face to Vang Vieng district by October,” said the leader of the task force, Boualy Milattanapheng.

Among the most recent reported incidents, a Canadian was accidentally killed while using one of the many "flying fox" swings over the Nam Song river, reported the Vientiane Times.

'Barefoot zombies stumbling back to their guesthouses'

Built on wooden platforms over the water, bars serve cheap drinks and music to the hordes of backpackers flooding into the town.So just how wild is Vang Vieng?

Earlier this year, we ran a photo feature showing what it’s like to spend a few days there.

Readers came out in force to both defend and condemn the backpacker hotspot in the comments section.

Here's a quick excerpt from that feature: "One place advertises a kilo of weed at US$300, in case you’re planning on a long stay. A small 'bucket' of whiskey comes in at US$3. 

"You only need to wander down the main street to see the barefoot zombies stumbling back to their guesthouses. 

"That’s if they make it. Not all of them do. A special tourist police has been set up to make sure those in the worst shape get home, and also to bust a few unlucky drug buyers whom the police randomly pick on." 

More on CNN: Vang Vieng: Backpacker haven or tourist hell? 

This year's mass of international media coverage of the area's notoriety certainly contributed to the new crackdown on Vang Vieng, an area of great natural beauty that took on a life of its own about 10 years ago when a couple of enterprising locals started renting out inner tubes for tourists to float down the Nam Song River. 

Besides the closure of bars, the Vientiane Times quotes Boualy as saying other measures to be put in place include closures of the flying fox swings (revelers ride down a zip line into the river). Some will only be allowed to reopen once proper safety measures are put in place.

Local tubing activities are also in their sights.  

"In an effort to enjoy the river safely, the committee has stipulated that those wanting to use kayaks and tubing services must wear life jackets and these facilities are allowed to operate only between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m."

To read the full report on the Vang Vieng crackdown, visit the Vientiane Times website.

Have you been to Vang Vieng recently? Are officials being spoilsports or is the party scene out of control? Tell us about your visit in the comments box below. 

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