Vang Vieng lies just 4 hours north of Vientiane, the capital of Laos. It was once a small, quiet, riverside town that is now most well known among backpackers, who enjoy tubing along the Nam Song River, other outdoor activities & embrace the beautiful caves & mountains.
Outside the centre of the town lies a stunning natural landscape. Karst limestone mountains tower over Vang Vieng, with magnificent caves, lush rainforests, cool rivers & lagoons, traditional villages & farmland. Sadly, all these are under threat from growth & development.
Prior to Vang Vieng’s tourism boom over the past 15 years, the local Lao, Kmou & Hmong people’s lives were dependent on the land. They hunted in the prosperous forests, they fished in the clean streams & rivers, & they cultivated rice on the land.
While the tourism boom has created new job opportunities in the tourism industry, it also had a negative impact on the environment & culture (such as loss of natural resources, particularly the rainforests). With nearly 20% of the local population living under the poverty line, the agriculture-dependent population does not benefit from the tourism industry but suffers the effects of depleted & damaged resources.
Logging & the clearing of land is negatively impacting local ecosystems. Every year the water level of the river lowers while fertile soil is eroded & washed down the river as a result of logging.
It’s not only the local environment that is suffering. Laos has a very modest, traditional & down to earth culture, heavily influenced by Buddhism. The influx of tourists can be at odds with the Lao culture.
Vang Vieng is working hard to change its reputation as a party town & the Organic Farm Vang Vieng is making a positive impact on the community through a series of sustainability & educational projects, providing the local people tools they need to preserve the natural environment & rich culture for future generations.