If you happen to be desperately searching for the armpit of the world, look no further than Vang Vieng, Laos. After spending about half an hour in this retched place, we found ourselves wondering if we had entered the “Twilight Zone”. I was embarrassed to be a white tourist in Vang Vieng. The Lao people come across as gentle, calm, happy and modest. Now put that against a backdrop of half-naked white tourists who spend the day writing profanity all over each other’s bodies with marker, tubing, drinking Lao whiskey and doing drugs that are much more readily available here than they are back home. If this doesn’t paint a frightening enough scenario there’s more. Most of the restaurants have big screen t.v.’s where they repetitively play episodes of “South Park”, “Family Guy”, and “Friends”! Around the clock fucking “Friends”! I knew we were in a strange place when on our first night there, a little boy who couldn’t have been older than seven ran up to me and grabbed my ass. Two words, Vang Vieng. In all seriousness this place is what one could call a natural disaster. Last year just under twenty five tourists died uselessly in tubing and drug related accidents. Two have already died in 2012, literally dying to have a good time. We couldn’t even begin to count the amount of people walking around with injuries while we were there. Terribly sick thinking I was on my deathbed is how I spent most of our pleasant visit. I was plagued by the idea that everything was going to come to an end in this god awful place. Luckily my time had not come and I lived to climb happily onto a bus as I breathed a sigh of relief.
Embarrassed to be a part of the human race. I was filled to the brim with this sensation once more recently, during the alms giving ceremony in Luang Prabang, Laos. It is a sacred ceremony meant to be done in silence while the monks walk through the streets in a meditative state, collecting sticky rice for their one meal of the day. Flash to 2012 when everything becomes an opportunity to make some mullah. B. and I watched totally bewildered as tourist bus after tourist bus showed up and turned a lovely, peaceful ceremony into a paparazzi worthy photo op. Some insensitive tourists got right in the monk’s faces with their cameras. It was loud and disgraceful. B. and I left feeling filthy; we had witnessed the worst possible repercussions of a modern world. Nothing seems to be sacred anymore.