Here’s a link to a story by AP writer Denis Gray about a 2001 visit to Vang Vieng. While the story is somewhat dated, its conclusion — that Vang Vieng is doomed — is pretty much spot on.
For some, Vang Vieng is the first stop on a touristic opium trail which weaves through Luang Prabang and ends at Muang Sing in northwestern Laos. But most come to savor the atmosphere of old Asia rapidly vanishing in much of the continent, and probably also doomed in Vang Vieng.
Anyone who visited Vang Vieng before it’s rapid rise in popularity would hardly recognise the place today. Despite independent travellers often bad-mouthing package tourists for the “damage” they do to destinations, in the case of Vang Vieng, the damage has been wrought almost entirely by these very backpackers and independent travellers.
Why is it that when people travel across the world they end up demanding banana pancakes, internet access, TV (we all know about the Friends cafes in Vang Vieng) and iPod download cafes?