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The Backpacker/traveller 'Bubble'

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1. Posted by Vicky06 (Budding Member 8 posts) 7y

Anyone been to Viang Vieng (Laos)? Ive just finished reading a friends blog about the place and wish id warned her not to go in the first place. For anyone who hasnt been/heard its small town in central Laos that is well on its way to becoming a new Khao San rd. The place is overrun by backpackers who spend their days tubing down the river and evenings watching friends and getting hammered in one of the many little backpacker orientated bars.

Personally thats not what i go away for..im pretty sure that local culture doesnt/didnt normally include the simpsons and after all thats my main motivation for going away..to experience a different culture.

Anyone who has read my previous post will know that im interested in the influence that the guidebook has on travellers and my theory is that by sending so many people along the same guidebook recommended 'off the beaten track' (which clearly is just the opposite!) they are encouraging the creation of these 'backpacker enclaves'. Here backpackers live in a 'bubble' not really experiencing anything authentic about the place. They almost may just as well have gone to an all inclusive resort!

Very longwinded im afraid and probably a topic that has cropped up in the past but one that theres always more to say on i think..

2. Posted by folwellv (Budding Member 3 posts) 7y

I went to Viang Vien and i also did not enjoy the place..i loved laos in general and felt this place did not in any way focus on the beauty of the country. I understand why perhaps after long hrs of travelling on a rickety bus through the mountains (not the easiest of trips) that to stay in a relaxed place for a night may appeal but people stay there for weeks..some for months!! I know that people are entitled to live their life and enjoy it as best suits them but personally i cannot understand why you would go all that way and want to do something that you could do any day at home (i.e. watch friends!).

I do kind of see where you are coming from when you compare such a place to an all inclusive resort as to a degree these people are not seeing the real place but there are many differences in the accommodation standard etc!! I have only had the misfortune of staying in an all inclusive resort once and i see that a comparison can also be made as in both places many people spend their time doing is getting drunk!

Its all down to personal preference i suppose

3. Posted by HafJafMark (Respected Member 291 posts) 7y

Yes, I visited Viang Vieng, but didnt hang around long. I know what you mean about backpackers enclaves, but sometimes the beaten track is beaten for a reason. I very much doubt any westerner will 'absorb the culture' in a place like Laos, unless they live there for at least a year and speak the language, or perhaps do some volunteer or conservation work. I got well off the beaten track in Laos and it was rubbish! Try little villages along the HoChi Min trail or Savannakett. You quickly realise theres nothing to do, and the locals (not being used to tourists) treat you with mistrust and give you a wide berth.

4. Posted by Vicky06 (Budding Member 8 posts) 7y

Hafjafmark: a good point to make. Wasnt the original point of backpacking/travelling etc about searching for the authentic culture though? Basically what you are saying here is that although we are striving for the authentic experience we are in truth perhaps looking for a comfortable half-way house?

5. Posted by fleurjones (Budding Member 4 posts) 7y

Unfortunately there are many places like this throughout the world: Kuta in Bali perhaps, and also areas in Cambodia and Sabah (Malaysian Borneo) are heading that way.

Its a real shame for the area in which the bubble is based: it has been developed this way in order to cater to the western backpacker so that the locals can improve their economic state but surely it cannot be nice for them to live and work in a place that is no longer home??

I agree that guidebooks are probably in part responsible for the development of such places. Guidebooks do tend to encourage people to follow the same sort of route..maybe not literally by drawing a map around the country/continent etc but by the way that they describe places clearly showing favour for some over others. Maybe this is just inevitable though..of course some places have more to talk about than others..

6. Posted by oslaue (Full Member 571 posts) 7y

Vicky06 - why do you have a problem with people who go out and enjoy themselves and do things that may not interest you? perhaps some of these people were trekking for many months and decided to go wild....for once...its allowed is it not?

just cos some people are a bit wild and you a bit boring doesnt make you any different.

7. Posted by Mel. (Travel Guru 4567 posts) 7y

Quoting Vicky06

Anyone been to Viang Vieng (Laos)? Ive just finished reading a friends blog about the place and wish id warned her not to go in the first place. For anyone who hasnt been/heard its small town in central Laos that is well on its way to becoming a new Khao San rd. The place is overrun by backpackers who spend their days tubing down the river and evenings watching friends and getting hammered in one of the many little backpacker orientated bars.

Personally thats not what i go away for..im pretty sure that local culture doesnt/didnt normally include the simpsons and after all thats my main motivation for going away..to experience a different culture.

Hello Vicky

Places like the Khao San Road offer a nice break, while travelling, to relax and meet people, who speak my language and are from the same culture I am. Just because a person spends a couple of days, in a place like that, does not mean they do not imerse themselves in the culture of the country, at other times.

Mel

[ Edit: Edited on Feb 8, 2007, at 12:18 PM by Mel. ]

8. Posted by torrie07 (Budding Member 4 posts) 7y

Following on from what others have said here, i think that these backpacker resort type places that we are discussing do serve a purpose: after a hectic tiring few weeks or whatever it is, it is nice to hole up somewhere a little more relaxing where you can hang out with other travellers and generally recoup.

At the same time this links with the guidebook=bible discussion; it depends on the type of backpacker..whilst some of us like to use only these places once in a while to chill others tend to spend their time flitting only between these types of places (i.e. khao san rd > pai > viang vien > koh phan ngan etc etc). Perhaps i should not concern myself with what others do for enjoyment but i do worry that these sorts of travellers who are over dependant on 'backpacker resorts' like these are only encouraging an increasing number of them to develop..

9. Posted by travelfair (Budding Member 2 posts) 7y

I too worry that a dependancy on the experience offered by backpacker 'enclaves' as vicky calls them will lead to their proliferation.

These places are becoming so popular now that surely this is just encouraging the creation of more of them. We as backpackers/travellers leave home with a desire to truly immerse ourselves in and learn about alternative culture to our own but in reality many like and crave the comforts of the western world that places like viang vien offer. I do understand this to a degree but feel that as a group we should be aware of the fact that we are only contributing to the increasing westernisation of the destination; something which we moan about. I have lost count of the number of people who i have heard commenting on the fact that Laos is like the largely untouched Thailand of 20 yrs ago; this is why so many people visit and fall in love with the country so why are we contributing to its downfall??

10. Posted by HafJafMark (Respected Member 291 posts) 7y

Vicky06

Hafjafmark: a good point to make. Wasnt the original point of backpacking/travelling etc about searching for the authentic culture though? Basically what you are saying here is that although we are striving for the authentic experience we are in truth perhaps looking for a comfortable half-way house?

Who said that the point of travelling?

People have many different reaons for travel - I wouldnt presume to know them all. Personally I travel because I find it both enjoyable and sometimes challenging. I also travel to find good diving destinations. I dont delude myself that by spending time in Laos, or any other foreign culture (barring the anglo-sphere) that I am 'immersing myself in their culture'. Remember these people (Laos) probably started working at the age of three or four - few have received a decent education - the older ones will have grown up through the largest scale bombing in history. They live in one of the poorest countries in the world - they will never know the world of i-pods, gap years or RTW tickets. And no amount of backpacking round their lands will make us one of them.