Adam, owner of a rock climbing school | Vang Vieng, Laos
December 19, 2009
Adam owns a rock climbing school where he teaches and takes tourists on rock climbing excursions in Vang Vieng. Originally from Savannaket in central Laos, he learned rock climbing in southern Thailand in 1997 where he lived for 6 years. He has also lived in Europe for 4 years before returning to Laos and settling in Vang Vieng.
About Vang Vieng
Vang Vieng is a small town by the Nam Song River and surrounded by limestone karst mountains. It has become a top destination for backpackers and independent travelers for tubing (floating down the river on an inner tube), rock climbing, rafting and kayaking.
Because of the increase in tourism, the town has been transformed from a quiet sleepy village to a busy backpacker destination full of guesthouses, restaurants, bars, travel agencies and other services catered to backpackers.
LPT: How did you come up with the idea of starting a rock climbing school?
I’ve had my business in Vang Vieng for 5 years now. After I came back to Laos (from Europe) in 2004, I started my rock climbing business because I already knew how to climb.
LPT: What changes have you seen around Vang Vieng since you’ve been here?
AC: Since I’ve been here? There are a lot of things changing such as more restaurants, guesthouses and hotels going up.
LPT: And do you think local people like that?
AC: 100% local people like these kind of construction things because our country is a bit poor and we want to develop our country into a modern country, you know. Like, let people know about Laos and show them about our religion(Buddhism), customs, and the Lao people.
So Lao people are very happy to become a modern country and bring more tourists to Laos and to Vang Vieng. They are happy to build up more restaurants, guesthouses and hotels because sometimes when we have big festivals or new years, we don’t have enough rooms for the guests.
LPT: What are some negative things you’ve seen in Vang Vieng with the increase in tourism?
AC: Maybe their culture…the western culture.
LPT: Such as, for example?
AC: Such as walking on the street with their bikinis on and swim suits.
LPT: How does that make local people feel when they see that?
AC: We feel that it doesn’t look good at all. You can do that at the river, you know. But when you’re on the street, maybe you should wear clothes.
LPT: So do local people tell them?
AC: We tell them but they don’t care because they sometime just want to show off, you know. They just want to show their friends or people what they have, you know. So they don’t respect Lao culture that much.
LPT: Do local people tell tourists when they’re doing something disrespectful to the Lao culture?
AC: Yeah, we tried to make a special book or brochure to show them about Lao culture so they can read about it…such as no kissing on the street and be polite to Lao people.
LPT: But do local people tell the tourists directly when they see them doing something inappropriate?
AC: I think we already make that at some point but they’re not listening, especially when they’re drunk. They don’t know what you’re saying to them, you know. They drink on the river and on the street and make broken glass on the river. But now we sell them beer in a can.
Sometimes they’ll walk naked on the street. Sometimes they’ll go on the rope swing and jump down on the river naked, you know.
Maybe Vang Vieng will make the rules very tight in the next 2, 3 years. We can have special police to talk to them and tell them “put your clothes on”. If you don’t have a t-shirt on when you’re out, you’ll have to pay.