Popular question-and-answer community Quora was posed with this head-scratcher recently:
Christian Bergland’s answer currently boasts the most ‘upvotes’ (positive reactions) with his two suggestions of Pattaya, Thailand and Vang Vieng, Laos.
Regarding Pattaya, Bergland is sharply to the point: “Pattaya is a filthy hellhole of neon and sex”.
While the beachfront city is notoriously popular with gentleman of a certain age and sensibility who like to pay for sex, it’s rare to find any other demographic where there is as widespread passion for Pattaya.
Bergland cites the food and beaches of the city as somewhat disappointing – particularly in contrast to much of the rest of Thailand – while the prostitution scene is ubiquitous.
He says, “The streets are crowded with bars advertising their services, which run the gamut in terms of the sex trade. Many of the girls advertising these services are in their teens, and they often look young enough that they should really be in school rather than indirectly or directly engaged in the sex trade.”
Vang Vieng, a town on the Nam Song river between Luang Prabang and Vientiane, is contrastingly beautiful, however.
The problem here, according to Bergland, is the droves of young, Western travellers that would visit to ‘tube’ down the river.
Pop music would blast out of speakers from dawn ’til dusk and dangerous debauchery was the name of the game as backpackers embark on this apparent rite of passage, floating in tubes down the river from bar to bar.
Deaths from drowning, drug and alcohol overdoses and accidents caused by unregulated sports like ziplining and swings were horribly common. 27 people died in the river during the summer of 2011. Efforts have been made to clean up Vang Vieng and rebrand it as an ecotourism spot since then, with varying results.
“Vang Vieng really encapsulates everything about the backpacker ethos that’s just totally tone deaf and clueless,” says Bergland.
“Vang Vieng is there to keep the worst kind of tourism from infiltrating the rest of Laos. Proceed at your own risk,” he concludes.
Read his full answer here.
What Southeast Asian spots would you avoid as a tourist?
Featured image is of Pattaya and is by Aleksandr Zykov