Visitors to Vangvieng are welcome, their rubbish is not

For Visit Laos-China Year 2019, Vientiane Times is publishing a series of feature articles and images promoting the two countries’ collaboration in tourism and hoping to inspire more people, especially from China, to experience the nature, culture, history and hospitality of Laos, the jewel of the Mekong.

Walk south along the Xong River in Vangvieng district, Vientane province and you will be horrified by the amount of garbage discarded by people enjoying various activities on the river.
Unfortunately, too many of the people who go tubing, kayaking and boating on the river can’t be bothered to dispose of their rubbish in litter bins, so it collects in unsightly clumps on the water’s surface.

Visitors are getting ever closer to the Xong River because service providers are eager to cater to their needs.

In the future, the amount of garbage flowing down from upstream where people eat, drink and have fun is likely to increase. If nothing is done about the plastic waste and other pollutants that float in the water, more and more will accumulate each day.
Vangvieng is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Laos and is frequented by both domestic and overseas visitors.
But complaints are growing about the number of shelters that have sprung up on both sides of the river to cater to visitors who want to swim, eat and drink and generally chill out at the water’s edge.
These shelters are a new addition to the facilities provided for tourists. In the past there were only a handful of restaurants right by the water. But now these shelters, which have been set up by the restaurants, have encroached right into the river, enabling people to sit in the water.
If you order food and drinks from the owners of the restaurants, you may use these shelters and enjoy exclusive access to the water.
But no provision has been made for rubbish collection and a steady flow of plastic bags and candy wrappings drops into the water as people eat. Beer cans and drinks bottles also find their way into the river.
Two weeks ago large numbers of people went to Vangvieng to beat the heat over Lao New Year. Most went swimming and left a vast quantity of garbage behind.
The Deputy Governor of Vangvieng district, Mr Bounchanh Malavong, said local regulations prohibit the construction of shelters in the river itself and they should only be erected at a distance of two metres from the river. This would prevent rubbish from falling directly into the water.
“The problem is that visitors want to sit in these shelters and of course service providers are only too keen to give people what they want so they can make money out of it,” he said.
Despite this controversial development, however, many people from Vientiane continue to visit this picturesque location as the scenery is stunning and the activities on offer provide a refreshing contrast to what’s available in the capital.
Tham Lom cave beckons, as do adventure activities such as tubing, kayaking, climbing, cycling, trekking, boat trips and quad bike riding.
And the restaurants, hotels and guesthouses along the river appear to be doing a brisk trade as usual, although there are periodic grumbles about service.
Some recent visitors from Vientiane commented that breakfast vendors selling beef noodle soup (feu), rice noodle soup (khao piak) and khao poun noodle soup should hire more assistants.
The disgruntled diners said they needed more tables, bowls and spoons as well as observant staff, especially during festival times.
The growing number of tour groups from Asia is largely responsible for the surge in visitor numbers, with more Koreans, Chinese, and Thai nationals coming to the town.
Last year, records show that 156,988 people visited Vangvieng. There was a 40 percent spike in the number of Europeans, a 55 percent rise in the number of Asians, and a 10 percent increase in the number of visitors from other countries.
Tourism in general is on the rise, with more than 4.1 people coming to Laos during Visit Laos Year 2018, an 8.2 percent increase over 2017, according to the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism.
Officials expect that this year, being Visit Laos-China Year, at least 1 million Chinese will visit Laos, and there will be about 4.5 million visitors in total. 

By Times Reporters
(Latest Update April 29, 2019)

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