Backpackers traveling between Vientiane and Luang Prabang on Highway 13 discovered the town of Vang Vieng in the mid-1990s. During the Vietnam War the United States maintained an airstrip in the town center; there are rumors that the abandoned tarmac will someday field direct flights from Luang Prabang or elsewhere. Vang Vieng became famous for its rope-swing party bars along the river, attracting a huge backpacker crowd. In 2012, due to a huge number of deaths caused by drinking, drugs, and drowning, the Lao government closed the bars along the river. Today, Vang Vieng is starting to move slightly more upscale and trying to disassociate itself from the backpacker party scene.
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