Partying is fun and great while traveling but what we often miss are the cultural differences in where we are partying and how we are partying. Has tourists partying in the country affected the culture? Is it hurting the economy or helping it? These are thoughts I’ve had for awhile ever since I went to Vang Vieng several years ago.
Vang Vieng was my first party town into SE Asia. I never had a bucket and was only one month into my travels. Yes, I did swing into the river drunk as most people did but I didn’t even realize some had injured or even died from that same swing or slide. The locals were taking advantage of the huge influx of backpackers wanting to party and created a crazy environment for them to spend money. The locals were making some nice cash. Although the party is over at Vang Vieng, other locations throughout SE Asia are similar to this. Some say Ten Thousand Islands in Laos is next, there’s the Full Moon Party in Thailand, and Siem Reap party street.
In SE Asia the majority of those partying are foreigners from Europe, Australia, US, and the UK. You might find a couple of Thai’s partying with you at the Full Moon Party but it’s quite rare. However in South America you will find that all beach party towns are not exclusive to foreigners. Montanita, Ecuador is one of the most popular beach party towns in Ecuador and yet you will find just as many Ecuadorians, as you do foreigners.
The main reason for this I believe are the cultural differences between SE Asia and South America. In SE Asia you are less likely to be partying with a local than you are in South America. It’s not so much that SE Asians are not partying but rather the definition of partying is different. In SE Asia, it seems more likely that the locals would prefer to party among friends and family than go to a huge party. In South America however there are parties in every possible street from chiva buses in Colombia to beach party towns like Montanita.
I don’t feel like a jerk partying in South America. It’s not like I go out and have a crazy time but I can walk around with a beer in my hand and fit in just as well as everyone else. In Buenos Aires for example, locals typically go out to clubs and bars at 1am and stay out until morning and this is perfectly normal.
The exception in South America I think is Bolivia. I found that La Paz had a huge party scene mostly for foreigners that Bolivians were not as interested in partaking.
Oddly, I found the partying in SE Asia a lot more intense than South America. More alcohol, more drunks, and you can get away with dumber activities. I’m guessing that’s because most of the partying in SE Asia is concentrated within small areas while in South America it’s spread out. Another huge factor could be age. I found that in SE Asia many of the travelers were young while in South America it’s been more couples and an older crowd.
What are you thoughts on this? I would love to hear whether you agree or disagree.