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Laos town known for drunkenness and tourist deaths cleans up its act

The town of Vang Vieng in Laos was once synonymous with backpacker excess, but now offers adventure activities that make the most of its stunning location

“I want us to preserve the mountains of Vang Vieng, the river and the culture for the future,” Thanongsi Solangkoun told me as I sipped mulberry wine at his organic restaurant on the Nam Song river in Laos.

Thanongsi, affectionately known as Mr T, produces some three tonnes of mulberries every year, 80 litres of goat’s milk a week, plus avocados, papayas and mangoes at his organic Lao Farm (dorm beds from £3, private rooms and mud huts from £13), 2½ miles north of Vang Vieng town. He also runs a restaurant, a guesthouse, a cooking school, a volunteer programme, and a local education project on the farm.

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A tale of ice and fire: touring East Iceland

This summer, new flights from the UK to Egilsstaðir, East Iceland, bring this region of volcanoes and fjords within easy reach

Denni Karlsson and I are standing by a glacial river as it hammers through a rocky gorge. Beside us is a wooden crate, the size of an old tea chest. It sits on two slender cables that stretch across the torrent 10 metres below.

“This cableway was the traditional route across the river, part of life in the highlands,” says Denni, who runs horse riding tours of East Iceland from the farmhouse where he now lives with wife Arna Bjarnadóttur. “The last man who farmed here once fell out of it in the middle. He was hauled out unconscious somewhere downstream, but was back at work three days later.”

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