Where is Vang Vieng
Located within Central Laos, approximately 4 hours north of Vientiane, travelers journeying along the backpacker trail will arrive in Vang Vieng. Upon arrival this quaint town exudes an atmosphere geared toward party tourism; no magic mushrooms hash or opium to be found here! However, if you're not into getting wasted on potent cocktails washed down by copious amounts of booze and tubing lazily down a river while intoxicated – then don't expect much from this sleepy little town.
Vang Vieng natural beauty
But let's not forget the idyllic natural setting, with majestic mountains nearby and access to serene rice fields for exploration. Vang Vieng offers an array of activities that will satisfy even the most discerning traveller: from cycling through its dreamy surroundings to climbing atop elegant waterfalls. Truly a paradise for adventurers!
How to get to Vang Vieng
Vang Vieng is one of Laos' most famous destinations and is only accessible via a minibus. If travelling from Luang Prabang in the north, expect a slow journey along winding roads that could take up to eight hours (costing 120,000kip). Alongside the spectacular scenery, there are glimpses into Laos' history – both captivating and unnerving! If coming from Vientiane however it should be noted that these mountainous areas can make for an arduous journey lasting around four hours (costing less than 40,000kip).
Vang Vieng town
Indeed, the small town of Vang Vieng is not expansive at all and can be accessed via foot. However, to visit its rich natural features – such as Blue Lagoon, Caves; and starting point for tube-boating experiences – visitors will require either a hired tuk-tuk or motorcycle trip to get there.
Vang Vieng Caves, Lagoons and Mountains
Exploring the most popular attractions (Padang Cave, Ring Cave, Xang Cave) and Blue Lagoon Tham Poukham is a breeze when you rent either a mountain bike or motorbike and explore the fields paddy-lands for an entire day.
Muster up a day pack of provisions, along with water and an indispensable source of light – a torch (for traversing the caves). Take these along to allow you to stop at noteworthy sights or perhaps get lost in the tourist mecca. In such circumstances, food, drinkable water and snacks may become scarce; so keep some stashed away!
The best Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon (Tham Poukham) is situated approximately 7 kilometres from town. At this serene location, visitors will find an unparalleled lagoon; its vivid blue/green hue is mirrored by a majestic tree and swing ropes. Accompanied by park benches along with shaded shelters and food stalls, the area also provides ample space for relaxation – whether sunbathing or simply unwinding!
The entrance fee to this location is set at 10,000kip. For me, it was among my top picks in Laos; besides enjoying a refreshing dip in the lagoon and recuperating from our bike ride adventure, you can also investigate the Golden Cave – just situated nearby!
The climb up to the cave entrance is arduous and steep, yet a fit individual should be able to make it without difficulty given that it only comprises one hundred metres of ascent. If you did not bring your own torch then consider renting one at the base; additionally if you wish someone could accompany you while exploring as well as through this remarkable cavern – just ask!
Vang Vieng Caves
The Padang cave and Ring cave are well worth a visit and can be easily located by following the map of the surrounding caves. They are situated approximately 2-3 kilometres from the town centre; simply follow the course indicated by your map until you reach one mountain which affords access to climb halfway up before spotting an inviting opening in its side – here lies another cove for exploration!
The second cave is located approximately a kilometre further along and requires an expedition through dense woodland to reach it. Permission must be sought from the guides before entering; additionally, visitors can observe the captivating lagoon which lies within its confines.
Vang Vieng Tubing
You've undoubtedly heard about it – the Vang Vieng singlets phenomenon. Fellow travellers have been spotted donning them across South East Asia; guides often include them in their itineraries, and you may even have encountered some negative press coverage here and there. So what is this activity all about? Is it really worth avoiding?
Indeed, you are in Vang Vieng, aren't you? You have the freedom to break any law or rule without consequence – a phenomenon often experienced by those who venture abroad. That indomitable feeling comes with the territory… until tragedy strikes and one unfortunate traveller succumbs to tubing every month!
Is Tubing in Vang Vieng Safe
If you carefully plan your route and select to participate in the tubing while sober, properly hydrated and feeling fit enough to navigate your way down a somewhat powerful river for a few miles, chances are it will be an unforgettable experience that you'll look forward to when returning back into town.
How to Tubing in Vang Vieng work
To successfully complete the Tubing adventure, one must rent a tube in the town centre and then enlist the services of a tuk-tuk driver to navigate them along the designated course. Fortunately, it is quite common for drivers to know exactly where they need to take you when transporting an allotted piece of equipment – so make sure you gather up with others and share costs – as completing more than two laps may prove financially advantageous!
Tubers ride the tubes down the river rapids and can stop along the way to what once were many loud and busy river bars. Recently, due to the situation getting out of control, lots of people dying and the locals getting annoyed by the loud music and constant partying, a lot of the bars have closed down and the tubing scene has really quietened down. You can expect to stop along at around only three bars.
Bars along the river
Alcohol is commonly sold in buckets, which may not be an unfamiliar sight to travellers who have made pit stops at various backpacker hotspots across the globe. It is important to bear in mind that the amount of alcohol present within any given bucket can vary greatly; for instance, binge drinking pales compared to consuming from a barrel. Beer would thus be a far more prudent option than imbibing from these vats!
Despite their location, some bars are situated near rapids which necessitate bar staff frequently donning swimsuits and plunging into the water to rescue patrons. Make sure you return your tube back to where you rented it from before the deadline; otherwise, there will be no refund for your deposit (which is usually set at 55,000 kip).
Tubing coming to an end in Vang Vieng
To fully appreciate the tubing scene in Vang Vieng, it is essential to bear in mind that activity has been diminishing recently. While you may find yourself and your buddies as the only tubers enjoying a drink or taking a dip on one of its many riverbanks, city centres will feature more deserted bars and nightclubs. Despite limited options for partying, newcomers can still make new friends while having an excellent time!
Throughout the day, if you are fatigued from cycling to caves or are experiencing a hectic previous day, then it is simple to locate one of the plethora of restaurants along Main Street. Here you will discover travellers typically in their youthful years congregating around television sets displaying re-runs of Friends; an amusingly engaging show that has become an iconic staple for those seeking escape from everyday life on a sunny afternoon.
These lounges are arranged in a fashion that all of their cushioned seating faces the television, providing patrons with an opportunity to order food and drink while enjoying episodes of Friends. I am uncertain as to why this show was readily apparent in each location that passed; if relaxation is what you desire then these establishments will provide it!
Aside from the riverfront bars set up for tubing, there are heaps of bars in the town centre. Beer Lao is a cheap option as well as the popular (but unlabelled and quality uncontrolled) buckets!
There are bars set up and owned by Australians, New Zealanders, Irish and many other ex-pats in Vang Vieng, all offering really good service, food and free offers such as singlets, barbecues, pool tables, wifi, movies and free drink cards (you will most likely be approached by promoters during the day and given drink cards and told about the bands or events for the night ahead).
Vang Vieng is a haven for backpacker dorms and guesthouses, offering an array of affordable lodging options close to or even lining the bustling main street. If you don't mind pre-planning your stay, Trip Advisor can be your guide when planning out where to go; those who have already visited may share recommendations as well!
Negative media and tubing deaths aside, if you can swim and are not drunk or on drugs (or both) while tubing, and enjoy yourself out at night drinking labelled drinks and not mixing alcohol with unsafe drugs or drugs you are not used to taking, then you'll love Vang Vieng, and even more so if you explore the lagoons and caves mountain biking before you switch to party mode (because your not going to feel like hiking mountains, and cycling for miles after a night out in Vang Vieng).
Ultimately, you can choose to savour an invigorating experience or immerse yourself in an exuberant celebration. Alternatively, reach a meditative equilibrium somewhere between the two. Vang Vieng stands out as a captivating character!
If you're aiming for the north, your next destination on the main tourist circuit should be Luang Prabang – a beautiful city renowned for its remarkable temples. Alternatively, if you plan to head south and explore Laos' capital Vientiane sights… then prepare yourself: these are both vibrant and welcoming destinations with captivating landscapes; idyllic spots that guarantee a pleasant stay.