I wish I could have spent so much longer here. We already had to extend our stay to spend three days in Vang Vieng as to be honest, given the stories about it being a bit of a magnet for travellers acting like dickheads and more of a party town than anything else, we were pretty sure we’d hate it. Whilst we’re not averse to a good night out we’re not exactly major party people, and at nearly (ahem) thirty years old we didn’t fancy hanging out with a bunch of wasted 18 year olds.
Turns out that you definitely shouldn’t be so judgy about places before you visit them and Vang Vieng turned out to be one of our all time favourite places we’ve stayed. Yeah there are plenty of opportunities to get wasted if that’s your thing and yeah the demographic is probably a little younger than we’ve typically come across, but there’s so much more to the town than just that. Since all the crackdown on all the craziness of tubing Vang Vieng’s done a pretty reasonable job at reinventing itself as a outdoorsy hippy nature orientated stop off whilst still welcoming those who want to party within reason.
From cycling through lush countryside to spectacular waterfalls to exploring caves and kayaking along the riverside surrounded by amazing mountain landscapes, it’s definitely one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever been and spending at least 3 days in Vang Vieng will be an amazing part of any trip to Laos. We could have spent a good week just exploring the local villages, caves and natural beauty spots, as well as enjoying the many restaurants and bars on offer.
Alongside an awesome three days appreciating nature in Vang Vieng, we also managed to score some embarrassingly gap yearish t shirts based on our tequila drinking abilities. This was on the same night we partied with some new found friends we’d met on the bus from Luang Prabang including a hilariously awesome ex X-factor hopeful, a Scottish couple living the dream teaching English in Thailand and a guy who used to be a police man in Rugby town – one of those amazingly random nights out with a group of people who go from strangers to best friends in a matter of hours and a few shots. So yes, based on our tried and tested opinion there something for everyone in Vang Vieng whether you want to party or soak up the area’s incredible natural beauty! I’d recommend the best way to enjoy the town is to combine a bit of both – it’s by far the most sociable place we’ve travelled which just adds to its amazingness.
We started day one with a pretty tremendous hangover before shaking off the cobwebs with a hike up to the local lookout point. This actually feels quite a lame achievement as you stand at the top surrounded by far more impressive peaks, but it’s quite a tricky climb and does offer some amazing views of Vang Vieng and the surrounding countryside. I’d say it’s pretty much a must do if you’re spending three days in Vang Vieng but be prepared to feel more like a rock climber than a hiker in places.
After this punishment for our excesses was out of the way we headed for one of the town’s many Friends bars to relax for a few hours. These places are amazingly bizarre – featuring comfy sofa style seats to recline on whilst episodes of Friends are played back to back on wide screen TVs. I guess it’s one of those backpacker things and tbh they’re brilliant places to hang out and rest for a couple of hours.
On the second of our three days in Vang Vieng it was time for some more active adventures – so we headed out with our new found friends for a day of kayaking, tubing, caving and visiting the famous blue lagoon. I’d say these are definitely not worth missing – especially at only £11 for the full day including lunch. About a million tour agencies in town sell every combination of adventure tours you could hope to book. We visited the Water Cave and Elephant Cave which are well worth seeing – the Water Cave in particular is massive and fun to explore in a tube.
Kayaking down the river was a beautiful way to spend an hour or so soaking up the scenery (Rob was possibly less relaxed with the responsibility for rowing sitting more or less entirely with him). Whilst the blue lagoon is not quite as impressive as I expected and enormously touristy – I think we must have rocked up at about the same time as three bus loads of Chinese holiday makers, it’s a nice place to spend a couple of hours sunbathing, swimming and people watching.
Finally our last day of three days in Vang Vieng was spent exploring by bike which was crazy cheap at about £1.20 for a day’s hire and really fun. The roads are a little dodgy but the bikes were great quality and if you’re sensible it’s really not so bad. We cycled the 12km round trip to the waterfalls, which would probably be more impressive in the wet season but were still beautiful and well worth seeing, before heading on a further 8km round trip to the Mulberry Organic Farm. This is a cute place with a goat farm, traditional mud houses and a nice cafe out front with views of the river. Try the fresh mulberry smoothies or mulberry wine and their home produced goats cheese is also pretty amazing.
As above, we would have spent far longer than three days in Vang Vieng if we’d had the time. We even found that small things like wifi and food defied our expectations and were far better than we’d expected them to be. The people are amazingly friendly – from the French guest house owner who serves red wine and cheese and charcuterie platters to the Laotian tour guide who sang Ed Sheeran to us for the duration of our wait for the bus and told us all about his studies in Bangkok – we met tons of hilarious and interesting characters and everyone just seems to want to chat.
The riverside bars were another highlight – dotted along the river bank they are built over the water on stilts and offer a beautiful and peaceful place to relax and enjoy a few Beer Lao. The town itself is only small, but it’s surrounded by amazing limestone kaarst mountain ranges, countryside farms and jungles that hide caves, rivers and lagoons. We can’t wait to go back and explore more of the area and do some proper trekking, and hope to be back soon! If you’re spending time travelling in Laos, make sure to visit Vang Vieng.