Laos Adventures: Vang Vieng

Our trip to Vang Vieng was unexpected. We’ve heard of this famous party town from other travellers and from travel guides before. Apparently for many years, many come to Vang Vieng to party. And in 2011, a total of 27 tourist died from partying along the river and up to this day, many more are injured because they jump into the river, drunk or drugged, without thinking of the shallow water or sharp rocks that are not visible under the water.

Most of the bars along the Nam Song River have closed down making the party scene in Vang Vien a bit calmer.  There are still a few bars that are open and people still go there to party.

Most of the bars along the Nam Song River have closed down making the party scene in Vang Vieng a bit calmer. There are still a few bars that are open and people still go there to party.

Since then, some of the bars were closed and the partying has toned down a little. There are still a lot of people who go for the partying though not as much as before.

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Vang Vieng: An unlikely party place.

Hearing these stories, we were prepared to skip this party town and go to Vientiane immediately. But then again, we also heard that Vientiane is expensive and that it’s just a big city, etc etc and that it might be better to stop in Vang Vieng to break the long trip to Vientiane. We then agreed to make a quick stop over in town and just try to avoid the party scene.

There are buses at the Luang Prabang South Bus Terminal that will take you to Vang Vien.

There are buses at the Luang Prabang South Bus Terminal that will take you to Vang Vieng.

Ali and Siegfried who we met in Luang Prabang also made the decision to stop in Vang Vieng. That made the stop even more fun because we enjoy their company a lot. From our guest house in Luang Prabang, we hired a tuktuk to the Luang Prabang South Bus Terminal for 10, 000 kip each (x 4 of us).

According to this board posted at the terminal, the fare from Luang Prabang to Vang Vien and Vientiane costs the same even though Vientiane is still 3-4 hours further.

According to this board posted at the terminal, the fare from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng and Vientiane costs the same even though Vientiane is still 3-4 hours further.

At the terminal, we took a local bus that costed us 130, 000 kip each with water and a dinner voucher included. The trip took about 6 hours. It’s interesting that the tickets going to Vientiane costs the same as stopping in Vang Vieng!

The main tourist strip of Vang Vien has lots of restaurants and bars.

The main tourist strip in Vang Vieng has lots of restaurants and bars.

We arrived really late at night so we called it a night immediately after finding a guest house. The next morning, we wanted to rent a motorbike but decided to return the bike and get our money back when we realized that the motorbike that we were getting didn’t have good working headlights, brake lights etc. The guys were afraid that the rental place was gonna scam us and charge us at the end of the day making it appear that we broke the lights. Apparently, there are a lot of scams like that in Southeast Asia.

Once in a while, you can see these hot air balloons. I imagine the views to be stunning because Vang Vien has lots of beautiful limestone mountains and hills!

Once in a while, you can see these hot air balloons. I imagine the views to be stunning because Vang Vieng has lots of beautiful limestone mountains and hills!

We just decided to take it easy and walk around town, checking out the river area and having fruit shakes for 5, 000 kip. That’s cheap! Everywhere else in Laos, a fruit shake is about 10, 000 kip. Also, if you are craving for western food (like Ali did), there are a lot of restaurants offering pizzas, burgers and other western food. It’s a bit expensive though so we opted for typical Lao food. 🙂

Oh look, they even have a VFC - Vang Vien Fried Chicken!

Oh look, they even have a VFC – Vang Vieng Fried Chicken! Who knew?

We found a lot of signs pointing to different caves. We decided to follow one of the signs and visited Lusi cave. Note that there are entrance fees to enter the caves in Laos. There will be a guy with a food stall near the entrance of the cave collecting your money. Sometimes, it is possible to negotiate the price like we did. 🙂

Ali, Siegfried, Giraud and I went caving at Lusi Cave (10, 000 kip entrance fee including headlights)

Ali, Siegfried, Giraud and I went caving at Lusi Cave (10, 000 kip entrance fee including headlights)

We spent most of the day eating, walking around town and enjoying the scenery. There are quite a few places to explore outside the main tourist strip. There are beautiful rice fields around and as well as a lot of caves and viewpoints to visit.

Kayaking on the Nam Song River is quite popular in Vang Vien.

Kayaking on the Nam Song River is quite popular in Vang Vieng.

We also spent time by the river, enjoying the sunset and the water. There are wooden boards near the river bank where you can sit, relax, and dip your feet in the water. The river bars have cold Beer Lao and fruit shakes, among other drinks.

Chilling at the Nam Song River.

Chilling at the Nam Song River.

You can also try the infamous tubing activity at the Nam Song River. It looked like fun but it was way too hot when we were there and we didn’t wanna be floating on the river baked under the heat of the sun. I would try it next time though.

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Vang Vieng is famous for its tubing along the Nam Song River.

In the end, we didn’t stay too long in Vang Vieng. We bought our tickets to Vientiane the next day at one of the grocery stores for 45, 000 kip. We could have stayed longer. There are many activities other than partying in Vang Vieng.

Perhaps next time we will come back.

Where we stayed: Sana Chai, 50, 000 kip double bed with fan, there are lots of guest houses everywhere. There are some bungalows across the bridge, near the river. Be aware that the closer you are to the center where all the bars are, the louder the noise at night.

Where we ate: There are a lot of restaurants in the center of town. It’s a small town so you can just walk around and choose a place. We also had dinner at the restaurant with a riverside view, near the bamboo bridge. Also, you can drink at the little huts near the river.

Activities: tubing, drinking, partying, caving, hiking, explore nearby villages and areas

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3 responses to “Laos Adventures: Vang Vieng

  1. I was in Laos in 2005, probably at the heyday of the party scene which my friend and I hated! It felt like “Spring Break USA” or something! The juxtaposition of locals using the river to wash their clothes in, coupled with drunken travellers floating down the river and jumping in and being idiots was really annoying. We did try the tubing but there were just too many idiots around.. and the river was very slow moving that time of year so it got a bit boring. 🙂

    My fave experience in Laos was doing a 3 day trek with a local Hmong guide in the north. It was just me, my friend, our guide, and this nice guy from NYC who was finished teaching English in Japan. I remember standing one one mountaintop and our guide Sarwang pointing out that from there, we could see China and Vietnam too.

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