Honestly, Vang Vieng was one of the biggest surprises I had alongside Varanasi in India on my 3 month trip. Whenever I read something about Vang Vieng, inevitably it would be all about tubing on the Nam Song River. Tubing is an activity where people would go down the river on a tube, stopping at one of the many bars scattered in the river margins. Pulsating music, drinking games and drug fuelled debauchery became the norm.
During the day people would gather in one of the many bars around town to chill and watch ‘Friends’ episodes in an endless loop. At night it was party time with numerous bars with loud music and even free beer would be served in some of them!
I left Vientiane in the early morning and ~3-4h later I was left in the bus terminal at the entrance of the city. There is no need to book any pick up, unless you’re staying on the west side of the river.
I stayed in Dokboua Guesthouse where I got a double room with private bathroom for ~8$. The location is pretty central (it’s not hard, Vang Vieng is very small) and the old lady that runs the place is very nice, despite the clear difficulty with the English, but she always found a way to communicate! Wifi is available and she can arrange everything you need like buses, for example, although this is pretty standard in every place.
The best way to explore the surroundings of Vang Vieng is by bicycle or motorbike, easily rented in almost every street in town. This gives you the freedom to explore remote places at your own pace, but be careful because some roads might not be in the best condition. If you want to explore the west side, there is a bridge in town where you will be charged to cross, however, if you head south there’s another bridge where no one will be waiting for you.
Rent a motorbike for 1 full day. At least. Exploring the beautiful nature around Vang Vient it’s one of the most satisfying things to do. One of the reasons to rent the motorbike is to go to the famous Blue Lagoon, located at ~8km from downtown. The lagoon is quite nice and you’ll have a bonus cave to explore in the area. The entrance fee was 10.000Kip in December 2016. Be sure to stop at Pha Ngern viewpoint on your way to the lagoon, despite being quite a climb, you’ll be rewarded with an amazing view once you’re there. Definitely worth the hassle.
I think that the best way to explore the Vang Vieng’s surroundings is to simply get lost. When you spot a dirt road, go for it! You’ll always be rewarded with friendly smiles and stunning nature. Just be sure to have enough fuel for the day. I tried to get gas on the west side but I was asked for almost triple the price of what it should be. I also had no luck when I tried to negotiate the price.
The rural area of Vang Vieng is the most interesting and appealing for me. I truly feel for the people that stay all day in some random bar watching episodes of Friends when they have this amazing scenery available to explore. Vieng Vieng is a lot more than your usual backpacker destination.
I didn’t stick only to exploring Vang Vieng by motorbike and I don’t recommend it. I rented a bicycle for a whole day and I think that it is a great way to explore the surroundings. It sure is more demanding physically, but I think that it is also more rewarding.
In this case it is better to not make plans at all and just go with the flow. I had no itinerary whatsoever to go with, so I just ventured in every road that looked like a good adventure. The traffic is almost non existent, so even if you don’t have a lot of experience, you’ll not have any difficulties at all.
Similarly to Tam Coc in Vietnam, getting lost in the wilderness of Vang Vieng is the best way to really get to experience wonderful nature. A mix of motorbike/bicycle is a nice way to explore everything around town. Be sure to stop at one of many pancake stalls for breakfast, they’re so cheap and good!
After 3 awesome days I was ready for my next adventure and last top in Lao, Luang Prabang. The trip took ~4h and was done by a shared minivan with other travellers.
How to get there and away
- Bus from Vientiane to Vang Vieng. The trip takes about ~3-4h.
- Minibus to Luang Prabang, ~4h ride.
What to do/see
- Blue Lagoon.
- Pha Ngern view point.
- Getting lost in the amazing wilderness!
Where to sleep
- Dokboua Guesthouse, ~8$ double room with private bathroom.