Why I Fell In Love With Vang Vieng, Laos


Vang Vieng is a small, backpacker-oriented town in Northern Laos on the Nam Song River. The town is directly between Luang Prabang and Vientiane, so it's incredibly easy to get to. It's surrounded by beautiful scenery, with a backdrop of gorgeous mountains and lush green paddy fields. Once known as a party town full of drunken tourists, the town now has a much more relaxed atmosphere. After heavy drinking resulted in several tourists drowning, by 2012 the Lao government cracked down and removed the riverside bars. Today visitors can still go inner tubing down the Nam Song River, but it's a much safer and calmer affair than it once was.

I spent two nights in Vang Vieng during my one month trip throughout SE Asia, and it was hands down my favourite place I visited. This wasn't because of any world-class temples, or an impressive historical site though. I fell in love with Vang Vieng because it was peaceful, beautiful and just plain fun. I went there with no expectations, and left feeling blissfully happy. Isn't that what travelling is all about?

Vang Vieng offers so much for travellers to do. Visitors can go kayaking along the river, explore nearby caves and rent scooters. There's an abundance of budget guesthouses and hostels, which is why it's still a firm favourite for backpackers. There are also plenty of restaurants to choose from offering refreshing fruitshakes, delicious French-influenced sandwiches, and cheap Asian cuisine. We spent many hours chilling out on huge cushions and eating all the food in sight. The restaurants are on the riverbank are the best as they're open-plan and offer amazing views of the Nam Song River.

Even though the boozy riverside bars are a thing of the past, going inner tubing is still an amazing way to spend an afternoon. It's not difficult to find the tour company that rent out the rings. but the only thing to note is you must return them by 6pm or you will lose your 60,000 Kip deposit. The company drop you off further up the river, where you're then free to float down at your own pace. There are a couple of bars still open today where you're dropped off, but whether you're interested in drinking or not (we didn't) it's still a lot of fun. 

When initially looking at the current of the river I was so close to wimping out and not going. But I'm so glad I did it! (Side note: I'm a weak swimmer, but don't worry you can wear a life jacket if you wish.) The current wasn't as fast as it first looked, and it turned out to be a relaxing way to admire the beautiful scenery around us. 

You can hire a waterproof bag to store your valuables and any money - which I would definitely recommend! When we went tubing there was a traveller in front of us who attempted to use a plastic sandwich bag to protect her phone and money... Needless to say, we saw her later on at the side of the river pouring out water from said bag. Her phone and cash looked very much destroyed! 

Another great activity to do in Vang Vieng is to hire bikes and cycle to the Blue Lagoon, which is around 8km away from the centre of town. The journey takes around an hour, where you cycle through breathtaking landscapes and green paddy fields. Along the way you'll pass little rural houses, locals farming and children swimming in the river. Be sure to take plenty of water as there is little shade on the roads.

The Blue Lagoon is a fun place to swim and cool off, with rope swings and trees to jump off from. But don't expect to have the place to yourself as it gets incredibly busy in the afternoon, and definitely isn't a tranquil lagoon to relax in anymore. We arrived in the morning when the area was fairly quiet, but when we left a few hours later it was getting a little crowded. There's a popular cave nearby as well. 

Going elsewhere in Laos?
Vang Vieng is ideally situated only a few hours drive from Luang Prabang and Vientiane. If you're heading to Luang Prabang by bus or scooter have your camera at the ready. The three hour journey is arguably one of the most scenic and beautiful journeys in the world. 


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