In a the center of a small country in south east Asia called Laos, in between dramatic crest mountains and right along Nam Song river, you will find a hidden small town with great fun, one that can be simply described as a ‘Backpackers Oasis’.
It wasn’t long ago that Vang Vieng wasn’t really more than a bus stop in between Laos’s Capital Vientiane and the much travelled town of Luang Prabang, but today, Vang Vieng is well known, and it is filled mostly with young backpackers from all along the world, pn its 3 or 4 streets, wandering around filled with family owned guest houses, internet café’s, bars and restaurants with ‘magic menus’..
I was there with a bunch of my friends and I think It’s a perfect little hang out place for a group. Personally, I was captured by the place and the tranquility it offers. The riverside offers a stunning view for spending your day swinging on a hammock reading a book or having a sandwich, having zero worries.
The ones which are ‘itchy on the move’, will probably sum up their Vang Vieng experience in 2-3 days, but the ones with no worries about being somewhere else, can easily get stuck here spending there days by the river.
I stayed for 12 days, ending up seeing nothing from Laos but Vang Vieng..
Everything is so easy in Vang Vieng
With such a small place, you can never get lost. The whole place is only has about 3 streets, and they are filled with everything a backpacker needs: cheap and clean guesthouses, cheap and tasty food, ‘magic menus’ at bars and restaurants, parties at night (Well, until about 11 pm or so..), great scenery, great vibe and plenty of more backpackers like you.
What to do? OR ‘tubing today?
A huge part of what makes Vang Vieng so much fun is its world famous unique tubing experience along the river.
In town, around 12-11 a.m., you will easily find the line forming after everyone got up from parting last night in front of the two official places where you can rent rubber tubes for you to float on, and waterproof bag for your camera and money (you will need cash along the river, in a minute you will know why..)
Floating on a tube along the pretty calm river, watching the stunning view is fun, but makes Vang Vieng’s tubing experience especially fun, is the fact that is also a very unique way of ‘Bar hopping’. As soon as you will leave the starting point you will notice the first bar along the river. Young locals will help you climb to the woodenn deck, pulling your tube with a rope, so you could have your first beer or whiskey bucket. All along the tubing route you will find several stops like that, wooden family owned bars, offering music and drinks, filled with other young backpackers parting and drinking on the afternoon.
Must ‘river bars’ also have zip lines you can jump from to the river. It’s fun, but be advised, that every year travellers get injured and even die, jumping from those zip lines.
I especially recommend you stop at ‘Mr Lao Lao’ bar. As soon as you get off the tube, Mr and Misses Lao Lao will greet you with a shot of Lao Whiskey and a dance. Be sure that they have been drinking long before you got there so they are in a happy welcoming mood..
Another good stop would be at the ‘Last Bar’. Really nice people that can set you up with everything you want..
I loved tubing, so I went ahead and did the route three times..
Where to hang out?
Another famous phenomena that happens in Vang Vieng besides tubing, Is the fact that all restaurants in town have TV’s showing for their guest entertainment famous American TV shows like “friends”, “Seinfeld”, “family guy” and more, in a loop throughout opening hours. If a traveller in town is not tubing or just having a lazy day, he is probably sitting at a restaurant watching TV. Most places even have tons of D.V.D’S of movies and TV. Series to choose from you to watch. All restaurants in town are pretty much the same, but I especially recommend ‘Mamas restaurant’ because of her hospitality and the Indian restaurant (there is only one in town) for the interesting food.
Me and my friends actually preferred spending our lazy day by the river, swinging off a hammock in the of the bar/restaurants by the shore.
At night time, there are a few places like the ‘smile’ bar that hosts parties filled with young backpackers drinking Lao whiskey and coke buckets. Don’t miss out on munching on a sandwich of pancake after the party, at one of the food strolls that will be waiting for as soon as you cross the bridge back to town.
One of the places we liked to hang out almost every night, was “J.D’s” by the river, named after the owner J.D, who is a nice lao local that will treat you right, especially if you become a steady customer like we did.
What else to do around this tourist town?
The Blue Lagoon Tham Poukham -, Beautiful blue water lagoon with hundreds of crab fishes in it. On site there is also a cave with a Buddha statue in it you can hike a bit up to. There is an entrance fee to go to the cave and you will also need to rent a head light. The Blue Lagoon is 7 kilometers from town, and you can get there by renting a scoter or bike, of you can a ‘tuk tuk’ taxi like we did. Remember to negotiate the price.
Caves - Around the area, some within walking distance you can get to a few cave you can go in. In one of them you can rent a tube and go inside to a cave lagoon. You can take a guide with you from town to show you the way, or get there by map.
WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? GET PACKING!
Spending almost 2 weeks in Vang Vieng with my friends was great fun that will remember for a life time. I you are with good company and not in a hurry going anywhere, i say put your ‘NO WORRIES’ hat on,
and head over to Vang Vieng Laos.