We arrived in Vang Vieng from Vientiane via bus. The bus cost 50 000 kip for a 4 hour journey. We were dropped us off at the bus stop which is a short walk from the town centre. We went for a little stroll to find our hostel ‘Chillao Youth Hostel,’ once we arrived the receptionist informed us that the hostel was overbooked and they are going to upgrade us free of charge (twice in one week, we’re on a winner here!) They shuttled us back to the other end of town and helped us check into Vang Vieng Boutique Hotel, the 3 star hotel honoured the rate we secured in a dorm at a hostel! The receptionist was an extremely helpful and friendly lady throughout our entire stay, the breakfast was great, the rooms were very clean and comfortable, also offering a fridge and kettle, the only downfall was the wifi was only available in the common area downstairs . I discovered the normal asking price was $20USD for a twin or double room, I would definitely recommend this to travellers on a low-mid range budget.
We headed out to find a bite to eat. Don’t hold your breath for the tastiest food you’ve ever had, Vang Vieng averages 30 000 kip for a meal, and I have eaten airplane food I enjoyed more than some noodle soups I tried here. There are some ‘flashy’ restaurants with the price tag to match, but we didn’t bother trying. Fried rice does the trick! But people flock here not for the food menu, but for the ‘happy menu.’ The happy menu includes, shroom shakes, shroom pizza, shroom tea, opium tea, a pre-made joint and a bag of weed or opium. You can find this menu at Milan’s Pizza and its surrounding restaurants. Apparently it’s perfectly legal to intake these drugs whilst in the restaurant, but not anywhere else. In saying that, the government and police force can be incredibly corrupt and will ask for bribe money or threaten to put you in Jail if they wish to. Remember friends, you are still in South East Asia, you’ve all heard the stories of the people that get caught, stay safe, don’t be stupid!
**Did you know**
– In Vang Vieng, restaurants have the TV show ‘Friends’ playing on a constant loop, and the restaurants are designed in a day bed style. Leaving it very easy to laze around and watch friends all day! (like you see many travellers doing)
We ventured around the town, scoping out prices for tubing and the tours. We followed a sign saying ‘Smile Bar’, which lead us across a rickety bridge to a small island filled with bungalows, hammocks and a campfire out night. Smile bar is right on the river and is the final stop for tubers, making it a prime bar for sunset, we spent a few afternoons here. watching the hot air balloons and paragliders pass by.
The next day we went out hunting for the best prices for a tour and also a price if we were to hire a motorbike and go adventuring ourselves. We discovered hiring a motorbike was 80 000 kip per person, and you have to have them back by 5pm, so we thought we would try our luck at the price of tours. We found a tour which included kayaking, exploring two caves, a picnic lunch and visiting the Blue Lagoon for 120 000 kip. The tour also covered the charge to cross the bridge out of town (10 000kip) and the entry to Blue Lagoon (10 000kip), so we decided the tour was a better deal and we booked it for the following day. It was getting close to midday, and what better way to spend your sunny afternoon the floating down the river on a tube! Tubing in Vang Vieng was nothing like I expected it to be, it took about 3 hours and there was only two bars to stop at, which were empty. I understood that the tubing shenanigans had been shut down, but I expected a little more! We spent our evening hanging out at restaurant playing friends, I think they are onto something, it was great to relax!
The following morning we met for our tour with a group of 30, a tuk tuk drove us up the river to where our kayaks and guides awaited. Most of the guests taking the tour were from a Chinese tour group in which had never been on a kayak before, so we spent the first 30 minutes ensuring lifejackets were on correctly, everyone had a dry bag and how to paddle.
We hopped aboard the kayaks and headed down the rapid filled river for the next hour. The guides played around splashing and spooking people in their kayaks. Up ahead we spotted a rickety wooden bridge over the river, we were gestured to stop at the side of this bank. The bridge swayed as we made our way across to the other side where the water cave awaited us.
The guides gave us each a head torch and a tube, we lowed ourselves into the small river and floated inside to the darkness. We pulled ourselves along with a rope hanging in the water, the water was very cool in comparison to the river we were just in. Our guide stops and helps us up an extremely muddy and slippery bank, and we wade deeper into the cave. The cave glimmered and sparkled as your light scanned the walls, we listened to stories of the people that used to live inside.
‘Watch your head,” the guide said, “It gets very low here.”
Well that was an understatement, on almost hands and knees, we squeeze through the cave watching as insects crawl beside you.
“Okay, this is the exit,” the guide pointed. I could see a small slither of light piercing the cave. We watch as the first guide makes his way out. It was a game of which limb first and what’s safe to grab!
We clamber outside to the abrupt brightness of the sun and make our way through a jungle back to the bridge. Here a BBQ lunch awaited out arrival.
After the DELICIOUS lunch our guides announced that those who purchased zip line could follow him and those that didn’t just had to sit and wait…They tried to sell it to us for an extra 120 000 Kip but we decided to save our cash.
We waited for 1-2 hours for half of the group to zip line, which was a bit frustrating, and then clambered back onto the kayaks. We travelled another 40 mins down the river until we arrived in the heart of town, where a tuk tuk was waiting to take us to the Blue Lagoon.
The drive was about 15mins, many people were cycling or riding a motorbike toward the same direction. We arrived in the carpark and my heart started to sink a little, there were hundreds of buses, bikes and tuk tuks. We made our way inside, I felt like I had entered Disneyland with the amount of tourists squashed together. Majority in which could not swim and were either clinging to people or things, or jumping from high trees with their new found faith in the fluorescent orange life jacket they had acquired. All in which were still dressed in jeans and jackets, pulling them deep into the lagoon.
The lagoon itself was pretty, but the serenity had been lost long ago. We decided to first make the extremely steep climb to the elephant cave before cooling off in the lagoon. There will be ladies trying to rent you head torches, we just used the lights on our phone.
Elephant cave is very grand, definitely worth the climb up, and if you have the time and bravery you can adventure very deep into the cave. We made our way back down and jumped into the lagoon (I’m not kidding about others clinging onto you! Be careful the lagoon can be quite deep.) Finally we gathered the group and headed to the tuk tuk to go back to town.
The same tour is offered at many shops in town, some charging a little more with the same itinerary. I think it was definitely worth the money, just a little disappointing with the 2 hour wait in the middle of the day, maybe try find one without the waiting about!
The following day we grabbed a tuk tuk for 100 000kip (between three) and headed for Kaeng Nyui Waterfall. It’s not far out of town, but due to the bum bruising road condition it takes about 40 minutes to get there. Once you arrive you need to walk through the jungle for about 15 – 20mins.
I felt like I was in a zoo! We crossed paths with so many amazing creatures and the butterflies wouldn’t stop landing on us! They were the most beautifully coloured butterflies I had ever seen! Finally we reached the water falling from the sky and I couldn’t believe it… There was not even 10 people there in which most were locals! This is a MUST DO in Vang Vieng.
We stayed awhile, venturing into other pools and playing with the butterflies, until we decided it was time to head back to town to sort of the bus for the following day.
We were figuring out the best way to get to Phonsavan to see the Plain of Jars, after researching bus times, length and time of journey and costs, we decided to get a private car. Find How I got to Phonsavan and how much did it Cost?
Vang Vieng is extremely beautiful with so many hidden secrets to discover if you have the time. I would advise going to a different Blue Lagoon as I saw others advertised. It had plenty to offer for the thrill seekers too! From rock climbing, hot air ballooning, paragliding, adventuring on all terrain vehicles this list goes on! There’s plenty of backpackers that have stayed to pick up work in this town, maybe for the adventuring, maybe for the happy menu who knows!
Have you been to Vang Vieng? What did you do differently? Are you going there soon? I’d love to help! Please share with me your experiences!