Happy to have left the capital first thing in the morning, the journey to Vang Viene was not the most pleasant six hour journey, traveling on very windy roads in a bus with no air conditioning and on a very warm day. As I found out, for those who suffer from travel sickness this is probably a scenario you would rather not find yourself in.
As soon as we arrived, we immediately had a good feeling about the place despite being one of the main tourist attractions in Laos. It was a relatively small town, surrounded by some spectacular scenery which has not yet been westernized but yet has still so much do in it. Full of hostels, restaurants and travel agents, you wouldn’t expect it to be the nicest of places, however it was very much the opposite as it is still very much underdeveloped in comparison to major tourist destinations, keeping it local as much as possible.
On our first full day we hired a motorbike to head to the well known Blue Lagoon, just 7km out of town along a dirt track in amongst the farms, small local villages and impressive mountains. In all honesty the “Blue Lagoon” which for starters wasn’t blue, was quite disappointing as it was more of a river no wider than ten metres and very chaotic full of tourists (South Koreans) jumping in left right and centre. Despite the disappointment there was a tree overhanging the water which allowed for jumps from 7m and so we at least enjoyed it even though it wasn’t for its beauty. As well as the “Lagoon” there was a large cave a short hike up the mountain which was quite impressive due to the size of the opening inside. Within the area there was also a network of zip lines set up in the trees canopies open for tourists. Overall it wasn’t the best of sites which we have visited but we made the most of what was there and thoroughly enjoyed the scenic route in both directions.
After a slightly disappointing morning, after such high expectations considering travellers opinions we were looking for a contrasting afternoon, and what better way than doing one of Laos’ famous activities….Tubing down the Nam Song River. Despite the current perspective of it being a dangerous activity on the inner tube of a truck, in combination with heavy drinking, it also has the potential of being a really enjoyable, leisurely 3 hours, slowly meandering down the river which is lined with impressive karst limestone mountains and beautiful greenery.
Potentially being the time of year, the river wasn’t moving very quickly so was definitely not dangerous unless you were completely rat arsed. Along the way we stopped off for a couple of drinks at a few of the bamboo bars on the banks of the river which each had a small party with chill out areas, volleyball and beer pong. Although it gets slightly cold when the sun no longer hits the river, it was brilliant and a must in Vang Vieng with the perfect combination of small day parties, impressive surrounding scenery and floating down a river on an large Inner tube.
As if we hadn’t had enough of tubing yet, the following day we did it again but this time at Tham Nam; a water cave made from a network of rivers running inside the mountains. Here in a group of about 12 people we lined up on our inner tubes and pulled ourselves deep inside with only a small head torch and a local to lead the way. Despite the freezing cold water it was well worth the visit being able to travel a few hundred meters up a long, relatively narrow cave covered in stalectights.
Hot Air Balloon
To end our stay, there was no better way than to see the town and it’s impressive scenery than from above in a Hot Air Balloon. There’s only so many ways you can describe this unspoiled compact town and its surrounding landscape and so is hard to really explain and justify something so impressive.
During the three action packed but enjoyable days in Vang Viene, there were also times where we were able to relax and enjoy our surroundings whether it be in an afternoon or at dinner. On these occasions we always ended up at either one of the three restaurants along “Khao San road”, where we were able to either look out over the river and across to the mountains or enjoy a number of episodes of friends which was being played
On one afternoon we also went down to the river and lay on bamboo platforms in the shallow waters where we were able to enjoy a refreshing cold swim.
Fun Fact: You will find that Vang Vieng will have many South Korean Tourists (and I mean many) and it is apparently because in South Korea there is a TV program based in the town and so obviously promotes and attracts many to the area.