Vang Vieng is THE place in Laos both for a party, or for a chill and while you may have heard bad things about it, it’s cleaned up its act quite a lot in recent years.
These are the 7 things you need to know about having an awesome time while you’re in Vang Vieng.
1. It’s all about the scenery
Whatever you do in Vang Vieng, make sure to get involved with the scenery as that’s what really makes this place stand out. Whether you’re chilling in a hammock, kayaking, tubing or hiking then drink in those views, especially when the sun sets behind the mountains. In the evening, you can see fireflies who arrive in force at about 7pm so keep your eyes peeled!
2. Everything is affected by weather
Blue Lagoon 3 is the best of the lagoons, but also the most awkward to get to, we went in May before the rains came and it was blue. There are also 4 more to try and the spring water is wonderfully cool.
Once the rainy season really starts in May to August, the lagoons go pretty brown so check before you go.
The Nam Song River gets pretty low at the end of the dry season from January onwards so tubing is safer but you may struggle to get through the shallow areas.
Always check the depth before jumping into rivers because there are so many slippery rocks beneath that can injure you.
In the rainy season from June, the river really swells so you may want to avoid tubing during this time.
Waterfalls are most impressive during the rainy season but not worth visiting towards the end of the dry season.
3. But the roads are very bad…
When you cross over the river bridge (which you have to in order to see most of the sights, you pay a return toll of 10,000 kip so have your wallet ready).
We hired a moped for 80,000 kip and the views were great on the way to Blue Lagoon 3, but then it got very dusty, very quickly.
There’s a reason that so many people hire ATVs as they’re the best for the terrain but you might feel stupid driving one and it’s more expensive.
Whatever your chosen method of transportation, take a dust mask and watch out for potholes in some of Laos worst roads. Don’t forget your helmet!
If you’re getting a minibus to your next destination, it’s worth shopping around as some companies will offer discounts to fill their buses on popular routes like Luang Prabang.
4. Tubing is very tame nowadays
Due to all the problems in Vang Vieng, tubing trips involve going to one bar for a small beer and another bar at the end.
If you’re expecting craziness then you’ll be disappointed, but you will have a nice, relaxing time. Trips cost 65,000 kip and they pick you up from your hotel so it’s a cheap and lovely way to spend half a day.
Make sure your company supplies life jackets and a guide in case anyone gets into difficulties.
5. It’s a great place to meet people
Everyone goes to Vang Vieng to have fun, so it’s a great place to meet fellow backpackers. Whether you’re out tubing or you’re chilling in your hostel bar, you’re bound to meet someone. The Irish Pub in town is a good place to meet people.
Another great place for socialising is the Magic Monkey Garden hostel which has hammocks, a bar, a pool and free BBQ parties. Look on TripAdvisor for reviews and to find the latest hotspot:
6. It’s also a great place to eat
The baguettes sold on the high street are wonderful and only $1-2. Fried tofu is available and I really recommend it for vegetarians!
There is a night market near the hospital and several street stalls so Vang Vieng is great for cheap eats. The Korean supermarket also sells some yummy treats.
For vegetarians, I also recommend the Laos-style papaya salad which is delicious but will blow your head off if you ask for it spicy.
7. Know your drugs
I’m not making a moral judgement on your life but I want you to be safe, and drugs like weed, mushrooms and opium are still available to buy in cafes on the Vang Vieng High Street. If you want to take them then try and find out how others have found them if they’ve been to cafes before. Drugs are illegal here and the people that sell them are not interested in your welfare. If you’re in any doubt, then avoid them because it’s not worth the stress otherwise.
Needless to say, don’t get high on the river and take them responsibly in a place where people know what you’re doing and can look after you should you have a bad trip. There is a hospital in Vang Vieng but it sees enough foreigners with scooter accidents so be careful.
Two or three days in Vang Vieng is time well spent and it’s a beautiful place. Just make sure to be respectful of local culture and avoid becoming another statistic.
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