Dropped off at the side of a dusty road in Vang Vieng after the most traumatic journey through winding, mountainous roads, I won’t lie and say my first thought wasn’t “oh God this place is a hole.” It looked like the back end of nowhere and it was blisteringly hot – grabbing our bags we walked towards the centre to find a place to stay. After checking out several and consulting with our Lonely Planet and Google Maps to get as close to the centre as possible. We finally ended up staying at Viang Vilay Guest House. It wasn’t great, but it was cheap and we didn’t plan to be in the dorms much. We ended up in a giant 30 bed dorm that was spread across three rooms in open plan style – it worked in our favour because after the first night everyone else moved out into private rooms and we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves. Plus we were right in the centre of everything, right next to the tubing station, and we were paying less than anyone else we knew, which quite frankly is the only important thing when booking accommodation in Vang Vieng.
From the moment we arrived, we could see it was a dusty ghost town and we wondered where the hell everyone was. At around 6-7pm it became clear, as the tuk tuks rolled in with some of the drunkest people I have seen in a while, that everyone had been off on the river tubing. Now I apologise in advance, this isn’t going to be the most cultured of my posts but hot damn this was a fun few days, and if you like a good party, you’ll love tubing! Vang Vieng turned out to be an awesome time for us because there were so many people we knew there – some from travelling Thailand, others from the slow boat and some even just from Luang Prabang. It was a great reunion and everyone was in a party mood – you can’t really go to Vang Vieng if you don’t want to party. I have to question those older couples who were clearly just on holiday there when other than the Blue Lagoon and a couple of caves, there isn’t really much else to do, but each to their own. It’s not even a very welcoming place as you can tell that the people who live and work there can’t really stand the drunks and have a very low opinion of us – they were really rude from the moment we arrived – but who can blame them when we show up and get wasted.In terms of food, I have to be honest and say the food in Laos disappointed me and everywhere I tried it I just found it tasteless and overcooked. So I gave up in the end and enjoyed a tasty spicy pizza at Milan Pizza (lots of spacier variations are available if you fancy that kind of thing) and lived off baguettes from the stalls in the street – it was cheap and I was hungover a lot of the time so it was perfect for lining my stomach for tubing. I keep teasing you with mentions of tubing but you’ll have to wait for my next post for my tubing guide. Instead, let me tell you about the lovely part down by the river where you can chill out on decking with your feet dangling in the water and the sun beaming down on you. It’s such a perfect place for relaxing in the day, and apparently attracts a lot of ladyboys on a day out, who were all enjoying posing for photos. I would really recommend heading down there at one point or another for the afternoon, there is also more accommodation including bungalows down there. For bars in the evening, Jaidee’s is good for chilling out and getting a little freaky or head to Sakura and the Irish Bar for free drinks and partying after tubing.
If you’re looking for something to do, the main two things we came across were visiting caves and the Blue Lagoon. The caves were supposed to be a couple of kilometres some thought we would walk and get some exercise but it was definitely further and the heat was ridiculous. We finally arrived and paid to go in, after being told to go through so we would find the Blue Lagoon, we that never happened. We got lost in the caves, one of us nearly lost her shoes and the head torches they gave us were useless! We ended up having to try and retrace our footsteps out the same way because we couldn’t find anyway through the caves – there was devotedly a moment when I thought I would never see daylight again – around the time I tripped and hurt my foot. If you visit these caves (which are signposted from the river) wear proper shoes because there is climbing involved, take a better torch because the ones they give you are terrible, and be brave – I have never been in caves that dark before. It was like a scene from a horror film!The Blue Lagoon was much better but definitely wasn’t where we were told it was – get a tuk tuk or hire quads as it is quite far and the road is pretty bad for a scooter. It’s so worth the trip, the whole section of water is a rich blue colour from the calcium pigments and looks beautiful. There are loads of rope swings, high points to jump off into the water and sunbathing spots – it may have taken ages for us to get there but we were so glad when we finally did. You’ll probably want a few hours there to relax and jump around so indulge your inner kid and take along your friends for a fun afternoon getting over your tubing hangover before starting all over again. If you’re too hungover to make it that far, there’s a whole series of restaurants that have Friends playing on repeat all day opposite Jaidee’s which is great when you feel rubbish and it’s as humid and hot as it was when I was there. You don’t notice the heat quite so much when tubing as you’re out on the river and cool off in the water, but in the town it’s a very intense heat that leaves you with little energy to take part in other activities on offer like rock climbing – we really wanted to do this but it was too hot while we were there.
Have you been to Vang Vieng? What did you think of it and would you go back? What else did you get up to whole you were there?