‘Happy’ shakes, opium pizzas and “friends!”
As well as the above, tubing down the Nam Song river while drinking copious amounts of alcohol is what Vang Vieng is widely known for. We are not particularly into any of these things and so we were not too sure if Vang Vieng was going to be for us.
How wrong we were.
The spectacular scenery coupled with the chilled out vibe and gorgeous weather made us instantly love the place.
We were forced to spend almost a week in Vang Vieng as our plan to travel to Vietnam was put on hold due to an issue with our Vietnamese visas.
But we didn’t mind one little bit. After all, who’s going to complain about having to spend a week chilling in the sun?!
The scenery was just amazing;
Craggy mountains, a meandering river, lush surroundings, dusty roads and rich rice fields…Vang Vieng is a photographers dream.
Apart from tubing, kayaking and rock climbing are two activities that have become increasingly popular among tourists.
We formulated a plan where we’d do the kayaking first and the tubing later in the week, but this plan did not materialise!
Because our kayaking experience was one of absolute terror where we almost lost all of our gadgets and our lives too. We can laugh about it now, but it certainly wasn’t funny at the time – can you imagine my face when I thought my gadgets were ruined!?
I’m going to do a full post on that later so I won’t give any more details for now.
The plan to go tubing was forgotten about after our kayaking experience, as the last thing we wanted to do was float down the river after having a few beers.
What we did enjoy…
Getting a bike and cycling around the outskirts of the town was the highlight of our stay in Vang Vieng, so much so, that we did it twice.
The bike cost us 30,000 kip ($2.50) for the day which included a free map of the town.
The first day saw us make the 7 km trek to the famous Blue Lagoon. For those of you that plan to do this trip, be warned…the road is extremely bumpy so be sure to get a bike that has a good suspension.
The blue lagoon itself is nice and is worth a visit, although the water was extremely cold and not that blue on the day that we visited.
On the way to the lagoon, we passed through little villages and stopped numerous times to take some pictures of the amazing views that surrounded us.
I particularly enjoyed the ride back as the road was flooded with children who were either cycling or walking home from school, they were extremely friendly greeting us with a soft spoken “Sa-bai-Dee.”
We ventured further afield on our second day with the bikes, as we decided to put the map away and just wander.
And that we did!
We were cycling through a field when we spotted a local man and woman, both of whom flagged us down while pointing to some wooden chairs that were placed beside them.
They must have seen our red faces and thought we needed a rest!
We pulled into their home (the field) and sat with them for some time. As you can see from the pics, their home consisted of a makeshift hut that housed their bed and belongings.
They spoke very little English, and we had no Laotian, but we still managed to hold a conversation through broken English and hand/sign gestures.
It was one of those experiences in life that made me realise just how lucky I am. This elderly couple lived by themselves, in a field in the middle of no where, and they had nothing but the clothes they had on and a bed.
Irrespective of this, they were welcoming and smiled the whole time we were there, I got the impression that they were happy and content with the possessions and the life that they had.
Makes a lot of the complaining that we do seem trivial, right?
The not so nice side of Vang Vieng…
Recent times have seen the small, peaceful, charming town of Vang Vieng transform into a mecca for drunk and rowdy backpackers.
Having said this, not all visitors to the area are like this, but a lot of them are.
We stayed in Vang Vieng for one week and in that space of time, we saw more drunk people than we had in our previous seven months in Asia!
There’s nothing wrong with having a few drinks and enjoying oneself, I’m all for that. But we witnessed a lot of disrespectful, even disgraceful behavior from backpackers during our stay in Vang Vieng.
Like most countries in Southeast Asia, the people of Laos are conservative and the Laos National Tourism Administration has awareness programs where they ask tourists to respect and follow the rules, regulations, traditions and cultures of the Lao people.
The town itself is decorated with signs like the following:
There were the select few males and females who still deemed it appropriate to parade around the town wearing next to nothing. One local woman had to cover her child’s eyes while one girl walked by as she was wearing a bikini that was ‘barely there.’
Personally, I feel that local culture, traditions and wishes should be respected and adhered to. Just my opinion at the end of the day.
“Engerrrrr-land, Engerrrrr-land, Engerrrrrrr-land…”
We walked into our guesthouse and were met by chants and roars like the one above. If I didn’t know any better, i’d have thought the England team were playing a game of football out the back of the guesthouse!
To make matters worse, the chants were coming from a room on our floor.
The roars were loud, and we had to get some work online done. We got the laptops and decided to sit outside on the table and chairs, it was considerably quieter there, and the WIFI signal was that little bit stronger, in comparison to the one bar that we got in our room.
Our fingers start tapping, and we get on with the work that we have to do. That is until Flor turned to me and said, “is that what i think it is?”
We both look up to see a young guy urinating from the balcony of his room. Luckily, it wasn’t any where near us, and we were in no danger of getting wet.
The guesthouse did have a perfectly clean toilet so i don’t know why he felt the need to do what he did, I was disgusted.
This behavior made me feel angry, and I was left thinking, “what do the locals really think of us westerners?”
Don’t miss out…
Don’t miss out on Vang Vieng when in Laos. The tubing scene has considerably quietened since the closure of many of its river bars in 2012, and it is now a charming town that radiates a more relaxed and chilled out vibe.
Locals say they are happy that the government has cracked down on the old tubing scene, which saw as many as 20 tourists being killed each year.
Tubing is still there to be experienced and enjoyed – it’s just the opportunity to kill yourself while doing it that has been removed.#
Prices of food and accommodation are reasonable, and considerably lower that what we payed in Luang Prabang.
Have you ever been to Vang Vieng?
If so, I’d love to hear what you thought of it! Feel free to leave any questions or comments below. 🙂