Vang Vieng, Laos Today
Posted Date: 11/15/20137:58 AM
One of the main attractions of the town is inner tubing on the river. Whilst floating downriver there are several places to stop, mostly small family-owned bars or just simply an enterprising local with a bucket filled with ice cold bottles of Beerlao, and also several good spots for jumping into the river from the bank or a specially-constructed bridge.
Careful on the 10 meter high swing – it’s common to perforate your eardrum and do permanent damage to your hearing if you land the wrong way.
During the wet season, the river can be a series of raging rapids, but during the dry season, some of it is little more than a trickle.
The market is located five kilometers north of the town selling Lao textiles, household items and several stalls selling dubious foodstuffs.
It is possible for stalls to sell bats, squirrels, monkeys, rats, mice and other animals as food.
In the town there is a wat that is notable in looking rundown and keeping its valuables chained behind a door. The town is situated on the main north-south highway from Luang Prabang to the capital, Vientiane.
But the real attractions of the area are the scenery, the limestone hills and the numerous caves and caverns. Perhaps the most interesting is the Tham Phu Kham cave, half an hour’s spine-compacting ride away from Vang Vieng by tuk-tuk or rented motorbike.
Vang Vieng is between Vientiane and Luang Prabang – by bus (road and bus conditions permitting) about 6-8 hours from Luang Prabang, around 3-4 hours from Vientiane. Buses to Vientiane leave bright and early between 05:00 and 07:00 and cost a fixed 25,000 kip; you can also try to share a tuk-tuk for slightly more.
Less crowded and more humanely timed tourist buses leave at 10:00 and 13:30 (in theory – they tend to wait until full before departing) and cost US$4. A minibus leaves at 09:00 and costs US$5.
Tickets can be bought in almost every guesthouse (for a US$1 commission).
• Blue Lagoon: An 8 km trip ferry away from town that brings you to a spring fed lagoon at the bottom of “Golden Cave”. Nice place to relax, swim and play on the rope swing. The waters are inhabitated with a few hundred carp fish that will eat locally sold fish food right out of your hand.The cave above requires a modest hike up a make shift bamboo ladder. Once inside, there is a short walk to the Sleeping Golden Buhdda. Entry fees are about: 10,000kip per/person.
• Lao-style steam sauna
• Movies shown at a few restaurants
• Tubing down the river. US$3.50 includes ride to start point. Dry bag US$1. Some dry bags may not be of the best quality, often digital cameras get ruined by faulty dry bags rented to tourists, so beware and if in doubt, don’t bring your camera. Many beer and other pitstops along the way. Also, try the diving stop.
• Kayaking the river.
• Playing on the swing over the river. Please be careful – perforated eardrums and permanent hearing damage are common injuries resulting from falling the wrong way. The local hospital is not equipped to diagnose or treat this injury – Vientiane has the closest (if spartan) ENT facility but no English speaking specialists, so you may have to head all the way to Bangkok for treatment.
• 3km north of Vang Vieng, where the main tubing run commences, there’s an organic farm. Here you can escape the town’s dirge, teach village kids, build adobe buildings, learn/teach farming, eat some good quality food and stay a night, a week, or a year.
• Internet. The local internet cartel charges $US2 an hour for internet, however, the bandwidth is very good for Laos and they encourage customers to use it! (meaning downloading mp3′s and the such).
• Rock climbing. There are excellent walls to everyone from first timers to pros. The day trips (includes guide, all gear, lunch, transport etc.) starts from 20USD or visit by the shop at the northern end of the main street.