Posted by Adam on

If you’ve done some cursory research on Vang Vieng, you may have read about the water-based drunken debauchery the Laos party capital once had to offer. You could swim, dive, rope swing and ride the rapids in an inner tube. Backpackers across South East Asia would travel to Laos just to party in Vang Vieng. Except unlike your local water park, you could do all this whilst under the influence of several litres of Beer Lao.

Authorities intervened

That may all sound great to some, but the unfortunate consequence of the Vang Vieng party scene was that an increasing number of accidents and fatalities were occurring. At it’s worst 27 people were killed in 2011. Finally, the government stepped in, shut down almost all the bars, and called time on Vang Vieng. Is there anything worth visiting after party central has died down?

In our opinion, the appeal of Vang Vieng now lies in its surroundings. The town feels like a nightclub when the lights are turned on, an ugly and uninviting place. There are still a few of the old bars operating, and the restaurants seem to range from poor to mediocre. You are left with little else to do but book a tour or hire a bike and explore outwards. Luckily that was exactly what we were hoping for!

Two days of exploration

We spent two full days in Vang Vieng. Our first day, we hired mountain bikes at £3 each, explored back road trails across the river and out to the blue lagoon. It’s an underwhelming local landmark, but worth visiting just for the journey. The roads are smooth and flat, taking you through an incredible landscape dotted with limestone karsts. Taking bikes for the day gave us the opportunity to witness the lives of locals as we passed villages, farms and schools. We also climbed up to some amazing explorable caves just beyond the Blue Lagoon which shouldn’t be missed if you’re visiting.

 

On the second day we booked a half day tour with local Wonderful Tours. We could mix and match kayaking, ziplining, cave exploration and a visit to the Blue Lagoon – we opted for just the kayaking and caves for a mere £9 each. Paddling down the river showcased the remnants of the party scene, as we passed riverside bars now shut down. The river was quiet and the views incredible. This was one of our highlights of Laos, and made for a tiring but fun, unforgettable experience.

Things are looking up

It looks like things are on the up in Vang Vieng. It is slowly but surely adjusting to its new reputation. Our guesthouse, Dokboua, was a good price for a basic but clean double room. We have to admit that we did enjoy the novelty of the friends bar in town. All the seats face three widescreen TV’s which play episodes of Friends all day every day – amazing! It’s a remnant from the old town which has stuck around, and a great way to pass the evening if you’re not into drinking enough to get a ‘Sakura Bar’ vest.

DSCN7808

We had a short but jam packed few days in Vang Vieng – we may not have been taken by the town, but we were thrilled with the activities on offer and the beautiful scenery. It’s worth a visit if you plan to pass through from Luang Prabang to Vientiane. Just close your eyes as the minibus hurtles through the mountains!