Reaching our destination at 3 am and being escorted by a breaking-down tuk-tuk to the only open hostel made for a memorable arrival in the relaxed town of Vang Vieng. (And the fact that we actually got there, thinking we’d missed it altogether when the 5 hour bus ride turned into 8.) ‘Famous’ to travellers for intoxicated tubing down the Vang Vieng river, I can definitely see this place as somewhere one could get stuck in a routine of chill days and nights, with just about enough commotion to keep you feeling peaceful but not bored. Helps that the surrounding area offers tons to be explored, whether you are into bicycles, mopeds, dune buggies or travelling by foot or tuk-tuk.
Perhaps a blessing in disguise, the debaucherous river float that we’d heard so much about had ‘closed’ only a couple of weeks before we arrived, meaning that the multiple riverside bars were no longer up and running. Although it probably would have been cool, some of the effects on the town aren’t exactly culturally respectful. There were numerous signs at the border crossing featuring bathing suited cartoons gallivanting down streets shamelessly, and advising against such behaviour. Nevertheless, with a good sized group of happy people, we rented the tubes, brought along ‘supplies’ and set off for a day of respectfully soaking up the sun and scenery with new friends.
The water was the perfect temperature, and the day was hot, making the stretches of river that flowed through the shade of towering mountains around us refreshing and awakening. From the stories I’d heard, I was expecting huge rapids and multiple ominous drop-offs, maybe a couple of whirlpools, but the conditions were calm and pleasant, though occasionally having to lift your butt to not get destroyed by rocks pretty much comes with the tubing territory. We made one pit stop on the river bank, lengthening our celebrations in the sun.
As a lone sitting duck or foot-linked to a raft of fellow travellers, I was in constant awe of the landscape around us. The sun, the water and the positive vibe (and maybe a few drinks), made my day on the river amazing, and a highlight on my trip. Oh and despite the horror stories only one person got hurt… Highly recommended activity. Just be nice, stay hydrated, and don’t litter!
Continuing the trend of beautiful bodies of water, we spent the next day at a mystical oasis at the base of a mountain, known as the Blue Lagoon. A rope swing hung off a generous tree with excellent jumping platforms over cool robin’s egg blue water was enough to make it seem to come straight out of a dream. There was ample room to swim, either near the swing or under the bridge to the other side of the pool, or to just keep cool on the rocks waist deep.
Over the bridge there was a little concession and a large grassy area fit for sunbathing. When we felt the need for some adventure, we continued past the grassy field and upward on a vertical trail to the coolest cave I’ve ever been in. It was like being in Indiana Jones, complete with a reclining gold Buddha near the entrance, with sun rays bursting through the hole in the side of the mountain.
To my amazement, what I thought would be a tiny tourist trap of a cave was actually an immense cavern filled with stalactites and stalagmites. Headlamps were necessary unless you wanted to plummet down a hole, or off a giant rock into more rocks. They also let us marvel at the awe-inspiring rock formation and size of the cave. With careful footing we made our way to the very back (as far as I know) past a muddy ‘cave drawing’ handprint wall and returned to the mouth, where the mountain spit us out a little dirtier and a lot more impressed.
Though I can’t say much about dining or nightlife here, the natural beauty of Vang Vieng makes it a destination very worth visiting.
As we only spent a night in Vientiane, there won’t be a Part 3, but the capital city was very pretty! A lot of good looking French architecture and cute cafes.
After a quick look see we were off to the airport, next stop Vietnam!