While the “6 hour” bus ride from Luang Prabang took 9 hours through winding mountains and we arrived at 11 pm to cold weather and rain, Vang Vieng is certainly a highlight in Laos. It’s a town known for it’s past party scene, but is so much more than that. To be honest, the party culture is nothing like it used to be: no crazy insane parties, no drugged-out backpackers floating rampant down the river, and certainly no more deaths. Yes, deaths. The parties were so crazy, people would die from crazy tubing accidents along the river.
Today, the town offers stunning scenery, numerous caves to explore, and FRIENDS bars (I’ll explain those later). Make sure to hit up…
Tham Chang Caves
This has been the first cave that I’ve been impressed by, as most caves I’ve seen so far have not gone too deep. These caves were full of stalagmites and stalagtites. Just be careful not to venture by yourself. A friend and I went as far as we could, followed by a strange man. At one point, he grabbed my arm, then laughed and played it off as a joke. But I jumped and immediately backed away. On a lighter note, at the entrance to the cave, there is a lagoon with crystal blue water that flows out of the cave.
And there are dozens of other caves to visit in the area as well!
The Blue Lagoon
After a stunning ride through the Laos countryside, the Blue Lagoon is the perfect place to relax and hang out. You can jump from a large tree, splash into the water from a rope swing, zip line (don’t get too excited, it looked pretty lame), or climb deep into a cave. I actually spent 30 minutes descending into the cave and had to turn back. It seemed to go pretty far in and would be great adventure if you have a few hours.
*If you’re traveling to the Blue Lagoon, check out the weather. The road can be extremely muddy. I rented a mountain bike that could not make it back and many motorbikes could not even make it there. A local tuk tuk, the recommended way to go, got stuck and took an hour to pull from the side of the road.
So while the river once was a huge party, with tons of bars, rope swings, and zip lines, government has cracked down on the town because of so many deaths. While there are a few bars still open that make for a fun time (they throw ropes and pull you in), you can float on by and enjoy the stunning limestone karst scenery.
Climbing the mountain
Just across the river and through some local farms is a small karst you can climb. It’s pretty steep and has slippery rocks, but the view at the top is incredible, overlooking the Vang Vieng town, farms, and other towering karsts.
Just rent a motorbike and venture around for a day. Go explore the countryside and mountains on your own! Just don’t venture too far off the beaten path, as there are still unexploded ordnance from past wars…
And how could I forget, if it’s a rainy day, you’re nursing a hangover, or just don’t want to do a thing, just about every bar in town has couches and plays FRIENDS re-runs all day, every day. Knock yourself out.
Vang Vieng is pretty amazing and I’d HIGHLY recommend it. It’s directly in between Luang Prabang and Vientiane, so odds are you’ll pass through it anyway. Why not stay a day? Or five?