Suitable for: 4 days & more
Vang Vieng used to be the backpacker central in Laos, with outlandish nightlife and dangerous tubing in the river that flows through the town. Today, it has become all but a remnant of its previous self, BUT I am writing this article to show that Vang Vieng, though now much tamer than before, still boasts many exciting adventures and it still has a spark of its old self regarding its nightlife.
Vang Vieng is situated between Vientiane and Luang Prabang, which are most commonly the top 3 destinations in Laos, excluding the lower half of Pakse and the Thousand Islands. Thus, it makes sense to stop here while travelling between the capital, Vientiane, and the cultural mecca of Laos, Luang Prabang.
When I was in Vang Vieng, it seemed like there was an explosion of tourists from Korea. There were signs in Korean catering specially to them. I reckon the tourism industries of both countries must have had some form of agreement. However, most of the Korean-styled restaurants and hotels were located a far distance from the backpacker hostels, which was fine by me!
To get to Vang Vieng, you can take a bus from other areas of Laos. I took the bus from Vientiane to Vang Vieng.
It costs around 40000 Laotian Kip, which approximates to 7 SGD. However, if you book it through your hostel, as I did through mine, it will cost more than that, at around 50000-55000 Laotian Kip. You should definitely try somewhere else if they charge you more than 60000 Kip.
Our fast bus departed in the morning and took around 4 hours to reach Vang Vieng. I recall the journey being pretty smooth, the scenery was just jungle terrain all over. Sometimes a rare sighting of a stream, but that was about it. I mostly used my phone and tracked where we were via Google Maps.
A list of prices and timetables can be found in the Laos Tourism website here!
You guys would know by now that I really prefer to have some Internet on my mobile phone no matter where I travel to, without being overly reliant on the hostel’s WiFi.
I purchased a SIM card when I arrived in Vientiane and it turned out to be reasonably affordable.
A website compiling the prices of the Lao SIM cards is given here.
Do ask the staff to set it all up for you as I was pretty confused initially as well by the need to call multiple numbers.
Company: Net Sim
Pack 1: 30000 Kip / 7 day Package / 1.5GB Data
Another alternative company is called Lao Telecom and their prices are as follows after purchasing a Lao Telecom Simcard, you call the following numbers to top up.
*118*1# / 5,000 kip (125 MB) / 1 day
*118*2# / 10,000 kip (250 MB) / 30 days
*118*3# / 50,000 kip (1,250 MB) / 30 days
*118*4# / 100,000 kip (2,500 MB) / 30 days
As I travelled to Vang Vieng with my friends, we got a triple room in the hostel. Unfortunately, I am unable to report about the dorms.
This hostel had a great breakfast every morning included in the price, you could choose between eggs, pancakes and other types of food. I remembered that there were three combinations.
The room was great, it had good-airconditioning, hot showers, clean beds, no insects or funny smells. The only grouse I have is regarding the poor drainage. Sometimes, the drain will clog up and it will be wet when you step into the bathroom, even after half an hour. However, we were mostly out in Vang Vieng, so it did not bother us much.
The hostel also helps in booking of various tours including the zip lining tour, tubing tour, as well as other activities.
Update! IT NOW HAS A POOLLLLL! I took the 2 pictures of the pool below from the booking website. It looks even better and more awesome now!
It is within walking distance to most attractions, and some good cafeterias nearby. However, as most places in Asia, it would be helpful to rent a scooter nearby to get to some places like Blue Lagoon or some other caves.
I felt that the atmosphere was adequate. Well, I was with a group of friends and thus did not interact much with the other guests. However, every evening / night, there will be people playing at the pool table, playing cards at the common area and hanging out in general. It was not especially lively, but lively enough to constantly meet people / to hang out with others.
The staff were pretty normal, not rude but not especially friendly either.
I chose this hostel because of the great reviews it had, and for the fact that it had a triple room, which is pretty uncommon. This hostel also has a sister hostel known as Vang Vieng Backpackers 2 located down the street, when I went to visit my friend there, I felt that the atmosphere in Vang Vieng 1 was definitely better. Furthermore, Vang Vieng 2 was built up more like a hotel, rather than a hostel. However, I did not thoroughly explore the facilities of Vang Vieng 2 so take my opinion with a pinch of salt.
Booking.com link: here
Price: 230000 Kip / night (with breakfast) [triple room (all-ensuite)] that is what I paid.
However, checking Hostelworld now [Sep, 2018], you get
Tubing in Vang Vieng along the Nam Song River was one the most relaxing, and (contradictorily) exciting things I’ve done to date. Floating down this massive river with your group of friends, having a cider / beer in hand, pondering about life and admiring the clouds merging together above the karst limestone caves, gave me a sense of contentment that I rarely experience.
Tubing in Vang Vieng used to be really different. Rows of bars and pubs line up on the river and offer dangerous activities like swinging into the river from a rope, which resulted in many casualties , which was ignored for many years till the total fatalities caught the attention of the government, who proceeded to make tubing a much safer activity for everyone.
You have 2 options, and can choose from 2 shops, the Red Shop, and the Yellow Shop. Most people prefer the Yellow Tubing Shop because of popularity and because they hold the original route. The Red Tubing is more family-friendly :), fewer bars and a quieter route.
You can opt for tubing either in the morning or in the afternoon. Most people will choose the afternoon slots which starts at 1pm.
The little van will come at collect you and the others from your hostel around 12.30-1pm. It will bring you to a place where you collect your relevant items (tubes etc.) and that’s when you pay the full amount of around 120000 Kip to the company. You get back the 60000 Kip deposit when you return the tubes back to the company. Do check that your tube is working fine and is not leaking.
After getting your items, you proceed (via van) to the start point of the river tubing, which is upstream (yes, I just had to say that). As you start drifting down the river in your tube, you’ll reach the first bar along the river.
As you leave the bar, again check for possible leaks in the tube. You will definitely not leave with the same tube you came as the staff of the bar stack up the tubes in a corner. You just take one and leave.
There are now only a few bars left on the river (3 or 4). It is definitely not as crazy as the previous years. However, it was still a lot of fun! You get to play river games , like Musical Chairs except it was Musical Tubes.
There was a mud pool at one of the bars that I really liked (despite the fact that it sounds unhygienic.) It was the activity I think I liked most during the entire river tubing. I had so much fun having mud fights with the rest, and even got some mud in my clothing! Thank god they had a hose to wash us down at the end. The mud pool had a volleyball net in the middle and I remember the weather being a little drizzly, so it was cool and nice.
I put my items in a waterproof sealable ziplock bag, and then into another waterproof bag that they were selling in Vang Vieng town. I reckon you should bring around minimal cash, as each drink (cocktail) cost around 8000–10000 Kip and thus it would not make sense to bring too much cash. It would also be ideal to bring along a GoPro, go capture those precious moments!
Viewing the sunset while you’re going down the river was truly unforgettable.
Be sure to return the tubes before 5pm so your deposit (20000 of it at least) will be kept! After 8pm, you will lose all of your deposit.
55000 Kip / 10 SGD (payment) + 60000 Kip / 11 SGD (deposit)
Rental prices include a tuk tuk ride to the start of the tubing point if there are at least four people. A tuk-tuk to the tubing start point costs additional 5,000 kip each if only 3 people, 10,000 kip each if only 2 people, 20,000 kip if only 1 person.
We decided on zip lining as I had read some glorious reviews about zip lining through the karst landscape in Vang Vieng.
Some people actually did 3 day 2 nights / 2 day 1 night expeditions to zip line through the mountains, where you stay for a night or 2 in the mountains surrounding Vang Vieng.
It was a full day venture for us. We were picked early in the morning around 8.30 am , where we proceeded to the starting route.
The views were breathtaking, the rides were exhilarating and the company was amazing! We had to trek up (we even crossed a small river via a boat) to get to the first zipline. It took around an hour to get up.
The staff of the company that we did the ziplining with were really safe and made sure all of us did not get any unintentional injuries. From stabilising our weights, and helping us get onto and off the ziplines, they made even someone like me (with acrophobia) , feel really taken care of.
At the end, they even had some obstacle course where I had to get though some high elements to get to the final drop-off. I was actually trembling, though not in the photos :). There was also a vertical drop at the end *shivers in fright* I’m fine with diving down into the depths of the ocean, but heights are a totally different thing.
To get to the Blue Lagoon, you have to rent motorbikes.
I would suggest going to Blue Lagoon 3 as it was the one with the fewest people, which meant more space for you and your buddies to play! We basically followed the road down, I was using Google Maps on my phone in my waterproof casing. It was practically pouring as we sped down the eventually muddy roads. I remember my friends’ bikes getting stuck halfway, and he almost lost a slipper to the sticky mud haha.
There are 3 Blue Lagoons, Blue Lagoon 1 is the biggest but also the most populated. Blue Lagoon 3 is the furthest out, another reason why it was had the least number of people. Anyway, Blue Lagoon 3 was indeed blue in color, probably the cleanest one too, judging from the number of people patronising it.
The Blue Lagoon offers various activities. One favourite one would be to swing off the rope into the lagoon. I simply had to get over my fear of heights for this one as I had seen it on many videos and it was THE. thing to do in the Blue Lagoon. Besides that, you could kayak in the lagoon, or lay in a tube and float around. The water was surprisingly clean, and there was even cafe at the corner for any hungry souls.
The nightlife in Vang Vieng is still fantastic, despite the rumours of it having been mellowed down over the years. It is one of the only places where I’ve travelled to offer free drinks during a certain time period. I’ve hunted down the BEST method to drink for free in Vang Vieng. It is as follows
Sakura plays a decent set of mainstream EDM, and classic hits of the 80s/90s. It has what I would say the best dance floor in Vang Vieng.
Viva Bar, I reckon, is only frequented later because of its 10-11pm drink deal. The music tends to be more R&B and some rock involved.
Kaeng Nyui is a waterfall that is approximately a 15-minute travel from the heart of Vang Vieng. You can even swim in the first waterfall you come across! You will need to continue walking for a little bit to get to the wondrous end. There, you can choose either to venture out for a nice swim, or try the jumping off the waterfall to a massive drop.
Another waterfall would be the Nam Tham Waterfall, which I visited with my friends as part of a package tour. It was fantastic, though the mist from the waterfall meant that any close-ups had to be discarded as the droplets totally destroyed the pictures. I highly recommend visiting at least one waterfall during your trip here!
Price: 10000 Kip for entry
Using the motorbikes, it was so thrilling just exploring the nook and crannies of the place. You will be rewarded by the sight of karst mountains all around you, with no other tourists / backpackers in sight. Just you, your motorbike, and hopefully your working GPS :p I always feel that one way to really get to know a place is simply to wander around. You can have destinations in mind, but always have some flexibility to play around with.
I even taught my friends how to ride their motorbikes here in Vang Vieng. It only takes a couple of minutes, and some practice, before you’re fairly competent on the road! Of course, it depends on multiple factors, but renting a motorbike and scooting down the winding roads of Laos would be one of the best memories you’ll have in time to come.
Some people hire the 2-wheeler as you can see the photo below.
We ate at many eateries while in Vang Vieng, there were an assortment of food, and places to choose from. We had a good Pizza place that we had to walk quite a distance to, a really fantastic Irish Pub which sold the best Chicken Steak ever, but if you ever want to dine affordably, go to one of the local stalls which had a menu like the above. Your wallet will thank you, a lot.
Vang Vieng was a good rest stop between Vientiane and Luang Prabang. It was the source of most action-packed activities in Laos, with caving, tubing and zip lining being some of them. I would highly recommend first-time travellers to this delightful little spot of heaven in the middle of Laos. I would return one day!
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