after we left luang prabang, we made our way to the town of Vang Vieng, Laos (said: vang v-en). the town gets mixed reviews, so we weren’t quite sure what to expect. we knew that the town itself had become a young backpacker haven with an emphasis on tubing and boozing, but was situated in gorgeous laos countryside. hhmm… sounded interesting enough – and it was. sure, you’ve got to weed through some of the backpacker grime to find the good stuff, but once you do you’ll be really happy. the outdoor and water activities are endless: tubing, rafting, swimming, ATVs, hot air balloons, caving, rock climbing & my personal favorite: laying out/reading.
this is the epitome of vang vieng. 20-something in a tubing tank top (they must be free because everyone wears them – look at this dude with three of them), ATVs, hot air balloons and fruit shakes for sale in the dodgy little town amidst the beautiful countryside.
the drive: mountain ranges on mountain ranges on mountain ranges
late afternoon our van dropped us in the middle of town, tossed our bags off the roof and then everyone scattered in search of a place to stay. we quickly realized reason #1 so many backpackers get stuck in vang vieng – it was cheap. like, REAL cheap. the first guesthouse/hostel sign we saw was promoting rooms for $3USD. before we’d left that morning, we did a little research and had identified – but not booked – a bungalow style room so we headed in that direction. (we’re finding this is a great way to get a good place. show up with some good places in mind, get a quick look at the room before you commit & then negotiate. always cheaper).
just off the main backpacker drag (totally fine by us), we landed at Phoomchai Guesthouse for $14/night including AC.
our basic, but cozy, bungalow. and how random is this? we’d befriended an awesome danish couple in luang prabang who’d left days before us, and when we woke up on day #2 in vang vieng and walked out onto the patio for a cup of coffee, they were sitting across from us doing the same.
want a map of the town? this is it. for real. eehhh? not to scale. not updated. hand drawn. thanks.
one of the quirky things vang vieng is know for is its dingy bars that play american sitcoms (particularly FRIENDS) on repeat. after a day in a mini van, this was the perfect way to relax and unwind. we curled up with some beers and watched about four episodes.
and then we wandered to dinner at AMD Restaurant. a locally owned, operated & delicious little spot. a must try if you’re in vang vieng. and here’s why: all the other restaurants & bars on the main strip have the exact same menu. for real. the exact same. and it’s all terrible imitation western food. this, is tasty laos fare.
our first full day in vang vieng, we got up early, grabbed a you-guessed-it… motorbike… and hit the road.
the scenery in this town can’t be captured on film. there are insane limestone mountains everywhere. this i just snapped at the petrol station while we were getting our bike fueled up by some locals who were fueling themselves up with lao lao whiskey at 10AM. the petrol attendants (you can’t pump your own gas) had their girlfriends, a reed mat, acoustic guitar and booze at work with them. they politely offered us some as well.
our ride through the countryside to the blue lagoon, a notable favorite of vang vieng.
how awesome is this?
an adult water playground.
lots of reed mats & huts along the lagoon fill up quick as people prep for a full-day of partying.
fresh coconuts for 50 cents.
behind the blue lagoon is a cave. like everything in asia, it’s “enter at your own risk” and bring-your-own-light. so, we entered and danny loved it. me, meh. not so into caves. hiking on slick rock in the dark? a recipe for a disaster for a clumsy person like myself.
unfortunately, we had to cut our anticipated stay short to get our indian visa process started in vientiane.
but the time we did have in vang vieng we thoroughly enjoyed.