7 Things We Love About Exploring Vang Vieng, Laos

“Peace is not something you wish for; It’s something you make, something you do, something you are. And something you give away.”

I was transferring all sorts of files to a new laptop and saw some of our old travel photos from Laos! When I say old, I mean old like when GoPro attached to a monopod wasn’t a thing and when people still use Instagram filters because VSCO wasn’t there yet. Year 2013? It’s a not so distant past though, but I feel like it’s been so many years already since we left, and I’m missing Laos. Thanks to technology! Don’t worry because I’m not going to the over-emotional part of looking-back blah blah. This post will just be mainly photos with short narratives of things I can recall from a travel that happened 3 years ago. I promise, no emotional hyperbole this time, hehe!

Vang Vieng and Our Thing About Sleepy Towns

If you have read some of my blog posts like Our 870.30-Kilometer Journey by Land Within Cambodia, you’ll notice that my boyfriend and I have this thing over sleepy towns. We love the idea of going on long overnight bus rides to see far-flung provinces of the countries we visited. Some of which were Kep and Koh Rong in Cambodia, Hue and Hoi An in Vietnam and Vang Vieng in Laos. We live in a polluted city like Manila so we both long for laidback countryside when we travel. The thing about Vang Vieng is that I am sure not everyone will agree if I say that it’s a must-see because unfortunately, the crazy party scenes (that made Vang Vieng famous) were long gone even before we saw it on 2013. We’re not into parties and crowded places, so we absolutely loved the new or should I say, the real Vang Vieng! Also, they say that Vang Vieng was just a stopover of buses that brought tourists from Vientiane to Luang Prabang before it became a famous party circuit. Good thing that the Lao government did something to control the hedonistic existence of drink, drugs, and parties to bring Vang Vieng back to the locals again. Peaceful like it used to be.

Nam Song River, 2013

Before I get to the photos and narratives by the way, Vang Vieng is just a 3-4 hour bus ride from Vientiane (cost: 5 usd), 6-8 hours if you’re coming from Luang Prabang. Vang Vieng is a very small town with many budget guest houses so there really is no need to book a hotel in advance. The last guest house where we stayed only cost 4 usd a night, ensuite bath but of course, but there’s no air conditioning. Scooter rental costs around 9 usd, 1 usd for a basic bike and 7 usd for tubing - all for a full day. Food isn’t expensive in Vang Vieng.

7 Things We Love About Exploring Vang Vieng, Laos

First: The toll bridge witih a charming view of Nam Song River

No one is exempted, you have to pay 2,000 kip or Php 12 to cross the bridge. Double it because there’s no other way to go back to the centre than through the same bridge. Anyway yes, despite the fee, this is the first thing I loved about Vang Vieng! The bridge itself is rustic and a bit shaky though. If you can’t go tubing, the bridge crossing had the best view of the Nam Song River lined with karst mountains. The view made me fall in love with Vang Vieng. It’s beautiful especially at sundown.

Second: Cycling through the countryside

I’d probably just leave it to the photos =D

Third: Most restaurants have bean bags and mattresses instead of chairs🎔

Fourth: Staying in surprisingly lovely guesthouses for only $5

In front of the guest house

I thought Siem Reap had the cheapest accommodations in South East Asia! Apparently, Vang Vieng had cheaper and better options. We stayed in a guesthouse for only $5 a night, a better deal than the cheapest we had in Siem Reap. For five dollars we dozed off in an accommodation that’s very close to nature, surrounded by beautiful rice paddies and karst mountains. It was Maylyn guesthouse, situated at the end of a rustic toll bridge in Vang Vieng. The guesthouse was basic though, bathroom was detached, no aircondition, bed was ordinary you even sleep in a mosquito net. Despite these things, I enjoyed the peaceful and laidback surroundings, so peaceful and the silence was deafening.

Fifth: That incidental excitement you feel when you see hot air balloons near the river

Balloons Over Vang Vieng is one of the top attractions in Laos. Many reviews say that it’s expensive but the views are exceptional and unforgettable. Because it costs $90 for a 30-minute flight, I knew I wouldn’t afford it. If you're in Vang Vieng it's hard not to see the hot air balloons overhead especially in the afternoon. I remember getting excited when I saw one up close while in a hammock near the river. It was picturesque.

Sixth: Lounging in hammocks with good food

One of the things that Vang Vieng vibe can suck you in are the hammocks along the river. Our favorite spot was The Smile Restaurant along the river. I’ve seen it recently in a travel program in the Philippines. So happy that the place is still there. We discovered the restaurant by chance when we were looking for a cheap accommodation on our last day before leaving Vang Vieng. What I personally love about the place is the super comfortable blue cloth hammocks! They aren’t luxurious but the view adds up to the good vibe. The restaurant had delicious baguettes and my new favorite then, the Lao lemon mint shake!

Seventh: Tubing on the slow paced Nam Song River for 3 hours

If asked for the one thing I was most excited to do in Laos, I probably would say tubing in Vang Vieng. I was not interested in the party scene at all. But tubing without a harness in a wide and lazy river sounded really appealing to me. It didn’t disappoint. Again, the view was awesome. The mountains are prettier up close, from a bottom-up perspective. I must admit that I’m a scaredy cat when it comes to trying new (water) adventures. Because I can’t swim. I don’t want to die through drowning, it’s my worst nightmare haha! Okay for the record, we didn’t spot anything scary apart from the occasional big rocks in the middle of the river which we tried to avoid! Tubing takes 2-3 hours before you reach the "end" point, but it depends on the river’s current. We stopped over a bar where there’s party and booze. But there’s nothing much to do there so we thought we just go on with our lives and enjoy tubing until sunset. Nam Song river is long and you have to stop tubing when you reach the familiar bungalows along the river. There are signboards that say how many more kilometers you are before the final stop. On rainy months, be aware that the current can be wilder and the river is colder. It’s best if you don't tube alone!

Getting to Laos By Land

From Hoi An
From Bangkok
From Hanoi
Lao Border crossing via Savannakhet
Bangkok to Vientiane by bus via Nong Kai (Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge)
Hanoi to Vientiane by bus via Donsavanh
Travel Time
24 hours (meals and comfort breaks included)
12-18 hours
24-30 hours

Honestly, you can skip Vang Vieng

It has mixed reviews in the Internet! It can be a boring place for some because it really is one quiet place. There are no enormous temple sites to see, no crazy parties. But Vang Vieng has this unexplainable vibe that you would only understand once you’re there. It’s the kind of vibe that will make you fall in love with it despite the lack of “instagram-worthy” experiences. I love Vang Vieng, and I hope you’ll get the same feeling after visiting a paradisiacal place that Vang Vieng is!

Your turn guys! Have you been to Laos? Any under the radar experiences you would like to share? :)

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  1. I agree that many people skip Laos. It's a beautiful country, love to know someone enjoyed the country like I did!


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