Vang Vieng is known for tubing and partying. Years ago, it was a bustling stop for backpackers wishing to float down the river and stop at the multiple bars, zip line into the river, and jump from the steepest points. Unfortunately, accidents arising from all of these activities have shut most of the bars down with only three remaining. That being said, I was not quite expecting what we found. Vang Vieng is small. Quite small. The few things to do are on one main drag of street – that’s not including the caves and waterfalls though. But in terms of bars and night life, or any life for that matter, there is one street.
The first day we arrived, after a 6 hour bus ride from Luang Prabang, was rainy. We essentially just hard core chilled. Something at which we’ve become damn good. We stayed at Pan’s Place, which had rave reviews on hostel world, and were pleased. The best part was the tv room upstairs that we could hang out in.
The culture in general in Vang Vieng is really casual and laid back. Almost every restaurant on the street plays ‘Friends’. All day, every day. I had read about this but didn’t quite get it until seem in person. It’s true. So much Friends. It was a little slice of home.
Many of the restaurants also offered “Happy” pizzas, shakes, and other food. This could mean opium, magic mushrooms, or weed. We’re good children though (don’t worry Mom) and didn’t do any hard drugs. Just chilled.
The Blue Lagoon is probably the most popular tourist destination in the area. It has a cave next to it that was truly unique. It was so dark
we the boys had to rent headlamps. I obv brought my own because I went on an Amazon rampage before I left. Luckily, we got there early and the cave was virtually deserted. I was glad because I’m a slow poke, and the boys were glad because they could yell offensive things as loudly as they wanted. This cave was vast though. Real cavey. That’s a new word I made up, it really only applies to caves. But yeah, the pictures do a pretty good job at explaining it. That being said, it was really dark so the pictures aren’t as good as others I’ve taken. Disclaimer. When we finally emerged, the lagoon had turned into more of a beach. Tourists were everywhere talking and eating and diving into the water. It was definitely a great experience.
Tubing is awesome. So much fun. We had learned that it had become way smaller of an activity through the years because of serious injuries and death among tourists. I can totally see why. The whole point is to get drunk and float down a river, we also saw abandoned rope swings, which obviously leads to drowning and concussions. There used to be lots of bars, but now there are only 3. One of our friends went three years ago and said someone died once a week, clearly something needed to change.
These three bars are right in a row, only a few minutes apart from each other. They all offer free shots of Lao Lao, the most common drink in the country besides Beerlao, in addition to deals on drinks. My favorite part was the free bracelets (kinda). I didn’t bring my phone so I didn’t actually document the experience. I’ll try to hunt some photos from Glove’s Go Pro.
The first bar is fun enough. The lay out is really large like the others, but it offers nothing special. We got a huge game of flip cup going (which I dominated, Umass what’s uppppppp) that kept growing and growing. Eventually we hopped back on the tubes and went to the second bar.
The second bar is easily the best one. It must’ve been the hula hoops that I loved so much, even though I suck, I considered it exercise after a few shots. There was an awesome game of volleyball going on, some water basketball (?) and a lot of sunshine. I capsized getting back into my tube and compromised my beer. That one was for the homies.
The third bar took a toll on us. After a few hours of intense sun and not much water, I was exhausted. The sun was slowly going down and brought the temperature with it. When we hopped in our tubes for the final stretch we were freezing. I had ignored everyone’s warning that the “float” ride home took two hours. They were not wrong. After the first 45 minutes or so, I felt despair. We were wet, in bathing suits, and had nothing but a few thousand kip on us. Eventually we (Spense, Glove, our German friend, and I) said “screw it” and found a tuk tuk on the river to drive us back. We had lost the rest of our friends down the river. My advice would be to leave well before 6, maybe 4, or to take a tuk tuk from the third bar.
The rest of our time in Vang Vieng was not too eventful. We found an awesome Irish bar that quickly became our late night spot of choice, and hung out there a few nights. When we weren’t there, we were watching movies in the tv room at the guesthouse.
Vang Vieng was definitely a highlight of our time in Laos, but it was also very much a party town as opposed to a culturally fulfilling town. It is certainly a place to visit, but be prepared for partying and partying. If the weather is bad, prepare to stay confined in restaurants.
Vientiene was next. That post will be shorter than this one, but the photos plentiful.