Vang Vieng Laos

Vang Vieng Laos
Vang Vieng Laos

Vang Vieng Laos was a sleepy little farming town deep in the jungle that grew up around the Nam Song River. The rugged karst terrain, multiple caves, and several Buddhist shrines have always been the main attractions. The inherent attraction of Vang Vieng has long been its sleepiness, friendliness, and view of small-town life. Inevitably it has transformed into a backpacker epicenter just a half-day journey from Phnom Penh, Cambodia in the southern area of Southeast Asia. Where once tourism was aimed at taking in traditional life, it has now just about shut out customary life altogether. Scores of new guesthouses and bars nearly overshadow the town’s innate charm. Though drugs and alcohol have played a major part in this destination’s heyday, a Southeast Asian “rite of passage,” major efforts are being made to restore the setting to its original state and tone down the tourist industry. Today, getting a little further out of town into the surrounding hillsides presents opportunities for mountain biking, hiking, scenic walking, and spelunking. 

Vang Vieng Laos Tubing

Vang Vieng Laos Tubing

Vang Vieng Laos Tubing

Along the Nam River, one could see traditional Laotian homes and locals eking out a living river side. This was most popularly done by tubing. Trucks whisk visitors north up the road to an ideal spot to drop in a tube and enjoy a lazy trip down the river. Whether simply enjoying the company of friends or getting out along the way to explore local caves, a trip down the Nam Song is considered a rite of passage when in Vang Vieng Laos. Less than ten years ago there wasn’t much infrastructure along the river which made for a quiet, water-based journey. You might have met the odd local selling Beer Lao or offering a cave tour. Today the Nam Song tubing trail is lined with bars, large riverside sun decks, restaurants, zip lines, and rope swings.

Ethnic Villages

Ethnic Villages

Ethnic Villages

There are several ethnic villages located just a short walk away from central Vang Vieng. These include the villages of the Hmong, Kmou, and Lao tribes. The best way to enjoy a visit to a local, traditional village is via a responsible, reliable guide with a solid reputation. Tours last one to three days and include walks through the verdant forests and mountains where hidden caves and waterfalls, plentiful bird species, and diverse wildlife can be viewed. Visits to the remote villages are offered by trained guides.

Vang Vieng Hotels & Guest Houses

Vang Vieng Hotels & Guest Houses

Vang Vieng Hotels & Guest Houses

In Vang Vieng, a new guesthouse pops up at least every other day. From small, traditionally run homes offering rooms to large backpacker-oriented hostels and hotels, Vang Vieng accommodation is plentiful. Most partiers tend to choose a guesthouse or hotel along the Nam Song River where bars and restaurants are mere steps away. Staying further from the river means distance from the noise. The simplest of guesthouses offers beds and other simple furniture including linens while hotels often include larger, more modern quarters. Prices range from dirt cheap to mid-range.

Top image: kainet (flickr)

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