Vang Vieng in Laos - Ex-Partytown

We were very pleasantly surprised by our trip to Vang Vieng. It's a small town in Laos, located about 160 km from the capital Vientiane. In a dreamlike landscape of karst mountains and rain forest, situated on the banks of the river Nam Xong.

Udon News would like to thank forumite 'Maithai' for this excellent report.

To get there is relatively simple. Go by car or bus from Udon Thani to Nong Khai, cross the bridge, then take the local bus for 6,000 kip (about 24 baht) to the bus station at the Talat Sao. From there, take the hourly bus to Vang Vieng for 40,000 Kip (about 160 baht). The town is located about half way to Luang Prabang on National Road 13, one of the few paved roads in Laos. After a few breaks during the 4 hour drive, we arrived with many impressions of Laos, both from within and outside the bus.

The view from our hotel window! Looks good, right?

We booked a small hotel on the river using 'booking.com'. Accommodation there has no end of different categories at moderate prices. Our room had good facilities - balcony, bed and breakfast for 2 persons cost 370,000 kip (about 1,480 baht). We found it cheap!

The town itself is relatively mundane, but the wide range of eateries on the river bank reminds us of the Ballermann time.

Vang Vieng has the dubious reputation as Southeast Asia's hotspot for extreme parties. Every year, up to 140,000 young people gather here - backpackers from all over the world, but mainly from Australia, to throw the wildest parties in the world - with alcohol and drugs without end.

After 2011 when about 30 young people had died from accidents and excesses, a task force of the Laotian police cracked down on all illegal bars and high security was imposed. After that, the tourism declined by about 70%.

Better value in the future will be based on sustainable tourism, especially for outdoor and nature lovers.

For the evening, there are plenty of cozy pubs and restaurants at reasonable prices. There is a casual and relaxed atmosphere and no crowds. There are certainly tourists here, but in manageable numbers.

This is the local German pub.

Here both river banks are spanned. Quite shaky - but bikes can cross it!

The long riverfront is home to most of the hotels and bungalow resorts. In the foreground the small, narrow long-tail boats are available to rent.

No sooner said than done! Already we are on the river. An hour boat ride costs 80,000 Kip (about 320 baht). This tour was really wonderful for us - but the skipper had to be extremely careful, because at times the river is quite shallow and rocky.

A chance encounter with tyre-riders. It is certainly very beautiful, so relaxed and calm on the river. Previously, this was the main activity and the river must have been crammed with tyres.

A bar is spotted - old? Or new?

The river is also ideal for canoeing.

Several tour agencies offer a wide range of routes. Whether by motorbike, mountain bike, dirt bike, canoe or dune buggy - anything is possible and fun.

We opted for a bicycle and wanted to visit the famous 'Blue Lagoon'. However, it was about 8 km down the worst and hilliest dirt road imaginable. Had a lot of fun - but it was also very exhausting.

It really lives up to it's name - really blue, clear and clean water. Great for swimming. Fed by a mountain stream right at the entrance to the Phu Kham cave. As everywhere in Laos toll is collected here - not much, 20,000 Kip per person (about 80 baht). Also, the bridges have additional tolls.

After so much activity we were ready to chill-out - in an open riverside bar.

You can also take a hot air balloon trip over the karst mountains, for about $80 (2,500 baht) per person.

So, that was Vang Vieng. A very nice destination for a few active days in beautiful surroundings. From Udon Thani it's easily reached - but only known to a few! We'll be back.

posted on: 04.01.2014

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Coordinates for your navigation device

Latitude: 18.929122
Longitude: 102.449548

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