Likes & Dislikes

Opinions

"We were surprised to see how popular the town is with European backpackers. Vang Vieng has little to offer if you're not into the active tourism genres (kayaking, tubing, cycling on dirt roads, etc.). There are no cultural tourist attractions (Aji, 2023)."

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"For us, biking and motorbiking were forgettable from the first moment because of the dust, which is terrible. We were left with tuk-tuks, where you also get dusty, but not always. Kriszta"

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About 100 kilometers north of the capital, Vang Vieng is perhaps best described as a tourist ghetto. There is one spot in the city where three flat-screen TVs in three restaurants show three different episodes of Friends simultaneously. And the best thing is: a lot of people are watching.

Of course, that's not why the place is memorable for us, but because of the fabulous scenery around the town. Limestone cliffs, typical of the area, surround the flat valleys. We chose the Tham Phu Kham cave to explore because in front of the cave is the deep blue river called the Blue Lagoon, with happy people sipping coconut milk on the banks.

The walk to Tham Phu Kham was not easy, but climbing up to the cave was torture. We struggled up slippery stairs lined with wobbly handrails to the top. I thought we'd never see the end of the staircase, but we suddenly caught a glimpse of the entrance.

Massive stalactites and various shapes formed from limestone populated the dim cave much more extensively than its entrance suggested. Descending further into the cave, we found the natural wonder, the reclining Buddha statue, with sunlight streaming through a hole above it. We read up on it later: this place is revered as sacred by Buddhist believers in Laos. No wonder the light streaming into the belly of the mountain is genuinely an unearthly sight.

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Vang Vieng's image has been transformed from a noisy party town to an outdoor 'adventure base,' with cycling and hiking at its heart, with the mountains and caves surrounding the village providing a great backdrop.

The area around Vang Vieng is beautiful and has plenty to explore. Plus, it's on the way between Vientiane and Luang Prabang (if you're traveling by bus), so it's worth adding it to your itinerary for that reason alone.

Practicals

Transport

The fastest train from Vientiane takes 60-90 minutes. The ticket costs 25-30 USD.

The journey by minibus takes an hour and a half from Vientiane, thanks to the motorway. Typically, ten people are crammed into a minibus. The fare per person is 150,000 kip, slightly less than 10 USD. The other way is an extra hour.

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    ,, On our trip from Mia Vientiane to Viang Veng, we wanted to try the Chinese-built high-speed train (Lao-China Railway) but could not buy a ticket. The train station is far from the city, and at the ticket office in the center, the queue was too long, and we were sure the ticket agent didn't speak English. Ultimately, we were better off taking the minibus because they picked us up at the hotel, whereas if we had taken the train, the ticket vendors would have charged us at least 10 USD to get to the station.

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Vang Vieng is a small town, so it is easy to get around on foot. A vehicle is required for excursions. Cycling is strenuous; motorbiking is a good option. The surrounding sights are easily accessible by motorbike. Beware, there is a lot of dust. There are very few footpaths.

Accomodation

If you don't want to party at night but want to sleep peacefully, it's best to choose the accommodation as far away from the party places as possible. The riverside hotels are lovely. But the locals on the river are also very noisy. Every afternoon and evening, many people sail upriver in small motor boats quite noisily.

Others

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Vang Vieng - hot air balloon - Kriszta photo

Background

Tourist etiquette

In Vang Vieng, I saw a giant poster saying that wearing a bikini in the city is forbidden! In fact, for those who don't speak English or for the stupid, it was illustrated with pictures asking tourists to stop flopping around the streets in nothing. Nevertheless, I saw a lot of pretty, sexy white girls in bikinis! They either didn't speak English, were blind, or stupid! Or they didn't give a shit about the rules because that's how they were uneducated!

Attractions

Nam Xay viewpoint

About 20 minutes away by tuk-tuk, this hilltop is a famous 30-40 minute climb to the viewpoint. The entrance fee is 10000.- kip, cca 60.- cent. The climb is designed for healthy young people. Dangerous . with children, knee problems, and dizzy people, wearing high heels is FORBIDDEN. Miniskirts are strongly discouraged; the wearer's skirt will be down the neck. There is one lane, and traffic goes up and down it. A steep, rocky climbing lane. Maybe a little harder on the way down. It's up to your neck in dust, and downhill it's a bit of a slippery slope. It's a hand-over-foot climb; sneakers and band-aids are recommended, and water is mandatory. On the roof, the last section, said to be 35 meters, is the hardest. So why is everyone climbing up? The views and the feeling of "having done it" make it a hell of a program.

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    "When we set off, a service lady asked if we had water. I was happy to hear the question; she was lovely. She didn't ask if we indeed wanted to do that climbing. Because sometimes I was scared, that's the truth. And, you were even more afraid of the one with you... We were glad it wasn't raining, so at least it was only a quarter of a mile downhill. When we reached the top, we sat down, relaxed, and took photos. We're just kids, we made it. And, as we headed down, we faced the fact that we were too old to be jumping on rocks; we were stuck with sliding down the ass. It's pretty awesome to see people jumping/sliding/climbing down in the middle of nowhere without insurance. That being said, I loved every minute of it. (Cristina, 2023)

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