As you can see from my bucket list, I have always dreamed of visiting Li River in Guilin, China. The beautiful karst hills in China have always fascinated me. But as of the moment, I haven’t had the opportunity to go there yet. That’s why when I found out about the gorgeous karst hills in the town of Vang Vieng, I really made sure to include it in our short 3-day trip to Laos. In fact, it was the first place that we visited in Laos because I just couldn’t wait to see Vang Vieng.
Upon arrival in Vientiane (Laos’ capital) via the overnight sleeper train from Bangkok, we hopped into a VIP bus headed to Vang Vieng right away. There are many buses from Vientiane that go to Vang Vieng. We paid 10 USD (Php 450) each person for the bus ticket. Travel time is around 3-4 hours from Vientiane. The bus was full. The majority of the passengers were western backpackers. We were among the very few Asians in the bus. After leaving Vientiane, we passed by the local villages. Soon after that, all we could see were only mountains. Then, we traveled along the zigzag roads as we passed by the mountains. It reminded me of a bus ride to Baguio. I was sitting far from my mom and my sister in the bus but I could already read the expressions on their faces. “Where on earth are you going to take us?” After some hours of seeing only mountains and plain grasslands, I already saw the tip of the karst hills that I was dying to see. It was such a relief! At least I could almost see Vang Vieng and it means we are already near. Finally, after 4 hours in the bus, we arrived in the town of Vang Vieng. And I was awed by its beauty. Just imagine a village surrounded by karst hills landscape. The place was just breathtakingly beautiful.
As soon as we got off the bus, we were approached by the locals offering us some guesthouses. They first greeted us saying “Sabaidee” which means hello in Lao. I think it sounds a little bit similar to “Sawasdee” which also means hello in Thai. However, we politely declined their offers as we had already made a guesthouse reservation online before coming here. We paid 31.50 USD (Php 1,386) for a triple room at Vilayvong Guesthouse.
Vang Vieng is known as a backpackers haven. The town is usually a pit stop for backpackers who are traveling between Vientiane and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Luang Prabang. Within the past 5-7 years, the town has commercialized a lot as more and more travelers come to the place each year. This could be clearly seen as restaurants, bars, guesthouses, internet cafes and travel agencies all lined up at the town center. You would be surprised to see such a number of tourists from different parts of the world gathered in this remote area. You could even see barechested guys and girls wearing bikinis walking on the street. Indeed, Vang Vieng has become a touristy place.
We only had two days to spend in Vang Vieng. We spent those days eating the local foods and enjoying the sceneries. Unfortunately, due to limited time, I was not able to try other activities but let me give you the highlights of the things that you can enjoy here. Vang Vieng might be a small town but there are tons of activities to do here.
What to Do in Vang Vieng:
1) Tubing. Vang Vieng is most popularly known for tubing. If you haven’t heard of this yet, let me give you an idea. Basically, tubing is done by renting a tube (salbabida) and taking a ride on a tuktuk to bring you a few kilometers up the river. From there you would slowly flow down the river back to the town. On the way down the river, there are many bars that would pull you and offer you free shots of beer. The bars also have slides, zip lines and rope swings. However, this might be dangerous for guys who are heavily drunk. Tubing costs 7 USD (Php 302)for the Tube + 7.5 USD (Php 330) deposit.
2)Boating/ Kayaking. You can rent a boat or enjoy kayaking as you watch the stunning karst mountains along the Nam Song River.
3) Caving. Climb the mountains and visit these gorgeous caves. Due to time constraints, we weren’t able to try this but I searched for a photo on the net to give you a glimpse of the caves in Vang Vieng.
4)Bicycle ride/ Motorbike ride around the town. You can rent a bicycle or a motorbike and explore the town on your own. I saw a lot of foreigners driving motorbikes. It seems like they won’t even ask for your license here.
5)Balloon Ride. Try out this hot air balloon ride and see Vang Vieng in bird’s eye view!
6)Food Trip. This is definitely my most favorite thing to do whenever I travel abroad I just love trying out the local delicacies. One thing that you would love about Laos is the abundance of French food. This was because the country was colonized by France in the 1800s. My favorite is the baguette which is much more delicious than Subway You can choose from various fillings. We bought one for 2.5 USD (Php 110) this is already good enough for two people.
This “pancakerotee” is also a must try. It’s actually their version of banana pancake. You can choose from different flavors and you can buy one for 1.25 USD (Php 55). My sister said that the pancakerotee is the Lao version of sagimis or turon We watched as the young Lao girl prepared the pancakerotee for us. Most of the locals here can speak basic English so you won’t have any problem talking with them.
7) Relax and enjoy the sceneries. If you are not in the mood for some outdoor activities, just sit down and enjoy the beautiful sceneries. Read a good book or write a journal. I really think Vang Vieng is a good place to write. I loved the laid back and simple lifestyle of the people here. I have heard of some travelers who had stayed here for more than a month or so. How I wish I could do the same. I just hope I could stay here for more than a week. Unfortunately, we only had two days to spend here so I should make every moment count. One of my unforgettable times here was when I woke up early in the morning to walk around the town alone. At 6am, I left my mom and my sister at the guesthouse and grabbed my camera. The town looked so peaceful as most of the foreigners were still sleeping. All I could see were the locals and the Buddhist monks who were out for their morning alms.
I have been often asked, “What is the best place you’ve ever been to abroad?” And I always reply, “That’s a very difficult question to answer.” And honestly speaking until now, even after setting foot in seven countries, I still find this question very difficult to answer. Maybe because it’s really tough to single out one country and call it the best. Maybe because all of them are special in their own ways. Each place I visit takes a special place in my heart. And Vang Vieng is surely one of them.
How to go to Vang Vieng:
Take a bus from Vientiane; Bus ticket costs around 6.25 USD (Php 275)-10 USD (Php 450) per person ; travel time is 3-4 hours
Accommodations in Vang Vieng:
Vilayvong Guesthouse http://www.vilayvong-guesthouse.com/