As traveling continually proves to demonstrate extremes, from Phonsavan and the historic Plain of Jars we travelled to Vang Vieng, a riverside town made famous for its tubing scene. Famous that is, until it became somewhat infamous for hedonistic parties and danger on the river. The problem was that people were mixing heavy partying with fast flowing water-not a fantastic combination in anyone’s book.
The Laos authorities recently addressed the issues that were facing Vang Vieng after a large number of fatalities on the river, and have clamped down on the riverside bars that were causing much of the mayhem. Now it is attracting plaudits for the right reasons once again, and is establishing itself as a destination for mountain biking, trekking, kayaking, caving, swimming, rock climbing, and much more reserved river tubing. Did I mention how beautiful this place is? No? Well Vang Vieng is little more than a few streets lining the one side of the Nam Song river, while on the ‘other side’ you have a backdrop of spectacular cliffs and a patchwork of vivid green paddy fields. It really is stunning!
On arrival in the town we set about finding somewhere to stay, a task royally cocked up by my good self when I found somewhere online-only to book it for the following week. Thanks to the good folks at Agoda, this was a booking that couldn’t be amended, and so we were left wandering the riverside looking for somewhere else to stay. This wandering took far too long, either the guesthouses were full, or they were too expensive for our liking, and frustration was beginning to show in my ever reddening face! It’s at this point that we fell upon some ‘accommodation Karma’, one of the guesthouses that declared themselves full to me was actually showing availability on Agoda, and so thinking that they may have reserved huts for online bookings we booked online and rocked up to secure our hut. As it turns out their standard rooms were fully booked-and they just hadn’t gotten round to updating their account on Agoda-so with some quite obvious disdain to the manager, they had to concede and honour our booking with one of their ‘executive huts’….Thank you very much!!
Settled and happy, we turned our attentions to immersing ourselves in the surrounding landscape-literally! We had found a couple of nearby caves that we could explore, as well as a small vantage point to climb from which we could view the town-and so it was a simple case of following the signs through the rice fields..
The walk took a little longer than expected-but eventually we found our way to the first challenge of the day-the climb up to the vantage point. No health and safety risk assessment here, just a makeshift ladder that starts you off on your climb-before all obvious direction disappears and you’re left to ‘follow your nose’ and climb for the top. The climb was so much more challenging than we were expecting, but it was absolutely worth it as we stood at the top with shaky legs, and took a moment to soak in the views:
As gravity dictates, the climb down was very much quicker than our ascent and we continued on to the caves. A little more reassuringly we were advised that the caves weren’t accessible without the accompaniment of a guide, and so we ventured into the cave while trying to keep up with a ‘gazelle like’ local vaulting effortlessly between the stones through the entrance. Inside we were met with stunning rock formations and a myriad of ‘musical’ stone that our guide drummed and played with glee.
Feeling like quite the intrepid travellers, we retired back to the town to enjoy one of the other magnificent sights that Vang Vieng has to offer-outstanding sunsets with hot air balloons floating by, adding to the drama.
Having thoroughly enjoyed our time in Vang Vieng, once again we were ready to hit the road-next stop the capital, Vientiane, where we planned to secure our Visa for Vietnam before heading to the South of Laos. As usual, the prospect of boarding another bus filled Jo with joy, but at least this journey was ‘just’ five hours..