Jan 30 2013
In our previous posts we wrote about the current situation in Vang Vieng and what it’s like to tube now that the riverside bars have been destroyed. The next question some people will be asking is whether they should bother coming now that the party is over. The answer to that question largely depends on what you’re looking for in a travel destination. In our view, Vang Vieng now has a fabulous mix of nature, activities, decent accommodation and a chilled out vibe. Here are the most popular things to do.
About seven kilometres out of town is a fantastic swimming hole called the Blue Lagoon. The swimming hole in and of itself is just okay, but it’s the genuine laidback hippy/backpacker vibe that pervades the grassed area surrounding the pond that makes this place so great. Sure, you can jump off a tarzan vine or from the big tree into the crystal clear water. But you can also relax with a beer or two and listen to the inevitable guitar-playing traveller all the while getting a great tan. Many people come here for the whole day just to chill out and we can see why. Get here by bicycle, motorbike or tuk-tuk. The entry fee is 10,000 kip.
The Water Cave is about 12 kilometres north of town and is often included as a stop when doing a full-day kayaking tour, but if you have a motorbike it’s easy enough to get to on your own. Just follow the main Luang Prabang road until you see the big sign pointing the way to this cave and a few others in the surrounding area.
The Water Cave is simply a cave with a network of water-filled tunnels. For 10,000 kip you get a headlamp, tube and a dry bag and you are on your way. Simply jump in the water, grab the rope and follow the cave. It’s more a fascinating journey because it’s so unique rather than for any spectacular scenery along the way, but for 10,000 kip it’s well worth doing.
Just across the river from town, small signs point the way to Pha Poak. Cross the bamboo bridge just past the tubing rental shops, nip between Banana Bungalows and Cliff View Bungalows, and you are well on your way. Just keep walking towards the seemingly small hill with the red flag on top because that is what you are climbing.
The climb takes about 30 minutes and a similar amount of time on the way down, but the path is a bit rugged in parts with bamboo ladders and razor sharp rocks to contend with — thongs not recommended. Once at the top, however, the pain of the climb is erased from memory and views in all directions open up. Early in the morning and late in the day are the best times to come up here because it’s cooler and the light is prettier.
There are hundreds of caves around Vang Vieng and more and more are opened up to tourists every year. The usual pattern is walk up to ticket booth, pay 10,000 kip, receive headlamp and off you go on your own. Some caves are more dangerous than others and some places do recommend a guide. A favourite of ours is the relatively easy to explore Pha Thao up near the water cave. Own transport recommended.
Hiring a bicycle can be a fun way to explore the glorious countryside surrounding Vang Vieng. A favourite loop is the road out to the Blue Lagoon which circles back around to town via a couple of scenic valleys. Allow a good four hours for this ride on rough dirt roads.
Others still choose to cut through the rice fields to Pha Poak, head to the Water Cave or simply cycle upriver to the incredible Vang Vieng Organic Farm for lunch.
So while tubing is not as it once was in Vang Vieng and the bar scene more or less over, there are still other — and we would say better! — reasons to come to Vang Vieng. Magnificent scenery, a relaxed atmosphere and some great activities make this a top spot in Laos.
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