Vang Vieng in Laos is widely known to be a party town. It’s on every backpacker’s list if they are in Laos and is home to the infamous river tubing parties. Infamous because there were quite a few deaths in the past. So many, that local officials have scaled down the tubing parties to a more pedestrian level. But don’t worry, they are still a blast.
Getting To Vang Vieng
Vang Vieng is about a 4 hour bus ride north of the Laos capital, Vientiane. If you’re coming from the south, such as Cambodia or Vietnam, it is likely that Vientiane will be your entry point. There isn’t much to do or see in Vientiane and you wouldn’t want to stay more than a day here. My advice, walk around the city, see the temples and then grab the next available bus north. Buses can be booked for $6-10 from any hostel or hotel.
Note: The buses are neither luxurious or comfortable. Get used to it.
However, if you’re making your way from Chiang Rai or Chaing Mai in Thailand (a more popular route), you will be headed south to Vang Vieng via Luang Prabang. This bus takes 6 hours and meanders through the mountains. It’s very picturesque but will give your stomach a twirl as the bus drivers seem to take joy in terrorizing their passengers.
Adventures and Parties in Vang Vieng
As well as being a backpacker party mecca, Vang Vieng also has many outdoor activities to enjoy. It’s a small town, nestled in between jagged mountains. Some of the activities include:
- Rock climbing
- River tubing
- Hot air balloon
- Blue lagoons (natural springs)
A Party Every Night of the Week
In my younger years I would have definitely visited Vang Vieng for the parties. However, I simply can’t hang anymore. The hangovers hurt more and last longer. More importantly, partying is expensive and can quickly eat into your budget.
With that said, if partying is your thing (to each their own) you will love Vang Vieng. There is a party every night of the week and there is always an eager group willing to head out.
Better yet, there is a venue for everyone. If you want to hit the dance floor, there’s a place for that. If you want to chill and play some pool, there’s a place for that. If you want to relax and enjoy a beer and trade travel stories, there’s a place for that. Long story short, if you’re looking for a wild night, Vang Vieng will not disappoint.
Waterfalls, Caves and Lagoons
After your hangover subsides, make sure to head out and enjoy Vang Vieng in the daylight. A friend and I rented a scooter and drove up the mountain to a small village that was at the base of a waterfall. When we got to the village the children were doing a local dance/workout.
After you walk for about 15 minutes you will find a pretty impressive waterfall called Kaeng Nyui. It’s an impressive 100 feet and you can actually go under it. Beware, the water actually hurts as it tumbles 100 feet down.
From there we jumped back on the scooter and headed 30 minutes down the road to Vang Vieng’s Blue Lagoon. The ride is actually very enjoyable. You’ll head past small villages, endless rice fields and the meandering, road walking cow.
Keep in mind there are 3 Blue Lagoon’s in Vang Vieng. We went to the one closest to town. This was a mistake as it was the most touristy. I saw photos of the other lagoons and they were much nicer, so go to those instead.
With that said, there is a pretty impressive cave close to the first lagoon that is worth visiting. It’s a pretty strenuous and steep hike but most people should be able to make it without a problem.
Tubing Down the River in Vang Vieng
If you made it all the way to Vang Vieng then you must go tubing one day. Even if partying isn’t your thing the tube ride alone is worth it.
Here’s How it Works:
- You rent a tube from one of the many places in town. They won’t cost more than $5.
- The company you rented the tube with will take you to the launch point that’s a couple miles upstream.
- Hop in your tube and float.
- As you pass a bar, people will be throwing you ropes. CATCH ONE! If you don’t you will continue floating down the river.
- Grab a drink, meet some people, play some drinking games and have FUN!
- Get back in your tube and repeat steps 3, 4 and 5.
What You Need:
- Waterproof bag for phone and money
- Some level of hand-eye coordination to catch the ropes
Honestly, tubing for the day is a ton of fun. You float down the river, meet a ton of other travelers, have a few beers, dance to a few songs and enjoy the day. Apparently the tubing in Vang Vieng used to be the craziest party in Asia but after a few deaths they toned it down a notch. Not to worry though, there is still plenty of fun to have.
Travel Tip: Know when sunset is. The nights get cool and the sky gets dark and the only way back is down the river. A couple of groups stayed too long at the last bar and did not have fun on the return trip. Our group got back just as it was getting dark and it was still cold. Be mindful of the time.
The Road To Luang Prabang
Vang Vieng was fun and full of amazing things to do and see but I was ready for the next stop. If you’re not careful Vang Vieng has the potential to lure you in and never let you go. This was evident by the many westerners owning hostels and restaurants. You get the feeling that they came some 30-40 years ago and never left. Some of the travelers I met said they had been there for 30 days after meaning to stay only 3 or 4.
I though, was ready and after a couple days I boarded a bus and was on my way to Luang Prabang. As I mentioned, the bus takes about 6 hours and takes you over the mountains. While the views are pretty, the hairpin turns are not. You’ll break at a rest stop at the apex of the mountain which gives you a good vantage point to view the road you just traveled.
Finally, after another couple hours, you’ve made it to Luang Prabang which you will find out is quite the opposite from Vang Vieng.