There are a lot of mixed opinions on the internet when it comes to Vang Vieng. So I thought I’d take all the guess-work out of it for you, volunteer as tribute to go check it out for you all and report back (you’re welcome).
Vang Vieng was once a backpackers heaven. Full of non stop parties, bars, tubing and a hella lotta drugs. But after a few deaths and the upturn of what was once a quiet Buddhist town the government stepped in to reign it back.
So if you are looking for a crazy bender full moon style party Vang Vieng is not for you. FULL STOP. Get the first flight to Thailand.
But if you are after breathtaking views of karst mountains, tubing down the river, awesome caves and swimming in turquoise waterholes then you’re found the right place.
Nightlife in Vang Vieng
Dont get me wrong. There is still nightlife in Vang Vieng. There are usually 5 or so places open at a time. It’s not the 100’s of bars and clubs it used to be. But if you visit you aren’t going to become a grandma in bed by 8pm every night. We spent 4 days here on our way south from Luang Prabang to Pakse and even though we were exhausted from all the incredible adventures we had during the day, we still managed some pretty solid nights out (and some royal hangovers). More on this later.
Hot Air Ballooning
The most incredible adventure we had in Vang Vieng was my first ever hot air ballooning experience. There was something so phenomenal about cruising through the clouds over the limestone mountains (its like Halong Bay on land). I highly recommend it if your budget allows.
Another highlight was the day we hired a motorbike and cruised out of town to explore incredible caves in the mountains. We stopped at Blue Lagoon on the way back. The minerals in the karst mountains turn the water the most ridiculous blue colours. And they are perfect for an afternoon swim to beat the heat. If you come to Vang Vieng you absolutely must see blue lagoon. I’ve since heard about Blue Lagoon 3 which sounds like it could be even better than this one.
Perhaps the most popular activity in Vang Vieng is tubing. You hire a tube, get dropped up river and float your way back down over a couple of hours. The once heavy booze float is not the same as it used to be. The new government rules has meant the 50 bars that lined the banks of the river that you used to stop at along the way have been closed down. As you float you can see the skeletons of all the bars on the banks and the rope swings (you can understand how drunk backpackers managed to kill themselves).
There are still two bars open along the way which are heap of fun with volley ball and plenty of drinks and music. The highlight would be the cruise down the river. The mountains surrounding it are breathtaking. Make some friends at the bars and then link up and float on down the river with your new squad. Bring some travelers with you from town. Just make sure you give yourself enough time to be back by the time the hire company tells you too or you won’t be getting your deposit back!
Finish your day with your new friends at Vang Vieng’s Sakura Bar. It goes off! And if you have been backpacking through Laos and Vietnam I guarantee you have seen their famous singlets on other backpackers. If you buy two drinks you get a singlet. Somehow I ended up with 7! Hire a motorbike and spend the next few days riding out to the waterfalls and caves. Truly spectacular.
So is it still worth going to Vang Vieng? Ummm yes! It was one of my favourite places in our South East Asia trip and I would go back in a heartbeat. While it’s not out of control anymore, it’s been restored for what it originally became so famous for, its incredible adventure tourism. You’d be crazy not to stop here on your way through.
If you are planning a trip, let know what you thought of it!