Arriving in Vang Vieng you notice the huge change that is going on in this little town. The small town feel is slowly staring to fade away as large resorts are being built along the river. One or two streets up from the river the small stores, restaurants, and hostels still remind you of what the town used to look like years ago. It still holds the quaint feel if you find the right spots, along the river downstream from the main town you can find bars and restaurants that literally sit on the water. One of the first things I did when I came was to have a beer on one of the bamboo platforms over the running water. After a short time the sun was covered over by the clouds and the rain began to fall which made the experience much greater. I sat and felt a huge sense of joy at that moment loving the water from above, below, surrounded by Lao jungle, and limestone pillars rising from the ground high above only kilometers away even though I knew I would get soaked walking back.
I was getting ready the first night there and was invited to dinner by someone in my hostel room. It ended up being a fairly large group of people from all over the world. Within the first hour or two I felt as though I was friends with them for a long time. A very accepting and upbeat group of people. The next day we rented mopeds and drove out of town toward the caves and lagoons that are plentiful in the surrounding jungles. We chose near the elephant cave which has a myriad of zip lines and a fresh lagoon that is very blue. There are countless caves in the area that can be toured and were used during the indoChina and Vietnam war to keep supplies and people safe from the war. We headed back into town for lunch and then off to the blue lagoon which has rope swings, slides, and platforms to launch oneself into the clear blue waters. Many people are there hanging out on the mats and grass surrounding the lagoon having picnics and drinking. It is a very relaxed area where you can bring friends or make new ones.
The next day we decided to do the inner tube river float that takes you up stream and gently guides you down where one can stop at several bars along the banks. There used to be many more bars along the way but due to irresponsible tourists the government shut them down. There are still remnants of the bamboo huts that served buckets of booze along the tour. There are only two bars left that are allowed to be open on the route but they offer activities when you stop so the one or two hour float can turn into four or five. Playing beer pong and flip cup are the popular games but when we stopped we found a volleyball net which kept us entertained for several hours. We made our way to the second bar where chatted with another group for a while and made friends with the cows which roamed in the fields around the bar. There was a family of locals along the river bank having a picnic and they waved us over. We paddled over to them and were invited to their feast and a little rice whiskey. Our group chatted and played with the children, eventually we said our goodbyes. The final stop where you pull out of the river is another bar but be careful or you might miss it as I did and will have to walk a distance back to the shop where you return the tube.
Although I only spent two nights in Vang Vieng I fell in love with this tiny town and hope to return before it is taken over by large corporate hotels and resorts. It feels like a town one could get lost. In and spend days or weeks just relaxing and exploring the surrounding rice fields, jungle, and mountains. Laos has a lovely feel to it and I can’t wait to see more of the country and immerse myself in the open and friendly culture.