No more drugs in Vang Vieng

Thankfully, the tubing and party scene in Vang Vieng is absolutely nothing like it used to be a few years ago, when there were literately thousands of drunk backpackers tubing on the river every single day. Those days are well and truly over. The Laos Government closed most of the bars because of all the deaths and injuries happening on the river. As such, most the bars in the town of Vang Vieng itself have gone out of business and more and more close with each passing month.

A VIP Bus to Vang Vieng from Luang Prabang South Station
A VIP Bus to Vang Vieng from Luang Prabang South Station

From Luang Prabang, you can reach Vang Vieng by bus in less than 7 hours. These tickets are sold quite aggressively in guesthouses around Luang Prabang and in the bars and markets of the town, so even if you aren’t particularly looking for a ticket, you will still know where to get one when you eventually decide to head south to Vang Vieng! 150,000 Kip (£12) for a seat on a VIP Bus is around the price you will pay. This is my review of the bus ride on the whole Luang Prabang-Vientiane route.

The good thing with northern Laos is that Luang Prabang-Vang Vieng-Vientiane are all linked by Highway 13, which is arguably the best quality road in the country. You can also witness some amazing lush green scenery on the leg between Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng from behind the comfort of your bus window. Further south of Vientiane, Laos becomes more problematic to travel, so you should enjoy your relative calm and comfort in the north for as long as possible!

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When you arrive in Vang Vieng (I recommend arriving in the early afternoon rather than the darkness of the evening), a tuktuk ride from the bus station is required to get you to the main area of the town, and this typically could cost you another 10,000 Kip (85 pence) – it is at least 2km distance and not really walkable in the stifling weather of Laos (and certainly not in the dark).

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Look at the incredible scenery in this laid-back town!
There are so many caves to explore in the area!
There are so many caves to explore in the area!

With little or no illegal activities to enjoy nowadays (if that’s your kind of thing), tourists to Vang Vieng are quite rightly looking at what else they can do in this very cheap area of Laos. For one thing, there is incredible karst scenery in the area, very reminiscent of Yunnan Province in China. Secondly, an amazing array of caves – some of which are actually located upwards rather than downwards (requiring a climb to get in) – are scattered around Vang Vieng, and these are a short bike ride away whenever you want to explore them! Bikes can be rented from places in town for around 30,000 Kip for the whole day.

The Blue Lagoon of Vang Vieng
The Blue Lagoon of Vang Vieng
Kayaking is a huge pastime
Kayaking is a huge pastime

Depending on how much Beer Lao you’ve been drinking(!), one of the major things to do in Vang Vieng is kayaking. This kind of adventure tourism is what the town should be promoting, rather than parties and alcohol. In Laos and the rest of south east Asia, Vang Vieng has almost no equal (apart from maybe a few places in the Philippines, including Bohol) with its stunning scenery and resplendent waterways. If you love water activities, then you will probably also want to check out the famous Blue Lagoon, which is perfect for families as well as backpackers. It is at the Blue Lagoon where a lot of people spend most of their time in Vang Vieng (during the day, at least), as they frolic with friends and family in the fairly warm water, which is actually inhabited by rather large fish – but don’t worry, they are harmless! Tubing and diving are also options at the Blue Lagoon – which is Vang Vieng’s own version of Krabi’s Emerald Pool.

As part of your bus journey from Luang Prabang to the Lao capital Vientiane, a stop in Vang Vieng should always be on the itinerary. Thankfully, it is not as wild as it once was (there’s always Thailand for that kind of thing), but Vang Vieng really does still pack a punch, and it is the perfect antidote to sleepy Luang Prabang from where you just came!

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10 thoughts on “No more drugs in Vang Vieng

  1. Thanks God that Vang Vieng not as wild as it was. I think I will consider to put it in the itinerary if I have a chance to visit Laos someday. Ohhh that Blue Lagoon is so inviting 🙂

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    1. Hi Scott. It depends on what you want from your trip. Hanoi is more of a busy city, whereas Siem Reap is hot and stuffy and has a lot of temples. Vang Vieng gives you great scenery and many opportunities of water sports, so they all completely different.

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  2. Loved Vang Vieng, still little tubing going on, but cycling or motorbiking in the surrounding valleys, the rural villages and all it hardly visited caves was something else!
    Cheers, Ron

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    1. Hi Ron! Yeah it’s an amazing place for adventure tourism, but after the bad publicity, maybe it’s for the best that tubing is on the demise. I loved to cycle around the town and surrounding countryside…it is a great way to explore and feel the vibe of the place.

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  3. I live and work in China and have been to Laos about four or five times, and everytime to Vang Vieng (VV). I am almost 50 now, so I was in my 30’s and 40’s when I was there (in 03′ 04′ around 09′ and 2012).

    The place is (or was thanks to the jerks, next paragraph) a party town. My early stays there, marijuana was available, cheap and was open, people were rolling and smoking weed in the open. It was glorious. Yes, one of the draws of being there was the marijuana, the cheap marijuana and the openness of it. Maybe if that damn Lao Lao whiskey was illegal instead of weed, there would be less of the problems of Vang Vieng. Maybe if weed was legal and the cops concentrated on the lewd people, less of these “problems” would have occurred to cut the balls so to speak of what made Vang Vieng a party spot.

    Did the tubing several times, which is a lot of fun which drew all the people. Even though it is a tourist town, the food was (and am sure is) wonderful, and yes, eat the local Laotian food instead of pizza or hamburgers. I am a fatass, so this isn’t anything dietary, but the food is like Thai food and is excellent. Guest House rooms were cheap, maybe $10 a night (which is also going to change, again, thanks to the a-hole drunk backpacker crowd)

    What makes me sad and angry is the grossly irresponsible and stupid people who again, screwed up (or fk’ed up more like) a good thing, with their reckless stupidity concerning the river. About the Nam Song, it is not necessarily a peaceful, slow moving stream. It is a small river coming from higher elevations with a current. One of my tubing rides, I fell off the tube trying to negotiate the turn and stop for a beer (I was sober, honestly) and I did all I could just to hold on to the float while getting help to get to shore by someone throwing me a line.

    It was another article, maybe on this site related, but foreign governments were pressuring Laos to “clean up” Vang Vieng. Another call was from a mother of some 26 year old man who died while (more than likely) drunk and playing dare devil off a zip line or swing. I mean, lady, I am sorry your kid is dead, but he was TWENTY SIX YEARS OLD, an adult, not even a young adult. Your son was an irresponsible dumbass, yet you cry to your government to lean on the Laotians to “clean up” Vang Vieng.

    Now, it seems to my sadness that wealthier people from China, Taiwan, S. Korea and Japan will come to VV and cause prices there to go higher and make it more of a high end resort like place instead of what Vang Vieng should be.

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