IN A NUTSHELL: The place where tubing and drinking went incredibly out of control, people sat in a giant tubing
ring, floated down the river and stopped at a variety of illegal bars, there were a variety of contraptions in and
along the river, people died from a variety of drink related accidents, the government was under pressure to close
things down and now it’s back in a far tamer fashion with only two bars open along the river.
But other than the tubing and drinking, Vang Vieng is a cool place to just walk, cycle, trek and enjoy the scenery, there are a variety of Lagoons that you can trek to or get a Tuk Tuk to for a swim, there are caves and view points to see and many restaurants and bars to visit for some good food.
In all honesty it’s an odd little place where bars and restaurants play reruns of Friends all day, Westerners come as tourists and then stay to work in bars, hostels and restaurants for months on end, people drink all night and sleep all day, only to start the process all over again. Bars offer opium and balloons filled with laughing gas and you will see bar staff and customers high as kites all through the night.
I guess it’s an escape from reality and the longer you stay the more it feels like normality…
My plan was to visit Vang Vieng and tube down the river sober as the views from the river are supposed to be spectacular, but after witnessing a variety of videos that the hostel were showing of their previous trips, I decided to give it a miss. Luckily, I made some great like minded friends and decided to trek to the closest Lagoon. There are 3 popular Lagoons in Vang Vieng, Lagoon 1 being the closest and busiest and Lagoon 3 being the farthest and with the least tourists.
Regardless of what you choose to do in Vang Vieng it is a very touristy destination so be prepared for crowds.
"The modern capital."
Vientiane is a great place to stop for a couple of days, but it’s mostly just to eat, drink and relax… which seems to be the general atmosphere in Laos.
Things to see and do:
COPE visitor centre- to learn about the bombs and history of the country
Night Markets- for great street food (5pm-8pm)
Wat Si Saket- temple
Buddha Park- A bit of a tourist trap but if you have time…
I personally didn’t visit Buddha Park as I felt that it was a tourist trap but the COPE visitor centre was an eye opening experience as I got to witness what the bombs looked like and how there were many unexploded ones still in the jungle. The bombs look like tiny balls and its so important that children are educated about them as they look like toys. I also got to see the process of how they made artificial limbs for those affected by the war and learnt about the recovery period for those affected. The COPE visitor centre is completely free to visit and totally worth your time.