|Sunset boat rides are understandably popular here
|Delicious food can be had at reasonable prices -- and with terrific
views to boot. This is the view from Elephant Crossing Restaurant.
|Even though it was hot and hazy during our
visit in March, it was still undeniably beautiful
|Jammee Guesthouse served an outstanding fruit bowl for breakfast
each morning. Laos has some of the freshest fruit we've ever tasted.
Where We Be
|The main attraction in Vang Vieng is the scenery. Whether boating along the
Nam Song River or sipping a drink in town, you get outstanding mountain views.
Winding mountain roads took us from Vientiane
to Vang Vieng in about 3½ hours -- longer than
it appears on a map. But once you get here it's
an outdoor lover's paradise. You can go hiking
in the mountains, explore numerous caves,
tube or kayak along the Nam Song River, swim
in natural pools (including one aptly named
Blue Lagoon), and cycle scenic country roads.
It's also a terrific place just to chill and enjoy
the gorgeous views from town while sipping a
beer and savoring a good meal. We stayed
longer than planned and you may too.
The #1 thing to do here is river tubing. While
water levels were low when we went (making
for a slow journey), we would still recommend it.
There's nothing quite like lazing down a river in
an inner tube, spinning in a gentle circle as the
scenery drifts by. When you combine that with
a little bar hopping along the river, you've got
yourself a winner. Cheap, scenic, and fun.
|Tham Chang is surprisingly large and the main chambers are well lit.
Bring a headlamp if you want to explore the darker recesses deeper in.
|You get spoiled after awhile with so much delightful scenery all around
|The magnificent view from the bridge alone is worth a short walk
|Tham Chang Cave is located along the same stretch of road as our
Jammee Guesthouse. We went before breakfast while it was still cool.
|We rented bikes, crossed the bridge to the far side of the river, and began cycling towards Blue Lagoon and
Poukham Cave -- the most famous spot to visit here amongst what seems like an endless number of caves to explore
|The karst scenery is lovely and reminded us of our biking experience in Yangshuo, China
|Basic bike rental was just 15,000 kip -- less than $2 for the whole day
|It was a 7 km (4 mi) cycle to Blue Lagoon over bumpy roads. You pass beneath a
wooden entryway to get there (be wary of an impostor Blue Lagoon site earlier on).
|Huge monoliths rise up on both sides of the road behind
farmers’ fields. Simple huts are all that occupy this gorgeous area.
|The Blue Lagoon is justifiably popular, a deep freshwater pool with a bluish
tinge and lots of ways to get into the water, from rope swings to tree jumps
|We made four or five swings into the water and even dove in from the lower perch
of the tree. The water was cold but utterly refreshing on a hot afternoon.
|This idyllic spot is a fine place to spend a few hours or a whole
day. There's food, drinks, and open-air bungalows for shade.
|A short but steep hike from Blue Lagoon brings you to Poukham Cave. Bring a headlamp. After passing the Buddha statue in the
first cavern, you can follow painted signs through a narrow stretch until the cave opens up again into an even more enormous cavern.
|All the caves in Vang Vieng seem to be located high up in the cliffs. This one required a short but steep climb up
concrete stairs. The view from the top was lovely, and could have been spectacular in a less hazy season.
|We stopped at the first bar along the river -- only five minutes from our put-in at the
rickety bridge -- and watched as flotillas of kayaks and tubes drifted towards us
|We got free shots of Tiger Whiskey with our Beer Lao. The bartender tied a colorful string around our wrists -- one for
each drink ordered. Some of the younger folk had dozens of strings! The "tattoos" on our hands are our tubing ID numbers.
|The second bar was our favorite. Where else do you get to play basketball while
getting doused with water? We also liked the "Beer Lao Tree" in the foreground.
|We walked to the river tube station in town and paid 55,000 kip (~$7) each for a tube and a ride to the starting point,
plus 60,000 kip (~$8) each as a safety deposit. A songthaew drove us several miles out of town to the put-in.
|Two bars were enough for us. We launched from the
second bar and floated the rest of the way towards town.
|Here you can see monks in saffron robes walking along the bottom bridge
|The current was slow to nonexistent in the midst of the dry season, so we ended up paddling
with our arms much of the way, but every now and then we would just drift and enjoy the scenery
|These local Lao "pirates," completely naked and wild, came thrashing through
the water and latched onto Robin on her inner tube, nearly flipping her over
|Then this cute kid came wading over to me. I nearly lost my camera
but managed to snap a quick photo before getting splashed!
|Blue Lagoon & Poukham Cave
|Our outdoor candlelit dinner at Pizza Luka wasn't bad either!
Their thin-crust pizza is cooked in a brick outdoor oven.
Note: The journey down the river would have been much quicker in the wet season, but when we were there in
March it took nearly four hours. If you get your tube back before 6 pm you receive your whole deposit back.
Otherwise you forfeit half of it and also have to pay for a tuk-tuk to return you to town. It seemed to us the
system was set up to encourage you to drink too much at the bars and end up paying for a tuk-tuk ride home!
|This calf ran hard to catch up with his mom when he heard us coming