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6 Alternative Ways to Enjoy Vang Vieng, Laos

Published 30 March 2016

Sandy Dhaliwal

Vang Vieng is a destination that has long preceded itself as Laos’ number one party capital. The small town, located in the country’s remote rural centre, originally rose to fame on the backpacker circuit in the early 90s, with many attracted to the hedonism of its river rave tubing trips along the Nam Song.

Canoeing Vang Vieng, Laos

image: Dani Sugden

In recent years, due to the overindulgence of some of its visitors, the tubing experience has evolved into a more scaled back version of its original format, allowing this region’s stunning yet understated beauty, as well as its wonderful range of attractions, to shine through and establish itself firmly, and quite rightly, back into the forefront where it belongs.

And while Vang Vieng remains one of South East Asia’s top rites of passage amongst the backpacker crowd, scratch below its hazy exterior and you’ll find that this breathtaking location has something to suit every kind of traveller. From its rugged karst-filled landscape and dramatic caves shrines to its wealth of outdoor activities including rock climbing, kayaking, hot air ballooning and more, you’ll be surprised by how much Vang Vieng really has to offer.

I originally came here while on holiday from my teaching job in Thailand to try out the infamous tubing, but I quickly realised that there was so much more to this charming little town than what it’s actually renowned for. Below I’ve outlined six of the best ways to explore and discover all that this wonderful South East Asian gem has to offer.

Driving in Vang Vieng, Laos

image: Sandy Dhaliwal

Explore the lovely countryside

One of the best things to do while staying in Vang Vieng is in fact getting out of the town itself and enjoying its vast and unspoilt scenery. Choose from hiring a bicycle, scooter, quad bike or moon buggy to make your way along the winding dirt roads, flanked by quaint neighbouring villages, picturesque rice fields and jaw-droppingly beautiful mountain backdrops;  as you admire Laotian locals going about their daily routines and cows travelling in herds back to their farmlands. And if you feel like a break, you can always head to one of the many sights along the way, such as the Blue Lagoon or one of the many of the caves; more on those later! Also be mindful of the fact that riding around in this way is going to create a lot of dust and dirt, and at times can be a bit of a bumpy ride, so if you don’t mind getting a little dirty on your adventure, then this is definitely one for you!

Canoeing Vang Vieng, Laos

image: Dani Sugden

Kayaking or canoeing along the river

Tubing is not the only or even best way to enjoy the Nam Song. There are options to experience this wonderful setting by either kayak or canoe, allowing you to reach quieter and somewhat undiscovered parts of this watery expanse which are often left untouched by the traditional tubing routes. If you want to feel the calming tranquillity of this stunning river away from the crowds, then this is a great alternative.

Hot Air Ballooning, Vang Vieng, Laos

image: Sandy Dhaliwal

Hot air ballooning

Soar among the clouds and experience Vang Vieng from a different perspective with a hot air balloon ride across the region’s gorgeous, sweeping countryside. Taking a balloon ride here is one of the most affordable destinations in the world to do it and there are options for embarking on either a sunrise, daytime or sunset ride.

Rock Climbing

Rock climbing

The jagged mountain peaks that surround Vang Vieng offer the perfect place for a day of rock climbing. The walls are suitable for all abilities too, so if you’re a beginning wanting to try out something new or perhaps a seasoned or professional climber looking to test your limits, you’ll definitely be able to find what you’re looking for here.

Blue Lagoon, Vang Vieng, Laos

image: Sandy Dhaliwal

The Blue Lagoon and caves

The Blue Lagoon is just a short distance outside the town and is one of the most beautiful watering holes in Laos. The best time to visit is in the country’s dry season, when you’ll see the waters at its most vibrant shade of turquoise. The lagoon is the perfect way to cool off after a day of long sightseeing in the sweltering heat and it’s pretty banks also offer cosy huts to relax in. If you’re feeling daring, the overhanging trees are often used to dive from, while its rope swings are perfect for sitting and watching the world go by in this truly unique setting.

Caving in Vang Vieng, Laos

image: Sandy Dhaliwal

Close by are a number of caves that are definitely worth exploring during your visit too. The striking Tham Phu Kham cave is just a short hike from the lagoon itself and features breathtaking rock formations and Buddhist shrines, while the scenic Tham Chang cave is one that can be visited either on the way or on the way back from the lagoon, and houses its own, though less impressive, lagoon with well-lit pathways and stunning overgrown foliage along its walls.

River Tubing

Tubing with a difference

No stay in Vang Vieng would be complete without some sort of tubing experience, but I think the low key cave tubing activity is the one that is the most exciting; as it involves floating through the Tham Nam cave in pitch black! Don’t worry though as you’ll be connected by ropes, allowing you drift to through the water filled chambers with the utmost of ease throughout.


If you'd like to explore the Laotian countryside, check out our Landscapes of Laos Journey, taking you from the capital Vientiane to the Vang Vieng countryside and calling in at the pretty riverside town of Luang Prabang.


You might also like:

5 Places You'll Love in Laos

10 Emerging Destinations for 2016

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