- Hiking / Trekking
Vang Vieng was the great surprise of my trip to Laos. I had heard of the Blue Lagoon, the lake where backpackers from the world over meet to party, but nobody had mentioned there are also plenty of things to do in Vang Vieng. So I took a bike to make a grand tour of the area, a trip of around forty kilometres. On the road, you can stop at several trails that lead up the many mountains. My favourite was the summit of Pha Ngeun which, after an hour of steep uphill climbing, offers a unique view of the valley, the rice fields and the mountains.
I then stopped at the famous Blue Lagoon: nice but not essential.
The strong point of the region: you can go there year round. During the rainy season, the lush green landscapes and the rice paddies are breathtaking, and during the dry season you can swim more easily.
Vang Vieng has a reputation for being a den of debauchery where hordes of young western tourists go to indulge in drink and drugs before going tubing, or sailing down river on a big rubber ring. There were a lot of accidents in 2012, which led to a large number of bars being closed, and the town nowadays is slowly becoming more "normal" although the party animals haven't completely abandoned it.
Despite its dodgy reputation Vang Vieng has some great tourist attractions. I encourage you to go there during your trip to Laos and explore the surroundings - there are magnificent mountains, waterfalls and some caves. One of the well known attractions is the Blue Lagoon, a turquoise coloured river where you can swim, although it is a bit over used. On the other hand, just above it is the "Golden Cave" where you will find a golden buddha which is worth a visit. Remember to bring or rent a lamp before going into the cave because, although the entrance is lit by the sunlight, once you go further in it is totally black and easy to get lost - and I know what I'm talking about!
I arrived in Vang Vieng and found a friendly hostel in the middle of the countryside, surrounded by cows, hens, and greenery, with a super view over the surrounding mountains which are nicknamed Ha Long Bay on Land. Guaranteed relaxation!
I rented a bike and cycled along narrow earth roads, which was quite amusing as I had a town bike and, as the roads were more stone than earth, it would have been quicker to walk! In any case, the scenery was magnificent.
I also visited some caves on the route without a guide or ropes, or anything. You pay to get in, are given a torch and then left to get on with it, which was quite scary as in fact it was pretty dangerous, so it's definitely for those who like to get off the beaten path!