Vang Vieng, Laos | Bringing Back the Happy Vibe
- Posted by Potpot
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- August 18th, 2014
- in Destinations, Laos
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Vang Vieng in Laos is neither a hidden paradise nor its wild stories a kept secret. Its tapestry of natural spectacle, thrilling outdoor activities and popular rave parties are what lure tourists into this small town tucked about 155 kilometers north of the capital city, Vientiane.
|Lima Site 6, the old airstrip used by US Armed Forces in the mid-60s. No more airplanes, just cows!|
Seemingly unknown to the world, Vang Vieng served as the base of the US Air Force in Laos during the war in the mid-60s. Only the airstrip called Lima Site 6 was left when the Americans abandoned it in the ‘70s. It slept since but at the turn of the millennium, it woke up to new glittering opportunities in ecotourism.
Vang Vieng is not simply an overland link between Vientiane in the south and the ancient city of Luang Prabang in the north, but has also become a laidback travel destination in itself. Infact, many tourists coming in to Laos spend more days here than anywhere else.
Vang Vieng is famous for tubing and kayaking along the Nam Song River. Streaming placidly on summer months, a relaxed floating or paddling experience is in the offing as you marvel on its surrounding landscape. But when it’s rainy season, the water shoots on rapids creating a more fun and exciting adventure.
|Tham Poukham Cave, the easiest spelunking site in Vang Vieng, where a Buddha statue is tucked inside.|
|Boat rides along Nam Song River is the quickest way to see the landscape of Vang Vieng.|
Spelunking, trekking and wallowing on its blue lagoon are the other staple activities in Vang Vieng. For hardcore outdoor enthusiasts, rock climbing, treetop ziplining and downhill biking are sure adrenaline treats.
Surrounded by limestone karst mountains hemmed by rice paddies, it is no doubt that Vang Vieng is the most picturesque town across Laos. But came with its glory was the massive adulteration of its charming character and many call it, a paradise lost.
Every travel guide would tell you that its kilometer-long riverbanks were once notorious for its toxic parties serving Lao-Lao whisky and Happy Pizzas. Its lawlessness resulted to crimes, injury and fatalities of many unruly backpackers. Local traditions were aggressed and deeply bruised by its changed fate of mass tourism. In 2012, the Lao authorities stepped up into the scene, banned and even demolished everything that altered the face of its once charming town.
The clampdown slumped its tourist demographics and buried many businesses. But it also gave them the chance to rebuild it back into how it was found as a pristine eco-destination filled with great outdoor adventures. Recently, Vang Vieng is regaining the tourists back into its verdant trail — exploring its river and mountains, paddy fields and exotic markets with more wholesome tourist profiles.
|One of the campaign materials reminding visitors to observe the Lao culture with respect.|
|Party in Vang Vieng is still much alive, only this time it’s the wholesome kind of fun! Photo Credits: Heather Vasey, Maite Suquia, Melvin Paul, Sasi Kumar|
The party scene is still there but less the sight of wasted tourists rolling on the streets in intoxication. Bikini-clad ladies and those parading their abs are made to cover up whenever they’re out of the water. No more loud music breaking the silence of the night and no more stoned zombies walking in daylight.
Waking up to a breathtaking view of the fog-shrouded mountains and the sound of murmuring river is priceless. No wonder why they call it a paradise!
- To get to Vang Vieng either via Vientiane or Luang Prabang is easy as there are buses and mini-vans that regularly ply this route.
- Most hotels in Vientiane and Luang Prabang sell tickets to Vang Vieng.
- If you are going straight out from the airport to Vang Vieng, you may drop off in the bus terminal in downtown Vientiane or you may hire a private vehicle to drive you direct.
- Accommodations come in budget inns, riverside bungalows and mid-range hotels.
- The closer the hotel is to the river, the more expensive it becomes because it gives you easy access to the activities on the stream and an unobstructed view of the mountain.
- Budget inns range between $12-$20 while mid-range hotels and bungalows could go between $25-$50 on a low season. Expect about 60% increase during the high season (March-May).
- Hotel barkers normally surround you as you get off the shuttle in the main town. Don’t easily give in as there are a lot of choices close to the river.
- Champa Lao Bungalows and Riverside Resort are highly recommended.
- It is best to move around in rented bike or scooter.
- Recommended length of stay to enjoy Vang Vieng is 3D/2N.
- Eating places are abundant and food is considerably cheap.
- Don’t panic, beer is still widely available and there are still a few bars with updated music — only that it is regulated.
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