Vang Vieng for many travelers is simply a piece of heaven on earth. Surrounded by scenic landscape ranging from mountains to rivers and limestone cliffs to rice fields, this small and scenic town offers a long list of interesting attractions. The Nam Song River is where you will witness the famous tubing – and young travellers sitting in large inner tubes floating downriver is a common sight in Vang Vieng.
Actually it has become a large part of the reason why many young people come here in the first place. The well-known Tham Poukham Cave features the ‘Blue Lagoon’, a nice spot to swim and swing lazily on a rope, while Tham Norn is among one of the biggest caves in Vang Vieng. If time allows, make a stop at the local market to catch a gimpse of everyday life in a typical Lao rural area.
Vang Vieng, a favourite destination for backpackers and budget travelers to Southeast Asia, is full of surprises when it comes to food. The more people come, the more new restaurants are opening up but don’t expect any fine dining just yet. Most restaurants are small operations run in a laid-back and easygoing style. Dishes served range from traditional Lao to Asian cuisine such as Thai, Chinese, and Indian food as well as western fare.
Prices are very reasonable for just about everything including grilled river fish, veggies, noodle stir-fries, beef BBQ and sticky rice. The most convenient place to head to when feeling hungry is the town centre where you will find many small eateries to select from. Alternatively, please try the following list.
A well-known restaurant and bar and often full with a friendly crowd, Kangaroo Sunset is as the name suggests a great place to view the beautiful sunset in Vang Vieng. You can also do it in style with a cool beer on your hand. Recommended dishes include chicken massaman curry, Thai-style fried rice and spring rolls. The bar also features a pool table, TV and various choice of Western music which customers can select too.
Opening Hours: Daily
Location: On the River Road, south of the town centre located close to the town Buddhist Temple and Nam Song River.
Tel: +856 (0) 20 – 771 4291
Cuisine: Asian and Western food.
The Organic Farm Restaurant is a unique setup located not far from Vang Vieng. It’s a restaurant, bar, organic farm and learning centre for local kids, all in one place. The bar stocks health drinks, beers and liquor and the menu is full of interesting items. Some must-tries are the deep-fried mulberry leaves and fresh spring rolls as well as variety of BBQ dishes. All ingredients are freshly picked from their own farm. Isn’t that cool?
Opening Hours: All year round.
Location: Just outside Vang Vieng.
Tel: +856 (0) 23- 511174
Cuisine: Real organic food.
Sala Pha Deng riverside restaurant has some of the most stunning views in town. Located on the banks of the Nam Song River, the restaurant has a big terrace and plenty of tables to choose from as well as a lovely wooden bar. The views of the unspoiled river and mountains are a major reason why this place is so popular.
Opening Hours: All year round.
Location: At a boutique hotel called the Elephant Crossing Hotel.
Tel: +856 (0) 23-511 232
Cuisine: Traditional Lao and some international food.
Vang Vieng nightlife offers drinking and lots of it. While the infamous ‘shroom special shakes’ can do the job without any help from synthetic stimulants, more experienced travellers tend to chill out with beers or drinks that they are familiar with. Many bars offer the usual extras such as darts and pool. Music is well covered from typical young western tunes to chill-out music. Most bars serve as restaurants as well and stay open until very late to welcome the ‘tubers’ that need to unwind after a long day out on the river. Expect to see many episodes of Friends on TV as, for some strange reason; a lot of bars on the town’s main street have just that on all day long. No one knows why.
Vang Vieng is not the best shopping destination in the country but visitors may find a few places that sell more than postcards to send home. The local market located north of town sells everyday goods such as fresh food and kitchenware but alongside you’ll find beautiful Lao textiles including many different types of traditional phaa sin (sarongs), ropes and hand-woven shirts. Other exotic items on sale are trays and baskets made from local materials, such as bamboo, grass and straw.
Those who have come to Vang Vieng unprepared for water sports don’t worry; you’ll find swimming suits, shorts, caps, hats and flip-flops at many shops scattered throughout town. Most of them are family-run type of businesses therefore they open quite early.
Vang Vieng’s popular activities are not just limited to tubing downriver, though. There are many more pursuits to follow out here especially if you are an outdoors person. Choices of fun activities range from river kayaking to forest hiking and sightseeing this lovely area by boat. Those who are looking for more adventure and thrills will be happy to know that Vang Vieng and its surroundings are famous for having the best rock climbing in the region.
While sliding downhill (no Health & Safety regulations here…), mud sports (mud volleyball, anyone?) and rope swings are also popular among the many backpackers here, cave and cavern exploring is a highlight on the must-do list of nature enthusiasts. After a hard day, spoil yourself with a Lao massage and don’t forget to try a Lao-style steam sauna – a unique experience not to be missed.