Vang Vieng is regarded as the adventure capital of Laos. Kayaking, tubing, air balloons and rock climbing, are some of the best things to do in Vang Vieng. And to enjoy this travel destination, you first have to get there. With no trains or working airport, travelling by road is your best option. And if you are travelling by bus from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng, you can either hire a private mini-van or use the local bus.
You can read more of The Best of Luang Prabang here.
Vang Vieng lies halfway between Luang Prabang and the capital Vientiane and is known as a popular place of adventure. We learnt there are two options to get to Vang Vieng by road. One is an 8-hour journey over the hills, the other is via the new road for a 4-hour journey.
We were expecting to take for the 4-hour journey.
Unfortunately, some bad news for us. As we were part of an Intrepid tour, the company decided we would travel the 8-hour journey over the hills to Vang Vieng.
We were advised that trucks and buses using the new road between Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng had been shot at several times in the recent weeks. The local Hmong people were not happy with the Chinese investment in Laos infrastructure and were showing their disapproval.
So it was going to be the long and windy road over the hills!
And it was long, and it was windy and long and hilly, and bumpy and slow and windy and dusty and long!
Travelling by Bus in Laos
Travelling in Laos by bus is possible by booking through Baolau.
With Baolau you can book online and search for the best deals. The cost of a bus ticket for the 6-hour journey from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng is about USD22. Once you book your ticket, Baolau will email the ticket to you.
To learn more about travelling in Laos, then the Laos 999 website has a lot of information and reviews. Click to read more here.
Village Stops on the Hills from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng
We had a few stops along the way from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng to see how the Laos people lived in small villages along the route. With the highway on one side of their home and a big drop down the other side of the hill, these people are very resilient.
One large village we passed through was called Pak Khan we were told was the large battlefield in the American War.
Watch out for the large trucks barrelling through the villages, with no apparent concern for villagers walking, or other vehicles on the road. And if windy roads aren’t your thing, then perhaps take a travel sickness tablet or two. However, the tablets can cause drowsiness and sleep.
It was so funny to watch Terry over the next couple of hours sleeping in some funny positions in the bus.
We were so pleased to stop at the highest point of the mountainous road to have some lunch.
Although the views were spoilt by the haze from farmers burning off scrub to make space for more rice paddies, the food was good.
Back on the bus for a few more hours of slow, windy, bumpy, dusty driving before finally arriving in Vang Vieng.
Thank goodness that trip is over!
We did think next time we would take the risk of being shot at rather than take that road again!
Things to Do in Vang Vieng, Laos
Vang Vieng is a small town that used to be known as “party central” until the Laos government stepped in and restricted alcohol availability and came down hard on drug use.
The town still has plenty of bars, but it seems reasonably under control. And with plenty of adventure activities including zip lining, tubing, kayaking, ballooning and caving, a beer or cocktail at the end of the day is rewarding.
1. Walking in Vang Vieng
Getting out and about in Vang Vieng gave us a better insight into the daily life.
Early morning the farmers were dropping off their produce to shops and restaurants. The trailer being pulled by a rotary hoe machine was then reused to bring the family into town.
And while walking into the town centre for a coffee and a delicious pastry, these kids were out for a bike ride or bike walk.
2. Tham Chang Caves
With one full day to ourselves to explore, we decided to take it easy and go for a walk to explore the surrounds.
As usual, we got a little lost but it worked out well as we found an orange bridge crossing the river that led to Tham Chang Caves.
The Chang Caves entrance is a climb of 147 steps where you will find a lot of little internal walkways to different areas of the cave. Most of the caves are lit except for an area right at the back which is dark and a little scary.
Maura thought she saw a person in the shadows when Terry took a photo with the flash. So another flash photo and we both turned and headed out of there as the shape had appeared to get closer to us!
Probably an over-active imagination!
3. Visiting Temples in Vang Vieng
Walking around Vang Vieng you will come across many Buddhist temples and some of them are beautifully decorated.
4. Boat Ride down the Nam Song River
Along the river bank at various spots, you can find long boats sitting up on the stony riverbank.
Having enjoyed a late lunch, we decided to take a long boat tour along the river. We found a small hut on the riverbank and negotiated a boat for an hour at about USD5 per person. Lifejackets on and the driver at the bank, we were off.
The ride didn’t start well with the driver losing his jandal as he got on the boat, he then had to paddle back to recover it. Quite a funny sight.
Taking a boat ride was a great idea as we got some great views along the river and of the limestone hills that surround Vang Vieng.
We were nearly thrown into the river on two occasions when the driver hit large rocks just under the surface of the water! Ouch, hang on. Don’t panic. Whew, we stayed upright and dry.
5. The Market of Vang Vieng
We found the old American airforce runway used in the American war, we were told, to drop bombs on the Ho Chi Minh trail. Today it is where you can find the Vang Vieng night market and food stalls.
Finding ourselves a couple of new caps to wear, we then went in search of food, walking along the disused runway.
It was the smell of roast pork on a spit that attracted us to a particular food stall. Selecting a yummy piece of pork belly, the owner told us the price and served on a plate we could eat at a nearby table. It was delicious.
6. Tubing and Kayaking on Nam Song River
Tubing is also popular on the Nam Song River, especially when stopping off at river bars along the way.
Kayaking only if you are fit as we saw so many people struggling to paddle up-stream to return their kayak.
7. Nightlife in Vang Vieng
After checking into the hotel, the group walked down to the riverfront to check out the restaurants. We all decided on Sala. The restaurant was perfect with areas to recline with cushions while enjoying a drink. The meal was pretty good and everyone enjoyed themselves.
8. Other Things to Do in Vang Vieng, Laos
Blue Lagoon is an option if you are wanting to swim and relax while in Vang Vieng. It is a beautiful place and popular, with plenty of places to eat nearby.
Hot Air Ballooning in the early morning is a beautiful way to see the beauty of Vang Vieng.
Rock Climbing to learn a new skill in the limestone mountains of Vang Vieng.
If you are travelling on to the Vientiane, the capital of Laos, then you may want to read about the travel options and Things to Do in Vientiane here.