Updated June 2019
If you have made it to Vang Vieng, then you are only four hours away by road from the capital of Laos, Vientiane.
But if you think that four hours will be easy going, think again. When traveling from Vang Vieng to Vientiane, the roads are anything but smooth.
Our trip to Laos with Intrepid Travel was now on our last leg of our tour. Our small group of eight were now on our way to visit the must-see places of Vientiane.
So far we had traveled along the Mekong River for two days, spent three days in Luang Prabang and were now leaving Vang Vieng.
You can read more about our adventures here.
Saying Goodbye to Vang Vieng
Some places you visit are more special than others, and for us, even though Vang Vieng is known as a party town for the younger set, we did enjoy our couple of days here.
We went to the local for breakfast and Terry couldn’t resist ordering the banana pancake that Maura had eaten the day before. It’s more like a cake than a pancake.
With our tummies now full of the delicious food we boarded the private bus to Vientiane at 8.30am.
Booking a Bus from Vang Vieng to Vientiane, Laos
Traveling in Laos by bus can be booked online through Baolau for the best deals.
The cost of a bus ticket for the 4 to 4.5-hour journey from Vang Vieng to Vientiane is USD8.
And once the booking is confirmed Baolau will email the tickets to you.
Traveling from Vang Vieng to Vientiane, Laos
We had some good news to start the day. Our Intrepid Guide had managed to convince her office to transfer us from a public bus to a private bus for the trip.
This would mean the trip should be more comfortable and shorter than the scheduled four hours. Plus we would also be able to stop where we wanted along the way.
How wrong could we be?
Leaving Vang Vieng at 8.30am, based on google maps, the first half of the trip was to be hilly and windy, but the second half should flatten out and be more comfortable. The 150km trip shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours, maybe 2.5 hours.
How wrong that assumption was!
As soon as we left the surrounds of Vang Vieng and headed up into the hills, the potholes appeared, forcing the driver to slow to under 20km/h far too regularly.
The road got worse as we traveled and the potholes became whole sections of the road. Some parts of the road were missing the top surface so it was a very bumpy and uncomfortable slow journey.
Thaheua Market on the shores of Nam Ngum Reservoir
After about 45mins and 24kms on the potholed roads of Laos, we stopped at Thaheua Market on the shores of Nam Ngum Reservoir.
This is a fishing village market with lots of dried fish for sale.
While moving along the market stalls, a group of Korean Buddhist monks descended from their bus, drifted past us like a bunch of grey ghosts, got on their bus and moved on, very weird!
Back on the bumpy journey, which by now everyone was wishing it was over, we stilled had a few hours before we reached Vientiane.
A snack stop at Phonhong, but nothing much to report apart from rest for our bone rattled bodies.
Finally, we emerged from the hills to flat land and while the road was still potholed, at least there were no more windy hilly roads to deal with.
We eventually got into Vientiane after 12 pm. So goodness knows when the Public Bus would have arrived as it had many local stops along the way.
Where to Stay in Vientiane
We all needed a refreshing shower, but unfortunately, the showers in the Manorom Boutique Hotel were pretty disgusting. So it was a quick get in and out of the shower.
The Manorom Boutique Hotel booked by Intrepid appeared to have very little effort in the way of maintenance and cleaning. WiFi was only available in the lobby too.
Here are some suggestions for choosing a better option.
Eating Local Food for Flavour
Having a Guide often mean they know the best places to eat local food with flavor.
With the group, all feeling refreshed, lunch was just around the corner from the hotel. Having some good local food to eat definitely made us feel better after the journey.
The café did have some weird decorations hanging from the walls and cardboard ceiling. There were big honeycombs from beehives, the skin of an animal we think might have been a beaver-like creature, some hanging birds nests and an assortment of odd pictures.
Luckily once the food arrived, the flavorsome dishes were all we concentrated on.
Now if you love eating local food we can highly recommend you read Mark Wiens blog. Mark is a guru on finding the best places to eat in Vientiane.
You can check out his blog here.
5 Things to Do in Vientiane
Vientiane is the capital city of Laos.
And to help us learn more about Vientiane, Intrepid engage a Vientiane tour guide. Sali who lives here in the city would accompany us to give us more insights on Vientiane.
With the early afternoon temperature reaching 40 degrees Celcius, a walking tour wasn’t the ideal choice.
1. Presidential Palace
The Presidential Palace is the official residence of the President of Laos and used for government functions.
The Palace is not open to the public, and as it’s on a busy intersection of roads, taking a photo through the wrought iron gates is the only option.
2. Wat Si Saket Temple
The temple Wat Si Saket built in the Siamese style, it is the only known temple in Vientiane to survive the 1827 Laos war with Thailand.
As you enter through the gates to the temple area, the outer cloister buildings house a lot of very old Buddha statues.
Here we were taught what the different Buddha statues represented, along with the history of some of the older statues.
The highlight was …
The arrival of an official party of the Lao Prime Minister who was hosting the ambassador of Timor L’Este.
Surprisingly there was very little security and we were allowed to stay close by when they entered the main temple.
3. Patuxay Victory Monument
The Victory Monument reminded us a little of the Arc De Triumph in Paris, with a little of the Taj Mahal on top.
The monument is very impressive and for a small entrance fee, you can climb to the very top for views of the city. Inside is a small market shop to browse for gifts and souvenirs.
Once again we met the official party arriving for their visit.
4. COPE Centre
Thankfully a tuk-tuk had been organized for the next visit, as the heat at 40degC is becoming unbearable.
We traveled to the COPE Centre (Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise) a facility focused on the education caused by the impact cluster bombs on Laos.
The center’s mission is to help people with mobility-related disabilities with support and access to physical rehabilitation services in the Lao PDR.
Laos was heavily bombed by the USA during the American War (Vietnam War). The Americans targeted the Ho Chi Minh trail, a pathway through Laos the Viet Kong used to supply troops and weapons during their battle with South Vietnam.
It was quite horrific hearing the sheer volume of ordinance dropped with complete disregard of the Lao people.
Today, work is still undertaken to clear land for the safety of the Lao people.
5. Night Market of Vientiane
Every night you can walk to the Mekong River for the Riverside Night Market.
With plenty of food stalls, souvenirs, clothing, and bags to browse make it an easier way to hunt for bargains in the cooler evening.
Getting around Vientiane
Tuk-tuks are an easy and affordable option for traveling around the city.
The tuk-tuks in Vientiane are larger than in Thailand, so they are great to share with others and perfect for an airport transfer with bags.
Terry provided the group with some amusement using his bandana to filter out the traffic fumes. Looking more like he was going to rob a bank.
Review of Intrepid North Thailand and Laos
Overall we had a really good time on the Intrepid tour.
Booking an Intrepid tour made the trip to Laos much more comfortable and with less stress than if we were to book it all ourselves.
The Mekong River Cruise was the highlight and is one of the reasons we chose a tour. In peak season, long boats can be crowded and accommodation limited when booking this section by yourself.
Our last group dinner near the hotel gave us a chance to say our goodbyes after 15 days together. We had a great time and will miss the group when we all go our separate ways.
With the support of Intrepid, our trip to Laos is a memorable experience.
Laos is an interesting country and we would return to Luang Prabang.
Our next stop in Cambodia continues our 4-month adventure in Asia.