Vang Vieng, Laos

Bike next to river Vang Vieng  

Vang Vieng is a legendary spot and will forever be remembered in the annals of Southeast Asia Backpacking History for one sole reason – “Tubing”.

The "olden days" of Tubing in Vang Vieng.
The “olden days” of Tubing in Vang Vieng.

Tubing was a backpacking phenomenon that made the sleepy little riverside town of Vang Vieng infamous all over Southeast Asia! For those of you who haven’t heard about it… in short, it was floating down a river in a rubber tyre getting slowly hammered out of your face as you stopped at little bars along the way.

But that was only the half of it, there were mud baths, volleyball, happy shakes, potent buckets, soaring zip wires and downright dangerous water slides. Until recently, this party was in FULL SWING… but with accidents and reported deaths due to backpackers being out of control, the Laotian Government clamped down and put a stop to the chaos. Read more here – The End of Tubing in Vang Vieng.

Tubing in Vang Vieng in 2010.
The party’s over. Backpackers tubing in 2010.

So believe it or not, now that tubing is a thing of the past – there are other things to do in Vang Vieng! The scenery around the town is nothing short of spectacular and just a five-minute bike ride outside of the main tacky tourist strip you’ll find untouched countryside, local villages and a way of life that’s been unchanged for years.

As buffalo graze in the fields around and local children run from nearby houses to say hello and practice their English with the strange foreigner, you’ll quickly realise there’s a lot more to this magical place than could be glimpsed from a rubber ring. 

Get off the beaten track, explore hidden trails even the locals don’t know about, visit ethnic minority villages and delve into the adventure that Vang Vieng has to offer the energetic traveller! A trek to the Naam Taem waterfall is a must! Adventure awaits everywhere!

Where to stay in Vang Vieng?

Nana Backpackers Hostel – This is a great backpacker hostel for meeting people and has a swimming pool, a gym and a lively bar that’s crammed with backpackers all day. They have dorm beds that are clean and comfortable and start at just $5 US. Despite the party vibe, for those of you who want to get some sleep, don’t worry – music is played until 10.30pm at night and then the music goes off and it’s nice and quiet!

Click here to find more accommodation in Vang Vieng!

Top 8 Things to Do in Vang Vieng

1. Tubing!

So you can still rent a tube and take your own alcohol to float down the river. All of the bars are closed and it is nothing like the mayhem that it used to be. Check out this article – Is Tubing still alive in this once notorious party town?

2. Mountain biking

There are many great routes around the town that can be tackled in a day from Vang Vieng. Pick up a local map from any travel agent that hires bikes in the town and can plan a great day out amidst the gorgeous karst landscape.

Once away from the tourist enclave, you can get into the real countryside of Laos, as you cycle over rickety bamboo bridges spanning flowing rivers, watch local farmers at work in the fields and be constantly impressed by the beautiful countryside that surrounds you on all sides.

3. Rock climbing

The karst landscape of Vang Vieng makes it paradise for rock climbing enthusiasts. Jutting out of the flat land, the magnificent limestone crags just beckon to be climbed. Book a day climbing in Vang Vieng and scale the heights to experience real adventure on offer in Laos. Views over the Laos countryside are guaranteed to be amazing.

Read more about rock climbing here.

4. Visiting caves and lagoons

Go deeper underground and visit the many wondrous caves in the area around Vang Vieng, where you can navigate secret corridors and gaze in wonder at the unusual rock formations of stalagmites and stalactites formed over thousands of years in the deep realms.

From the main cycle trails, you’ll spot intriguing signs pointing down bumpy tracks, indicating caves in the area. If such a sign is followed, like magic, you will encounter a young guide who knows routes through the caves like the back of his hand and will guide you through the darkness with a flashlight to appear at the other side, occasionally pointing out huge spiders lurking in the darkness!

A few of the caves have underground lakes and some open up into impressive lagoons where you can swim. Obtain a map in town to find out the spots.

5. Organised Day Trips

Green Discovery is an eco-tour company with an office in the main town of Vang Vieng that can open up even further adventure amongst the awesome countryside in Laos. Rafting, kayaking, trekking, mountain biking, climbing, caving and even motorbike adventures are available with the help of an English speaking guide with great local knowledge of the area. Check out their trip: The Vang Vieng Challenge – which is a popular all-day adventure for backpackers.

VLT Tours is another company that offers full-day adventure packages in Vang Vieng. They have a package which includes cave tubing, kayaking and swimming in one of the lagoons in Vang Vieng. The package includes lunch too. It’s a great way to make the most out of a day in Vang Vieng if you’re short on time. 

6. Paintball

Take a group of mates and head over to ‘Shoot ’em Up Vang Vieng Paintball’ for the cheapest paintballing experience in South East Asia at $20 USD for the whole day.

7. Hot Air Ballooning

Soar high over the incredible scenery of Vang Vieng in this romantic form of transport.

8. Jungle Parties (or concrete jungle in the wet season)

The party still lives on! Make sure you check out the awesome jungle parties every Friday, with around 300-400 people each week, with quality music played by international DJ’s starting 8 pm – 12 pm.

The indoor club has funky sounds; nu disco and experimental, while an outdoor stage plays deep house tech house and techno! For more nightlife check out DK3, Gary’s Irish Bar, Fat Monkeys and Fluid Bar where you can spend the day playing table-tennis, darts, foosball, or just relaxing in a hammock.

Getting to Vang Vieng

Vang Vieng is situated on the main road between Luang Prabang and Vientiane. From Luang Prabang it’s an 8-hour bus ride south, passing through windy roads of beautiful countryside. From Vientiane, it’s a 5-hour bus trip north.

Where to go next?

  • Vientiane: If you’ve taken the two-day slow boat to Luang Prabang and are heading south, your next stop is Vientiane, a three-hour bus journey towards the Thai border.
  • Luang Prabang: The beautiful UNESCO World Heritage town of Luang Prabang is around an eight-hour bus journey north.

TIP! If you’re heading to Vientiane from Vang Vieng and fancy an alternative way of getting there, check out the option of kayaking. There’s an adventure company in Vang Vieng that offers trips down to the capital along the beautiful Nam Song River taking around half a day; a novel way to continue your onward journey.

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