In my research of Laos every other post was about this infamous party town of Vang Vien. As a person sober in recovery the thought of going to a town most known for tubing down a river hopping from bar to bar, mushroom shakes, and a slew of deaths and injuries related to alcohol and drug induced chaos sounded like a horrible idea. But on a few more recent blogs that I luckily found I heard that things were taking a turn for the better in this town. Regulations have been put in place to only allow three river bars to operate at a time and one blogger urged readers to look beyond the party scene as this is a town with many natural gems. I am SO grateful I read this and decided to go- because it was just that for me.
Before getting into the best part the nature, a few must go to restaurants are Pizza Luka (literally some of the best pizza I have ever had- they put honey on it!), Mamma Sabada for a mean falafel wrap and smoothie, and Gary’s Irish Bar was really good too surprisingly I had delicious bruschetta here. As for accommodation we stayed at Vang Vieng Central Park Hotel as there were three of us to split costs. The room was super clean, had a balcony, included simple breakfast, theres a pool and staff were very nice!
The best way to see the beauty of this riverside town? Rent a motorbike and cross the bridge over the Nam Song River and go explore the endless caves, look out points, and lagoons. Make sure to ask for a map of the area and all the places are pretty easy to spot as they almost all have signs along with descriptions.
Day 1 we headed for Blue Lagoon 1. This was too touristy for my liking. Expect the lagoon to have enough people in it to take the serenity away and on one side inexperienced jumpers attempting backflips off a tree. But it does have a hike up into a cave which is pretty cool- especially if you haven’t seen one yet. But there are other lagoons and caves which are much less explored which I preferred. We then went on a bit more of a ride towards Blue Lagoon 3.
We drove through the villages, past kids playing on the dirt roads, and locals hard at work farming. The road does turn into dirt and mostly rock so its quite a bumpy ride but not at all unmanageable. I think its mind over matter and remember that some speed actually makes you more steady.
This lagoon was set amongst the karst hills and included in the entry fee is a tube to float around in. There also are some cool zip lines to glide and jump into the water from.
Day 2: Less touched caves and pools
After crossing the bridge from town we veered to the right. In about 5 minutes or so you will spot a sign on the left for a water cave. We headed here and only had to share the place with a handful of other people for a few minutes. The cave was cool but extremely dark and a bit slippery so if your feeling like exploring bring adequate shoes and a torch. We were just happy to float through the pool which also flowed into the cave. It gave a spooky feel but was so worth it.
We then continued on further up the road until the sign on the left for Beehive Cave and another (which the name is slipping my memory at the moment). We opted to check out the other cave to the right (it’s a fork in the side dirt road). Once trekking through the rice fields we made it to a cool wooden bridge to cross a stream. At this point we had another fork. One sign pointed up the karst hill and said climb jump swim or something. So we followed hopping to find a pool. The hike was hard work but all we found was a cave. It would’ve been nice to stick around to explore more and go back down the other way but the sun was setting and we didn’t want to get stuck.
One of the highlights for sure was hiking Phangern Viewpoint. Thanks to another blogger I was able to enjoy this incredible sunset view. Her directions for getting there are probably better than mine and I’d like to give her credit as I wouldn’t have found this on my own! I must note that she was right about this being quite the hike- we were sweating and maybe even panting by the halfway point. Don’t give up the view is worth every step!