Things to do in Laos
A small town in Northern Laos, Vang Vieng is a not-so-quiet place surrounded by striking limestone mountains, the glorious Nam Song River, and wondrous caves.
While the town itself isn’t much of a gem (it’s pretty boring except for the dirty, yet fun club of Viva Pub), Vang Vieng is filled with natural wonders, adventurous backpackers, and wild party-hunters.
Ever since the Laos government opened the borders of the beautiful country to curious foreigners, the little town’s laid-back days and whiskey-filled nights have lured in travelers from around the world. So, if you ever stumble across this tiny town in Laos, you’ll find yourself surrounded by beauty (and probably more than a few drunk backpackers).
Take in the sunrise
“I really regret getting up early to see that beautiful sunrise,” said no one ever. And where better to watch to sun come up than in a place renowned for its natural beauty? Yes, technically you could also stay up to see the sunrise, but with most of Vang Vieng’s bars now required to shut down at midnight, there’s not much to do in the wee hours anymore.
The sun rises early year-round in Vang Vieng, at about 5:30 in the summer and 6:30 in the winter. If you have an east-facing room on a high floor, you may be able to see the sunrise from your own window. Some hotels in town also have accessible rooftops or patios that will offer a view over the town. For the most memorable experience, though, get up extra early and walk to the other side of the river. You’ll be able to stroll alongside the water and see the sun as it comes up over the buildings in town.
River tubing in Vang Vieng
Vang Vieng is famous for its river tubing, attracting many party-goers from across the world. This tubing fiesta was once so large and wild that it was closed down for being too hazardous. The tubing has since reopened in a more controlled state, or so they thought.
Prior to it closing down in 2012, the tubing began around midday starting north of the main town and included bar hopping past several bars throughout the day before finishing back in Vang Viang to party the night away.
As of today, the bars situated alongside the river alternate days in which they are open. On any given day, two of the riverside bars will be open and full of drunken tubers.
The river tubing is very easy to book, departing from many hostels and tubing operators in town. All you need to do once arriving at the starting point is to sit down on your tube and prepare for the party to come!
Once you approach the first bar, the locals will start throwing ropes out for you to grab onto and pull you in. The staff at the bars will drink and bar hop along the river with you throughout the day.
You can expect to partake in a lot of beer pong, rage-cage, shotgunning, and just about any other method of fast drinking you can think of. The bars are located within about 20 minutes floating between each other.
You can bar hop at your own pace, or entirely skip the bars if you wish to. Generally, everyone will congregate at the first bar and spend the rest of the day bar hopping together. Most people start tubing just after midday and will arrive back in town at around 5 pm or before it gets too dark.
Scale the heights
Upon seeing the rocky karst landscape that surrounds Vang Vieng, you might just be the type of traveler to look out to the hills and think – ‘How do I get up there?’ Luckily for the outdoorsy visitor, Vang Vieng has a number of rock climbing groups, which run trips for everyone from first-timers to old pros. Trips range from half-day tours to four-day courses so that you can get up close and personal with these hills with any type of schedule.
Vang Vieng Free alcohol
Honestly, the amount of free alcohol handed out in Vang Vieng is mind-boggling. You can find free alcohol every single night in Vang Vieng, starting with free shots for an hour, followed by free beer for an hour, followed by free mixed drinks for an hour, all unlimited, and all bottomless.
This is the progression of every single night in Vang Vieng! If you think I’m joking, you’ll just have to check it out for yourself (and let me know how you feel the morning after).
Exploring the caves
The caves of Vang Vieng are spectacular. After providing the entrance fee, you can visit the extensive web of caves accompanied by a village local, who guides you through the dark and damp caves. These conditions can be dangerous for a traveler; hence a guide is essential for a tour of these caves.