Vang Vieng is a very tourist-oriented town that sits in the middle of a stunning karst landscape in the centre of Laos, and offers a perfect destination on the Laos tour packages for exploring beautiful waterfalls, amazing caves and a blue lagoon. Vang Vieng is part of the Vientiane Province, and about a 4-hour ride from the capital city.
The preferred time to visit this town on the Indochina tour packages is throughout the dry season that lasts from November to March when it is possible to experience more pleasant and cool weather. Travellers to this part of Laos may wish to limit travelling from March to May when the temperature is at its most intense and reaches 40º C or more. Also, the rainy season lasts from May to October and can present a lot of problems for the tourist that is travelling the region by road.
How to get there
The easiest option to reach Vang Vieng on the Laos tour packages is via the local bus service that runs from the capital city of Vientiane. The cost of the bus ride from Vientiane amounts to about $5 and takes 4-5 hours to complete. Alternative transport options include the minivans or VIP buses which cost slightly more at $6 and usually arrive within a shorter time-frame. Also, for those travelling from Luang Prabang the journey time is about 7-8 hours and costs in the region of $15.
Any of the bus rides that travel from the north make it possible to admire the stunning mountain scenery in the distance.
On arrival in Vang Vieng, most of the buses or minivans drop passengers off near the old airfield or downtown on the main street, which are short distances from the city centre.
The size of Vang Vieng makes it pretty easy to explore the town on foot. But for those that prefer to use local transport, a tuk-tuk ride can cost in the region of $1-$2, while the rates at night can see a significant increase. For the tourist that wishes to travel further out of town, such as a tour of the surrounding countryside, there are plenty of options to rent a bicycle for about $2 or a motorbike for about $5.
Where to stay
The hotels and guesthouses in Vang Vieng are relatively inexpensive and there is rarely any shortage of space. Plus, there is no real need to book in advance, just arrive in town and find the preferred place that matches the specific needs.
One of the best places to stay in town on the Indochina tour packages is the Riverside Boutique Resort, which is more expensive than the typical accommodation and can cost about $80 per night. But, for the backpackers or other travellers in search of the budget-friendly accommodation, there are plenty of options available.
A stay at the Domon Guest House makes it possible to relax at a multi-level guesthouse that is easily found on the riverbank. The cost per night is in the region of $10 to $20 with the most expensive rooms offering a private balcony and clear views of the surrounding mountains. All the guest rooms are well kept and clean.
The Elephant Crossing Hotel is a further hotel that can offer spectacular views and is priced mid-range with the cost $20 to $50 per night. The difference in price relates to the size of the rooms.
Located near the toll bridge, the Riverside Boutique Resort is one of the more upmarket hotels and costs $100 or more per night. This is the town’s first luxury boutique hotel to give the most relaxing and comfortable stay which in the local area.
Eat and drink
While there are plenty of restaurants in Vang Vieng, most of them seem to offer very similar menus, which consists of the same dishes (soups, salads, pasta, Asian stir-fries, pizzas and burgers). There is the typical street food scene with vendors selling pork and chicken skewers, as well as sandwiches and pancakes.
But, by exploring the local area, it is possible to find a few restaurants with the more unique fare at a much higher standard. One of the finest places for Asian and Western fare is the Kitchen at Inthira Hotel, which is rated higher than most of the local restaurants in town. Meat skewers and fried spring rolls start at $3, while the mains are much more expensive at $4-$5. Plus, this restaurant is great for breakfast with servings like omelette costing $2 and eggs, bacon and baguette costing $4.
A visit to Vang Vieng doesn’t have the most promising shopping opportunities, but there are a few places to buy a gift or postcards to send home. There is a local market that sells most goods, including hand-woven shirts, traditional phaa sin (sarongs), and other Lao textiles.
Also, for those travellers that want to experience the local water sports, there are a few stores selling swimming suits, flip-flops, caps, shorts, etc.
Things to see and do
A visit to Tham Poukham makes it possible to explore the caves and blue lagoon that is perfect for playing on the rope swing, swimming, or relaxing. The journey is only about 7 km from town and is well worth the time to travel by hiring a motorbike or bike. The preferred time to travel is early in the mornings when there is less crowds and it is possible to enjoy the place on your own.
There are plenty of caves to explore in the local area, especially in regions that have the karst mountain range that appear in many areas of Vang Vieng. While there are several nice caves to visit, there are also those that can be easily missed. For the best experience, take a day to tour the local area on a motorbike and visit the waterfalls, caves and anything else of interest.
Other great adventure activities listed in the Laos travel guide include taking a hot air balloon ride that gives unparalleled views of the Vang Vieng landscape; rock climbing in the nearby mountains with climbing possible for the complete novice to experienced, and kayaking tours that include a few of the caves.