Budget friendly Vang Vieng, the little town nestled in the lush mountains of Laos with the Nam Song River flowing through it, offers an amazing array of sports and activities including Kayaking, Ziplining, Rock Climbing, Hiking and more!
I didn’t even want to come here because of the hard core party reputation. I enjoy a good party as I am sure most people do, however, a bunch of drunks stumbling and mumbling their way around, embarrassing themselves and their country is not my idea of fun… That is something everyone should keep in mind when traveling – you are a representative of your country?.
❗️Reality looked a lot different than my preconceived notions. Biting the bullet, we took the morning bus (read about it here) from Vientiane, Laos and very slowly made our way to Vang Vieng. The bus stopped on a dusty street and threw everyone’s luggage curb side; I guess we had arrived. ?
We took the only Tuk tuk to our pre-booked (on the bus) Riverside Garden Bungalows; he dropped us at the top of a hill, pointed and took our 20,000 kip – way too much for the short, incomplete ride!?
We walked down the steep hill and arrived at beautiful little bungalows with gorgeous mountain views and checked in. Our bungalow had an ensuite bathroom, tv, bed, drinking water, fridge and 2 balconies with furniture on the front balcony. We paid 600,000 kip for 4 nights and for us, it was worth every penny. ?Tip: If you are on a tighter budget, they also rent tents.
After checking in, we walked, on Trip Advisor recommendation, to Viktor ? for lunch. After sitting there for 15 minutes, trying to get anybody’s attention, we got up and left. Restaurant Seng Deung ? made up for the bad experience with very good food and prices! Chicken Pad Thai was 15,000 kip, large BeerLao 12,000 and the Kamikaze Wine Cooler 12,000. We wandered around town a bit, looking at restaurants, bars and comparing tours, before heading back to our bungalow to sit on our front porch, sipping away on cold drinks and soaking up the gorgeous views!
Night found us at Restaurant DK 3 Milan Pizza. Once again we were impressed by good service and delicious food including spring rolls, green vegetable chicken curry, white rice, a large beerlao and a mango shake for 70,000 kip. We went here a few times throughout our stay; make sure you try the fried mushrooms, they are OMG good!!! Also, the Pad Thai was good, but we did not like the pizza.
After dinner, we went for an evening walk at the Nam Song River, which is lined with bars and restaurants, creating a romantic atmosphere. After several failed attempts trying to get a drink in one of the bar restaurants above the river, we slowly made our way home and enjoyed our front porch again with some drinks.
The next morning we went for breakfast at Namsong View. The Bacon cheese baguette for 25,000 could have been good if the bacon had been properly fried, the Soup for 15,000 was ok, the Ice coffee was horrible because the milk was sour and curdled (12,000) and my 10,000 kip dragon fruit juice was good. It was peaceful and quiet when we walked in and has a gorgeous view, however, 5 minutes later a young child sat behind us (owners child?) and started blaring tv shows on her phone.
My husband was still hungry after his horrible breakfast experience, so he ordered a pancake stuffed with bacon, onion, cheese, tomato & egg for 20,000 kip at a road stand. It was delicious!
The day was very overcast and cool, so we figured it was a perfect day to hit a “Friends” bar; for those of you wondering, there are bars throughout Vang Vieng where episodes of the series Friends play non-stop! You lay around on elevated beds, watching the shows and either just vegging out, eating, drinking or all 3! The Ngern Phanith Guest House beside Sanaxay provided us with endless tv viewing, fried spicy chicken with rice, fried noodles with chicken & veggies, a big beer and a coke for 66,000 kip.
After a short walk around a very quiet town, we went to the next Friends bar for Laos Laos Whiskey Shakes and Beerlaos, laughing our way through old episodes of Friends – maybe the shakes helped with that ?. We assume when the repeats start repeating, we have overstayed our time!
Sakura Bar ? is a hot spot in town and should not be missed; not only will you meet a ton of people here, the drinks are free from 8 pm to 9 pm. NOT a printing error, free drinks until 9pm. This place is amazing, black lights, music, free drinks – no catch – fire pits out back and lots of people. Buy 2 vodka get a free t-shirt, drink Triple, see double, act single, beer pong, chill out atmosphere. This is where everybody meets, so don’t miss it. Free is from 8 to 9pm followed by happy hour from 9 to 10pm.
On our 3rd day, my husband booked a full day trip through Riverside Tours which included cave tubing, elephant cave, zip lining, kayaking and a lunch for 180,000 kip. He had such a good time, we booked two more trips immediately on his return!
I decided to take the alone time and go hiking! Fueled up with a banana shake from a roadside stand for 5,000 kip, I made my way across the bridge and started on the marked trail. What beautiful scenery, all to myself – lush greenery, butterflies and birds chirping. The entire time I only met one single guy and one couple. I hiked to the base of the cliffs and then through the jungle to Lusi Cave. I am horrified of heights, rickety wooden bridges and rickety ladders. To get into the cave, you have to scale some rocks before climbing a rickety ladder or two. I chickened out and did not pay the 10,000 kip to go in. I recommend people to do it though, because the pictures look amazing. I bought a water for 5,000 kip and from the friendly old man at the entrance and chatted a while with hands, feet and smiles before moving on. You can also climb PhaPoak, which again I did not do, but the view from on top must be incredible! My slow, peaceful trek took around 3 hours total before I was back in town ordering a lemon juice and Pad Thai at Seng Duong for 23,000 kip.
Our excursions for day 4 included cave tubing, the elephant cave ?, lunch & kayaking for 100,000 each. Our day, which started at 9am, was fabulous; we met fun people (Koreans, Czechs and French), laughed a lot and observed gorgeous landscapes. A scenic drive in the countryside was followed by a 20 minute walk to the caves. Everyone was given a head lamp and tube and away we went into the dark cave. After tubing, a good lunch of shish kabobs, rice, baguette and banana was served and then we loaded onto the truck again and headed for the kayaking on the Nam Song river.
We chose the 8 km run, so we were dropped off first and the rest were dropped off further up for the 5 km run. Our guide was very friendly, but spoke little english; we taught each other ?. We stopped at one of the 7 remaining bars (they alternate days for opening – today 3 were open, with the first one looking the craziest). At the bar we bumped into our morning group again and planned a dinner with all before parting ways.
Every day should be spent on an excursion!!!?
We got back at around 4pm, showered and headed for a massage; 60,000 kip each for one hour. Note: The massage was a lot harder ?than we are used to!
Price breakdown below. More pictures here.
Note: although we were told at the beginning of our stay at Riverside Bungalows we could pay with credit card, we had to pay cash. This is normal, so always have enough cash!
Budget Tip: cheapest dorm €4 Organic Farm
Costs for 4 nights, 2 persons:
Entertainment / Excursions: €44.37
Food and Drink: €95.77
Total Cost: (2 persons): €215.40 or €53.85 per day
More Restaurants and Food prices: - Friends bar: Lemon juice, ice coffee & red chicken curry - 43,000 kip - Banking Restaurant - Must try!!! Grilled Chicken, Sticky rice, Chicken rice noodle soup, Curry Fried chicken rice, spicy dipping sauce, Bowl of fresh herbs and lettuce to make wraps, Beer, 7 up - 89,000 kip - Street Food: For breakfast, sandwich and a shake from 2 separate main street vendors. The lady making my shake tried to make it with water instead of milk - I told her no. She then stopped the blender and added milk. A customer beside me said you have to watch up on this street, but if you go to the vendors on the street closer to the river, they are good. I agreed, that is where I bought my shake yesterday and it was way better. - Champalao Bungalows for breakfast. Ordered fried rice & 2 iced coffees, but got rice soup instead. Iced coffee way over priced at 25,000 each. Total: 80,000 + Friends bar: beer, iced coffee 18,000; Dinner with our tour group at Banking Restaurant 69,000; Drinks and goodbyes at Sakura 60,000
Check out our other Asia Travels!
This riverside city is the gateway to incredibly beautiful Laos. Top things to do in Vientiane include visiting the Buddhist Temples, the Palace, the Patuxai Gate and watch a red Sunset on the Mekong River.
Following our wonderful stay on the Vietnamese Island of Phu Quoc, we made our way, via Bangkok, to Vientiane, Laos. Our Visa on Arrival was a painless process. Upon arrival, everyone is handed immigration papers to fill out. Be sure to have the proper amount US$ dollars on hand to pay the visa fees and a passport photo. The procedure was very friendly and fast. Costs: Canada $42, Germany $30. We did not have enough US$ dollars along, but they accepted our Thai baht without complaint.
Still in the terminal, we found an ATM machine for cash and purchased data SIM cards for our phones: 60,000 kip with top up card.
Next, we went to the taxi stand to get a ticket for transportation. As we reached the front of the line, we were informed by an unfriendly character that there are “No more taxi”! Easy, we did the short ?walk out the terminal to the main street where we flagged down a tuk tuk for 40000 kip to our hotel. This was awesome luck, as the taxi stand had charged everyone US$7 to town center!
Our Hotel, RD Guest House was a dump; steep stairs led up to our room with stained walls, filthy mirror, dirty black broken air conditioner and a toilet that flushes with a bucket of water (you fill a mouldy container). At least the sheets were clean, as was the mattress underneath them clean. We had a fan in our room, but no soap or shampoo. Bonus, it was very quiet. Due to a mosquito infestation, we bought spray, fumigated and went for a drink while it worked its magic. This is possibly the dirtiest hotel I have ever stayed in! ? Cost US$17 per night.
The locals seem to be unfriendly; we tried to book a tour at one place, but the lady started talking with a local man in the middle of our booking and she walked away, so we left. This became something we observed often, if they do not understand, they just walk away.?
For lunch we went to a restaurant called Aria Italian. They advertise with 2 for 1 stone oven pizza or 2 for 1 pasta. We ordered a large Super Vegetariana pizza and a large Prosciutto Funghi pizza. Also on offer was 3 beer for the price of one, so we shared some beers as well. Cost: 123,000 kip! HOT SPOT!!!! Worth every penny; delicious pizza and cold beer!
Chao Anouvong Park is a park along the Mekong River with coliseum style seating facing the river where one can observe the incredible sunsets. Music blares throughout the area with different levels of aerobic classes (mostly locals participating, but feel free to jump in!), ice cream vendors and people strolling complete the relaxed atmosphere.
As the sun is setting, vendors are busy setting up their stalls in the park for the Night market on the River. Our experience wasn’t great; we tried several times to buy shoes for my husband – EVERY vendor was rude. In retrospect, we would try harder next time. ?
While strolling around town, we came across a very inviting looking Khop Chai Deu Restaurant. Happy is good, so we went in and asked what was on offer for their advertised happy hour. Confusion broke out., but eventually, with lots of patience and smiling we managed to order a beer and the one and only cocktail of the day for happy hour.
Eventually, after enjoying several cocktails, the bill came and they told us no happy hour for the type of drink we consumed. ? This did not end well; we were not happy with this very awkward, embarrassing situation. We paid the happy hour total of 80,000 kip and walked out.
On our way to find a breakfast spot the next day, we came by the gold and red Chanthaboury Temple. It looked spectacular against the blue sky, surrounded by palm trees. ?Ladies, remember to always have a wrap along to cover shoulders and / or knees so you can enter the temples!
At the Pricco Cafe Bakery Sandwichery, we grabbed a table outside and ordered a Tartine Ham & Cheese baguette for 30,000 kips, an Iced Latte 21,000, Cordon Bleu with fries 45,000 and a Passion fruit juice 25,000. This place was a piece of civilization amongst mosquito infested dirt ? and the food was delicious, albeit expensive!
Some sights we saw on our morning walk included the Presidential Palace,
the Wat Si Saket Museum and temple with a 10,000 kip entry fee (I went in alone),
and the Ho Phra Keo Temple with a 10,000 kip entry fee.
Feeling adventurous, we decided to take the Bus to Buddha Park (complete how to guide). After a lot of wrong informations and almost giving up, we finally figured it out and arrived safe and sound for a great price. Entrance to the Buddha Park was free.
We spent around 1.5 hours in the park, also known as Xieng Khuan. It is an eclectic mix of Buddhism and Hinduism. Don’t forget your camera. ?Tip: take a lunch and have a picnic! There are a few stores where you can purchase souvenirs and a restaurant as well.
To get back, catch the bus on the opposite side of the road. The last bus is at 4:45pm. (as of this date)
For those interested or crossing from Thailand to Laos, the bus passes through the border area of the Peace Bridge. Tip: if you are crossing from or to Thailand, you can purchase phone cards here, do a Visa on arrival, and replenish at one of many food booths AND you can take this bus #14 to Vientiane city (best price – it is parked across from the Haven Duty Free)! Bus leaves border when it is full.
This time, a money collector came through and collected the bus fare money. (6,000 kip). ?Note: Make sure they do not rip you off; either have the exact amount or make sure you get your proper change back!
Our Tuk tuk from the bus station to Pha That Luang Temple, the great golden Stupa, cost 20,000 kip, too much, but we knew our time was running out. The Wat Thatluang Temple, in the same area is equally impressive.
Our Tuk tuk to the hotel also cost 20,000 kip, this time a fair price. On the way we stopped by the impressive Patuxai Gate.
After dinner, we sipped on Passionfruit Shakes with vodka at RD Guesthouse and chatted with other travellers, getting tips and laughs? for free. Cocktails 15,000 each ?.
The next day Bus ticket to Vang Vieng was 45,000 kip per person. See you there!
NEXT Stop: Vang Vieng, Laos
Costs for 2 persons, 2 nights:
Lodging: €32.14 for 2 nights or €16 per night
Entry fees: €3.49
Total cost per day for 2 persons: €60.90
Visas: German €28.36 / Canadian €39.72 ?
Sim Card: €7 each (data)
Bus ticket to Vang Vieng: €5.24 each
Examples of prices:
Iced coffees 22,000 each
Super Vegetariana 83,000 kip for 2 (Aria)
Prosciutto Funghi 76,000 kip for 2 (Aria)
Iced coffee 15,000 each At Tee Cafe, a balcony restaurant
Check out our other Asia Travels!
The bus transfer from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang slowly snaked it’s way up, down and twisting around the mountains, as too many fellow passengers slept and watched movies, oblivious to the beauty around them. I caught myself holding my breath every time we passed a slower moving truck, gasping in awe at the incredible, breathtaking scenery. Below are some of my photos.
Check out our other Asia Travels!