Vang Vieng, Laos | Bad rap for a great place | Asia Tour 2017

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!

Kayaking Nam Song River - Vang Vieng, Laos
Kayaking Nam Song River

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?.

Beautiful Vang Vieng
Beautiful Vang Vieng

❗️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. ?

Bus Chaos - Vang Vieng, Laos
Bus Arrival Chaos

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.

Bungalows Nestled in the Mountains of Vang Vieng, Laos
Bungalows Nestled in the Mountains

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!

Chicken Pad Thai at Seng Deung Restaurant - Vang Vieng, Laos
Chicken Pad Thai at Seng Deung Restaurant

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.

Green Curry - Restaurant DK 3 Milan Pizza - Vang Vieng, Laos
Green Curry – Restaurant DK 3 Milan 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.

Nam Song River by Night - Vang Vieng, Laos
Nam Song River by Night

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!

Rotee Pancake Stall, Vang Vieng Street Food - Laos
Rotee Pancake Stall, Street Food

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.

Friends Bar - Ngern Phanith, Vang Vieng, Laos
Friends Bar – Ngern Phanith

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.

Fire Pit at hot Sakura Bar, a Vang Vieng Must - Laos
Fire Pit at hot Sakura Bar, another Vang Vieng Must

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!

Zip Lining - Vang Vieng, Laos
Zip Lining

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.

Hiking through a Farm - Vang Vieng, Laos
Hiking through a Farm

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.

Kayakers on Nam Song River - Vang Vieng, Laos
Kayakers on 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!

New Friends in Vang Vieng, Laos
New Friends. Miss you guys!

Price breakdown below. More pictures here.

Next stop:  Luang Prabang with the VIP bus for 80,000 per person.

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:
Transportations: €2.34
Entertainment / Excursions: €44.37
Lodging: €70.12
Food and Drink: €95.77
Laundry: €2.80

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

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Diane Misol

Canadian living in Germany - Enjoying Travel & Documenting as I go! My goal is to bring you honest reporting based on my experience. As blogging took over the internet, so did glossy photos and life is perfect mentality. The world is now officially viewed through rose coloured glasses. I aim to bring you a truer, more realistic version. Hope you enjoy and please share if you do.

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