Vang Vieng Destination Guide
Vang Vieng is situated approximately 160km north of Vientiane and 180km south of Luang Prabang. This small town is set against a back-drop of dramatic karst limestone mountains with the Nam Song River flowing through the heart of the town. Vang Vieng is an ideal place to stop over on the journey between Vientiane and Luang Prabang.
Vang Vieng travel offers a myriad of activities for travellers!
This Vang Vieng Destination Guide lists the things there are to see and do while you're on your Vang Vieng holiday. Our Vang Vieng Tours page lists some tour companies that can offer a number of different Vang Vieng tour options to suit your Vang Vieng travel needs. You may also wish to speak to your Vang Vieng accommodation, as they will be able to give some detailed local information. More general things to do around the country can be found by going to our Laos Tours page. For specific city information on other cities in Laos, such as Luang Prabang and Vientiane, go to our Laos Destination Guides page and click on the city you would like to know more about.
Things to See & Do in Vang Vieng
For those looking for some outdoor adventure, and a break from the temples of Luang Prabang and Vientiane, will find that Vang Vieng is the ideal place to go to. Caves inundate the karst limestone mountains - many with spiritual histories and others over 3km deep. The countryside also lends itself to some great water activities - from tubing and kayaking along the gentle waters of the Nam Song River, to some action-packed class IV water water rafting along the Nam Ngum River - said by many to rival the great Zambezi for rafting potential during the rainy season.
Or, if you are looking for something a little quieter on your Vang Vieng holiday, why not relax by the river, enjoy a cool Beer Lao and watch the thousands of bats flying out of their caves during a spectacular sunset? Adventurous or laid-back, whatever you're looking for you're sure to find on your Vang Vieng holiday. And, as with countless thousands before you, you may find yourself wanting to stay on your Vang Vieng holiday a lot longer than you had originally planned!
Balloon over Vang Vieng posters are littered about the town. Travel with your eyes is the Chinese run company that operates these tours with precision. Taking off and landing were both very smooth. There were 7 of us and we were promptly picked up around town and transferred to a small spot by the Nam Song River. Here a small crew deftly inflated the balloon in a matter of minutes while we stood nearby watching in awe of the growing size and also of a group of cattle that rounded the corner, just as the balloon lifted off the ground allowing them a passageway.
Not long after the cattle passed, we bundled into the basket and felt the heat of the gas being blown into the balloon. The heat was ferocious on an already warm winter afternoon. The crew was all crowded around the perimeter of the basket, weighing it down until take off. There was a lot of chatter between the conductor and the crew in Chinese. Then suddenly we were air bourne. We gently wafted off the ground and there were many excited noises being made, gasps of amazement. In a basket with about 6 other rubgy sized men, the coos of excitement from them were amusing.
As we drifted higher the majestic Nam Song valley revealed itself to us with the Kyrst peaks overhanging the valley like a king sitting happily on his throne. Due to wind velocity, there were a few moments were we looked to almost touch down again, the first instance was not long after we took off! However, our ingenius conductor always managed to save the day and we’d drift up again. We almost did get stuck in a tree… momentarily we were suspended with the branches holding us back, but with a poof of gas we were away again!
Wafting offer paddocks, the Nam Song River, village houses and fields with children playing who would wave excited to us passing by. We passed the popular tubing bar area and watched as foreigners lined up to one by one swing off into the river about 10 metres high. It was very peaceful watching the world unfold beneath us, taking us wherever the wind took us, although secretly the conductor must have known where we were going as we landed exactly where the crew was waiting for us. It was barely a clearing, more a dirt track with one big tree nearby. Miraculously we landed very softly. As we neared the crew, the conductor threw a rope over down to them and they grabbed on, held it tight and we gracefully landed on some weeds. With another puff of gas to propel us forward the crew grabbed us and gently placed us where we could exit easily onto the road. It was the softest landing I’ve ever had! The conductor did tell us to brace the bars on the basket rim and bend our knees. We did topple over each other a little on impact but it was a toppling of great ease and merriment.
We toddled off one by one, each one of us being replaced by a crew member to keep the weight down until they could properly deflate the balloon. We all shook our head incredulously at the landing as we headed back to our van back into town. What a magnificent experience.
Our farm, in Phoudindaeng village was founded in 1996 to introduce organic farming methods in an area where chemicals and deforestation were ruining the land. Leading by example, we aim to show that organic methods can be profitable as well as healthy. Our mission is to "preserve ecological diversity and provide locals with accessible and sustainable technologies to earn a living".
We are not just a farm, but a community development project that provides employment, information and training to preserve traditional Lao farming practices, through several projects: Our school bus project, initiated in conjunction with AVAN-Korea (Asian Volunteer Action Network), delivers students from 3 remote villages to the secondary school in Vang Vieng. The Phoudindaeng Community Library, provides information, lends books and provides a venue for the community to gather. During the day children meet here to read books, (a rare luxury for many children in Laos), and older English students practice their language skills.
The Green Discovery team is very friendly and their Rock Climbing tour is well run.
Starting at their office around 9/9:30am, they take you to another location to get rock climbing gear. They don’t have many shoes for small ladies feet. Bring band-aids to prevent blistering. Harnesses are in good condition, but a little worn. Once geared up, the tuk tuk takes us to a spot 15 minutes down the road. From here, we cross a bamboo bridge that may seem a little unstable in places. Another pleasant 15 minute walk through this pretty countryside - toward the kyrst peaks, through small rice fields, light forest and then jungle like terrain, to arrive at the main climbing canyon. The path is natural and a little worn from regular use.
Here the main climbing area is popular in the morning, so climbers are taken to a secret/more remote climbing area another 10 minute walk into the peaks.
There is one climbing guide per group (as the tour is available as half or full day). The guide goes through how to tie the basic knot (the figure 8) for climbing. Beginners are given the opportunity to try tying this knot first. This is followed by a short demonstration on how to climb, different hand holds and climbing jargon for communicating safety while climbing.
Picking an easy climb to start with, the guides leads the first climb, after checking that at least one climber can belay him (hold onto the rope, and support him when required).
Once the route has been set up, it’s time to start climbing!
When necessary, the guide will give you directions on where to climb, where foot and hand holds are which is very, very helpful.
After a couple of hours of climbing, it’s time for a welcome 1 hour lunch break where the guide barbeques a fresh meal. The afternoon session is an easier pace with easier climbs, which is welcome after the relaxing lunch break – taken by the Nam Song River.
The tour itinerary takes you to 4 different caves with a lunch break, followed by kayaking down the Nam Song River.
The 4 Caves are: Elephant Cave, Tham Loup (Uneven Cave), Tham Noi (Snail Cave), Water Cave.
Elephant cave is just in the opening of the cave and had a stalagmite in the form of… you guessed it, an elephant. It does vaguely resemble one on a very small level. Of much greater size is the large Buddha and Buddha’s footprint in the mouth of the cave, past the elephant stalagmite. Not a particularly interesting cave, but does have a bell (used often for communication) that is made out of an old bomb shell. The village nearby is called Elephant village – all kudos to the small stalagmite.
The uneven cave is quite large and has an interesting terrain to wander through. The crystal rocks all around glitter and are alluring. However, there are not too many interesting stalagmite formations. However, you may find your guide’s stories about them entertain you.
Snail cave is more of the same interior as uneven cave, only the path is relatively straight and open, as you are following a dry river bed.
Water cave is interesting. Like the others, there are no lights inside the cave. Head torches are required in order to view the interior. Water cave is only accessible by floating on an inner tube in icy cold water. Guidance through the cave is by a rope system that you pull yourself along in the pitch black.
After a pleasant BBQ lunch, it’s time to paddle at leisure down the Nam Song River (4km, 1 hour). Take in the sights of the picturesque peaks while floating along the River. Watch out for inner tubers and people swinging into the river from the 10 metre swings in the bar area. It’s a very pleasant way to enjoy the local area.
Green Discovery has very good tour guides. They all speak English very well, have a great local knowledge and are very informative about the activities and where you are. Most of all, your safety is their priority and ensure the activities are not beyond the guests’ abilities. Best of all, they have a great sense of humour and you can learn a lot from them.