Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines! There are tons of things to do in Vang Vieng. You can cycle, explore caves, kayak, tube (sans booze), rock climb, hike to waterfalls, visit villages, and drive ATVs. V.V. is quite literally an outdoor-adventure activity hub. Nestled along a bend in the Nam Xong (Song) River and set against the strikingly dramatic backdrop of limestone karst mountains, the town is very easy on the eyes.
I was extremely tempted to spend the majority of a day doing absolutely nothing, other than relaxing with a book or my computer, while soaking in the luscious scenery. Can you blame me? Look at the view from our hotel!
However, my friends talked me into renting an ATV buggy for the day (you can rent them from companies like TCK Adventures), which I was hesitant to do, because I was running low on cash. It turned out to be the best thing I could have done with my day, and here is why.
Vroom Vroom- The (Mostly) All-Inclusive (EXTREMELY FUN) Tour of Vang Vieng
We were only in Vang Vieng for one and a half days. There are about a million different activities you can partake in and abundant beautiful landscapes to explore. When you hire an ATV buggy (mini-car: visualize a go cart but bigger), you are assigned one or two local Laotian guides (in our case, two), who guide you on a whirl-wind tour down dusty dirt roads, through tiny villages, to waterfalls, caves, and blue lagoons. It is like ordering the sampler platter, in the form of an adrenaline-inducing ball of fun.
Since I was the latecomer and last minute add-on of the group, I was one of the *lucky* two people stuck with a guide in my passenger seat. This really annoyed me …. at first. Then I quickly realized that having the lead guide in my car meant that I would be the lead driver. I discovered how important this was after seeing my compadres in my rearview mirror, dressed like bank robbers, wearing handkerchiefs over their faces in an attempt to keep the dust and dirt out of their facial orifices. Occasionally, I would get stuck behind a truck and became immediately empathetic with those I left behind in my wake of particulate matter.
Wimpy Waterfalls (I say this in the most loving way)
Our first stop was the Kaeng Nyui waterfall, admittedly not a very impressive site. I quite liked the jungle walk to the cascade. In all fairness, the falls are apparently roaring in the rainy season. It just wasn’t quite the site to behold, as was Tat Kuang Si (or better yet, Victoria Falls).
Grain of salt
So, the Kaeng Nyui waterfalls weren’t that impressive. No skin off my back. As we moved to our next destination, we got to do more of this!!!
Of course, driving a compact, open-air vehicle at max speeds on bumpy dirt and gravel roads, weaving around bikes, babies and buffalo (I made that last one up, although we very well may have passed one on the road), was most of the fun.
And the SCENERY ooohhhhh!! The SCENERY!!!
Seriously. Stop. It was too freaking gorgeous. My backseat driver friendly Laotian guide kept giving me grief about taking photos while driving. He kept urging me to stop…but I was the leader! (I did feel a little pressure to floor the gas as Marielle kept creeping up beside me. Or maybe she was just trying to stay out of my dust cloud?) He didn’t understand why I would want to drive with one hand while snapping or filming with the other. It’s called documentation, my friend! On the opposite end of the spectrum, there were times when I attempted slow caution, and he let me know how he felt by pressing his foot down on mine, flooring the accelerator. I guess he just wanted me to go fast but stop whenever I wanted to take photos (which was pretty much the entire day! So that wouldn’t really work for me….)
There are quite a few caves in the area worth exploring, including the most famous Tham Chiang (Tham Jang), Tham Pha Puak, and Tham Phu Kham. We drove to Tham Phu Kham (also spelled Tham Poukham. I notice that most things have multiple spellings in Southeast Asia). The cave was pretty massive, continuously opening up into larger and darker caverns. There really isn’t much infrastructure, so it seems almost untouched. If we hadn’t been on a tight schedule, we could have easily spent hours walking deeper and deeper into the dark abyss. Don’t forget your flashlight (torch, for my European friends), or you can rent one for a few bucks at the entrance. (I just borrowed mine and returned it. What? The attendant stepped away!)
What goes up, must come down. The climb was incredibly steep and fairly difficult. That said, we saw the very young and very old alike managing the trek.
Another bonus when you choose to explore Tham Phu Kham, you get to relax in the amazingly refreshing blue lagoon afterwards. You work up quite a sweat climbing up to the cave and rooting around in the dark, so it’s very nice to take a dip in the icy water. It’s quite chilly, but in the good way that tingles all over and makes your skin feel alive. And of course there’s a rope swing. Isn’t there always a rope swing at these crystalline swimming holes?
Back to our hotel
After a day (really a half day) of cruising all around Vang Vieng, we came back to our hotel to take quick showers and move on to our last stop of the two-week G Adventures tour, Vientiane, the capital of Laos.
Thanks for stopping by!