Saturday, January 12, 2013

A Day in Vang Vieng, Laos

All the van drivers in Vientiane will tell you the bus takes 5-6 hours to get to Vang Vieng and they can get you there in 3. Well, they probably can get you there in 3 since the bus really only takes 4 hours. We paid 40,000 kip for the bus, which is about $5. The van drivers wanted to charge nearly twice that. Ten dollars might not seem like a lot, but in this country it really is.

We got into Vang Vieng on a sunny afternoon in complete awe of the nearby mountains that seemed to rise straight up out of the ground. The backdrop of this tiny river town is stunning. 

You might have heard about the river tubing saga of Vang Vieng. It's reached some major news outlets in 2012. River tubing was a huge cash cow in Vang Vieng. Tourists came here to rent an inner tube and float down the river stopping at the various bars along the riverbank for alcohol, weed, and mushrooms. It was a great party that was always poppin' and raking in the dough for the owners. However, there is tragedy in this tale. When you put together a river and massively intoxicated people, you get danger. Many people got hurt and even lost their lives in the river. In 2011, 27 people died in Vang Vieng and even more were taken straight to Vientiane, skipping the tiny hospital in Vang Vieng. Something had to be done. The government finally stepped in and closed all the bars along the river. The main attraction of the city has been squashed. You can still rent inner tubes and float down but not as many people do it these days.

We decided to skip tubing altogether and visit some other nearby attractions. First we went to the Blue Lagoon and Poukham Cave (also spelled, Tam Pu Kam). This seems to be the popular new hangout since the river tubing is slowing down. There's a cool cave to explore, a blue river to swim in and swing into, a grassy area with huts to chill at, bathrooms, and a bar. Well worth the 10,000 kip entry fee. 

Reclining Buddha in the cave
cave rock stacks
Blue Lagoon
hang out spot
Next we rode the Eastern Loop and went to Geng Nyui waterfall (also spelled Kaeng Nyui). The northern part of the loop is beautiful and passes through some small villages, which are very interesting. But the roads are absolutely terrible. I would never go on it with a scooter. Ours was no match for that stoney, steep road. If you want to go to the waterfall, I suggest you take the road closer to town and come back that way too.

old, scary bridge
a view from the scary road
The waterfall itself was ensconced in thick, green jungle. It's a short hike back to the falls, which were really more like a trickle when we were there since it was the heart of the dry season. Even tamed, the place was beautiful. I was reminded of Fern Canyon, a very cool spot in northern California that I used to visit with my mom and brother. They filmed part of Jurassic Park there. 

Finally, we rode back to Vang Vieng to eat some very good pizza and relax.

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful place! I could have stayed in the Blue Lagoon for hours!!!