I was in Vang Vieng, Laos, in 2012 for 12 days and left just few days before the tubing activity was forced to shut down by the government of Laos PDR. There was number of death and injuries from the past years but what I heard is the tubing was shut down not because of “that” more than 20 young soul (mainly Australians) died on Nam Song (Song river) but just because one of Australian minister’s son died, the Australian government put on pressure towards the local government and … no more tubing for few months.
When I was there 2012, I felt sorry for the locals that their beautiful town was like being rape by drunk zombies, culture insensitive people and well, annoying youngster who acted like they own that place. Although there was (and still) a sign of no bikinis for woman, no spedo for man but these unculture people seems like blind and illiterate – ignorance to the max. Of course the locals not saying anything because they need money from the backpackers/tourists but that should not be a license for one (in this case, many) to act like a douchebag.
It even kindda annoyed me too that to learn that these youngsters came to Vang Vieng just to get drunk, to get high and tubing. Vang Vieng is more that that. Vang Vieng is not just about tubing along Nam Song. In Vang Vieng you can go cave tubing, swim in a chill Blue Lagoon, rock climbing, kayaking, enjoy the scenery with hot-air balloon and well, eat lots of delicious baguette sandwiches or pancakes!
So, I came again to Vang Vieng in December 2013, March 2014 for visa run from Hanoi, Vietnam. And again in April 2015 (stayed there for a month) before going to Hanoi again for a month – just to kill some “time” before going off, back to Europe.
The town was not as busy as back in 2012 but still I’d still able to see few drunk zombies walking back to their hostel/hotel when the sun already rised. Just few, very few compare to 2012 butincreasing. But still many still on the road with their bikinis, as well on the river side. Well, can’t they just wear shorts and singlet or t-shirt for tubing rather than showing their boobs, bums to the local that definitely not gonna say a shit about it but for sure they not gonna like it? Mehhhh…
On the other note, tubing at Nam Song seems kinda boring after the “shut down” as the river is not as deep as back in 2012 although it wasn’t dry season. The water also pretty cold that make everyone shivering when they off to the land. And instead of line of bars on the left and right of the river, there were only 3 tubing bars open. Maybe more now. The crazy first bar (Q Bar) and second bar (Star Bar) that on-business in 2012 wasn’t there anymore. People will start at the first bar (Mama’s Bar) and 100 meters down to the right is second bar (Kangaroo Sunset) and another 100 meters down to the left after second bar is the third bar (Last Bar). That’s about it. And from my observation, not many people tubing all the way down to the town like last year. They’ll stop at the Last Bar, party until sunset and then go back to the town by tuktuk.
Tubing still charged at the same renting price of 55,000LOK and deposit of 60,000LOK. If you rent the tube, you get to the Nam Song for free but you still have to pay 10,000LOK if you decide to go back by tuktuk. If you are not rent the tube, you still can go to the Nam Song and pay the tuktuk 10,000LOK per person (min. 5 people or else they’ll charge you more).
To go to Blue Lagoon, I suggest to rent a semi-auto scooter at 30,000LOK up to 8pm. But in order to go to Blue Lagoon, you gotta pass through a bridge where the local charge you a passing toll for 5,000LOK return and then you need to pay another 10,000LOK per person in order to enter to the Blue Lagoon. I am not sure how much you have to pay if you want to go to the Blue Lagoon by tuktuk.
Hot Air Baloon or “Vang Vieng From The Sky” available at few tour office around the town and the price is between USD$75 – USD$80. I didn’t do that because I am running out of money. LOL!
For rock climbing, there’s a few climbing school/center around Vang Vieng. For courses, the fees are varies from USD$25 per half a day to USD$165 for 3 days course. Not sure about “fun” climbing fees for those who already have experience in rock climbing though.
**Sorry, I don’t have the picture of rock climbing in Vang Vieng as I am not a rock climber nor did I go to the rock climbing location.
Well, for any other activities like kayaking all the way down to Vientiane (yeap! they have it!), cave tubing and others… I suggest you to check with your hostel/guesthouse or any other tour office and pick the best and the cheapest one 🙂 And if you just too lazy to do anything, get your bum off to Smiley Beach and chill in a hammock or beach bed or tube without moving anywhere. You just need to buy a drink or two and maybe some sandwich or pancake? Or maybe rent a mopet and drive around and visit the quite (and dry) waterfall?
As for night life, this year, during happy hour you have 3 options which is Gary’s The Irish Bar for marvelous western food and live music (this place is have good number of patrons), Kangaroo Sunset for a fish pumping top remix top 40 music from yesteryears to current, so-so food, disgusting cocktails, sleazy ambiance for youngster who looking for horny backpackers (sorry for being judgmental here but that’s how it looks like) and third one is Sakura Cafe/Bar for much chill-out ambiance, decent local and western foods, good music and also pool table, table tennis, beer pong (looks like an empty bar but it is not as the place is pretty big and dark and most people hang out a bit on the inside area). All these 3 bars situated on the same road. After midnight you may go to Room 101 or Viva Vang Vieng which was not my favorite at all. Just my personal taste not quite match it.
(Oskar, Alex (now one of the owner), Nikos, Me, Nico & Simon. I am one of pioneers of Sakura Bar in Vang Vieng (2013) before it turned into ou-of-control party place that offers patrons cheap boozes, laughing gas and all sort of “fun”).
I hope any of you that plan to go to Vang Vieng in a near future or anytime, please respect the local. Please be sensitive with their culture. Please put on your clothes. Please don’t act like a scumbags. Please don’t be a zombies. Please stop acting to the level people call you a train wreck, a white trash and such. Most important, becareful when you do weed or mushroom… plain clothes police officers, honest and dishonest, are everywhere in Vang Vieng. And one of my friend gotta pay hefty amount of USD$600 fine after get caught smoking weed in the middle of the night near the river where he thought safe.
Enjoy Vang Vieng. You’ll love it!