Vang Vieng is a destination reconstructed. The small town located on the route from Vientiane to Luang Prabang was formerly famous for riverside rave bars and a disruptive backpacker presence, but a crackdown by the Laos government in 2012 initiated its reformation into an outdoor paradise hotspot. Although this pivot meant a loss of business, locals and foreigners have appreciated the refinement. It’s still popular with backpackers thanks to a solid nightlife and western facilities, but a different crowd is popping up as well as stylish boutique hotels and a developed outdoor sport scene.
The town has smartly optimized its prime location along the Nam Song River by establishing an environment perfect for staying on the water. A small fee will give you a rubber tube to take down the river studded with riverfront eateries and live music. Spend a couple hours or all day cooling off with refreshing drinks, refueling with tasty eats, and soaking up the peaceful surroundings. If you like to drink a few drinks too much, be careful on the water since tubing can be quite challenging when you’re intoxicated.
Tham Phu Kham Cave
Tham Phu Kham, meaning “Blue Lagoon,” is a cave sacred in Laos and a popular attraction in Vang Vieng thanks to its pool of clear blue water and bronze reclining Buddha. A scenic but unpaved road takes you from Vang Vieng to Ban Na Thong where the hike begins. At the top you can cool off in the crystal clear swimming hole, try your hand at the rope swing, and bask in the idyllic scenery.
Vang Vieng is a great example of what can happen when a country cares about the health and impacts of tourism and dedicates effort to improve it. As the country further realizes its ecotourism potential and elevates the already energetic social landscape, the more people will come to enjoy Laos’ prized atmosphere and beauty