Tag Archives: Vang Vieng

Vang Vieng to Vientiane

4/7 – Time to brush the Vang Vieng dust off our sandals and get back on the bus. We had a nice conversation with our hotel host this morning, a businessman from Singapore who saw potential in this town and decided to build a hotel and spa for his own retirement here. He was glad when the partying was shut down, as the kids trashed up the town and didn’t spend money except for drinks. He said that a lot of the hotel/hostels that went out of business were very low end, and now real hotels are being built. The China to Thailand train line (no more Bus From Hell) has been promised to be completed within the next five years, and will bring a huge influx of affluent Chinese tourists here. He is sitting on an acorn and biding his time…

This morning we tuk-tukked (can I use that as a verb?) back to the bus station. We had to wait for a group of six very-hungover young adults (?) to make their way onto the cab. They looked extremely green around the gills – evidently doing their part to keep the party spirit alive. We boarded the VIP bus to Vientiane. The bus has air conditioning! We can sit anywhere we want! It’s going to be a good day.image

The scenery was lush green, with little towns and real houses with yards and little fences. We’ve left the very poor country shacks behind, at least what we can see from the main road. After two hours we stopped for a break – ice cream and sinks with soap!image

At 2pm we arrived in the capital city of Vientiane, and 10 minutes later were at our hotel. It’s 100 degrees again. The AC in our room didn’t work, and we asked for a different room. We moved from a room with no AC to a room with poor Wifi. In this climate, AC wins every time!

We ate a noodle soup supper at the hotel restaurant, and watched an old Eddie Murphy movie – in English with Lao subtitles – on TV. They have CNN, MSNBC and BBC here!

4/8 – We set off while it was still relatively cool in the morning to see the That Dam, or Black Stupa, which is just down the road. I asked Jim if the Dam was a Wat? No, it’s a Dam! Sounded like a weird Asian version of Who’s on First. Legend says that this stupa was once covered in gold, which was stripped off by the Siamese when they invaded in the 1800s, and that a seven-headed naga dragon used to guard the stupa. Although it is weedy and looks neglected, it is the symbol of the city. Here is the front view:image
Here is the back view:image

We saw signs for the Patuxai, Vientiane’s version of Paris’ Arc du Triomphe, built to commemorate the ousting of the French in 1949, so we kept walking several kilometers down a wide boulevard until we spotted it. image

The Americans gave Laos money to build an airport in 1960 (preparing for the Vietnam War, no doubt) and they built this monument instead, so it is also called “the Vertical Runway” (probably only by Americans). image


Formal gardens surround the monument, and you can climb to the top to see an overview of the city.image


Now it’s past one, and very hot as we walked back toward our end of town. Even though we stopped to buy cold water, I felt a little woozy, and Jim started looking for a place to sit me down in the shade. We turned a corner, and, like a mirage, what did I see? An air conditioned Swenson’s Ice Cream shop, like the answer to a prayer! Half an hour and one scoop of green tea ice cream later, I was restored.image

Despite how the climate feels to us Westerners, Laotians maintain conservative dress standards with knees and shoulders always covered. In Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng there were signs reminding tourists to cover up, but we haven’t seen the signs here. I wear my long pants anyway.image

For dinner we went to a Vietnamese pho restaurant and I had cool summer rolls. Perfect!

Vang Vieng, Laos – Hike to Lusi Cave

4/6 – Happy Easter to those celebrating far away – no sign of bunnies or jelly beans in this town! Today we are hiking to Lusi Cave, which, according to the sign, is just a kilometer out of town. It promised to be another 100 degree day, so we left right after breakfast before it got too hot. The mornings here are very pleasant – in the 70s.

We followed handwritten signs with arrows pointing down a trail through some farmers’ fields and unplanted rice paddies. We met a herd of young cows, grazing free, and a couple of young bulls butting horns to show off for the ladies.image image

Soon the fields turned to a shady wooded path, with signs that continued to say that the cave was 1 km away. Must be the longest kilometer ever! We got to a hill with a flag on top, with a shack and a sign that promised that we could climb the hill for a great view for only 10,000 kip. There was no attendant here, and the gate to the first ladder was locked, so we hiked on.image

Jim is never quite as happy as when he is hiking a trail through the woods.image

45 minutes later, we arrived at another shack and another sign. The cave was straight up from here, but again there was no attendant. We saw a steep ascent and a ladder, which my arm was not ready for, so I told Jim to go up, and I waited in the shade below. In a minute, he called down that there is a locked gate here too, but he was going to try to climb over it.image

Just then, we heard a motorbike, and a young man pulled up! He was the attendant, and he grabbed a flashlight and motioned for me to follow him up. I declined, but called out to Jim, and when he heard Jim’s voice above, he understood that his customer was up at the gate.

I passed the time swatting flies and admiring the little altar erected at the base of the climb up to the cave, with offerings of food and flowers. Those are little 3 inch bananas, to give you an idea of how small the Buddhas are.image

Half an hour later, Jim returned, triumphant, having climbed up to the cave and experienced the dark and the cool, the stalactites and stalagmites. Unfortunately, it was too dark in the cave for pix, but it sure sounded like fun.image

Walking back in the heat of noon was not so much fun, and reminded me of the old song that only “mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun”.

Here’s an interesting note about Vang Vieng: did you know that they have bars/cafes here that play episodes of Friends 24/7? Now that is something you can’t get everywhere… Book your tickets for Vang Vieng today!image

And in case you were wondering, here’s what Coke and Pepsi look like in Laotian!image

Sheesh – slow news day. Must be time to move on!

Vang Vieng – Tubing on the Nam Song

4/4 – Our original purpose for spending time in Vang Vieng was to split up the long bus ride between Luang Prabang and our next stop, the Laotian capital of Ventiene. We were not aware until we got here that Vang Vieng was, until recently, the wildest party town in all of Southeast Asia, known for its alcohol and drug fueled tubing trips down the Nam Song River. Here is one of the many bar “menus” you can see online if you Google this town.image

Over 400 young travelers a day used to tube down the river, starting off at noon with free shots, Beer Lao and “bucket” drinks, and stopping at riverside bars every hundred yards enroute to re-lubricate themselves with both alcohol and drugs ordered off a menu, while zip-lining, swinging, sliding, jumping off bridges and doing other foolhardy things that was getting them injured and killed in such large numbers that, in 2012, the Communist government came in and ripped all the bars and party equipment down. Once the bars and drugs were gone, the kids stopped coming, and now Vang Vieng is the sleepy little town we see today.

The river is still here, and the mountain scenery is still beautiful, so we decided to have a go at tubing, without the intoxicants. My arm is still healing, and I can’t yet handle a kayak paddle or a hiking stick, but how strenuous could sitting in a tube be?


We walked down to the tube rental place and payed 55,000 kip each ($6.80) plus a 60,000 kip deposit to assure that each tube is returned by 6pm. We signed release of liability forms, and had numbers written on our hands in blue magic marker, presumably so that our bodies could be identified when they washed ashore. I had a waterproof bag for our shirts and sandals, and Jim carried his iPad in another dry bag so he could capture our journey on video. We piled into a tuk-tuk with eight like-minded youngsters, and were driven four km upstream and let off at a bar blaring Pharrell’s “Happy” to begin our journey. I thought all the bars were gone?image

The young folks jumped right into the water while we oldsters applied sunscreen and secured our clothing in the dry bag. There wasn’t much current, so we waded in to knee-deep water, and set off. A little ways downstream was another bar blaring techno music, with a man on shore holding a long rope to throw to anyone who wanted to be reeled in for a drink. The young folks all went ashore, and we had the river to ourselves. There were several more bars with loud music, then blissful silence and the serenity of the river.image

Even though we were just floating along, some paddling was required, and I soon realized that my right arm was not up to the job. Luckily, Jim snagged a long piece of bamboo as it drifted by, so we attached our tubes together and Jim steered for both of us.

There were several places where the river was only several inches deep and the current became rapid, followed by long stretches of calm. We watched young boys fishing, and women with nets at work.image

It was 100 degrees on a sunny day, but the water kept us cool enough. Kayakers waved and splashed as they passed us by.image

The dry bags weren’t totally dry, and Jim’s iPad got wet. No more pix today!

After three hours on the water, we saw a sign that said Tubing Ends Here. We stumbled out of our tubes (both my legs has fallen asleep) and onto the rocky beach at a deserted bar. Don’t know why, but I expected some sort of welcoming committee at our destination. A marimba band, perhaps?  We shouldered our tubes and hiked across a rickety bridge back to the main road, and found our way back to the tubing office. Success!  A fun day.

Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng, Laos

4/2 – I have not been looking forward to today.  We bought tickets two days ago for the bus up and over the mountains to Vang Vieng, about 7 hours south.  Every blog post we have read calls this the Bus From Hell, and advises against taking it if at all possible.  The roads are so narrow and the turns and switchbacks are so tortuous, that even the strong of stomach are advised to bring barf bags, and those with a tendency toward motion sickness are advised to take the plane.

To make matters worse, Jim and I are both suffering from something we ate yesterday. I’ll spare you the details, but we couldn’t have picked a worse day to be stuck on a bus.
In anticipation, I went to the mini-mart near our guesthouse last night, to see if they carried Dramamine (pills for motion sickness).  “I’m taking the bus to Vang Vieng tomorrow”, I said.  The clerk walked right over to the shelf and gave me the generic Thai equivalent of Dramamine.  I was obviously not the first person with this request!
The tuk-tuk picked us up at 8:30am and took us to the bus station.  We had assigned seats right up front, but the seats were over the wheel well, with no room for our legs.  We moved back a row and hoped that no one would challenge us for our seats.  This would have been unacceptable behavior in China, but here, no one seemed to mind.  30 minutes before departure, we both popped a Dramamine. 


As I had not gotten much rest the night before, the pill put me right to sleep.  Jim wasn’t so lucky.  Every once in a while, the bus would bounce so jarringly that I would open one eye, observe a hairpin turn, and go back to sleep again. So, sorry to say, no pix out the bus window.  The shocks on the bus were bad, so every bump in the road made the bus bounce twice.  My teeth were rattling in my head. There was no AC, and the temp was in the 90s.
We stopped twice for toilet breaks – best not to describe rural Laotian toilets.  Our promised lunch break didn’t occur until 3:30pm, and I wasn’t hungry in the least.  We arrived in Vang Vieng by 5 in the afternoon, and shared a tuk-tuk into town.
So now we are at the Laos Haven Hotel, showered and rested.  It is a tiny town, compared to Luang Prabang, with only one main street, and not many tourists.  Here is the view out our hotel window, of the main street.image
Traffic on the main street.image

Looks like this will be a nice place to relax!