Vang Vieng

A 40 hour trip up from Koh Tao eventually brought me to Vang Vieng; land of buckets, beer Lao and tubing.


A decidedly laid back attitude seems to permeate from all things Laotion, as soon as you cross the friendship bridge from Thailand. Compared to the hustle and bustle of Bangkok Vientiane has a laid back charm which can’t fail to entice, unless that is you have a bus to catch, then it can become slightly frustrating and somewhat less alluring!

The town of Vang Vieng itself is a backpacker haven, walking the street brings a mix of roadside vendors and backpackers shops, selling flip flops, vests and not much else, a soundtrack of friends and family guy plays from every restaurant, broken only by a heady mix of accents from around the world. it’s no culture capital but it’s an undeniable fun place to while away a few days, the main attraction is the beautiful Nam Song river and the famous, or infamous, tubing.









The first people I met were my Dutch dorm mates, for such a small country Holland seems to have a high number of backpackers! With days spent on the river and nights in the patly named bucket bar the days flew by, tubing proved a good way to meet people and we soon ended up with quite a group; heralding from Holland, Canada and Sweden we soon settled into life in Vang Vieng.


Tubing itself is something that needs to be experienced to be understood; makeshift bars line the river enticing tubers with free shots and stupidly cheap whiskey buckets, most bars have their own crazy rope swing or slide to entertain customers – built from rickety wooden structures they tower over the bars, offering a plunge into the river, dodging other tubers and rocks on the way in is optional, but advisable. Most tubers don’t make it further than the first few bars, held up by beer pong and blaring music, in my 5 days tubing I did manage to make it to the end once, although the rest of the days we took a tuk tuk back to town.




Back in town the debauchery continues in true backpacker fashion, with impossibly priced drinks and a plethora of fire dancing and music. Severe inebriation is the order of the night and closing times sees a gaggle of backpackers heading home, with a complimentary stop for a pancake and hostel hookup.



I managed to take a day off and head into the beautiful limestone karsts along the river for some rockclimbing, I suffered from numb forearms for a couple of days afterwards but it was a great challenge, especially in 32 degree heat!












Vang Vieng is the kind the place you will either love or hate, or certainly aspects of it are; the culture here is not for everyone, if its temples and history you’re after it’s perhaps best to give Vang Vieng a wide berth, however a few days here can be good fun, as always it depends largely on the people you are with, the town is what you make it. With the quantity of drugs and alcohol available here there is certainly potential for problems, a certain amount of common sense is needed and after spending time here it’s not surprising to hear there is a high number of deaths every year.

You can’t help feeling the Lao culture and way of life has been somewhat eroded in Vang Vieng,  Brett Dakin author of Another Quiet American seems to hit the nail on the head; “Each time a young Australian woman strolls down the street in a bikini, a bearded American smokes a joint on a guesthouse terrace, or a group of Koreans tumbles drunkenly out of a restaurant, it saps a little more of the essence of a town like Vang Vieng.”

I move on tomorrow to Luang Prabang, onwards and upwards into Northern Laos, I’ve enjoyed my time here in Vang Vieng, but feel I’m ready to move on and see something more of Laos, something perhaps a little more cultural and dare I say, a little more Lao.


2 Responses to “Vang Vieng”
  1. peter firman says:

    Hiya Jack..good blog !

    Your use of the English language makes for a good read..well done.
    So seems like Vang Viang gone and now for Lao sure more adventures to come and more peoeple to meet..not sure about these whisky buckets !!

    still cold here but we are promissed a warmer week supposed to be golfing on Wednesday but looks unlikely !

    Would happily swap your weather for ours..bit of a culture shock reteurning from a pleasant 22-25 degrees in Cyprus to freezing in UK!

    Keep enjoying..we have Eve and her friend Melanie here for half outnumbered by females !

    Look forward to hearing more tales !

    Lots of love

    Dad and Joanne xxxxx

    • JackFirman says:

      Thanks! changed things round a bit and sorted the photos properly – also took out a couple of spelling mistakes but sure there are more in there!
      I’ve made a great video which I’m trying to upload but the rather slow internet is making it a little tricky, but hopefully will be up soon! hope you got my email too

      Jack x

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