Vang Vieng is like Spring Break + Natural Paradise = Actually Pretty Cool.
Most people seem to visit for the tubing. Which isn’t so much tubing as it is floating from bar to bar to bar (most never make it past the third), playing on rope swings and jumping off high-dives, and getting wasted (not always in that order).
Not being a a big drinker or partier, I had some difficulty initially adjusting to the atmosphere, but once I found the rope swings and high dive I was golden. 16 people have reportedly died in Vang Vieng this year, but family and coworkers (and maybe even a few friends) will be happy to know that I maintained sobriety while partaking in the activities.
Northern Thailand into Luang Prabang and down into Vang Vieng is a very common tourist circuit. Since I was staying in hostels the whole way I continually ran into familiar faces, and by the time I made it to Vang Vieng we had a pretty sizable group together which was great for going out on the river and hanging out afterwards.
My second day in VV I rented a mountain bike and took off with Thomas (check out his photo blog) and Jodi to explore the blue lagoon and the cave above it. The scenery in this part of Laos is incredible, and the ride, while uncomfortable over rocky roads, was one of my most enjoyable trips in recent weeks, meandering through farm fields and tiny villages while surrounded by limestone mountains on every side. If I have one regret about Vang Vieng, it is that I didn’t stay longer to explore more of the countryside.
I didn’t feel so well on my last day in town, but friends were headed back out to the river so I joined them. It wasn’t quite as fun as the first day (to be expected since I was sick, I think), but it was still a great way to spend time with genuinely nice people.
From Vang Vieng it was only a 4 hour drive to Vientiane.