© 2011 notworkrelated - David Rutter & Helen Roscoe. All rights reserved. notworkrelated laos Vang Vieng 26

Laos – Vang Vieng – 21st/24th February

We said we were never going to go to Vang Vieng, we’ve been told many a horror story of people ended up injured from their tubing and partying experiences and we thought we’d just skip it and explore another part of the country. However chatting to fellow travellers we got the impression that Vang Vieng offers more than the opportunity to go tubing down the river and get inebriated on toxic substances.

We took a bus journey to Vang Vieng which was around 5 hours from the capital and arrived at a decent enough time to start looking for accommodation. There was a group of us looking and we all managed to get into our first choice La Jardin Organique, Dave and I ended up sharing with Corrine to lower our costs for a few days and so it was 100,000 kip between the 3 of us which wasn’t a bad deal at all considering the costs in Vientiane. They have a good selection of accommodation here with bungalows, guesthouse style rooms and cheaper rooms for 40,000 with shared bathrooms, also the owners are very accommodating indeed and the female owner certainly seems to be the one negotiating prices with tourists over her husband!

With accommodation sorted early on we set off in search of finding some kind of trek/kayak trip that would cater to our needs. We went to a few companies along the main back street of Vang Vieng and found a company located around 10 minutes walk up the street from Le Jardin Organique on the right hand side, there are so many but these guys offered a 2 day tour that included hiking, caves, waterfalls and kayaking. The more of us that were interested in booking the tour then the price would come down, so after a good mint and lemon shake at the organic cafe in town we opted to book the trip and later on found out that Doug and Emma would also be joining us so that would shave off some of the cost. The total came to roughly £50 for the two of us to do this trip with food and one night’s accommodation included. That evening we went back to the organic cafe and enjoyed some good home-cooked soups and curries.

We met the next morning at 8.30 am for the tour and hopped onto a song thaw along with others who were going on a one day kayak and cave tour of the area. We all got off at the same point but the kayakers went one way and we the other. We started with a Buddhist cave in a village around 15km north of Vang Vieng along the Nam Song river, the cave is called Phu Kham cave and hosts a reclining Buddha along with a shrine and other symbolic Buddhist monuments. We were there for 5 minutes or so and our guide then started the trek. The first part of the trek was very steep indeed and took us up a karst peak, through dense jungle like foliage and we had a few clear moments where we could look out over the area, but otherwise it was quite hard work and in the heat we sweated lots. The walk led us to another cave, this one being much more interesting than the first, with no other tourists around for a start which is always a treat! We were led through one part of the cave where new stalagmites and stalactites were forming and the light shining into the cave was beautiful. Our guide started to get a barbecue going and said lunch would be around15-20 minutes later. So we explored the cave, Doug enjoyed the spa like water coming from the river and we cooled down after the heat of the walk.

Lunch was really simple but very good indeed; barbecued kebabs with vegetable fried rice, a baguette and bananas, it certainly filled us up and did the trick. After lunch we continued to walk through the secret eden forest area which is a valley in the middle of the peaks where no-one goes through other than the villagers as it’s surrounded by steep peaks all around. It was once an area where a hill tribe village lived and no-one knew of their existence until the Indo-Chinese war and then they left for more mainstream areas…we do try to remember this information when it’s told to us by our guides! We then carried on back up the peak and out to the other side, followed by a further hours walk to the eco-lodge built next to the river where we had stopped earlier in the day to drop off our bags. We got into the river to cool down and waited for our rooms to be organised, there seemed to be some confusion as to where our accommodation was but after a while we found ourselves in a wooden lodge which was simple but did the trick. We enjoyed a good local meal cooked by our hosts, accompanied by our guide Noi and this was followed by some card games.

Another good part of the tour was that we could choose our own breakfast from the menu at the eco-lodge, this was a first on a tour!! We had a bit of a wait for the tour guide and kayaks to turn up and whilst doing so the rain decided to come down, our fist rain shower in a long long time, it was really refreshing. The rains don’t last very long so we were able to get into the kayaks and start the first leg of this part of the tour. This time we were heading in the direction of Vang Vieng as we would eventually land up there later in the afternoon. The first part of the kayak took only half and hour and we got off to start trekking again, we were all aching a little from the steep climbs of the trek the day before but today we were promised it wouldn’t be so steep! This was the case though and after half an hour of walking we landed at our third cave of the trip, it was huge, we were able to walk through one entrance under the peak and out to the other side. During the wet season water comes crashing through from a river located further up the hill and right now it was completely empty with only large tree branches and trunks as evidence that water does come through at great speeds and volume. It was very cool indeed, we walked with head torches and took in the scale of the cave, not as bit as one’s we’d seen in Tha Khaek but impressive in other ways. On the other side we climbed out into the sunshine and our guide asked us if we wanted to go to another cave or to the waterfall up the hill. We opted for the waterfall and began the walk upwards. It didn’t take too long to reach though and when we got there we met a few other people on tours, including Ann who we’d met in Tha Khaek. We enjoyed another dip in a deep pool, it was much colder than the river temperature so it wasn’t long before we were sat warming up on rocks and enjoying another kebab and rice style feast.

The last part of the tour was kayaking all the way back to Vang Vieng, it was around 13km or so to get back and we took in a few rapids along the way, they were pretty tame though but we had fun going through them all the same. We passed through where the tubing starts and were faced with hundreds of happy go lucky backpackers enjoying the Vang Vieng tubing and zip lining into the water. It is a pretty mental site, from the peacefulness of the valley and mountains to an Ibiza style day by day party, music blasting out and everyone getting wrecked, really odd! As we got closer to Vang Vieng we passed more and more tubers coming to the end of their little adventures and we landed at the bay just where La Jardin Oraganique is located, perfect for us. We had already pre-booked a room there so we were able to check in straight away, they had an even cheaper room for us 80,000 kip between the 3 of us and it wasn’t any worse than the last other than it wasn’t in a bungalow.

Later on we attain town at a Lonely Planet recommended restaurant which didn’t really live up to it’s reputation, although opting for the local barbecue was the best option, for those after western tastes don’t expect to be in a rush. Still this is Laos after all!

(Leica M9, Summicron-M 50mm f2.0 & Olympus PEN, 17mm f2.8 & 100mm f2.8, processed in Lightroom 3)

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  1. Jo Dubs
    Posted 22 Mar ’11 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    We did Vang Vieng when we were there, and like your stories from others did, we witness quite a nasty accident from someone coming down a zip line and landing on a tuber. It is quite mad, but also it wasn’t very busy when we were there and we quite enjoyed floating down the river at a leisurely pace with a lao beer in hand. Hey but we are sensible and didn’t get wasted and this was 5 years ago now and bet it’s a lot different. Loved the beautiful scenery around there though.

  2. Idan
    Posted 3 Apr ’11 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    your pictures look great guys!
    you are the best…
    your Israeli friend from Dali Hump- Idan.

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