Laos / Travel

Vang Vieng: A Vile Village with Vibrant Vistas

The road from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng was windy and mountainous. Our little shuttle bus was hurled around sharp corners and over bumpy bits of road. We slowly climbed higher and higher up and into the mountains, and soon were surrounded by impenetrable fog. The gravel road ahead had disappeared and luckily our driver was driving very slowly. At one point we stopped for an unknown reason and the driver’s friend, and also the ticket man, jumped out of the van and produced an AK47 and headed down the road. That certainly added to the drama of the situation. Knowing someone else on the bus has an AK47 definitely makes you feel less safe, rather than more. We were partly amused, partly confused and slightly alarmed. Soon the driver’s friend returned and we were on our way. There never was any explanation, but luckily we arrived at our destination unscathed; our bus didn’t fall off the mountain and shots weren’t fired.

We arrived in Vang Vieng, a small town a few hours south of Luang Prabang, away from the main part of town. We walked through part of a field and down a puddly, pebbly path to our guesthouse by the river. We relaxed in our guesthouse and then headed into the little, shabby town for some dinner.

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The next day we went on a long walk away from the town and through the countryside to the Blue Lagoon. On the way there was a sign to some caves, so we followed some signposts through a paddy field to have a look. When we were nearly at the cave a man mysteriously emerged and decided to be our guide. Grace and I stayed behind as the cave was very muddy, wet, dark, slippery and claustrophobic. Even though they hadn’t really agreed to have a guide, the man provided the boys with torches (which was definitely a good idea), and the three of them descended into the cave. Toby says that it all looked a bit like footage of a colonoscopy. It was dark and the walls were slimy and flesh-coloured. About 30 minutes later the boys re emerged unscathed and paid their guide (probably a ridiculous amount, but I think it was worth it as it made the boys feel a bit safer).

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We continued our walk with paddy fields and big jagged mountains on either side. We walked past lots of animals and very sweet children, who greeted us very enthusiastically. The little girls particularly liked it when Toby waved at them, I think it’s his boyband good looks. By the time we arrived at the lagoon we were tired and hot. It took a lot longer than we expected, almost two hours, so a dip in the cold water was most welcome. There was a fairly strong current and big rocks hidden under the water, but this didn’t stop the locals from jumping in. We had lunch in a deserted cafe with a very pregnant lady making the food. After a swim and a rest we were ready for the walk back. We had considered getting a tuk-tuck back but the walk was so beautiful we decided not to. We arrived back exhausted, and that night we slept very well.

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The next day the boys went tubing down the river (basically sitting in rubber rings for an hour or so and letting the current take you downstream). Tubing used to be very popular and Vang Vieng used to imagebe the party capital of Laos, until the drug scene got pretty dark and the amount of people dying each year from overdoses and drownings got so high the government stepped in. Lots of the hardcore bars got shut down, and the town has calmed down a lot. New restaurants and hotels are popping up and u think in a few years the town will look very different. Now people still tube down the river, stopping off at bars along the way, but it’s more relaxing now. There was extremely heavy rain and we were relieved when they returned safely. They looked like a pair of drowned rats, but they had had a good time.

All in all the town of Vang Vieng is still rather grotty, but the surrounding countryside is stunning. You don’t have to walk far to escape the town and the lovely walks made our trip to Vang Vieng worth it.

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