Vang Vieng is a charming tourist town on the Nam Song in Laos’ Vientiane Province. It is a popular stop-over point for backpackers making their way from Vientiane to Luang Prabang. Once known for it’s massive party scene, Vang Vieng has reinvented itself as Laos’ premier spot for outdoor activities, while still maintaining some of its wild side. Check out these alternative activities to do in Vang Vieng.
Rent a dune buggy for an hour or up to half a day and see the beauty of Vang Vieng on four wheels. Bring sunglasses and a bandana for the dusty dirt roads and cruise around in style. Several tour operators rent buggies, so check out your options before you commit. Some go in a big organized group tour, while others let you drive around on your own.
ATV Vang Vieng | © Regina Beach
Hang-Gliding or Paramotoring
Get the gorgeous aerial views of the mountains and river that you would in a hot air balloon with an added dose of adrenaline by heading up in a paramotor (a motorized parachute) or a power hang-glider. Rides last around 20 minutes. While they are more expensive than other outdoor recreation in Vang Vieng, the experience is priceless.
Yoga in Vang Vieng offers two classes at 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. every day in the yoga studio on the second floor of the Silver Naga Hotel. Yogis can pay for a single drop in class or a multi-class pack for a discount at the reception. Yoga styles range from gentle flow to meditation, Hatha, Ashtanga and Yin.
Zip lining is offered at several locations in Vang Vieng, such as at Blue Lagoon 1 and back and forth over the Nam Song. Many tour operators in town offer day packages that include zip lining as well as touring caves, visiting lagoons, tubing or kayaking. Talk to the operators about the duration and activities you’d like in your package, and negotiate a price before departing.
If you’re itching to go on a southeast Asia bike trip but haven’t the foggiest how to operate a two-wheeled vehicle, Uncle Tom’s Trails is the perfect dirt bike school for your needs. Located in the Kasi region, you’ll learn how to use a 125cc four-stroke trail bike. The two-day course is run by British instructor, Tom, and limited to two trainees at a time. You’ll be riding through the beautiful backcountry of Laos in no time.
While there aren’t nearly the number of temples in Vang Vieng as Vientiane or Luang Prabang, there are several worth checking out. All three are on the main road and easily accessible by foot. Wat Kang has a big golden Buddha statue on the grounds. Novices study sacred texts at the school for monks there. Wat Si Sou Mang is at the opposite end of town, 0.75 miles (1 km) from Wat That, at the other end of town.
There’s a party every night in Vang Vieng. Happy hour starts at 9 p.m. at Sakura Bar, and when that club closes at midnight, those who haven’t had enough move to Viva Pub down the street. If you still haven’t had your fill, from Viva, the party moves to Room 101. If you’re in town Friday night, buy a ticket to the Jungle Party for DJ sets and music videos, black light body paint and fire dancing.
Sakura Bar | © Regina Beach
Many caves exist in the karst mountains of Vang Vieng. Tham Lom is on the opposite side of the Nam Song from town. The entrance is marked by a series of hand written signs. Once you reach the entrance and pay the nominal fee you’ll receive flashlights and climb 15-20 minutes up the mountain to the cave entrance. It is unlit and undeveloped save for a few ladders to climb down into the cave and a spirit house.
Lom Cave | © Regina Beach
Kaeng Nyui Waterfall
Rent a motorbike or bicycle or get a tuk-tuk 3 miles (5 km) outside the city to Kaeng Nyui Waterfall. The roads are hilly and made of packed dirt. On the way you’ll get a nice peek at village life outside the downtown bar scene. The hike to the falls takes about 20 minutes and has a basin to swim in during the wet season. In the dry season the water slows down considerably. The forest is quiet, and rarely full of tourists.
Kaeng Nyui Waterfall | © Regina Beach
Bike or take a tuk-tuk out of town to the Organic Farm (which is also the starting point of river tubing.) The head chef will help you select three dishes and a dessert from the restaurant’s menu, and instruct you in the preparation of Lao food using ingredients from the farm. With a maximum class size of four people, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to ask questions and master the flavors of Laos.