We are Helen and Horst, a couple from Germany who run the Instagram account @better.beyond. Almost a year ago we quit our jobs and left our apartment, and started to travel around the world. Starting in Central and South America, we have now been in Southeast Asia for half a year already and have visited many incredible destinations like Vang Vieng in Laos.
We love the backpacking lifestyle, seeing new places, getting to know different cultures and meeting new people. Living out of a backpack and constantly being on the road is something we wouldn’t trade for anything. We are capturing all our experiences on our blog (betterbeyond.de) and on our YouTube channel – this is like a diary for us, but moreover we just love sharing travel tips and hope to help and inspire people with that.
Backpacking Through Laos for Over a Month Now
Laos was one of the countries we were most excited about because we knew we would love it: amazing landscapes and not too many tourists is a mix that is hard to beat in our opinion. We have been in Laos for a month now and have seen a lot of the country. We came from Thailand where we first did a two day boat cruise on the Mekong River to Luang Prabang.
After some days in this beautiful, chilled city we headed to Nong Khiaw – a lovely little village in the north. After that it was time to head over to Vang Vieng, then to the capital Vientiane and on to Thakhek to do a motorbike tour. Next, we are going to the south to see Pakse and the 4000 islands.
How Vang Vieng Transformed From a Party Town
Vang Vieng was the party spot in Southeast Asia in the early 2010s. Backpackers from all over the world came to this small town in the center of Laos to do the famous tubing. Floating down the river with lots of alcohol and drugs – which the bars next to the river provided – was the thing to do. But some of these wild parties didn’t end well. There were injuries and even deaths, so eventually the Laotian government had to put a stop to it.
We just visited Vang Vieng, 10 years after the hype, and have to say: this place has changed. There is still a little bit of partying going on, however it’s not on the river but in the town. You can still find bars that sell drugs but nowadays partying isn’t the number one reason people come. The place changed its purpose and is now mostly known for its adventure activities.
You can do ziplining, rock climbing and kayaking, as well as motor paragliding and hot air balloon rides, just to name a few. Moreover, the town is surrounded by beautiful nature that travelers can explore by bicycle or scooter – or even with a quad if you want something more adventurous. There are beautiful lagoons and viewpoints waiting to be explored.
Our Favorite Adventure in Vang Vieng: Ziplining & Kayaking
We decided to do some fun activities in Vang Vieng, from which our favorite was a tour where we combined ziplining and kayaking. We did those two activities on a half-day tour (four hours) and had a lot of fun. The zipline park, with several ziplines and suspension bridges, was super cool to experience. Afterwards, the kayaking back to the town was a nice addition because it was very relaxing. And the best thing about it: we only paid $12!
10 Things To Do in Vang Vieng
1. Rent a Scooter and Go Exploring
You can rent a scooter (or bicycle) in the town and ride around the surrounding area of Vang Vieng. The nature is amazing and a scooter is the best way to explore it on your own. You can plug spots into your Google Maps or just cruise around spontaneously and see what you can find.
2. Soak Up the Views at Nam Xay Viewpoint
One of our favorite things to do in Vang Vieng is this epic viewpoint. It’s a 30 minute drive outside of Vang Vieng. After a fun and a little exhausting 20 minute climb, you have the best view of the landscapes. Plus, there is an old motorbike on top which makes for the perfect photo-op.
3. Check out the Lagoons (Such as Blue Lagoon)
There are several lagoons outside of Vang Vang which invite you to cool down and enjoy some relaxing time in the water. One of which is Blue Lagoon – easily one of the best lagoons in Laos. You can reach it via a 20 minute scooter ride from the center of town. Since it’s popular, you might want to arrive early in the morning to enjoy the lagoon without any crowds.
4. Go Rock Climbing in Vang Vieng
There are tonnes of adventures to be had in Vang Vieng and rock climbing is one of them. It’s also suitable for beginners. You get to climb a wall near the river and increase the level of difficulty with each climb. We paid $25 per person for a half-day tour and ended up having a private guide.
5. Zipline Over the Jungle in Vang Vieng
Another fun activity to do in Vang Vieng is ziplining. You can visit a zipline park with seven different ziplines, two suspension bridges and one abseiling section at the end. The ziplines take you right over the jungle, which provides a real adrenaline kick, but be careful about trying to take photos along the way. Many tourists have dropped their iPhones.
6. Kayak Slowly Along the Nam Song River
Kayaking on the Nam Song River is a chilled activity. There isn’t a whole lot of water on the river in the dry season but there are still some rapids that appear. Other than that, the drive is very calming and perfect for enjoying the landscapes from a different angle. We highly recommend it.
7. Have a Drink at Full Moon Bar, Vang Vieng
This former party town hasn’t lost all of its wildness just yet and if you are looking to have a fun night out with a few drinks while in Vang Vieng, then you can’t go past Full Moon Bar. It’s located near the river and is the go-to place for backpackers. They also have a restaurant and a view for sunset.
8. Watch the Sunset on the River
Sunsets in Laos never disappoint and Vang Vieng is no exception. Grab a drink and watch the sunset from one of the bars near the riverside – such as Full Moon Bar or any other one. Another alternative is to wake up early to catch the sunrise. You can head to the river for this or hike to a nearby view.
9. Take a Powered Paragliding Adventure
Powered paragliding, also known as a paramotor adventure, can be done in Vang Vieng. If you have the stomach for heights, you will be able to soar over paddy fields, the Nam Song River and catch the sunset over the horizon. It’s like paragliding but instead with a motor that keeps you going.
10. Float in the Sky on a Hot Air Balloon Ride
If you aren’t traveling on a tight budget, and have funds available, then a hot air balloon ride is a must. The tours cost around $100 and take off during sunset. This is arguably more relaxing than powered paragliding and definitely more romantic. It’s the perfect activity for couples.
Our Experience at Maylay Guesthouse in Vang Vieng
You can find a lot of different accommodations in Vang Vieng since the town is dedicated to tourists. We stayed in Maylay Guesthouse which we can recommend. It’s a basic yet clean hotel that fits with a backpackers budget ($15 per night for a double room) and offers a basic breakfast for free. Maylay Guesthouse is centrally located and isn’t noisy.
How to Reach Vang Vieng from Luang Prabang or Vientiane
There is a new train route connecting Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng and Vientiane. So we suggest taking the train – especially if you are coming from Luang Prabang. It’s modern, fast (takes less than an hour, whereas the bus takes six) and a nice experience. At $14, it’s more expensive than the bus but it’s worth it. If you are coming from Vientiane, you can also take a bus because there is a new highway which makes the route comfortable.
How You Can Survive on $30 Per Day in Vang Vieng
Vang Vieng is a cheap destination, like all of Laos. You get a lot for your money here. If you are a low budget traveler, you can easily get by on $30 a day. Expect to pay around $15 for a double room in a basic hotel and around $1-2 for street food. Some of the activities like renting a scooter, the zipline park, kayaking and tubing are cheap whereas renting a quad, hot air balloon rides and powered paragliding gets more expensive.
Need to Know Before You Go
If you are looking for an authentic experience and are keen on getting to know the real local life then, honestly, Vang Vieng isn’t right for you. The town is very touristy. However, if you are looking for nice nature, a bit of partying and some cool and cheap outdoor activities, then you should definitely visit Vang Vieng during your trip to Laos. Thanks for reading 🙂