I had previously been to Vang Vieng in 2011 when it was still a drug-taking, booze binging fun-parade for gap year students. In those days, people would rent tubes and get a bus upriver and then proceed to float downriver while indulging in copious amount of booze and drugs – most commonly weed and mushrooms.
TImes have changed.
In 2012, after enough young people had died through their own personal negligence, foreign governments finally managed to get the Laos government to crackdown on the insanity that was Vang Vieng. In short order, most of the bars were torn down, drugs were banned, and just like that, Vang Vieng was no longer on the backpacker checklist.
Slowly, and I mean, really slowly, it began to recover and is now an all-out adventurer’s wonderland. Located roughly midway between Vientiane and Luang Prabang and nestled in a valley in the middle of a mountain range, Vang Vieng gained prominence during the Vietnam War, when American soldiers would go there for a bit of R&R. It’s a great place to relax for a few days or keep constantly busy doing various adventurous things around town.
Although we kept things on a budget, there are many things that can be done relatively cheaply, such as: hiking, caving, going to the lagoons, visiting waterfalls, and having a float down the river. Some of the more expensive ways to enjoy Vang Vieng include taking a hot air balloon over the Karst mountains, taking a flight in an ultralight, learning to paraglide, rock climbing, and renting an ATV to get around.
Check out the video of our two days in Vang Vieng.