Vang Vieng is hell on Earth. A boozy, sleazy, dirty town in central Laos where for a little money you can buy pizza laced with opium, a hooker or drown in the river after a ‘tubing’ bar crawl. Vang Vieng reached its peak in 2012 when the government clamped down on its bad tourism habits, no more dodgy zipwires (or death slides as previously known) no more tubing, no more drugs and no more tourists apparently. After the new rules were put in place, Vang Vieng was like a ghost town- literally nobody came here anymore. So the tubing was allowed to continue but with stricter guidelines; for those of you, who like me had never heard of this before, you basically get hammered in riverside bars and then float down the river in a partly deflated, dirty rubber ring. Sound fun? No, I don’t think so either, more dangerous if you ask me. Tubing is the cause of around 25 deaths a year from stupid- mainly English (of course) idiots drowning in the river…but of course people still do it anyway, and hostels still encourage you to do it too.
Vang Vieng was once THE party town in Laos (if that’s even possible in this country) after the strict laws and curfews its driven the bad stuff underground, making it seem sad, sleazy and a little perverted. Imagine the glamorous Ibiza suddenly becoming a dirty version of Magaluf- not pretty. Now don’t let me put you off; it may be your sort of place, I know for a fact I would have loved it a few years ago. My younger self would have loved necking the unlimited free shots, getting a dodgy tattoo (I have a carrot behind my ear from a drunken holiday in Salou for those unaware) and eating chips until I threw up. It’s just now I’m into working out, eating an organic, vegan diet, hiking, waking up at the crack of dawn and it’s just dawned on me…being a little boring.
Despite all of this, there are SOME (and I mean some) good things I’ve found in Vang Vieng once you scratch the surface a little. So, just how do you survive Vang Vieng? Well first of all…don’t come here. Easy peasy. We stopped here after a 1 hour boat ride from Muong Ngoi, and 2 5 hour buses from there so felt we needed a little break. I thought wrong, carry on with the bus ride it’s a much better idea. My main advice would be to escape the main strip; the strip at night time especially is filled with drunken brits, prostitutes and half empty bars playing bad dance music. Walk 20 minutes out of this and you’ll be faced with some pretty decent scenery. Head to Pha Ngeun mountain viewpoint for a challenging hike up a mountain and visit some of the plentiful caves along the way. You can hire a push bike for as little as 20,000 kip (£2) for the day to help you explore (and get as far away from Vang Vieng as humanly possible). There’s apparently a nice waterfall and blue lagoon, but if you want to avoid the crowds of tourists like I do, it may be better to avoid these too. The most important rule of all here, never and under no circumstances ever, ever, ever… GO TUBING!
“So when are you guys going tubing? Never probably. Okay, well are you going out tonight? Absolutely not. Then why did you come here then? Precisely. Beats me!