This is a very popular place for backpackers in Laos and a place that I have been very looking forward to visiting.
I arrived in Vang Vieng on a bus from Luang Prabang. There were many other western tourists on this bus unlike other bus journeys I have taken in Asia where I’m often the only foreigner aboad looking completely out of place and squashed into an overcrowded, rickety carriage on the road to who knows where. I was able to make friends with a group of other travellers and from the bus station we decided to look for a place to stay together. The suggestion of finding a guest house but the name of Pans Place was mentioned a few times, and so that’s where we headed. Fortunately, when we found Pans Place there were just enough rooms available to accommodate the lot of us, and it was pretty cheap too.
The Blue Lagoon
A ten minute tuk-tuk ride from our guest house is a lovely little hangout known as The Blue Lagoon, and it’s obvious why it called that. The main feature of this location is an inviting little swimming hole that’s perfect for cooling off during the mid-day heat. This natural bathing site brings quite a few visitors and as a result, a bar has been built along with plenty of tables, chairs, bamboo huts and even a volleyball court. The bar also serves great food. There’s everything here to set you up for the entire day.
There are a few dangers here and it’s mainly to do with pointy limestone rocks and hitting yourself against them, so, try and avoid that if you can. The Lagoon does have some big rocks in the water which can pose a threat if your not careful. There’s a rope swing and also a big tree that people jump from. The landing areas for these appears to be clear of sharp rocks (only just though), however, jumping in from anywhere else might result in¬†a nasty injury. The tree is particularly dangerous. If your no good at climbing or not very good with heights then stay away. Much of the area underneath the tree is occupied by jagged boulders and a fall would be very serious. There’s only one safe spot to jump from, and it’s a little precarious to get to; a bamboo ladder leads up to the branches of the tree. This ladder isn’t easy to climb. It’s slippy and it bends and wobbles. At the top of the ladder you step out onto the tree. This is even more slippy. The tree has been made quite smooth by the number of people that have been up there. From here there is a large branch that stretches out over the lagoon to the ideal jumping position. It’s a bit a of balancing act to get out that far and very nerve racking with the jagged rocks directly below. You can see the tops of some of the boulders poking out of the water but it’s the ones you can’t see that are most worrying. It looks a lot higher when your up on the tree than it does from the ground, and it looks pretty high from the ground. At the end of the branch, there is nowhere to go but down, and to be honest, the thought of climbing back down is a lot more terrifying that the thought of jumping. The most worrying thing from here is that you can’t see what’s in the the water, but I figured I’d just jump where I’d seen others jump and then I wouldn’t be killed, and I’m here writing this now so it all worked out okay.
Another rather dangerous place near the Blue Lagoon is the limestone cave. It’s dark, slippy, hot and full of shadowy¬†pits to fall into. Many people go in and explore these caves but there are no experienced cavers¬†here to give advice and also no one to help you if you get hurt. With these kinds of places, you just have to use your common sense and not act stupid. Don’t do anything that you think you can’t do, and don’t take silly risks and you might be fine.
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Tubing is the most popular and talked about activity in Vang Vieng. Its calmed down a lot in recent years due to a bunch of people killing themselves by acting stupid and taking silly risks, remember what I said about that. There used to be lots of bars, slides, zip lines, things like that and people would get way too drunk, jump into the river and crack their head open on a rock. All that stuff has now been taken down and what’s left is just a couple of bars. However, it’s still a great party atmosphere and the bars that remain are pretty lively. One piece of advise I would give from my experience of tubing is: don’t lose all of your friends and then miss the end point of the tubing course and end up in a tribal village after dark.