The journey was horrible; 8 hours on the bumpiest ‘road’ on earth in a crappy little mini-van. The views and sunset were spectacular but it was so uncomfortable.
Vang Vieng is wild. That’s all I can say about it.
There are things to do there – the caves and lagoons are really cool; but the vast majority of people are in town to party.
The first day I took a mountain bike to the blue lagoon and explored the cave there. It was pretty big and I only saw 2 other people in about 45 minutes so that was pretty cool, walking around this pitch black cave on my own was a fun experience. I like solitude in nature, it’s quite spiritual for me so I thoroughly enjoyed the cave.
Apart from the nature, there are 2 things to do in Vang Vieng; party or laze around watching Friends/Family Guy/Southpark. All the bars during the day just have comfy seating, fruit shakes and one of the aforementioned box-sets on a loop. A great place to lay around when you are inevitably hungover.
Partying in Vang Vieng
The other option is to party.
During the day, you go tubing. Sit in a giant inflatable tire and float down the river, stopping off at bars on the way to drink, dance, play mud volleyball and other general debauchery. Tubing was awesome, loads of fun, the bars have a pool party kind of atmosphere and all in all it is just a good time.
The river when I was there was about 2 feet deep, so I can see how people die jumping in and generally being stupid. It’s a lot tamer than it used to be, the party is still wild but they closed loads of swings and slides in to the river and half of the bars. Unfortunately I don’t have any photos as I couldn’t take my phone in the river.
Then at night, for an hour and a half you drink spirits and mixers completely free – no catch. This of course leads to some wild nights as well. I did 7 days straight; it’s almost impossible to turn down going out when it is free!
I loved the atmosphere; even though it was small and every night was essentially the same, the general vibe and people made it fun. I’m not going to go in to details about the debauchery of Vang Vieng as my mother reads this blog; but if you’re looking for a wild time in SE Asia – go there.
After a week of Vang Vieng I thought my body needed a break and I should remember what sober feels like, so I got the bus down to Vientiane, the capital of Laos. This was one of the best journeys I’ve had, it was only a few hours and once we had got away from the mountains of northern Laos, the roads were pretty straight, flat and actually tarmacked!
I was craving a city, some proper coffee and doing something more productive with life than being a depraved alcoholic, so Vientiane was just what I needed.
I spent I think 4 days in Vientiane and honestly didn’t really do anything in that time. I hung around at the hostel a lot (it was a really good hostel), did some work, coffee shops and went to the pool. on reflection, I wish I had done some cultural stuff, but I was enjoying the city vibe and not really doing anything.
I found Vientiane to be charming. A lot of people say it is boring, but I enjoy the buzz of a city. It has a different culture to Luang Prabang or anywhere else I had been. Although it is nearer Thailand, there is a Vietnamese influence in Vientiane and a strong French influence too. There’s even a mini Arc De Triomphe which I failed to go see (d’oh!).
The nightmarket was cool and I just liked the fact that it felt like a functioning city, with people going to work, paved streets, big businesses and everything that rural Laos is not. It also seemed much less seedy than Luang Prabang or Siem Reap (where I am as I write this), which is probably why people say it is boring, but not being offered opium and ‘lady boom boom’ every other minute is kind of refreshing*.
* Unless you’re looking for smack and hookers, I guess.
4000 Islands (Don Det)
I took the overnight sleeper bus from Vientiane to 4000 Islands. It was pretty cool, the first time I’d taken a sleeper bus. It was comfy and a more enjoyable journey than being awake all day on a bus. Was actually more comfortable than the sleeper train I took from Bangkok to Chiang Mai too.
Don Det is a little island in the Mekong river (along with ~ 3999 others (they’re apparently too lazy to actually count them, so 4000 is a guesstimate)). It’s mostly rural, with guesthouses, bars and restaurants around the edges and farms making up the majority of it. Very sleepy and not a whole lot of activity. I enjoyed being around the farms and the slow pace. You can tube around the island, nothing like tubing in Vang Vieng, this is just relaxing and floating slowly round the island, which was cool.
I stayed for a few days before I started to get bored and had to get to Cambodia so I could get my full 30 days in and make it back to Chiang Mai (again) for New Year. The journey was – eventful, shall we say…