Vang Vieng is an interesting place. The landscape is absolutely beautiful, and there are endless possibilities for what one could do while visiting.
Unfortunately, however, pretty much all that the place has become is a huge party. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my beer, but drinking from the early afternoon until the early morning every day is a bit much for me…it just seemed like a huge frat party.
And having seen this place now, I can’t imagine what it was like a few years back. Supposedly they’ve shut down a fair amount of bars, and cleaned up some of the drug use…people say that it’s a bit more tame now than it was before.
If you’re looking for an interesting cultural experience in Laos, don’t start here…if you want some combination of beer, whiskey, weed, mushrooms, and opium, then I guess this is your place.
I escaped the town for a couple days to do a little riding. As soon as you leave, you instantly return back to a place that feels like Laos, and it’s good to known that the strange and somewhat dirty feeling of Vang Vieng is at least just confined to one small area.
At one point, off in the distance, I could see that I was approaching a river. As I road down a hill towards its bank, I was expecting to find a bridge crossing it as I made a sharp left turn, but instead had to slam on my brakes before riding off a dock…luckily there was a small ferry boat on it’s way back from the other side.
Some of the guys working the ferry…looking pretty tough
A month ago, when I was shipping my bike from Kathmandu to Bangkok, the guy arranging the shipping gave me the email address of a rider who’d just sent his bike to Bangkok a week before me. He figured maybe we could meet up and ride together, or if nothing else it’d be good to have some advice from someone on the customs process in Bangkok.
I emailed him, but it turned out our paths wouldn’t be crossing while in Thailand.
One night, while at a bar in Vang Vieng, I met a Welsh guy named Ben. Turns out he’s riding from Wales to Australia, so we exchange emails to keep in touch, and as you probably guessed, its the same guy. So, of course, before we split (he headed south, I’m going north), we had to head out for a day of riding.
We ended up on some logging roads that were under construction, but also already in use. Here’s one of the Mad Max looking logging trucks we saw taking out some massive trees. I wish I could’ve gotten a picture with the driver in it, to show how little room there was. The log took up all the headroom, so he had to hunch over with his head right behind the steering wheel.
At the end of the day, we stopped out at a cave. This was a bit difference than any cave you’d visit in the west. There’s no guide, path, or roped off areas. They just recommend you bring a headlamp or flashlight. Although it was huge, it was also pretty straightforward to navigate, so getting lost wasn’t an issue.