After hearing the horror stories of drunk high-school graduates floating on inner-tubes from bar to bar, I was determined not to visit Laos’ Vang Vieng. I didn’t come half-way around the world to hang out in bars watching Friends.
But, as fate would have it, Vang Vieng was a stop we had to make on our way north.
Arriving there, I saw exactly what I expected to see; but I also saw something that took my breath away – the gorgeous karst mountains surrounding the village.
Determined to get out of town, we found a local tour office offering something different from the float-down-the-river-and-get-wasted option. After visiting a sacred mountain temple in a small village; we were taken to a place in the river that runs through a huge cave. In the dark, with only headlamps to guide the way, we sat on inner-tubes and pulled ourselves along a rope attached to the cave wall. Once deep into the cave, our guide told us that this cave had been a hiding place for many Laos people during the Vietnam war. Many survived the bombings because they had hidden here.
Our tour ended with a kayak trip back down the river. We stopped at a small river bar with no drunk teens, and several inviting hammocks. As I lay in my hammock, looking at those beautiful karst mountains, watching a man throw out his net for fish; I realized that Vang Vieng can be a wonderful place to stay after all.
If you make the stop in Vang Vieng, visit Riverside Tours to book an out-of-town excursion.