Vang Vieng is a cute little town in Laos. In fact, I would say it is very beautiful. I have only been in 3 cities in Laos, but Vang Vieng was definitely the most beautiful one. The place is surrounded by limestone cliffs, nature, rice paddies, and wonderful blue holes. Doesn’t surprise me to see a town made for tourists…
It is. I think that Vang Vieng is totally made for tourists. The town is very small, but the city center is covered with western-style restaurants, tour agents, rentals, everything a tourist might need, except the interaction with local culture… There are hotels with swimming pools everywhere and buggies are very often sight. However, Vang Vieng and its surroundings are pure beauty so I am very happy to visit it.
Vang Vieng is an awesome place to explore caves, spend days swimming in clear blue water found in the middle of nature, hike up mountains to observe incredible views, and have adventurous rides on board of buggy cars that can be rented. They look like a pretty cool idea and an awesome way to explore Vang Vieng, but not for a solo traveler… Therefore, I explored the area by bicycle, but it wasn’t the best idea. The best would be to rent a motorbike! The land has many up and downhills, so the bicycle can be a hard ride under more than 30ºC. Also, not all places are reachable by bicycle.
I decided to rent a bicycle but I didn’t explore everything on it. I had the help of a local youngster and his motorbike to visit some places.
Tham Chang cave and spring / Jang cave
Anyway, the closest thing to visit from the city center is Tham Chang cave. To visit you need to pay an entrance fee and a fee to cross the cute bridge that allows you to cross from one side to the other of the river. However, I visited this cave very late so no one was there to charge me the bridge crossing. Well, there was, but the person was sleeping… The bridge has wonderful views. It is a beautiful place to be visited. I arrived at the cave 20 minutes before its closure at 4 pm so I had to rush a bit inside it. The entrance fee is 15.000 kip. It is a nice cave with some opening with a great view too. In Vang Vieng, everything is so beautiful! I was the last one leaving the cave and behind me was the guy that closed it. He basically visited the cave with me haha.
Below, there is a very beautiful spring and some people swimming. The blue stands out from the rocks and its a beautiful sight. It is a small blue hole and very few people were here. It was the only one I saw in Vang Vieng that doesn’t have an entrance fee. As for the rest, you pretty much have to pay for everything, even crossing bridges…
Crossing the main bridge: Namsong bridge
There is this main bridge that only foreigners need to pay to cross. Yeah, I hate when this discrimination happens. I feel like a bag of walking money to these people sometimes… This bridge has different fees depending on what means of transport you use to cross it. I crossed it with a local on a motorbike and paid 0, but crossing it with a bicycle on my own cost me 6000 kips. Even if you walk on it you have to pay. It is a wooden bridge. Not the best one… But, you have a way of crossing the river without paying. There is another bridge that is not so easily spottable and that can be crossed at 0 costs. You can always use it to skip extra costs.
Khan Kham cave
After the bridge, it doesn’t take long for me to start seeing a wonderful landscape. I was already super excited so I stopped on the first cave I saw marked on maps.me: “Khan Kham”. Beware that Vang Vieng has so many caves that you will have to make some choices, and this wasn’t a good one. Unbelievably, I had to pay an entrance fee of 10.000 Kip for this cave in the middle of nowhere. There was actually no one in there. Just a house nearby. Once the people at this house saw me, they ran into the spot stating that I have to pay a fee. It’s a small one, but anyway… I have for myself that these people take advantage of tourists just like this: there is a cave, I live nearby, I will stand there and wait for foreigners and charge them what I want just because I decided to build a bamboo seat before the cave entrance.- This is my theory. Anyway, I was already not very satisfied with the fact that you can’t go anywhere without paying and this cave was a true disappointment. They also had a board advertising a clear water spring but I saw neither of both. This cave is nothing but a small hole on the wall or I didn’t find the right spot… It was just a waste of precious time that I could have spent seeing some other wonderful thing.
Pha Ngern View Point
I continue my bicycle journey around the majestic landscape. Just the fact of cycling in Vang Vieng is already satisfying for the eye. My next stop was Pha Ngern View Point. You have to pay an entrance fee too. The street is very dusty and not easy to cycle. On maps.me it is marked viewpoint 1, viewpoint 2, and viewpoint 3. If you go, you need to follow all the way to viewpoint 3. But don’t do it on flipflops as I did. This was a hard hike through sharp stones, not very well marked paths and to reach the very top you need to not be scared of heights. This place is made of wooden boards and you can see through. You can see the rocks beneath your feet and I trust it might be scary to some.
I have read that this viewpoint was the hardest but the less visited one. The opposite of Nam Xay viewpoint, where most parts of people go. I heard these two are the best in Vang Vieng. I haven’t been to Nam Xay, but I can tell you that the view from Pha Ngern View Point is wonderful! You will have the place for yourself, but a tougher hike up there. It took me almost 1 hour to the very top. Viewpoint 1 is not interesting, but viewpoint 2 has already some view. Going down isn’t easier as the rocks are slippery and sharp. I actually think this might have been the toughest hike I did to a viewpoint because there are simply no stairs. It is a dirt path or rocky path. Anyway, it was worth the hike. I only saw 2 other people, elderly ones that weren’t brave enough to go to viewpoint 3.
At this point, I am extremely tired and hungry so I decided to stop for lunch in a very cute and welcoming restaurant by the main street just next to a small river. I had thought to go to blue lagoon 1 cause it was just 3km away, but I’m not sure if I’ll face steep streets to get there so I gave up on the idea. Instead, I went with a local guy that I met the previous day, to a very unexplored place nearby Vang Vieng. This guy lives in Vang Vieng and haven’t been at this place before and didn’t know about its existence.