Vang Vieng is a small town about four hours north of Vientiane, surrounded by the most amazing landscape. After what we had heard and read about this place, we arrived with a lot of prejudice expecting heavy drinking, loud partying and god knows what.
Getting there in the middle of the night in torrential rain did not help either. The only hotel we could visually identify in this mayhem was The Elephant’s Crossing, where we dished out 42 USD (!!!) for a nice room, but a noisy night to come. Due to the architecture of the hotel, the boisterous returning of each group from the party island echoed through the whole building.
Only when we opened the curtain in the morning did we realize that we had arrived at the most picturesque and serene place. The Nam Song River was gliding by our window and there was now absolute quietness. The following three nights we stayed at the Thavisouk Resort, which has comfortable bungalows right on the river, for only 12 USD. It is 50 meters below the small bridge, far enough to escape the noise radiating from the bars on the small island upstream.
A first inspection of the very center proved what we had heard. Some of the bars / restaurants serve a crowd of young “adventurers” who seem to have come to South East Asia to watch DVDs for a good part of the day. Bedded on big cushions, they stare at often far away monitors of what we were told are re-runs of “Friends”. Since both of us never watched such any episode of this soap before, we would not do even know if this is true.
The other “must-do” here is tubing down the Nam Song. This activity is easy to describe. A tuk tuk takes you and your huge rubber tube, made to fit trucks, upstream for about 15 minutes. Sitting inside it you glide down the river. Whoever started the tubing business must be rolling in money by now. Everybody, including us skeptics, does at least one run … or many, many more!
The majority of tourists here are in their twenties enjoying the tubing, partying and above all each others company, but it is very easy to avoid this Ibiza-like atmosphere. We simply considered it as one of the attractions of Vang Vieng, which otherwise is a small, quiet place set in the most scenic landscape.