Southeast Asia 2023 – Laos: Around Vang Vieng

My original plan was to travel further north in Laos to visit more hill tribe villages, but an injury on my trek in Luang Prabang forced me to go in another direction. To rest and recover, I became a “normal” tourist, which was disappointing at first, but the spectacular places and activities I experienced in the following weeks will never be forgotten!

My next destination was the sleepy town of Vang Vieng in Laos, famous amongst Western tourists for its lazy tubing and kayaking on the Nam Song River, no fewer than six (6!) nearby “Blue Lagoons,” and its inspiring karst topography. I rented a motorbike to explore many of the roads and paths in nearby valleys and took a hot air balloon ride for sunrise. This may well be a popular tourist destination, but you couldn’t tell for the quiet and calm as you will see and hear in the video clips below.

It started with other tourists on a crowded “4-hour” minibus ride from Luang Prabang, which took over 7 hours on rugged mountain roads with more potholes than we could count.

This screenshot of my AllTrails track shows that after 110 miles, we were getting close to our destination and had climbed 3,629m (11,906 feet) at an average speed of 28.12 kilometers per hour (≈17.5 miles per hour). There were many places on the route where I felt I could walk faster than the van.

Fortunately, the occasional rest stops allowed us to see many spectacular mountains and rivers for which northern Laos is renowned.

Sunset from a rooftop bar provided good views of the parasailors and hot air balloons aloft. They inspired me to book my own hot air balloon flight at the next sunrise.

The views of the mountains are just as amazing from the ground as they are from the air.

As I had first experienced in my visit to Chiang Dao, Thailand, another fun feature of karst mountains is their extensive networks of caves. One of the many “Blue Lagoons” near Vang Vieng allowed visitors to explore a water cave on innertubes. I waited for this large group to emerge before I took my voyage. With absolutely no light, it’s one of the few places where I couldn’t see my hand inches in front of my face when I turned off my headlamp.

I rode my motorbike to 5 of the 6 “Blue Lagoons” near Vang Vieng. The original, nearest to the town, is very popular with local Lao families and many tourists from elsewhere in Asia. The farther away from town, the fewer people were found, and most were Western tourists. It is always fun for me to see how different people choose to recreate.

Lest I forget to mention food, a street vendor offered me some fresh grubs.

I was fascinated, but I wasn’t hungry.

Reading material: “Edible insects: future prospects for food and feed security”

I absolutely love Vang Vieng and can’t wait to return again!

Author: Chris

Until 2019, I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Namibia focused on Community Economic Development. Before that, I was a high-tech executive, small business owner, consultant and business broker.

5 thoughts on “Southeast Asia 2023 – Laos: Around Vang Vieng”

  1. Again, Chris
    A fascinating and impressive report, which makes me me envious.
    The balloon trip with its many views from the mountains as well as the pictures of the lagoon countryside are beautiful.
    No wonder, you want to go back there again..

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