Vang Vieng is a beautiful tourist town in the shadows of the mystical Karst Hills. It is situated in Vientiane Province and is a four hour bus ride to the north of the capital. It has low rise buildings mostly of old construction with tin roofs. It is though the limestone karsts that dominate the town. These magnificent rocks soar majestically above the town and provide a superb backdrop in all directions.
Vang Vieng has become a major backpacker destination in recent years and the main street is full of hostels and hotels catering for them. Many small bars, internet cafes and restaurants have opened in the last decade. From the turn of the millennium, tubing grew in popularity. A group of villages developed the concept as tubes were rented out to the backpackers who would spend the day drinking and floating about on the river. Riverside bars developed and rope swings and zip lines added. The town changed beyond recognition and not everyone was happy. The backpackers showed little respect for local customs and the sight of scantily clad teenagers drinking in bars as monks in tradition dress strolled past was incongruous to say the least.
At the end of 2012 the local authorities decided that enough was enough, they bulldozed all the riverside bars, tore down the zip lines and swings and declared an end to the town’s reputation as a party town. It has now returned to the sleepy place that it was before the boom and is much more what one would expect from a quiet riverside town in the center of stunning countryside. Some bars closed and some are fighting on. Hotels stand empty as a reminder of the recent past. It is though a delightful place to visit.
Close by the numerous caves such as, Tham Phu Kham, Tham Non and Tham Jang provide interesting days out. There is a good market a couple of miles outside town, selling foodstuffs and locally made textiles and household items. Vang Vieng’s location mid way between Luang Prabang and the capital make it a superb stopping off point on your travels through this wonderful country.