I went to Vang Vieng on my second day in Laos. Me and my friend planned to spend two days in Vang Vieng before continuing our journey to Luang Prabang. We had spent our first day in Vientiane, and our plan was to continue our journey to the north, to Viang Vieng and Luang Prabang before going back to Vientiane and take our flight back home.
Vang Vieng is a very beautiful city located among limestone mountains, and rice fields, and passed by Nam Song River. Vang Vieng is famous for its caves, lagoons, forests, and rice fields.
How to get to Vang Vieng from Vientiane
There are bus and minivan which can take you to Vang Vieng (read: Vang Viang) from Vientiane. We asked our guesthouse in Vientiane and the receptionist help book the minivan. We booked the minivan for 70,000 Lao Kip (USD 7,7) for one way, and it says 3 hours trip (although it may stretched to 4 hours).
As shown in picture below (we got this price from our guesthouse in Vientiane), VIP bus is cheaper by 10,000 LAK compared to Minivan and said to be 30 minutes longer than minivan. The minivan driver picked us up at 9:30 and we arrived around 13:30 at Vang Vieng Bus Station. From there, we walked to our Accommodation at Eden de Vang Vieng Hotel.
How to get around Vang Vieng
Our choice of transportation to explore Vang Vieng was motorbike, and we rent motorbike on a store located somewhere along the main road in front of our hotel. Actually, there were so many motorbike rentals. But, two or three rentals that were recommended by our hotel ran out of motorbike to rent, so at that time we just walked along the road and looked for any rentals that still have motorbike to rent. To be fair, we arrived around 2 pm in the afternoon and therefore most of the vehicles from nearby rentals had been booked. As a result, we find a motorbike on a clothes store, where our only option was that one motor with a bit dirty helmet, and at a cost of 100,000 LAK (if I still remember it correctly). It wasn’t the best deal, but we didn’t have any other option either. You can rent at 70,000 LAK at other store.
From November 16th 2019 in the afternoon to November 17th, we visited 7 wonderful places in Vang Vieng, and here’s the itinerary in Google Map:
7 (Really) Awesome Places to Visit in Vang Vieng
1. [Cave] Jang Cave (Tham Chang)
Jang Cave is probably the most well-lit cave in Vang Vieng and the most popular one. The location itself is pretty near from city center. Jang Cave is also called Tham Chang, where “Tham” means Cave. It was used as a bunker in defence against Yunnanese Chinese invaders in the early 19th Century. Visitor needs to pay 15,000 LAK (USD 1,7) for the entrance fee to the cave and 2000 LAK (USD 0,22) for passing the bridge. The cave open from 8 am to 4 pm daily.
After the bridge, there’s spacious picnic area and garden before you enter the cave and hike up through its ascending steps. There’s also pool near the cave entrance where you can swim. Inside the cave is very cold. The route is well lit and stepping path is firm, although in many places a bit slippery. The rocky outcrops and limestone surface are everywhere inside the cave and it’s beautiful.
Reason to visit: This is probably the best, well lit, and accessible Cave in Vang Vieng
2. [Ricefield] Vieng Tara Villa
I read about visiting ricefield in Vang Vieng, but there were so many article without clear location reference of where’s the best ricefield in Vang Vieng. Instead, I found so many photography of ricefield in the backyard of a villa (Vieng Tara Villa). To reach the villa we need to pass the Namsong Bridge and the ticket to pass the bridge v.v is 10,000 Lao Kip (1,1 USD) for motorcycle, 12,000 LAK for car, 6000 LAK for bicycle,and 4000 LAK for pedestrian. Initially, we wanted to book the villa, but our itinerary shifted and the villa was no longer available for our travel date. The room price in Vieng Tara Villa ranging from USD 65-USD 120.
On that day, out of curiosity we visited the villa anyway, asked permission from the receptionist for taking pictures on it’s ricefield. As per November 16th 2019 (the date I visited the villa), taking photograph was free. We just went to the ricefield and spent the sunset there on it’s beautiful small hut. The smell of the paddy engulfing us from all side and it was so serene. It was one of those wonderful moment in Vang Vieng.
Reason to Visit: Although it was not public, when allowed to enter, this places is a little gem hidden in Vang Vieng. The secluded rice field with the sunset and mountain background is the perfect idealization of what a perfect getaway villa in a rice field should be.
3. Local Landmark: Namsong Bridge
Namsong bridge is not the only bridge in Vang Vieng, but it’s the only one where cars are allowed to pass. The bridge passage itself made from stacked woods and a bit sketchy. If you ride a motorcycle, you need to take extra cautions especially during the night with limited lighting and vehicles coming from both side of the bridge. The Namsong Bridge is 750 metres walking distance from Vang Vieng Southern Bus Terminal.
Reason to Visit: I wouldn’t say visit, as this bridge goes as far as passing bridge only. But, this bridge connects the eastern side of Namsong river where the Vang Vieng city is located and the western side of the river where tourists attractions are located.
4. [Viewpoint]: Nam Xay (Read: Nam Psy)
If I have to rank, Nam Xay Viewpoint is on the top of my list of places in Vang Vieng that’s worth visiting. We went there at 5 am where it’s still pitch black just to catch the sunrise. It takes about 20 minutes ride from the city center to the beginning of the trek towards Nam Xay viewpoint. We arrived around 5:30 and the wooden bar was put in place to close the entrance of the trekking route. Fortunately, at that time there was someone from the local area that helped us open the bar and warned us to be careful as there was no light whatsoever to brighten the path.
And so we began our hike. The ascending path was very steep and narrow. Several minutes in, we ascended on man-made soil ground, and then limestone stairs, and on the final ascend the pathway was dominated by rugged and jagged stone that were sharp and slippery. And when I said steep, I meant really, really steep. It’s a good 30-45 minutes steep rock climb that require great level of fitness.
After about 40 minutes, we reached the top and the timing couldn’t more perfect. The sun started to rise and peaking on the horizon and slowly light the area around the mountain and it was so amazing and beautiful. The whole plantains of Vang Vieng spread before us, mountains that adorn the vast area combined with the rice fields produced such an amazing view.
The area on the top of Nam Xay View point is made by wooden plank and supported by stones. It’s very edgy and narrow. Be really careful when you explore around the area on the top as it’s not well guarded and once you lose your step, you may end up falling to the ground or on the peaky stones.
Given these facts, it is unsafe to hike this mountain during rainy season. It wasn’t wise either for us to hike in pitch black, since we had to light and hold our flashlight in one hand and rely on one hand to balance and hold the rope on the other. However, if you still decide to go early before sunrise, proceed with extra precautions for your own safety.
Tips: Hike when there’s sufficient light brighten the pathway to the top. If not, bring headlamp so you can use your both hands to climb up. Wear a sturdy hiking shoes and comfortable outfit. Bring as little thing as possible as you want to focus on your hike and your safety. Nam Xay Viewpoint opens daily from 6 am to 5 pm and the entrance fee is 10,000 LAK (1,1 USD). The top spot for taking picture on the top is on the Motorcycle that was put on that shady ground. Be really slowly and careful when proceed to the motorcycle to take any picture.
Reason to Visit: I don’t think anyone need any reasons to visit this Place. Just visit it and you won’t regret it. But, should you need some: (1) good morning exercise (2) beautiful, amazing, unparalleled view of Vang Vieng
5. [Cave]: Tham Sang (Elephant Cave)
After going to Nam Xay Viewpoint, we went down and tempted to go to Pha Ngern view point which very close and we passed it on our way back. But, we were pretty exhausted after the hike to Nam Xay, so we decided to go back to the hotel and took some rest before continue exploring the Caves and the lagoon of Vang Vieng. Also, if looking at the view, Nam Xay offers more epic landscape than Pha Ngern.
The first cave we visited that day was Elephant Cave. It takes around 20 minutes motorbike ride to the cave. There were many direction signs on intersections about the lagoon or caves whereabouts, some of them were in Lao, and some were also in English. We used both google map and the signs to locate the Elephant Cave. We passed a creek and found that the area was well mapped and navigated with signs and it made us easier to find the cave.
The entrance fee to the cave is 2000 LAK. We parked our motorcycle on the parking lot, and then walked around from Elephant Cave to Hoi Cave. Elephant Cave was named so because of the stone found inside the cave that similar with Elephant. There’s also giant Buddhist Statue inside the cave.
Reason to Visit: This cave is unique for it’s elephant-like stone found inside the cave. I would suggest to combine the visit to some of the caves and lagoons around this site as the following map shown. They are not packed with visitors, yet has some beautiful caves and lagoon as mentioned later in this blog.
6. [Cave]: Tham Loup & Tham Hoi
These cave(s) were a surprise destination as we didn’t plan to visit this cave in the beginning. But, since we were in the area we decided to drop by and check them out. Entrance to the cave is 10,000 LAK (combined for both caves) and that’s included the rent of headlight if i remember it correctly.
Tham Hoi was not well lit, and you really need the headlight to make your way forward. I also turned on my flashlight on my phone on to add some light since it was that dark. The cave was cold and humid, with pretty rugged ground and slippery in some spots. But, they have some beautiful stalactites and stalagmites.
Tham Hoi is a long thin cave that goes three kilometers underground to a lake. It is right next to Tham Loup and considered the most sacred to locals, with a large Buddha statue near the entrance.
Reason to Visit: Combined with other caves in this area, the visit to these caves will complete the cave exploration mission in the region. Even though it’s not well lit, Tham Hoi have beautiful cave interior with its unique stalactites and stalagmites.
7. [Lagoon]: Blue Lagoon 4
I was surprised to learn that there were so many “blue lagoon” in the area. We didn’t go to the blue lagoon 1,2, or 3 since we needed to go to Luang Prabang at 3 pm. We picked blue lagoon 4 since it’s the nearest to the caves we were visiting. And turned out, it was the best decision!
When we arrived, I was already blown away with the clear and torquiest blue colour of the lagoon. Not to mention the lagoon was not packed as what Blue Lagoon 1 might be. So it was almost like having the place all to ourselves. However, if you have plenty of time and want to explore some of those lagoons, you can also read it in here about which blue lagoon you should pick.
Reason to Visit: Not packed as other lagoon, crystal clear water, cool swing and tube area
There were many other places in Vang Vieng that we’d like to explore, but we had to miss them for Luang Prabang. However, these seven spots pretty much cover the variety of landscape that Vang Vieng has to offers and famous for, starting from Exotic and mysterious Caves, crystal blue lagoon, beautiful Ricefield, local landmark, and Remarkable Viewpoint that is reached by hiking/rock climbing. Vang Vieng is surprisingly beautiful and packed with adrenalin and leisure activities you need to complete your epic travel!