Vang Vieng, Laos
Mountains and Ricepaddy's near Vang Vieng, Laos
Vang Vieng, the once infamous and rebellious little sister of Luang Prabang, was a bucketlist destination for many backpackers. Since the governments closure of the riverside bars in 2012, however the town is reinventing itself, and has much to offer travellers of all ages.
Over an eight day period, we made the trip in the tubes a few times, however the majority of our time was spent exploring the jaw-dropping surrounds. Cheap scooter rental and warm evenings meant long days could be spent under water falls, climbing steep and green clad mountains, winding along dirt roads beside rice paddy's and relaxing in bungalows beside the blue lagoon.
Accommodation amounted to 3 USD per night, in a private double, and while basic, was more than sufficient. The sandwiches sold from the small roadside stands were cheap, delicious and almost guaranteed to leave you running to the toilet every twenty minutes. GastroStop is a must in my SE Asia travel kit.
The 5 hour minibus trip which winds through towering mountains, with potholes deep enough to bounce us from our seats, required many roadside toilet stops. This presented a challenge for one girl in a bus of seven guys, as rumours of land mines made me anxious to venture too far into the forest. Even at the official toilets, paper isn't always available. A packet of tissues never goes astray. Due to the relevant isolation of this small town, however, its possible to enjoy incredible natural wonders entirely alone, with only the animals in the trees around you for company.
View from the Balcony
Sometimes, families will prepare fresh traditional Laos dishes outside, my favourite being Green Papaya Salad. Of course, for the more adventurous palate, river rat, small, whole unidentified birds, or BBQ'd fish make great accompaniments. They will gladly sell you some of their cookout, for a small fee, and often have cold beer at hand. To sit in a thatched bungalow by a playful stream, sipping on a fresh beer and munching down some charcoal cooked food with our hands as utensils, is an experience in itself, and I fondly recall these as my favourite meals ever eaten, much more so even than any of the lavish restaurant feasts I've been lucky enough to enjoy.
This underrated and uncrowded region has so much beauty and adventure in store, with the locals being considerably more patient, honest and fair than their Thai counterparts. Tourism has left far less of an impact here, and bartering is not customary as prices are already rock bottom. I assume, however, like everywhere, this will in time change, and I feel utterly privileged to have experienced Vang Vieng in the way I have.