Vangvieng has been a popular destination for travellers for the past few years with its main draw being tubing. Tubing is literally chilling in a rubber ring, floating down the river, until you reach one of the many bars that throw a rope across the river and drag you up to their Bar for a drink or two.
Deaths in vangvieng
As is quite obvious, mixing alcohol with water is not the best idea and as a result of this, tubing in Vanvieng has claimed quite a few lives…
I’m not sure why but the week we arrived for tubing was one of the worst for deaths in recent history. 4 people actually died tubing the day we arrived so all the bars had to close along the river front for a few days whilst the town council discussed a way around the problem – how tourists can survive a day tubing….
Kayaking and tubing in the dark cave
Due to the fact that tubing was effectively cancelled while we were there, we decided to go on a kayak tour along the river instead.
We booked on to a full day tour meaning that we got picked up from our hostel at 8.30am and didn’t arrive back until around 5pm.
Our day began by taking a tuk tuk to our first stop, a visit to a dark cave.
After waiting for our groups turn to enter the cave system, we all climbed onto our individual tubes and pulled ourselves along the route using a guide rope. Although we were given a head torch each the whole cave system was mostly in darkness but when you really focused you could notice all of the stalagmites and stalactites.
Although the caves were really dark, the roof was really impressive and worth the achey arms from pulling ourselves along for around an hour.
After we finished with the caves we had lunch provided by the tour service. I had tofu and veg skewers with vegetable rice and bread, the rest of the group had meat skewers, egg fried rice and bread. The lunch was pretty heavy for 11am when we were eating it but we needed the energy for the rest of our kayaking…
After lunch we got back in the tuk tuk and was driven to where we would be meeting the kayaks. Here we were given quick instructions of how to paddle (almost everyone in the group had kayaked before) and then sent on our way in pairs.
The river was really calm asides from a few small Rapids and the views were amazing. The whole route that we kayaked was so peaceful! We passed the same route as the tubers and it’s impossible to imagine anyone dying here, especially at the high rate this week!
The river is calm and really shallow (we kept getting beached every now and again in our kayaks) so drugs or far too much alcohol must have definitely been an issue!
After we had kayaked for about just over an hour we stopped off in one of the only bars open along the river whilst some of the group zip lined on a course through the jungle (they said that it was really fun).
Afterwards we carried on down the river until we reached the beach of Vanvieng (our end point).
Just before we reached the beach the sun was really hot but it started torrential raining! We were completely soaked by the time we got to land and had to walk back to our hostel soggy and a little chilly – luckily it was only a 10 minute walk!
Extra info; the local people don’t appreciate foreigners strolling around in bikinis or with their tops off so make sure you bring clothes with you for when you get back to the town.
Nights out and Sakura bar
There seems to only really be one bar to go to in Vanvieng and that’s called Sakura bar. Since arriving in South East Asia over a month ago we’ve seen people daily wearing vest tops promoting the bar and the promotion worked because as soon as we walked passed it during our first day in Vanvieng we were eager to check it out.
It seems to be a thing in Vanvieng for most bars and guest houses to give out free whisky between 8 and 9pm. We went to Sakura bar for the free whiskeys the first night (mixed with lemonade) and then to our hostel bar the second night.
By the time we arrived at the bar by 8.30am it was already really busy with everyone having their free drinks. The majority of people were already sporting their Sakura tops which we were told the bar gave out for free to everyone who ordered two vodka drinks (or you could by for 30,000k but two vodkas only came to 50,000k so it’s clear what most people did…)
After having a few free whiskys a group of us played a game of beer pong whilst lots of people made their way to the dance floor. The layout of the bar actually works really well because at the entrance is the main bar, a few tables and benches for beer pong and talking, then you walk through the dancefloor -which has also got some seating around the edge – to another bar with more tables and benches, finally thorough to the outside area when the toilets and final bar is. Even though the dance floor is pretty big, the amount of seating and chilling areas really makes the bar a pretty social place.
Also the frequency of the bars ensures that you don’t have to fight your way to the bar through crowds just for another drink!
Even though the music was pretty good in Sakura and everyone was having a good time the bar closes at 11.30pm due to the curfew. Every bar but one in Vangvieng needs to be closed by 12pm or the bar, as well as the customers inside, can be find my the police.
Only one bar/ club is allowed to remain open until the early hours and the location changes every night. This meant that by 12pm everyone from Sakura and the other bars were walking along the streets enmasse looking for the next bar – which we all eventually found after 10-15minutes.
Hostel review for where we stayed
We stayed in a hostel recommended to us on our travels called Real Backpackers Hostel and although it was pretty basic it was actually really good! The location was probably the best part about it due to it being practically next door to Sakura bar, restaurants and the tour services. The dorms (named after animals – we were in Cat) were pretty basic but each bed did have its own plug sockets and locker for your valuables.
The actual thing that let it down the most was the frequent power cuts the whole town kept having. Not only was there no wifi of electricity but the water was also switched off so that meant there was no water for showering or even flushing the chain on the toilet….
The hostel did have a decent common area in the reception with lots of tables and chairs as well as a free pool table. The area was really popular especially between 8 and 9pm when everyone took a bottle of whisky from the fridge and poured themselves a drink or two.
Unlike Sakura bar the mixers for your drink weren’t free so unless you like whisky straight you need to buy a soft drink (pretty cheap still at 5,000 for a large can of spite)!
The blue lagoon
We took a tuk tuk to the blue lagoon after a late breakfast on Friday and was a little disappointed with what we found. Along with the name blue lagoon I conjured up an image of a beautiful lagoon in the middle of the countryside with the odd person swimming and lounging around on the rocks along the edge. Instead the area was pretty built up and was full of people jumping into the little lagoon. There was a few rope swings and a diving/ jumping platforms which made for good watching.
The jungle party
We were in Vangvieng for Friday night which meant that the jungle party was our choice of evening entertainment. We’d been talking about it all day whilst at the blue lagoon but after having our free whiskys at the hostile we were informed that the party had been cancelled. Due to the increased presence of authority in the town this week the whole town was on a party lockdown!
Instead we simply headed back to Sakura bar but because all of the bars shut at 12am again we ended up in a house party in a hostel along the main strip.
Food in Vangvieng
The choice of food in Vanvieng was surprisingly good for such a small town. The whole town is full of restaurants with slightly varied menus, all selling a mixture of western and Asian foods. We didn’t make it to the Irish pub ourselves but it was recommended to us by a lot of people.
We did manage to find a vegan-vegetarian restaurant along the main strip on our last day and I fell in love with the pumpkin burger….
In the evening the streets are full of late night snacks stalls as well as smoothie and desert stalls but these disappear as the sun comes up.