Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Vang Vieng

11,500Kip to the £1

Many shops selling tourist clothes, most shops sold the same outfits, didn't see any 'traditional' clothing or local tourist gifts.

Although i read in the LP that you should cover up here, no one seemed bothered that people walked around in swimwear, so either things have drastically changed or the westerners are just being obnoxious!

All of the locals we met were really friendly and have the patience of saints, especially dealing with the drunken idiots that fill the guest houses. The language barrier can be a little bit of a problem and we found that the tour operators were not really interested in helping us, but this did not effect our stay.

We checked out a room at 'Malany Villa' for 30,000Kip per person per night. The bed was huge and the room spacious enough with hot running water and free wifi in the reception area. We were on the third floor and not once did we hear any nuisance noise from the other residents or from outside in the street.
The views from the communal balcony area were spectacular and there were chairs and tables provided so you could relax and enjoy the scenery.

There is a smaller 'Malany Villa' located on a different road, not far from where we stayed. I did hear that this was not as nice, even though it is owned by the same people, so make sure you check out the larger Malany Villa instead.

The boys decided that the room price was too high for them and although we tried to barter the price down the staff wouldn't budge. They found a room for 15,000Kip each per night and although it was a lot smaller than ours and had a shared bathroom, it was still decent enough.

The views from the communal balcony

On the first night we checked out the restaurants and bars. We saw quite a few drunk people milling around but i would not say its anywhere near as bad as say Newquay and certainly not 'the new Koh San Road' as the Lonely Planet once dubbed it. The downside is that almost every restaurant has huge flat screen TV that play crappy American sitcoms really really loudly all day and night. It ended up driving me insane but it was quite difficult to find somewhere that didn't have a flat screen TV with Friends playing!

The first day we hired a moped for 35,000Kip and crossed a bridge that charged us 10,000Kip to explore around Vang Vieng. We went out slightly unprepared, as we soon realised we would need sensible shoes and swimwear due to the many lagoons and caves. We noted which parts we wanted to return to and enjoyed a day out on the bike stopping off for mango sticky rice and took photos of the magnificent mountain scenery.

You are charged 10,000kip for every cave/attraction you go to, there is no way to avoid it and you cannot barter the price down.
 The bike we hired that ended up breaking down

 The beautiful views of Vang Vieng

En route to the caves

Me, not wearing very sensible footwear for the caves

The sunset

We went back to explore the places we missed the day before but this time we crossed a different bridge, that was located next to 'The Island'. It was only a narrow bamboo bridge but it was free of charge, and as long as you're careful you can easily cross it on a moped.

 The bamboo bridge that takes you to the caves and lagoon

We arrived at 'Poukam Cave & Blue Lagoon' after about half an hour of riding down a very bumpy and dusty track. The blue lagoon had water that i had only ever seen in films, it really was a pure, almost cartoon blue/green. There was a tree overhanging the lagoon with rope swings, a couple of small platforms for jumping and quite a few fishes swimming around too.

Ian jumping from the tree into the lagoon

Me swinging into the blue lagoon, next to Poukham Cave

In the cave

Ian pictured in the cave

Our next stop was 'Kaeng Yui Waterfall', this was located across the bridge and through the town, so the drive to get there was roughly an hour altogether. The first few waterfalls were quite small and located in the woodland area, we walked slightly higher and found the main waterfall that had misty water trickling down into a stream below. It was very peaceful here, as we were the only tourists around, although it was a little too cold to swim in the river, as the trees blocked most of the sunlight. Overall the drive through the little villages and incredible scenery made the trip here worth while.

Kaeng Yui Waterfall

Before we embarked on one more day of tubing, we hired mopeds once again to go in search of a mountain view point and also show Jason, Aaron, Luke & Josh 'Poukham Cave & Blue Lagoon', as they had not yet seen it.

We stopped at a small village that we had driven past a couple of times, located a mile or so before 'Poukham Cave'. We asked a local about the view point and were pointed into the direction of a small rocky track where we were charged 10,000kip to climb to the view point that was called 'Natural Nguer Mountain.

After an exhausting climb, we made it to the first part of the view point and enjoyed the spectacular views of Vang Vieng below us. We walked a little further along and climbed up some sharp rocks where we came to the highest peak of the mountain where there was a bamboo hut precariously built on the edge, which is course we used as a photo opportunity.

 Aaron, Josh, Jason and Luke at the viewpoint

 Ian and I in the broken bamboo shack at the peak of the viewpoint

How's that for a view!

Vang Vieng is an absolutely beautiful little town. Its well worth visiting even if you're not keen on the tubing side of things because there are so many unexplored, quiet spots that many tourists don't visit because sadly they're too busy tubing and or drinking. I would have loved to explore much more of Laos but unfortunately we didn't have time. Don't think of Laos as a place just to go 'tubing', this country has so much more to offer.

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