Vang Vieng is infamous for tubing; the activity that sees one sit in an inner tube, float down the river amid jaw-dropping scenery whilst stopping off at bars for cheap whisky and beer along the route. Though, today, tubing in the Vang Vieng is a far cry from what it was just a couple of years ago; a handful of deaths led to the closure of the majority of the bars. Now, there are just 4 or 5, all of which are in the early stretch of the river. After the bars end, you can find yourself floating down the river for a couple of hours with no other company aside from the odd kayaker (or in our case, a million Chinese kayakers due to the Chinese new year holidays). Though many revellers still come in their drones to Vang Vieng for what the Lonely Planet describe as a ‘rite of passage’, I can only imagine the town has come a long way since its deathly heyday. Whilst, yes, we did tube and we did stop for a beer or two, we thoroughly enjoyed being able to lap up what was around us and feast our eyes on the scenery. When the party was still in full force a couple of years ago, this would have been far from possible.
The town itself was nice enough and there were not too many drunk idiots walking around in bikinis or next to no clothes. Of course, there were a token few who don’t have enough respect of the local and modest Laos culture to cover up or refrain from acting like a complete tool around the town. I dread to imagine what this town would have been like back when. There is still a nightlife, if you want it. There are plenty of places to get a Western fix, a banana pancake, or, local food. There are numerous massage joints where you can soothe your aching feet, and there are plenty of hotels ranging from the backpacker digs to pretty nice get-ups.
Now the party has mellowed, Vang Vieng makes for a great place to explore, be it cycling, caving, trekking, kayaking or tubing. There is no intimidation by the young, party crowd to those who want something different out of the trip, as the young, party crowd is so much smaller now. Head to Vang Vieng and you will have the opportunity to experience incredible nature on its doorstep.