Vang Vieng is the ultimate chillout and/or adventure town in Laos. We arrived after a four hour journey through the mountains to be greeted by a town full of guesthouses, bars and restaurants and limestone cliffs as a backdrop. All the restaurants have raised platforms with cushions to chillout on and all show episodes of friends all day so we spent our first afternoon doing exactly that as there's not much more to do!
The next day we signed up for 'tubing' which is Vang Vieng's famous activity. It's simply an afternoon of floating down a river on a tractor tyre stopping a numerous bars along the way that throw you out a stick of bamboo and pull you in! All the bars have massive rope swings and zip wires which seem pretty small, but are a lot bigger when you're at the top and waiting to go! Unfortunately the weather wasn't great so we were pretty cold in the water but still had a great time. You finally float back into town late afternoon where we spent an evening at the well known smile bar down by the river.
As Vang Vieng is full of adventure activities, I thought I would give rock climbing a shot which turned out to be one of the best things I've done! It was such hard work especially in the heat but so satisfying when you reach the top of a climb. The views were great and our guides cooked us up a buffalo meat barbeque on the side of the mountain! I think we all found out though that Laos people think of fun first and safety second as our guides weren't so quick to react when we fell off the wall or when we were climbing back down to the bottom of the jungle!
After having a great time with the tour company, the three of us decided to go cycling and caving the following day with the same guide. The bikes were in surprisingly good condition but the same can't be said for the road! The heat was sweltering and so we were glad to reach the 'blue lagoon' and have a dip in the clear cold water! Our day also involved a trip into the depths of a cave which was something I've never experienced before. It was pretty eerie going deeper into the huge pitch black caverns with only our headlamps as light. After more buffalo for lunch, we carried on the rest of our tour through the stunning scenery of Laos which also involved a couple of unexpected river crossings, I'm not sure whether our guide was expecting them either! The locals we saw along the way were all so friendly especially all the kids who would wave and shout. We made it back to the town centre and watched the sun drop behind the cliff faces before chilling out with some more friends after a hard day's work.
Vang Vieng was great fun and a cool place to meet lots of other travellers. But we all came away feeling like we hadn't really seen Laos as everyone there is a tourist and everything is so Western. It was quite difficult to find Laos food on a menu and all the shops were selling souvenirs or adventure tours. Definately worth visiting for all the acitvities but we could've been anywhere really.
P.S. Thanks for all the messages, I am reading them but unfortunately can't reply to them on here! x