The Softer Side of Vang Vieng, Laos

February 6, 2013, In: Asia, Laos, Travel

Vang Vieng has long been known as a party town. A perfect place for backpackers who want to tube down a river having so much fun they won’t remember a bit of it. I wasn’t originally sure I’d find much to do in Vang Vieng. Everything I’d heard had been about the endless partying and the scene sounded less than appealing. But it quickly became one of my favorite stops on the trip so far.


The mountains are gorgeous, the caves are exciting, and there are several restaurants that play season after season of Friends on a loop 24 hours a day. What could be better?!? I couldn’t resist! We had to indulge in a little downtown time, lounging next to the tables on pillows rather than chairs, watching old episodes of Friends, and ordering the comfort foods we’d been craving: pasta and burgers. The only thing that could have made me any happier would have been having Beth Hardin on the next pillow over, appreciating Chandler’s vests with me the way only she can.

Friends Bar Collage

A little history on the party scene of Vang Vieng: Drinking and tubing have always been the biggest attraction, and the craziness was at an all time high. In recent years, the drinks have gotten stronger, and rather than traditional juice mixers, the locals started mixing drinks with methanol- just for a little extra kick. Sound like a terrible idea? It was. Over the past few months several Aussie’s have died of methane poisoning after consuming these popular mixed drinks. Even more backpackers have died diving from rocks and swinging from rope swings when they were too intoxicated to judge the depth of the water.


I guess enough was finally enough. A couple of months ago the entire river experience changed when the Australian government came through and literally tore down many of the riverside bars, famous for their whiskey buckets and lao-lao shots.

Closed Bar Collage

The more famous bars (Smiley, Sunset, etc) were boarded up, while many more were just torn down.

Though most of the river bars have closed, many people still enjoy tubing the Nam Xong. The only difference is that now you have to bring your own liquor, which isn’t a problem since you can buy a bottle of “Tiger Whiskey” for about $1. Terrible! Rather than hopping in the river ourselves, Brian and I had more fun sitting on the bridge around sunset as the last of the tubers floated to the end. They came out stumbling and sunburned, swallowing the last of the warm whiskey they’d been sipping for the last 4 hours. Though the water is freezing- the views are spectacular and everyone came out raving about it. I am sure that it is a great experience, but growing up in Florida, we have both tubed down our fair share of rivers, towing coolers, and playing Tarzan, so it didn’t hold quite the appeal that the caves and rock climbing did.


Follow up post on our outdoor adventures coming soon. But for now, here are some of my favorite sunset pictures of Vang Vieng.

Vang Vieng Sunset Blog-3

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  1. Reply

    The colors and sceneries don’t disappoint. Now I understand why you like the carnival pictures. Great blog, keep up the good work.

    • Reply

      Thank you so much! I LOVE those carnival pictures.

      • Reply

        It’s a rarely seen side of Haiti, since the media always talk about the misery and violence there. People need to see and appreciate it themselves. Thank you for commenting on Rapadoo Observateur. We’re excited that you dropped by.

    • Beth
    • February 6, 2013

    Could that BE any prettier?! Amazing. Wish I was there, too, Melindy.

  2. Reply

    Vang Vieng is amazing, I’m happy that I got to go tubing before it closed down, I know it’s dangerous but it was a lot of fun…great pictures :)

    • Reply

      Absolutely! I think I would have gone if we had had time… People make it dangerous when they go to crazy extremes, but it looked like a great time!

    • TBM
    • February 6, 2013

    Nice photos. they play Friends a lot in London as well. But the scenery isn’t as nice :)

    • Reply

      Isn’t that the truth!? London is still one of my favorite places in the world though :)

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