During out COVID-shortened 2020 trip we spent a couple weeks in Laos. We flew in to Luang Prabang from Hanoi, and then hired a driver to take us down to Vang Vieng.
At first we considered taking a bus from Luang Prabang, but after hearing stories about a rough bus trip we decided to hire a car and driver to take us instead.
It seemed like a good decision, the as winding dirt roads were in poor shape in many places and warnings were posted along the road. We saw more than a few wrecks along the way as we wound our way up and down the Laotian countryside.
Eventually we arrived in the sleepy town of Vang Vieng. For many years it was a bit of a wild place for young people to go, and too many foreigner deaths caused a crackdown a few years back by the authorities.
These days it is more an adventure destination with rock climbing, caving, rafting and tubing being the focus. During our stay I ended up doing a tubing trip down the Nam Song River. I was driven upriver to a spot with a tube and made my way into the river. For the next two hours it was a lazy trip down the river. Because I did the trip in the Spring of 2020, very few tourists were there are for most of the trip I was the only person floating down the river. I stopped at a bar along the way (catching a rope the bar owner tossed to me) and had a beer before continuing onward. It was about as relaxing an experience as I will ever have. My only regret was not bringing a camera along with me for the experience.
The town itself was dusty and mostly quiet when we were there. Restaurants were scattered around including a North Korean one, though we didn’t visit. There was also a North Korean stand in the market that sold their hard to find Taedonggang Beer for US$5 per bottle.
While there we visited Tham Jang, a small cave just south of the town. Used as a bunker in the 19th century during a Chinese invasion, it now had a few small Buddhist shrines inside.
Back in the town, there was a small market, a number of restaurants around and lots of agencies advertising tours and activities in and around the town. There were also temples scattered here and there.