Vangvieng, a place for all seasons
Welcoming Visit Laos Year 2018, Vientiane Times is publishing a series of feature articles and images inviting you to experience the authentic nature, culture, history and hospitality of Laos, Jewel of the Mekong.

I┬ádon’t know how many times I’ve visited Vangvieng but I know it’s at least three times a year because it’s one of my favourite places and just three hours by car from Vientiane.
A visit there always gives me new challenges and opens up new doors, so that I yearn to return even before my stay has ended.
After my previous excusion to this riverside town I felt sure that my recent return visit could not be as good. Every time I feel that my last trip was the best and that’s how I feel again now because I got to know the area in greater depth and had a whole new set of experiences.
This time around, we decided to go on a whim as an excuse to get out of Vientiane. We took a bus at 2pm and hoped to arrive before dark so that we could look for a guesthouse.

The spectacular view from Pha Nguen Yai.

The bus journey was a bit of a disappointment because so many parts of the road were potholed after weeks of rain, so we arrived later than planned.
It starts to get dark soon after 6pm and we were afraid we would have problems crossing the Nam Song river to find a room because the bamboo bridge was broken, but we decided to try anyway.
When we arrived at the riverbank, we met a local man who had just returned from a fishing trip and helped us to get to the other side of the river.
We thought we would just find a simple room for the night and look for something better the next day but we were taken to a lovely guesthouse by the river called Cliffview Riverside Bungalows. The room had two big beds which was perfect for four people sharing.
Being hungry, we decided to find a nearby restaurant to get something to eat as we didn’t want to pay for too many boat trips back and forth across the river. But the guesthouse staff told us their boat was free and we could use it any time we wanted.
We decided to walk around the new night market to look for some handmade products and then we went for dinner at the street food restaurant at the old airport before returning to our guesthouse.
We sat on the porch listening to the sound of the river passing by and the different kinds of insects singing by the water and round about us. I felt that I was embedded in the natural environment and had trouble believing I was really in Vangvieng. Although we could still hear music coming from the other side of the river, it was not as loud as we’d heard it many times before.
I asked my friends where they wanted to go tomorrow but they said I should plan the day’s activities.
I woke up very early and immediately went outside without bothering to wash because I remembered that behind the guesthouse were some beautiful hills and a rice farm which was a good place to breathe in the morning air and maybe even see the sunrise.
I walked alone through the rice paddy and saw many people already returning home after spending time in the fields. “Did I wake up late?” I wondered.
After a while my friends caught up with me and asked why I hadn’t waited for them.
We stay there for about two hours but didn’t see the sunrise because it was cloudy after a rain shower. The landscape was spectacular and everywhere was green and fresh.
We went back to the guesthouse and decided to walk up the hill that loomed above us in the late afternoon to catch the sunset. In the meantime we explored the area around our enchanting guesthouse.
For our dinner that evening we bought some food to cook on a barbecue.
As we tackled the slopes of Pha Ngeun Yai I got completely out of breath and expended all my energy, and had to stop several times. But when we reached the top my energy was restored and I took in the panorama of Vangvieng below us as I inhaled great gulps of fresh air.
Although the sunset was hidden from view behind a hill I greatly enjoyed the magnificent view and my tiredness vanished.
You can also get there by renting a motorbike and riding across the Nam Song bridge near the town and taking the same route to Lagoon Green or Poukham Cave.
“Don’t arrive too late in the afternoon because it gets dark earlier than in other places. It’s better to come in the early morning because the sunrise is spectacular,” the locals told us.
We went back to our guesthouse when it got dark. The staff lent us the utensils we needed for the barbecue, which we cooked up on the riverbank.
Our trip was so enjoyable because we were away from the town centre and other people. We spent the evening chatting, eating and drinking Beerlao.
As midnight approached we were still deep in conversation and lying on mats as we looked up at the clear sky with a full moon and stars.
We became quiet so that we could drink in the beauty of the place, enjoy the silence and listen to the insects singing and the water burbling in the river.
The next morning we walked to the same place where we had the barbecue but this time we had coffee and breakfast at a restaurant.
Our trip had not ended yet but I asked my friends when we could come back again. They told me there was no need to plan because Vangvieng was not so far from Vientiane and anyway we still had more time to enjoy this visit.
We ended our excursion by visiting Lagoon Green yet again even though all of us had been there several times before. We thought that on this occasion there would be fewer people at this beautiful spot as it was the low tourist season.
But we were wrong because this is one of the most popular places in Vangvieng as it offers a zipline and a huge cave and visitors can swim in the fresh green water that has come down from the hills.
So now I’m yet again really sure that this was my best trip ever to Vangvieng because it was not so crowded and we were able to immerse ourselves in nature.
But I’m also sure that my next trip will prove to be the best ever as Vangvieng offers so many wonderful activities and opportunities, and there are always new experiences to be enjoyed.

By Patithin Phetmeuangphuan
(Latest Update September 29, 2018)

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