Vangvieng a magnet for Asian visitors
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.

The small district of Vangvieng with its picturesque Xong River and surrounding mountains continues to attract large numbers of Koreans and Chinese, even though it’s the low season right now.
Earlier this month I visited the district in Vientiane province, and observed the many tour groups from the Republic of Korea and China. I went with my friends to the Thavisouk hotel and resort on the banks of the Xong River where the more than 100 rooms were fully booked.
It came as a surprise that a hotel of that size was full at this time of the year. My friends and I went to another popular hotel, the Riverside Boutique Resort, where we booked rooms for just two nights, as they were full beyond that time. We wanted to stay longer but they had no more rooms.
I hadn’t been to Vangvieng for six months and I found there were more activities for tourists. A night market had opened in the middle of town selling a large number of

Boatmen get ready to take tourists for a trip on the Xong River.

handicrafts and there were more motorised boats for trips on the river. There was also a lot more accommodation available.
About 150 kilometres north of Vientiane, Vangvieng is one of the most beautiful and well known tourist destinations in Laos. It boasts a wide range of activities such as caving, kayaking, trekking, and village visits, and is developing community-based tourism.
We met some Chinese tourists who were visiting Laos for the second time, but it was their first visit to Vangvieng.
Mrs Li Er Rong said “We’ve come here for five days. It’s wonderful and has surprised me and my friends. We love the beautiful mountains and the river. More importantly, I like the local food, much of which is sourced directly from nature, especially the crabs that can be found in rocky streams, and the local vegetables and forest products.”
The crabs are plentiful at Phahom cliff, which is just over 20km to the north of the district. It’s also a rest stop area and is surrounded by mountains with clear streams running at the foot of the hills, right alongside Road No. 13 North. 
Mrs Li and her friends found they were able to cook their own food at the restaurants they visited, and much enjoyed buying fresh local produce to eat.
“This is a very short time to be here. It’s not enough to sample all the local food and travel around. I’ve promised myself I will come back and stay for a month,” she said.
Another Chinese visitor Mr Liang Yingtang said “Next time, I will come here by car from China. I really like the culture and nature of this area very much. I’d like to travel to all parts of Laos to explore more amazing places.”
Meanwhile, the Xong River was the centre of attraction for groups of Koreans who were kayaking, and they too seemed to enjoy the local food.
Head of the tourism management unit of the Information, Culture and Tourism Office in Vangvieng district, Mr Duangmala Phuangchanla, said there were still lots of tour groups from Korea coming to Vangvieng, more than from any other country.
But there were far fewer than during the high season from October to April.
“However, there are still plenty of visitors here even in the low season, especially Koreans and Lao people. We also get lots of Chinese but they mostly visit during Chinese New Year in February,” he said.
With this being Visit Laos Year, visitor numbers were up by 2 percent from January to April compared to the same period last year.
Vientiane province has 152 officially designated tourist attractions, 21 travel agencies, 311 hotels, resorts and guesthouses, and 303 restaurants.
The 2017 statistics report from the Tourism Development Department ranks Vangvieng as the nation’s second most important domestic tourist destination behind Champassak province. It ranks fifth for overseas tourists.
In 2017, Vientiane province welcomed over 846,000 visitors, including 353,874 Lao and 592,650 foreign tourists, a major increase from the 589,948 people who visited in 2016.
The report revealed that the total number of visitors to Laos had increased every year from 1990 to 2016. After 2016 the number dropped by 9.6 percent (4.2 million tourists) and there was a further drop of 8.6 percent in 2017, when there were 3.8 million visitors.
Only Chinese tourists increased in number, growing by 17.2 percent compared to 2016. Overall, the Chinese ranked third (with 545,000 visitors) among all tourist arrivals behind Thailand (with just over 2 million) and Vietnam (998,000). In fourth place were Koreans, with 173,000 visitors.


 

By Times Reporters
(Latest Update May 26, 2018)

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