Vang Vieng is a small town nestled in a valley surrounded by limestone hills. It’s located part way between Vientiane and Luang Prabang.
As I sit on our balcony overlooking the river the smell of the evening burning fills the air. The smoke rises slowly almost like fog and creates a beautiful light show as the sun begins to set behind the mountains. It is a truly enchanting spot.
This town is an interesting juxtaposition between tourism and wild beauty. Young kids come from all over to play in the mountains and drink in the noisy bars. We are staying in the far end of town but we occasional stray into the party. No problem finding a pizza or hamburger here. If you go to a high priced (meaning 240000 kip or 30$) restaurant the food will taste terrible. But if you look for the local kitchens where the tourists do not go you’ll find wonderful local food, like the Larp and sticky rice that Michel and I love so much.
Right across the river from our hotel is an entryway into wild country. A few Hmong villages out there but mainly rice fields surrounded by limestone hills. We rented bikes and crossed the bridge to explore. 6 kilometers away there was a sign pointing us in the direction of a cave. After a few kilometers of what seemed like straight up to me, we rode our bikes as far as we could go to the edge of a rice field. After crossing the rice field and a tricky bamboo bridge we found our cave. The cave was not much to speak of but the journey there was amazing. On our way back we passed a mountain garden full of wonderful fruit. Guava, bananas, and also soybean were growing there and being very well tended. As we came down from the cave into the rice fields Michel interacted with the young couple working the fields. The woman invited him into her small open hut and demonstrated her meal preparation.
Our second outing was on a motorbike. Me behind Michel and both of us feeling relatively in harmony on the bike. We took a roughly 15 kilometer ride off the normal tourist path and back into the Hmong villages where tourists do not go. Gone were the jaded money making smiles of Vang Vieng replaced by smiling welcoming village people who would do anything for us. We stopped in the first town concerned about the amount of the oil in the bike. A few women came over and started chattering to each other about the bike. Then one young woman with children motioned us to come with her. We rolled the motorbike into her garage just as her husband drove up. He serviced the bike with great expertise solving a problem with the idle and making everything perfect.
We rode on go the next village where a large group sat around a table in front of a hut that was the local store. We sat with them signing our ages and in general laughing with them as Michel used his camera to communicate. It was a wonderful time. Most of them did not want to be photographed but this couple in their 50s did not mind.
The last stop was in the middle of nowhere. No town around but there was this lonely restaurant where we ate perfect soup.
The woman there used to work in the party part of town and spoke good English. We had a great time talking to her and she instructed us on both cooking techniques and speaking Lao.
Finally, we spent some time just wandering around the town. Michel found his new favorite dessert in front of a local computer store. The dessert is fresh banana cooked in a thin crepe with sweetness on top. We became friends with the husband who worked the computer store and his wife who prepared the dessert. The family who we chatted with many times has just moved from Vientiane. The husband speaks very good English and we spent several evenings chatting about computers and general life. A beautiful way to end each day and we thank them for their kindness and wish them well.
There are an almost endless number things to see in Vang Vieng.
There is so much poverty surrounded by so much beauty.
And everywhere there are signs of the conflicts years before.
These are a few of the pictures of everyday life.
And local faces.
We will miss Vang Vieng and our new friends there. Looking forward to returning someday.
Categories: Laos travel