After an eventful day of tubing, drinking, getting lost in the dark and other debauchery, we woke up mercifully not hungover and set out to explore Vang Vieng.
Vang Vieng is very small, and although the surrounding scenery is gorgeous, there isn’t really much to do in town other than get raging drunk, or lounge around in one of the hip restaurants until you’re ready to get raging drunk.
We walked along the streets, perusing the touristy shops and came upon a sign advertising ‘German-Thai food, the best schnitzel in Laos.’ We thought that was quite random, and decided we would like to check it out.
After following the hand drawn signs for a few blocks, we finally found Viman Vang Vieng, where we were greeted by a small man with a strange accent. He recommended ordering the schnitzel, after assuring us that it was the best schnitzel in Laos and even better than in Germany, so we decided to try it.
The man, Mr. Kaz, is the owner of the restaurant and seemingly the only person that works there. He rounded the corner and started cooking our food which only took perhaps 20 minutes. Neither of us are any sort of schnitzel-afficianados, but the dish was very good, especially paired with the perfectly fried potatoes!
He sat with us while we ate, explaining that he was born in Thailand and grew up in Germany. He was visiting Laos a couple of years ago, and when he came to Vang Vieng, he realized that “this was his place” and decided to open a restaurant. The result is a quirky combination of German, Thai, and Laotian food, all of which he boasts to be quite skilled–and we certainly can’t argue. We ended up coming here again the following day to try his Thai curry which he makes in the “old-style” and was also very, very good. He is also an artist, and the walls are covered in his eclectic paintings.
After spending a couple of hours with Mr. Kaz, we walked back lazily to our hostel and sat around the common area for a while.
Around dinner time, we got a couple of street sandwiches, then headed to Kangaroo Sunset Bar, one of the infamous local hangouts. It was full of inebriated backpackers playing drinking games and grinding on each other to Top 40s music, all while consuming shot after shot of lao-Lao, the local rice whisky (read: sticky rice moonshine) and huffing ‘happy balloons.’
One of the bartenders wearing a frog suit approached us almost immediately, insisting that we participate in a bizarre game of no-hands darts. She also introduced us to another girl who worked there wearing a penguin suit who challenged me to name all 50 states for a free drink. After winning both the darts game and the state challenge, we were full of free shots of lao-Lao and vodka redbull within 30 minutes of our arrival. After another hour or two of Beer Laos and chatting with the penguin, the bar was closing. There is a curfew in town that forces businesses, with the exception of a few bars, to close down by midnight. Naturally, everyone knows which bars stay open after curfew and there is a mass exodus to said locations at about 11:30pm each night.
Somehow our intentions of going to the bar turned into chatting on the curb with a couple of spacey Norwegian dudes that were tripping on mushrooms. Two hours later, we stumbled back to our room, where we would end up staying for a full 24 hours in recovery from the night before. It’s worth noting that we rarely get drunk anymore (we’re so mature, obviously) so our tolerance is low, and our tolerance for hangovers is even lower.
After a full day of agony and swearing off alcohol for life, we woke up feeling mostly alive and decided we would spend the day at Tham Phu Kham Cave and the Blue Lagoon. Most people rent motos or take tuk tuks, but we decided the exercise would do us good after two days of binging and nothing productive.
About 4 miles each direction, we walked by small farms and admired the towering limestone karsts in the distance. The sun was brutal and when we finally made it there, we were glad to jump in the beautiful (but frigid) blue water of the lagoon before making the sweaty, treacherous ascent to the Tham Phu Kham Cave.
We had done our research and brought along our own flashlights and headlamps to go exploring. Once inside the cave, there is a reclining buddha statue surrounded by stunning rock formations.
Moving on, the cave opens up to a huge cavern and endless tunnels. There are also deadly, plummeting holes with no safety precautions but some markings on the wall, so the flashlights were essential!
We ventured as far into the cave as we dared, but it was apparent how easy it would be to get lost in there so we turned back to avoid any mishaps.
Coming back down from the cave was even more perilous than the ascent. Luckily we had good shoes on, unlike most of the other tourists who were fearfully clutching to the rocks in flip flops.
By the time we started back to town, the sun wasn’t quite as intense but we were pretty exhausted when we got back. We had dinner at one of the chilled out pizza joints on the main road, then went back to the hostel to wait for our sleeper bus at 11:30pm.
We had a blast in Vang Vieng, but we made our exit before falling into the out of control party atmosphere that so many get sucked into. It certainly is a good time and worth doing on occasion, but frankly, we worked our asses off to save up for this trip and don’t feel that it’s a valuable way to spend all of our funds. Plus, feeling too sick to go on adventures during the day just isn’t worth it for us.
So, on to Luang Prabang!
Coca Cola: 7,000kip
Lunch (Schnitzel): 130,000kip
Dinner (Street Sandwiches): 40,000kip
Kangaroo Sunset Bar: 130,000kip
Total Spent: 437,000kip ($53.97 USD)
Sandwich + Coke: 27,000kip
Thai Curry: 95,000kip
Total Spent: 317,000kip ($39.15 USD)
Coca Cola: 7,000kip
Toll Bridge: 8,000kip
Blue Lagoon Entrance Fee: 20,000kip
Food + Beer: 75,000kip
Sleeper Bus: 400,000kip
Total Spent: 698,000kip ($86.21 USD)