Vang Vieng, a shabby town set on the Nam Song River in a beautiful valley of karst formations, was once known for tubing and easy access to drugs, a dangerous combination that led to a government crackdown in 2012. Now the town has reinvented itself as an eco-tourism destination with opportunities for biking, hiking, caving, kayaking and, yes, tubing.
We booked the kayak trip in Vang Vieng late in the afternoon the day before we wanted to go. The guy at the Green Discovery sales office was very slow at letting us know what trip options were available, but there is a 3-ring binder with information on the different trips they offer. We chose the kayaking trip because it is still warm this time of year and we thought it would be a pleasant way to enjoy the local scenery.
Weather wise, kayaking turned out to be a good option in early November with the perfect temperature for paddling and the water cool but not too cold. You do get wet on this trip.
You start about 17k up river from town and paddle towards town with 4 stops along the way – 2 caves, lunch and the Organic Farm. However, for us the best part of the day was spent paddling down the Nam Song.
A beautiful day on the river with just enough easy rapids to keep it interesting. Mountain views appear from time to time above the verdant river banks with not much development until you get to town. Even the section where the bars start (the tubing section just outside of town) is only a little more developed but still very green.
Elephant Cave, Tham Sang
The activities are good for breaking up the kayaking time, but honestly not that interesting. We started with the Elephant Cave, Tham Sang, and village tour just a short distance from where we set out in the kayaks. The village tour was boring, the village having recently been built to take advantage of the profits from the cave. What more can you say? The cave has a small somewhat realistic formation of an elephant, a Buddha platform and foot print.
We then paddled to the lunch stop under a shaded tree where our guide cooked veggie and meat skewers and served them with fresh rolls and rice. Bananas for desert. Too much food but nicely done.
A short paddle later we were at the Organic Farm where they serve you a glass of mulberry tea and you tour the “farm”, really a garden with some goats. The goats were cute, especially the kids but you didn’t see much else other than the plants they were growing for the goats to eat.
Wet Cave, Tham Hoi
After another short paddle we stopped at the wet cave, Tham Hoi, where you enter on an inner tube and walk out the other end. We were there late in the day with no one else around. The experience is fun but doesn’t take more than 15 to 20 minutes. Even with the torches they give you, you can’t see that much.
Return to Vang Vieng
The trip ends with one last short paddle into town. Late in the day it’s beautiful on the water. You see few structures along the river until you actually reach town. There are some tube bars before that but only a few these days. Some blast music so it’s not as peaceful as before.
Overall I enjoyed the kayaking, despite the lame sights. It’s a fun day. Just keep your expectations low.
There are a number of outfits in town that offer excursions including kayaking. The cheaper ones have larger groups. With Green Discoveries groups are much smaller but trips are more expensive. We were just 4 guests kayaking. They also did a good job of timing our arrival at sights so that we weren’t there at the same time as other larger groups.
November 1, 2018
For links to all the posts in this series see the Laos/Cambodia page.