Vang Vieng: Chasing the Wild Life

So what does one do with a five-month-old in the former party capital and current adrenaline capital of Southeast Asia? Strap that baby on, down a bucket of LaoLao, and hit the ziplines! Or, if you’re us, settle for a nice drive out to the country and a few laid back bars at sunset.

We started the day as I recommend anyone visiting Vang Vieng start their day — with a visit to the Organic Mulberry Farm a few miles north of town.

Yes, that organic farm — the very same one that started the tubing craze nearly two decades ago, completely transforming this sleeping little hamlet into a drug-fueled Neverland-by-the-river. Those days are long gone, but the organic farm remains. Darn good food and a nice view of the river and karst cliffs. Make sure you try their goat cheese and mulberry pancakes (and that’s two separate things… as good as goat cheese mulberry pancakes, sound).

So delicious, we came back a second time on Monday before leaving town.

After breakfast, we headed out to the cave loop west of town via the only year-round bridge connecting the two banks in Vang Vieng. Year-round, perhaps. Structurally sound? Highly debatable.

Made it to the other side! Now, we just have to make it back…

So many sights to see! And by sights I mean caves, of course. However, the condition of the roads were questionable beyond the turnoff to Poukham Cave, so we decided to stick to seeing visiting Poukham and the Blue Lagoon this time and save the rest for when Noe’s a little older, or at least able to support his upper body on the back of a bicycle.

The road is sealed most of the way to Poukham Cave (home of the famous Blue Lagoon) and easy going for most any vehicle in the dry season, in case you were wondering.

The drive brought back vivid memories of our four days motorbiking Southern Laos’ Thakhek Loop in 2012. Oh the wondrous beauty. Oh the heinous wedgies.

A short while later, we arrived at the Blue Lagoon. This photo makes the place look empty, but empty it most certainly was not. Amazing what yelling “Shark!” does to a group of 14-year-old girls.

I think we found where everyone in Vientiane ran off to for the holiday weekend. The grounds were packed with Laotian families enjoying this beautiful place — and Koreans, still looking for the party.

We thought visiting nearby Poukham cave sounded nice. We love caves. Noe loves caves (with the obvious exception of the one we took him to to pay our respects to the nearly 400 innocent people who tragically lost their lives 50 years ago — sorry about that, buddy). So, we decided to go see the cave. And found this…

Ok, maybe we should skip this one for now.

On to the next cave!

None of the other caves along the route seemed easily accessible, so we returned to town for a quick snack and went to visit Jang Cave, easily accessed from town by driving or walking to the Vangvieng resort and crossing a bright orange footbridge.

This is more like it! A steep climb, but relatively few visitors. Very nice.

And best of all, the cave itself was even worth the effort! Quite the underground complex they have going here — enough for 20-30 minutes of fairly easy cave exploration (and even more if you’re [unsuccessfully] trying to put your baby to sleep–great fun for the whole family!).

The entrance to the cave offers a commanding view of town and the surrounding hills — not the karst cliffs (I’m actually standing on one), but picturesque nonetheless.

Wow, I’m exhausted. Only one thing to do about that — Lao Coffee in a bag, yo.

Make that two, please.

Fo shizzy. Now we’re ready to party.

Noe: “Um, guys? I’m still here.”

Lori: “Did you hear something, David?”

David: “Hear what?”

Noe: “Oh boy…”

To the Party Island!

Lori wanted to return to Smile Beach Bar to watch the sunset, so we joined all the other…ahem…young…ahem…folks and did what…ahem…young…ahem…folks do at Smile Beach Bar — rock out with our baby out.

Guess it’s that time, again…

Watch out for those power lines!!!

Nothing says “I’m in Southeast Asia” like a group of Korean men taking a selfie next to a couple of lady boys washing each others’ hair in the river. I love this country.

And here come the sunset kayakers, right on cue.


Now, where’s my bucket of LaoLao, Lori? No LaoLao? Then I’ll settle for bug spray and a baby, thank you.

Noe: “Ok, guys. Whatever point you’re trying to prove, you’ve proved it. Now, can we go back to the guesthouse?”

Silly Noe. We’re just getting started!

Mexican food at Amigo’s! Best Mexican food this side of Vang Vieng — and I truly mean that!

So many munchies to choose from. If it were 2011 and we were here visiting and hadn’t just inhaled a delicious enchilada platter, I’d probably be very interested in the offerings here. Check back with me in a few hours.

And now I present “Marts of Vang Vieng.”

You’ve got your K Mart, of course — soda and money exchange if you need it (I’m sure the rates are awesome too).

And your M Mart (not to be confused with the M-Point Mart national chain of mini-markets, which strangely is absent from central Vang Vieng). Again, snacks and money exchange. Great rates as always, I imagine.

And U-Mart, which, sadly is closed on this fine evening. Maybe they should consider offering money exchange?

Lori and Noe, just getting back from some late-night tubing with some random dudes. Wish I could’ve joined you guys but I was busy taking pictures of mini-marts. Suckers.

The main drag of Vang Vieng. It’s exciting. It’s gritty. It’s…the only way back to the guesthouse.

Well, Noe, I guess we best be getting you home now…

Hey, this place looks sweet. Perhaps we should take a peak?

Love what you’ve done with the place. Though, I must say, the light fixtures are a bit tired-looking, don’t you think?

For what it’s worth, at least one of us was being a responsible parental unit considering the child n’ all. Then again, who can turn down a fresh coconut shake at 8pm? Well, me for one. When there’s cold BeerLao on tap in this country, you really have to seize the moment. You never quite know when your two paths will cross again.

Speaking of crossing paths, not sure what happened here. Guess that’s the kind of crazy stuff that happens in Vang Vieng after 8:30pm. I think we best be getting you to bed now, Mister.

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