Laos Trip / Day 2 : Let’s go to Vang Vieng

After we arrived in Laos yesterday, we spent half a day exploring Vientiane, the capital city. Today, we ventured further north to visit a renowned city known for its pristine nature called “Vang Vieng.” We purchased bus tickets to Vang Vieng yesterday at the hotel.

Today, we woke up at seven in the morning to shower, pack our belongings, check out, and have breakfast at the hotel in order to catch the bus at around 8.30AM as scheduled. We had reserved bus tickets, but when the actual time came, it turned out to be a van, which was more expensive and arrived earlier than the bus. It was a surprise because many times people who booked vans ended up on buses instead, but we, on the other hand, had booked a bus and ended up on a bus πŸ™‚ I guess it might be because we were traveling on a rweekday with fewer people, so the bus wasn’t worth it, and they had to use vans instead.

The van arrived to pick us up on time. After picking us up, it went to pick up other people from 2-3 more hotels before heading out of town towards Vang Vieng immediately. On the way, we made a midway stop at a roadside restaurant about 2 hours after leaving Vientiane. This allowed passengers to use the restroom, buy some food, and stretch for about 15-20 minutes.


The bus tickets, but finally, we ended up with van 🚐


Our Van to Vang Vieng, it had 13 seats


The local restaurant on the way to Vang Vieng. We stopped here for 20 minutes


Grilled sticky rice coated with egg and Grilled banana. Our light breakfast


After our midway break, we dozed off intermittently, and around noon, we arrived at a small town nestled among the hills…Vang Vieng. Most minibusses and vans would usually drop off passengers at the front of MELANY VILLA-1 Hotel, which is located in the heart of Vang Vieng (while those on tour buses or larger vehicles would be dropped off at the BKS Bus Terminal, which is about 1 kilometer away from the town center). If you have booked a hotel not far from the drop-off point, you can walk to your reserved hotel. However, if your hotel is located further away, you might need to take a hired vehicle to reach your booked accommodation. You can check in advance on Google Maps to plan accordingly once you arrive in Vang Vieng, to determine your next course of action. If you’d like my recommendation, I suggest booking a hotel within walking distance (approximately 400-600 meters) of MELANY VILLA-1 or staying there directly. As for our reserved hotel, it was VANG VIENG CENTRAL PARK HOTEL, which was only 400 meters away from the drop-off point. It was not only convenient, close to restaurants, and reasonably priced but also brand new. The rate we got at that time was 35 USD per night, including breakfast.


MELANY VILLA-1, The terminal station for the van from Vientiane


After checking in at the hotel and freshening up, around 2PM, we ventured outside to find something to eat and spent the remaining half day exploring around the town of Vang Vieng. Vang Vieng is a small town where you can easily walk around, but for convenience, I recommend renting bicycles or scooters. This way, you can ride outside the town area to explore nearby without going too far. However, we needed to be cautious while driving because they drive on the right side here, opposite to our home country. Our goal for the afternoon, besides eating, was to visit “Jang Cave (Tham Jang)” and see the unique Orange Bridge, one of the landmarks of Vang Vieng. Afterwards, we planned to find a tour for a day trip tomorrow and buy bus tickets back to Udon Thani from Vang Vieng for the day after tomorrow. In the evening, we would stroll around, enjoy the local food, and have dinner. πŸ—ΊοΈ

We started by walking to find a bicycle rental shop, strolling along the streets in town where there were shops renting bicycles or scooters, as well as tour agencies and ticket counters. There were plenty of flight tickets available, so we could inquire and choose according to our preferences. The rental prices were mostly similar, with bicycle rentals costing around 15,000 kip per day (approximately 2 USD). We had to provide either a Thai ID card or a passport as a deposit (Thai ID card or Thai driver’s license worked fine here; they accepted them). As for scooter rentals, I don’t remember the exact price, but it was around 100,000 kip per day (or about 15 USD). I opted for a bicycle. The reason I chose a bicycle was that I didn’t trust myself driving a scooter on the right side, as it could lead to accidents due to my unfamiliarity.

After getting our bicycles, our next destination was “Jang Cave,” which was only 1.5 kilometers away. The roads in Vang Vieng town were smooth, paved with rubber or cement, making cycling comfortable and worry-free. However, the road leading to Jang Cave, located near Vang Vieng Resort, was a gravel path that required extra caution.



We spent about 20 minutes cycling (including getting lost) and arrived at the entrance of Jang cave. I want to mention that Jang Cave is part of Vang Vieng Resort. Visitors had to pay a 2,000 kip fee (approximately 0.25 USD) as an entrance fee to the resort, and an additional 2,000 kip for each bicycle. In total, we paid 6,000 kip (around 0.75 USD) for all of us. This amount does not include the cave entrance fee that had to be paid at the cave’s entrance (after crossing the suspension bridge), which was 15,000 kip per person (approximately 2 USD)



Jang Cave is a cave located in the southwestern direction of Vang Vieng, which can be crossed via a suspension bridge (crossing the Nam Song River). It has 147 steps for ascending inside the cave. Within the cave, there are two zones. The left-hand side is a viewpoint where you can admire the breathtaking view of the Nam Song River, green rice fields, and the pristine nature of Vang Vieng. On the right-hand side, there are various formations of stalactites and stalagmites. The cave offers a cool and comfortable atmosphere due to the flowing river that exits the cave to the lower ground. Jang Cave was once used as a refuge during the early 19th century when Laos was under the threat of Chinese-Ho invaders. Near Jang Cave, there are small ponds where water flows from the cave, providing a place for children and locals to enjoy water activities and relax

After parking our bicycles at a nearby parking area close to the suspension bridge (Orange bridge), we began our leisurely stroll to explore. We started by admiring the view of the suspension bridge that stretched across the Nam Song River in the late afternoon. The serene atmosphere of the surrounding countryside hills provided an authentic rural backdrop that made it feel as if the bridge led to a world where time truly slows down.



After crossing the bridge, we continued walking along the path towards Jang cave. Along the way, local villagers were selling forest products and local delicacies such as honey, wild betel leaves, and roasted yams. There was also a restaurant before reaching the cave. As mentioned earlier, prior to entering the Jang cave, we had to purchase tickets at the counter located at the bottom. Once we obtained our tickets, we walked through the gate and encountered a staircase leading up to the cave. This was the moment to exert some energy, but it wasn’t overly exhausting as the number of steps was not significant, and the staircase wasn’t too steep. We climbed continuously, taking occasional breaks of about 10 minutes until we finally arrived.



Once we reached the top, we instantly felt the exhaustion fade away. The breathtaking view of Vang Vieng from the mouth of the cave was truly stunning. Right in front of us was a small town nestled amidst nature and mountains. It wasn’t hard to imagine why the people who live or visit this town are so happy. It’s simply because the town is incredibly charming like this.



However, the beauty didn’t end there because it was just the beginning. Inside the Jang cave, there was still so much more for us to explore. After enjoying the view of Vang Vieng, we continued our journey inside the cave. It was getting cooler as it was already evening, and we had about an hour left to explore the cave. The first step into the cave made us feel a chill, as it was significantly colder inside (like being in a heavily air-conditioned room). Inside, there were two paths to choose from: the left path that led to a viewpoint and the right path that took us through formations of stalactites and stalagmites. We decided to take the left path first (without any particular reason, it just seemed like our legs took us there on their own). As we walked to the end of the path, we reached another viewpoint overlooking Vang Vieng, but this time from a higher perspective, resembling the mouth of the cave. ⛰️





After we finished exploring the left side of the cave, we walked back to the entrance and continued towards the right side where there were formations of stalactites and stalagmites to admire. It got colder as we went deeper, but the beauty of the formations enticed us to keep walking further and further inside. We spent about 20 minutes walking, admiring the formations, and taking photos inside the cave before turning back to the original path to exit. About 15 minutes before the cave closed, cave officials came to inspect and asked if there were still people inside to prevent any danger from leaving someone behind after the cave was closed.







After we exited Jang Cave, we had one more spot to visit and relax before heading back, and that was a small natural pool located next to the staircase leading up to the cave. As we descended the stairs and looked to the right, we came across a wooden bridge and a clear pool of water nearby. It was another intriguing area to explore. The pool’s water was remarkably clear, with a tinge of greenish-blue. It truly embodied the beauty of nature. Inside the pool, we saw some children who had finished school at that time, joyfully playing in the water. It reminded me of our childhood days when we used to play and jump into canals for real fun.




After spending some time enjoying the small pool and watching the children having a great time playing in the water, it was around 5PM. We made the decision to bid farewell to Jang Cave and cycle into Vang Vieng town (it sounds far… but in reality, it was just a few kilometers away). We still had two more tasks to complete: finding a day trip for tomorrow and purchasing bus tickets back to Udon Thani for the following day. We started by comparing prices for various day trip packages and bus fares at different shops. Almost every shop had price signs displayed outside, so we didn’t need to worry. We strolled around, exploring with excitement. The prices didn’t vary much, so we ended up buying the day trip from the bike rental shop. We informed the salesperson of our intended destinations, and they arranged a suitable tour for us. Our main goal was to visit the Blue Lagoon, which was a must-see landmark in Vang Vieng. The shop owner mentioned that if we wanted to visit the Blue Lagoon, we had to be prepared to get wet. Therefore, they suggested a program that focused on water activities since we would already be soaked. The full-day itinerary included a visit to the Tham Lod Cave, Elephant Cave, kayaking on the Nam Song River, and ending at the Blue Lagoon. This program included lunch and transportation back to the hotel, priced at 130,000 kip (approximately 16 USD) per person. It was a reasonable price, so we agreed, provided the name of our hotel, and the tour company would send a vehicle to pick us up at 8AM in front of our hotel tomorrow.

Then, we went out to find bus tickets to Udon Thani – Thailand (actually, the bike rental shop also sold bus tickets, but they were slightly more expensive compared to other vendors). We spotted a shop that seemed to be the largest in Vang Vieng based on its spacious building. They sold tickets for 100,000 kip (approximately 13 USD) each. The buses departed once a day at 9AM and arrived in Udon Thani (near Central Plaza Udon Thani) around 3PM. It was an air-conditioned bus with one mid-journey break (at the same spot where the van from Vientiane had stopped). They provided hotel pick-up service at 8.30AM to take us to the Vang Vieng Bus Station. However, the tickets purchased at the shop couldn’t be directly used to board the bus. We had to exchange them for actual tickets at the counter of the bus station (iso, we understood why they arranged to pick us up earlier, half an hour before departure, even though the bus station was only a kilometer away from the town).


The bus from Vang Vieng to Udon Thani (Thailand)


Once having everything settled, it was already dark outside, and it was time for dinner. From our previous exploration around Vang Vieng, it seemed like there were plenty of dining options. The main choices were Western-style restaurants (steaks, burgers, pizzas) or alcohol-focused bars. Local cuisine was also available, but not as prominently displayed. However, we stumbled upon a local restaurant that specialized in traditional dishes like larb (spicy minced cooked pork) and som tam (papaya salad). The place was crowded with a mix of Lao, Western, and Chinese customers, so we decided to go in immediately because we were hungry. We ordered three dishes: spicy pork bone soup, pork larb, and grilled meat platter, all served with sticky rice. Overall, the flavors were spicy and satisfying. I noticed since yesterday that Lao food resembled our northeastern Thai cuisine but with a slightly sweeter taste, probably due to the added sugar. It seemed that Laotians enjoyed a subtly sweet flavor even in dishes like spicy soup. Nonetheless, it was still enjoyable as the tangy and spicy taste remained intact.



After we finished our meal, our previous plan for dessert or snacks after the main course had to be put on hold. We were already too full because each dish served was enormous. The three dishes we ordered seemed more suitable for 3-4 people. So, the dessert plan had to be postponed to the next day. With our bellies stretched and our eyes droopy, it was already around 9PM. We headed back to the hotel to take a refreshing shower and rest our weary bodies. Tomorrow we had to wake up early to embark on an adventurous exploration of Vang Vieng.

Today had been another tiring day since we left Vientiane in the morning, crossed the mountains by van, and then continued cycling in Vang Vieng. But seeing the town nestled amidst the pristine nature of rivers and mountains brought us joy. It ensured a restful sleep tonight. πŸ’€





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