The North of Laos


Global Mark : 13.43 (down)

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Parks Culture Minor. Market Relax Fiesta 


 4 5 1 2 3 3 4 4 3 12.89

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
26 88% (23)  73% (19) 92% (24) 5 to 20 13.96

Description :
A small dusty village where travelers sleep & eat before & after getting wet in the river and visiting caves & minorities villages. Some come also here to party with friends...

Comments : The village has got little charm but the surroundings sceneries, with its river & karst peaks, level things up a lot.

What to do ? Invest in a map of the area (K2000) / Tour the area on bike for caves & minorities villages / Swim inside a cave / Board an inner tube and let the river carry you back at a very slow & relaxing pace (still, exert caution : it may not always be that quiet) / Climb a peak for anther perspective of the area / Taste bats & insects at the market / Photography a scenic sunset / Make new friends / Join monks in their meditation retreat /Visit 16th century's old monasteries

What you may not like ? The traffic & dust in town / Seeing nearly more westerners than locals / Getting bored or cold on the tame river / Having to eat dinner early at the market / The fees to cross the bridges / The reports of robberies from guides while swimming inside the caves / The drug scene and the dangers associated to it (delinquency, bad drug, police, etc)

How long ? Some travelers stay for weeks but others hate the spoiled atmosphere...

Where to stay ? 

- In the Southern part of the village (5mn walk from drop off), a small street go east to a relatively quiet environment (roosters) :

  • ® Pany GH / Nice clean rooms w. HW shower B100 / Go there for the cheapest rate (HW) and the good setting.
  • Nana Guesthouses No1 / Nice clean rooms w. HW shower $5 (B190) / Free tea & coffee / Nice house / Also Nana No2 but not as good as next to the main street. Restaurant showing western movies on bad quality VCD at 7pm.
  • Dokhoun 2 GH / Room $5 (B190) w. HW shower, bigger rooms B350 / Lack the charm of the above & expensive

- On the main noisy street, from south (Vientiane) to north :

  • Luangkhoune GH / Rooms B75, w. HW shower B100 / Big but basic
  • Ngeunphanith GH, where the bus from Luang Prabang stop / Nice rooms w. HW shower B125 or B150 upstairs / Go there if you are tired to walk
  • Vangvieng GH, opposite the above / Basic & small rooms B90(1) or B100 (2 or 3)
  • Seng Savang GH, on left / Big but basic room B75 / No HW outside 
  • ® Phoukhio GH, opposite / Room upstairs B80, downstairs w. cold shower B90 / HW outside / Small but nice rooms at good prices.
  • Anoulak GH, on the left / Basic rooms B75
  • ® Syvixay GH, on the right after the temple / Room w. cold water near the road B75, w. HW in an house in the back B125 / No HW outside / Go there for the clean & nice rooms and the cheapest rate (cold water). 
  • ® Chantala GH, on the left / Sgl or Dbl w. cold shower B75 or B80 / No HW outside / Small but clean and cheapest rate (cold shower)
  • ® Bountang GH, on the left / Big clean room w. HW shower B100 / Nice house / Go there if you are tall as the ceiling is high, the charm of the rooms & for the cheapest rate (HW)
  • Van Many GH, opposite / Big OK rooms B75

- On the roads off the main street, from south to north :

  • Viengsavanh GH, road opposite the bank / Basic rooms B75(1) or B100(2), w. HW shower in concrete house B150 / Noisy 
  • Phoukham GH, second road / Nice big rooms with charm & HW shower B175
  • Phonsaksit GH, after the above, well off the street / Rooms w. HW shower B125 / Go there to see the rooms
  • Phoubane GH, at the end of the second road, on the corner, just south of the market & bus stop / Basic & small rooms B100 / Small garden but noisy as between two roads
  • Phanvilay GH, noisy road going to market & bus stop / Small & basic rooms w. cold shower B100
  • Dokkoun GH, after the above / Small nice rooms w. HW shower B150 / Rear house better as quieter
  • Phonesavang GH, opposite the above / Rooms w. HW shower B100 / Go there to see the rooms
  • ® Champa GH, on the left / Small but clean rooms w. HW shower B100 / Go there for the cheapest rate (HW)
    Siripangna GH / OK rooms w. cold shower B100
  • ® Saysoung GH, behind the active market / OK room w. cold shower B100 / HW outside / Go there for the culture shocks location and the small garden with great view toward the river (an excellent sunset spot)

Where to eat ? At the market, until around 6pm, you can get cold noodles, lots of salad and mint leaves to dip into a peanuts sauce for K1000. Difficult to find a better quality/cost ratio... Otherwise, you have got bats & insects on display as well...

Backpacker's Tips : Stefan Westerheide, Germany (Jan 05)
« Saysong GH (dbl,br,hw,friendly,clean,riverside) 4-5 $ very good value. The island is probably the best place in Laos for "beach" life. Nice daytrips by bike or scooter but it´s a little frustrating that you have to pay for crossing most of the bridges, sometimes it´s possible to walk through the rivers instead. Two days are well worth it, even if you don´t like the crowds. Regular bus to vientiane 3h 1.5 $ good road »

Backpacker's Tips : Anne-Mieke Binnendijk, The Netherlands (Oct 02)
« There are now at least 3 internet cafés in the town of Vang Vieng, they all charge the same price: 300 kip/min. Indeed, internet in Vientiane and Luang Prabang is more cheap (around 100 k/min). 
There are a LOT of small restaurants, bars and eating places. Pizza, Indian food, chips & chicken, Lao & Thai food, you can all find it in de main streets. It's cheap and nice food, but don't expect the dishes to be special. It's as if they all copy the same menu...
There's a bakery in the main street (few meters next to the market and old bus station) where you can order sweet, white bread, cakes and pastries and good Lao coffee. Popular spot with tourists.
Lao people on the streets sell freshly grilled food from small footstalls: all kinds of freshly grilled intestines, chicken heads, chicken feet, crickets...

Bank ? Open Mond to Sat 8:30 to 16 / Exchange rate lower for TC + commission 1$ per cheque / Low rate so check with restaurants or guesthouses for cash exchanges.

Internet ? Just before Champa GH on the market street, K750 per minute ! Cheaper in Luang Prabang or Vientiane.

Bikes ? Lots of bikes to rent from K5000 to K8000 a day

Feeling like spelunking ? Plenty of caves around including seven major ones, from 2 to 16km away. Tham Jang is the most famous : most traveler do not bother with the K4.000 fee for the lighting & Buddha show and go straight to the cool spring to swim their way inside the cave (bring friends along and a good waterproof torch). This pleasant area is also a favorite with locals during rest days. The cave is near Vang Vieng Resort (10mn walk) and there is a K500 fee to cross their bridge (+ K200 if bike). Alternatively, in dry season, take the small road on the right of the entrance and cross the river on foot. Another favorite is Tham Pha Puak. The idea here is not so much the cave but the climb to the summit for the great view. Most caves have an entrance fee of US$0.30. 

Sleeping on the river ? Beside visiting caves, inner tubing the river is the big attraction. Tubes are available from nearly everyone for K2000 and a tuk-tuk should show up as soon as you take possession of your floating vehicle. It should cost K3.000 to the start but there are actually two departing area and drivers would rather take you to the nearest one (5mn out of the village). Insist to go to the second one, at Phoudindeng village, for the 3-4 hours "ride". It would be a good idea to start early as there are two caves to visit along the way and the sun disappear as soon as 4pm behind some peaks. The river was really tame and the pace was real slow when I was there but it may not always be the same. Exert caution and go with friends !

Backpacker's Tips :  Tristan, France (August 05)
« Take a public bus in Ventiane for 15000 kip. 4 hours trip. Very good experience, lots of local a few stops to load fruits and vegetables, the bus can get crowded but y oull have enough space to breathe. Stayed at the Vang Vieng resort south of the city. Rent a bike (10 000kip) as soon as you arrive and ride south along the river. Nice bungalow (5 USD) with fan. Good place to stay as you have access to the complex for free and  can cross the golden gate style bridge for free (still have to pay for the cave though 9000 kip). The compex is closed from 5 pm so you can still enjoy the place without any fellow backpacker around. A nice blue pool on the bottom of the cave...a paradise for the water addict like me. Tubbing now costs 35 000 kip/pax. Day trip to Pou Kham cave. Rent a good enough bike (not a hello kitty bike if you know what i mean). Cross the bambou bridge during the dry season (next to the nam song hotel) or cross with boat (3000 kip). Enchanting landscape, lots of nice people on the way, rice field etc..the road can get
flooded and muddy sometimes but it so much fun. Have to cross two bridges on the way (have to pay for one). the cave in itself is 4 km away about 1 hour ride is not worth visiting but a lagoon at the bottom of it is just what you need after the ride (worth the entrance fee 5000 kip). very deep water you
can jump from the trees. You can also swin in the different small river you ll meet on the way (shallow water sometimes be always carefull when jumping, check how deep it is first). You can turn left after the second bridge and about 15 mn you ll find a traditionnal Hmong village. Off the beaten track, no fellow backpacker whatsoever. If you dont like "Friends" the tv show don't come to Vang Vieng, all restaurant are playing DVD's of the different seasons, cool for 20 minutes, very annoying after a while.

Backpacker's Tips : Chayut Pihakaendr, Thailand (Jan 04)
« My favourite place is Vang Vieng . Here you can do anything – tubing ( 100 B ) , Kayaking ( 160 B ) , go to caves , party at night, sunbathing etc. I stayed two weeks here. The other side Gh is the best place to stay. It located other side of Song river first you enter the fresh market from the market across the bridge to other side of the river / outside toilet and a bathroom / 25000 K per room / on the river bank / opposite the sunbathing area/ Friendly owner .
Two weeks in Vang Vieng I visited so many sites – many caves , Water cave , Kayaking on Song river actually there is kayaking to Vientiane it takes 2- 3 days but I didn’t try that
The road from Vientiane – Vang Vieng is quite good now don’t worry . The internet charge 350 K /Min . 2-3 banks in town with a O.K. rate
Caves in Vang Vieng :
? Tham Jang ( 2 km ) excellent path to the cave
? Tham Pha Puak Laying Budda inside
? Tham Lucy ( 2 Km )
? Tham Phouk Ham ( 6 Km )
? Tham Khnh ( 3 Km )
I left Vang Vieng to LP it took 7 Hrs on a coach VIP bus to LP costs 50000 K or minibus to LP 60000 K . You can buy the ticket in any Gh because the price is all the same .
The price to Plain of Jars ( VIP Bus ) 60000 K daily
Arriving Vang Vieng I walked to the town . it would be about 5 mn walk to the center of the town. Igore the Tuk- Tuk to the town .
After all my stay in Vang Vieng is excellent than other place in Laos . Here you can do everything – Swimming , Kayaking , Tubing , on the bike , Caves , Treking etc with a reasonable price . I love this place !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  »

Backpacker's Tips : Hans & Greet, Belgium (Nov 02)
« For the caves, take the bamboo bridge aside the Nam Song Hotel, 1000 Kip/person to cross the bridge (also for the Lao !) / De Phou Kham Cave, 6000 Kip, is most known cave, with Buddha. If you have seen one cave, you have seen them all ! »

Backpacker's Tips : Tam Chiwai, Hong Kong (Sept 00)
Kasi is a small village about 2 hrs north of Vang Vieng, on the way to Luang Prabang. Most of the bus will stop here for lunch. Only 1 GH here which cost 10000kip/rm. There are many families making rice wine (Lao Lao) in the village. It tastes very good when it is still warm. 5 km away on the main road is the strange looking 
mountain Tham Pra Khon where there are some caves and an old temple inside. 5 km to the west is Nam Kham where you will find a water fall and a small pool where you can swim. There is a noodle shop opposite to the GH. Behind the shop in the evening is a volunteer English school : a retired school teacher, Mr. Kent, 
teach the children simple english every night. Foreigner are welcomed to help : all you need to do is to have a conversation with them

Backpacker's Tips : Paco Panconcelli, Germany (Feb 01)
« Immigration here is keen on you registering. The office seems to open only in the morning (8-11am) and is opposite the international phone call office. »

 << Discover the river's charm

Bus Schedules : 

To Price Road Duration Time Nb Freq.
Vientiane K5000 good 3 5:30,6,6:20,13,14:30 5 na
Luang Prabang K30000 good 6 9 1 na


The trip to Vientiane : SSS / L / K5000 / 4 hrs / Bus
Waking up too early, I arrived at the station at 5:15. A bus to Vientiane was there so I boarded it, well decided to extend my night a bit. But just when I was ready for my sweet dreams, another bus showed up. Yes, I was told, this would be the first bus going to Vientiane. Local people indeed rushed to the doors. I managed not to be crushed (I am used to it with China) and also to find a seat. But it was full 15mn before the official departure time. Considering that the next bus was 20mn later, it might have been better to wait a bit : indeed, this first bus collected passengers during the first part of the trip and let them get off during all the second part. It was also so packed that I could not see a lot of that right side scenery. The left side was quite nice. So instead of the 3 hours announced, it took 4. Once in Vientiane, the bus go along Setthathirat Rd, passing the guesthouses area. Ask to get off there (if you see a fountain on your left, or a white cook in plaster on your right, it is too far !).

See also the trip from Luang Prabang