Nam Song weaves its magic for visitors through stunning Vangvieng

Welcoming Visit Laos Year 2018, Vientiane Times is publishing a series of feature articles and images inviting you to experience the authentic nature, culture, history and hospitality of Laos, Jewel of the Mekong.

Vangvieng is full of fascinating places to visit including natural and manmade attractions that every day draw large numbers of domestic and overseas visitors to the picturesque town.
Right now is the dry and hot season, which is also high season for visitors in Vangvieng and the most popular place to cool down from the heat is the Nam Song that flows through the town.
Visitors can enjoy observing the Lao lifestyle while going down the river in an inner tube or kayak.
Most Korean, Thai and Chinese visitors prefer to go via kayak as it’s the faster of the two transport modes and good for both of large and small groups.
But the more leisurely tubing is the ‘classic’ Vangvieng way to enjoy a trip on the river and tends to be the preference of most European and American visitors.
However, if you prefer to avoid the crowds you should go early because most people take to the water in the afternoon to cool down.
For Kayaking the charge is 50,000 kip per person while you can rent a tractor tyre tube for 60,000 kip. Tuk-tuk drivers will charge 20,000 kip to take you to the river to start your tubing but if you travel as a group of more than four people the tuk-tuk is free of charge.
During this time of year, water in the Nam Song is not so deep but for safety’s sake you should ask for a life jacket.

The stunning view from the bridge to Jung Cave.

Tubing takes about three hours to flow down the river and you can stop at any point if you’re too tired and access tuk-tuk services for your return.
Vangvieng is nestled amongst stunning karst limestone mountains but the weather is quite hot so you should take along some sun protection.
There’s no need to rush while tubing and you can stop for a drink with nice music at restaurants on both sides of the river.
The water is a natural and healthy green and you will be thoroughly impressed by the amazing views of the surrounding karst rock formations. Along the way, you will often get a smile and a hello or sabaidee from the local people. And sometimes you’ll see young children catching fish.
The water in some places is not very deep so you should take care to avoid the rocks while tubing.
One of the most popular spots is the gateway to Lom Cave where huts are installed on the river and there is a bamboo bridge which visitors can cross to access the cave.
You can stop there for a while to order food and drink and play in the water with other visitors.
If you don’t like crowds and loud music you can continue your journey for around 30 minutes and you’ll find another bridge with some nice restaurants. You can also take a zip-line there.
Some stretches of the river are fish conservation areas, so you will see some fish appear.
Your tubing journey will come to end when you see the sign announcing your destination.
And of course, you need to return your tube to the shop you rented it from.
A great way to follow the tubing is to experience one of the numerous restaurants which are frequented by visitors from afternoon until after dark.
The best time to visit Vangvieng for river activities is in the dry months from February to June when the water is clear and not too deep.
Around December and January is also good but the water is quite cold for many Lao visitors as it’s winter.
However, Vangvieng is always wonderful at any time of year because there are many different interesting places to experience but you should do a bit a research and plan to match your activities with the weather.

By Patithin Phetmeuangphuan
(Latest Update April 23, 2018)

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