When you travel full-time you’re bound to run into bad weather eventually. I’ve been pretty fortunate not to have too many torrential downpours over the last two years in Asia. I honestly don’t pay much attention to where the rainy season is as I usually plan enough time in each place that a few days of rain wouldn’t prevent me from sightseeing.
The above water hut I stayed in for the night had spectacular views.
But when I left Luang Prabang, Laos, where the weather had been wet but manageable, via bus to visit Vang Vieng, Laos I was in for a whole different sort of situation. The town was flooded and underwater. To reach the bungalow I’d booked at Maylyn Guest House I had to wade through thigh-deep water in the dark night. I was so spooked out I asked to switch rooms to one in higher elevations. I actually thought it was quite irresponsible of them to place people in these rooms during bad storms–anything could be in the water–from snakes to electrical wires. None-the-less, Maylyn Guest House was a lovely rustic place to stay in Vang Vieng if you’re looking to unplug as it’s not centrally located and the WiFi doesn’t work in the rooms.
Fortunately, in the morning the weather had cleared a bit and I woke up at dawn to make the most of my day. Vang Vieng is all about treacherous hikes and Blue Lagoon swimming holes–neither of which can properly be enjoyed during a rainstorm. I also didn’t make it to the Tham Poukham Cave or Tham Nam Cave. I’m not much into tubing and Vang Vieng has become notorious for the amount of partying backpackers who’ve died while doing drugs or drinking and tubing on the river. It’s also extremely expensive to get around Vang Vieng if you’re a solo traveler as tuk-tuk prices are steep and I’m not comfortable driving a motorbike. So, I opted to just spend a day in town before moving on to Vientiane.
One of many hanging bridges in Vang Vieng.
My bungalow wasn’t located too far from the one mountain that I was told had sturdy enough stairs to climb after the previous evening’s storms. I set out over the Nam Song River across a hanging bridge and made my way through the uninspiring town center.
The vivid Wat Si Sou Mang temple.
On the way, I came across the quirky Wat Si Sou Mang temple (Google Maps). The colorful temple has neon paintings that depict Buddha’s life and massive statues.
Details of Wat Si Sou Mang.
I finally reached the Jang Cave which is also sometimes referred to as Tham Chang Cave (Google Maps). After a stroll through a green park, you’ll reach a vibrant orange hanging bridge, there’s a minimal fee for foreigners to cross–it’s the only way to reach the cave.
The vibrant orange hanging bridge that leads to the caves.
Apparently, the Tham Chang Cave was used as a war bunker in the early 19th century during a conflict with the Chinese. I didn’t see any apparent traces of this and there are no signs in the cave. However, the name Chang was given to the cave in honor of it’s past as the word means loyal.
Views of Vang Vieng from the mountaintop.
To reach the top is a steep climb up concrete stairs–all of the other caves require a hike up trails which would have been dangerous during the rainy season. I always have travel insurance in case any accidents happen. The views from the top of the mountain where Tham Chang Cave is were spectacular but not the views I was hoping to witness from Pha Poak. From here you see how the town inundates the surrounding lush nature.
A look around Tham Chang Cave.
The cave was fascinating with incredible natural structures but not quite as exquisite as the cave I saw in Ha Giang, Vietnam. Inside many of the chambers were flooded with water, making it a quick trip as most of the cave was blocked off.
Yellow veggie noodles at Veggie Tables.
Before catching my bus to the capital city of Vientiane I had lunch at Veggie Tables (Google Maps) which was about as lackluster as everything else in Vang Vieng. The menu was massive but the food was quite bland. This is the only option for vegans in Vang Vieng besides a few Indian restaurants.
Purple yams make for a perfect vegan bus snack!
Please don’t be put off from visiting Vang Vieng just because I found my day in the town very underwhelming–go have a wonderful experience and inspire me to go back during better weather! Tell me what you loved about Vang Vieng, Laos in the comments.