May 16, 2013

Cycling through the Countryside in Vang Vieng, Laos

By Dean Wickham

Vang Vieng in Laos is one of those places that you hear mixed reviews about. Some people have the time of their lives while others can’t wait to get out of there. The general apprehension is that if you’re a twenty year old backpacker wanting to get drunk and go tubing down a river, you’ll love it. If you fit into any other category, you’ll hate the place. I wanted to find out for myself.

I decided to head across the river and make my way to Poukham cave, which I had heard was interesting to explore and had a nice swimming hole nearby. I hadn’t ridden a bike for quite some time but I soon got the hang of it again.

Biking in Vang Vieng, Laos

Riding down the dirt, potholed road I soon entered the surrounding countryside, dominated by beautiful green rice fields that stretch across the flat areas of land between the huge limestone karsts that rise up above them. Farmers tended to their fields while chickens scratched in the dirt and cows grazed on the side of the road. I stopped often to take photos and just enjoy the stunning scenery.

 As I continued along the road I passed through several small villages, with their basic bamboo houses sitting amongst bunches of banana trees and little vegetable gardens. It was a Sunday and all of the local kids were out playing, riding their bikes, swimming in streams and chasing dogs and chickens. Women bathed and did their laundry in the small fresh water streams that came down from the mountains, while other people went about their daily chores, chopping wood and preparing food.

Friendly Local women in Laos
I decided to stop in at a small swimming hole, as I had built up quite a sweat from the bike ride. Some local kids ran beside me as I made my way down to the stream, and soon joined me for a swim in the lovely cool water. They couldn’t speak a word of English but a simple “Sabai dee” was enough to get a smile out of them. As I rode away they ran beside me to show me how fast they could run, and then waved goodbye with a big smile on their faces.

I was fascinated by the peacefulness of the typical life in the Laotian countryside. It was so good to be having a true local experience, away from the hordes of tourists that can take away that something special from a certain place. This was a place where I could be on my own, and truly see what life is about in this amazing country. Here, life is simple, people have very little and yet they are so happy. Here kids don’t need video games and brand named clothes to be happy. All they seem to need is their imagination.


When I got to the entrance of Poukham cave I paid the 10,000 kip ($1.20) entrance fee and crossed the bridge where I parked my bike, before climbing up the steep path and exploring the large, dark cave on my own, an adventure in itself. By this time the heat and humidity of the tropical climate had me drenched in sweat, and I was ready to cool off in the Blue Lagoon, located near the cave where I had parked my bike. The cool fresh water was a lovely blue colour, coming from a small mountain stream, with schools of fresh water fish swimming against the current. Some locals were also enjoying a swim in their local swimming hole, floating around on tyre tubes and enjoying the rope swing, while I just floated in the cool clear water, relaxed and enjoying the natural scenery.

I was cooled off I began to make my way back to Vang Vieng, stopping for some lunch at a little local restaurant in one of the villages.

I had passed only a handful of other tourists throughout the day in the local area, and overall it was an extremely peaceful and rewarding experience. It goes to show, you need to explore a place on your own to really experience what the place has to offer. As I found out about Vang Vieng, there is always more to a place than what you may hear or read. For me, this type of experience is exactly what travel is all about. You can learn so much about life from the local people, even without any words being exchanged. From that moment on I would seek out these kinds of experiences everywhere that I travelled.

Finally I can really recommend making a bike tour in Vang Vieng. You can not only experience and explore the great outdoors of Laos but also get in contact with the local people and involve yourself in the Lao culture. Truly, a bike tour in Laos makes any visit a true adventure.

Biking tour in Laos

If you wish to set up your personal bike adventure in Laos, please contact us for further information:
ACTIVETRAVEL LAOS (ATL) is member of ACTIVETRAVEL ASIA offers a wide selection of Laos adventure tours, including hiking and trekking, kayaking, biking, motorcycling, overland touring and family travel packages in Laos and Indochina

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