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Laos Visitors: Tubing & Swimming Through Caves

From caves to lagoons, ziplines to inner tubes, we make it a water-themed day in Vang Vieng with an out-of-town visitor.

Vang Vieng is a hard place to go without doing some sort of water-related activity. Yet, the past few visits here, we’ve managed to do just that.

But now that Noe’s a bit older (with a love of water to boot), we’re working more aquatic activities into the mix. Admittedly, it makes it a bit easier (and a lot more fun) with a third set of hands.

Lori’s known Bekka for the better part of a decade, from grad school in Atlanta, to Belize and Portland, and now Laos, she somehow manages to make the trip! She even took over Lori’s position in the Portland area before we moved out here.

We roll in to Vang Vieng for the weekend–just in time to catch a sunset. But sunset is fleeting in these parts and nightfall is never far behind.

We stop by Earth Bar for some drinks and live music — tonight, a a Russian bluegrass duo. Noe loves it.

Next stop, Amigo’s Mexican restaurant where we introduce Noe to “queso” (aka cheese dip)…

We’re generally a bit more conscious in terms of what we feed the guy, but this particular night he was losing it and we found just a dash of cheesy goodness went a long way in getting him to eat his tofu.

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Morning in Vang Vieng. In Dry Season—perfection. How do you follow up a perfect wake-up? The Organic Mulberry Farm up the street is a pretty good start. Farmer’s omelette smothered in homemade goat cheese, accompanied with thick and hearty mulberry pancakes. Yum.

After breakfast, we head up to Ban Nadao (aka Elephant Adventure Village!). We pay our respects to the buddhas of the Elephant Cave before heading out of the village and into the bush.


Ban Nadao has a number of activities, but cave tubing was at the top of our list. Last time we were here, we passed on the caving tubing, given that we’d have to take turns and didn’t have a lot of time on our hands. This time, I watched Noe while the girls went ahead and tested the waters.

It took them about 90 minutes (including a long wait in line), so I had resigned myself to skipping it this time around. But just as they were emerging from the underworld, the line had dwindled. I donned a headlamp, grabbed a tube and went right in behind the last of the morning’s rush.

Hot Tip

Wait until lunch time when everyone’s busy eating and you’ll practically have the cave to yourself, even in high season.

The experience was actually a lot more fun than I was anticipating. We’ve done a number of caving activities (both wet and dry) over the years, including tubing, boating and swimming through caves. I have to admit, this was pretty high up there.

The cave goes pretty deep. I was in there for about forty minutes and still didn’t make it to the end. Like most things in Laos, it’s pretty low key and unstructured. You don’t have to go with a group if you don’t want to. There’s a rope you can hold on to, but you don’t have to. Some people wear life jackets. Some don’t. You can go as far as you want up stream and at any point let the river take you back to the beginning.


After about 30 minutes pulling myself along the rope at a leisurely pace at the end of a large group, I decided it was time to make my way back and simply let go. I found myself floating alone in peace and silence for about 10 minutes. A couple of times, I turned off the ol’ headlamp and floated in pitch blackness for several minutes at a time. Yep. Pretty fun stuff.

Cooled off, but not quiet ready for lunch, we followed a semi-signed footpath promising a “blue lagoon.” Not “the” Blue Lagoon that everyone and their mom visits when in Vang Vieng, but a different blue lagoon. We couldn’t resist the temptation.


A while later, we happened upon the “Spring Blue Lagoon.” The photos looked pretty enticing.

And, sure enough, here we were, at a lovely and inviting (if most certainly manmade), blue lagoon. In addition to being a great place to beat the midday heat, there were very few people.

And…rope swings and platforms—and even a small zipline!

Oh, and did I mention kayaks and bamboo rafts?













Okay, so apparently somebody changed their mind on the name. After all, “Blue Lagoon” is so much less confusing around here.

Back in town, the four of us fill our bellies with pizza and chicken fried rice. Noe wanted seconds, of course.


After a climb up to Jang Cave, just outside of town, we cooled off at another blue lagoon.

Every time we’ve visited Vang Vieng I’ve wanted to swim into this cave, but either forget my swim trunks or Noe’s losing it, or something in between. Not this time, no way.

There were no shortage of swimmers today, but the cave was unoccupied. Bekka decided she wanted to check it out too. Admittedly, the water was chilly for the tropics and the current streaming out of the cave was stronger than I had imagined. The cave also appeared to go surprisingly deep. I went as far as I felt comfortable with before happening upon an Australian guy in the depths of the cave.

No worries, mate. Somehow, it all seemed to make sense.



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