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Vang Vieng

Vangvieng is situated 152 kilometers from Vientiane on Route 13 (north). This small village is set against a backdrop of dramatic Limestone Mountains. Vangvieng is an ideal place to break the long journey from Vientiane to Luang Prabang. Bamboo cabins and guesthouse are both available for those seeking overnight accommodation. Situated midway along the Vientiane to Luang Prabang road, Vang Vieng has become (for better or worse) the backpacker's pit stop in Laos. Surrounded by splendid karsts scenery and overflowing with activities (caving and tubing down the river are two of the most popular activities), many prolong their stay here far longer than originally planned. For many, Vang Vieng is a highlight of their trip to Laos. If your idea of an ideal night involves scoffing happy pizza and quaffing lao lao all to the background of never-ending Friends episodes, then you're going to absolutely love this place. For many others though, this is a circus-like example of tourism at its worst. While you'll probably still enjoy your stay -- after all the scenery and activities are brilliant -- you'll probably find yourself pushing on to other, more interesting spots in Laos a little sooner then you may have thought. The town is riddled with such an array of guesthouses, restaurants and shops that it's hard to know what to do on arrival. Just about every shop front on the main streets of this small but rapidly developing town caters exclusively to the tourist dollar. If you're looking for some Lao culture, Vang Vieng isn't the place to find it. The reason this tourist mecca has sprung up is the gorgeous Nam Song River and the magnificent karsts limestone mountains lining it. The imposing structures rise up out of the land and run for kilometers, abutting pancake flat rice fields and the river. Stunning at any hour, the mountains are of course particularly beautiful with the golden pink glow of sunset behind them... the perfect time to sit and have a drink in one of the riverside restaurants. Every other property in the town is undergoing some kind of building work, and the development is now starting to take its toll on the special environment which has created the tourism. Rocks are quarried from the limestone mountain range and gravel extracted by the truckload from the Nam Song river bed to feed the demand for building materials. Unscrupulous or ignorant -- take your pick. For action and adventure, there are caves to explore, trekking, kayaking and rafting trips and for the ultra-adventurous, there's rock climbing. To chill out and enjoy the scenery, hire a tyre inner tube and float down the Nam Song River basking in the beauty of the countryside, stopping for beers along the way.