Reunited with the beauty of Vang Vieng, Laos

I close my eyes and breathe in a deep breath of fresh air, and as I reopen my eyes I can’t help but smile. Before me is a scene out of a National Geographic magazine. Perfectly flat green rice fields stretch out in front of me until they reach the sheer cliffs of the tall limestone karst mountains that tower over them. It’s a cloudy day, but the dark grey rain clouds that hug the mountains only add to the dramatic effect of the scene. It’s rice planting season in Laos and the farmers and rice field workers are out in the fields, ankle deep in muddy water busily planting the seedlings in an almost perfect pattern. It looks like back breaking work, spending all day bent over like that, all for the most meagre pay that you can think of. Still, this is life here in the rural countryside around Vang Vieng, and I’m smiling because I’m receiving that true dose of reality that I love.

Rice fields and mountains in Vang Vieng, Laos

Freshly planted rice fields reflect the tall limestone karst mountains

Hopping back on our bikes, Veronika and I keep peddling along the rocky dirt road. It’s a road that I’ve travelled before, two years prior – a road that I remember well from when I first discovered this beautiful part of the world. I remember cycling through a village further along the road where kids smiled and waved at me. I remember one who ran beside me laughing as he raced me down the road, almost beating me despite me being on a bicycle while he was on foot. I love that being back in this place only brings back happy memories, and I wonder if it is all still going to be the same.

Dirt country road in Vang Vieng, Laos

Following the dirt road through the countryside in Vang Vieng

As we cycle through the village, those smiling and laughing children are no longer there, though I do notice houses and shops that I remember passing last time. The village itself is quite empty, but I wonder if that is because I’m here at a different time of the year, while all of the people are out working in the rice fields, and perhaps the children are either at school or out helping their parents in the fields as well.

Country village near Vang Vieng, Laos

Cycling through the near empty village

As we climb to the top of a rise in the road, I let my legs rest and let gravity take me down the other side of the hill. I’m flying by the time I reach the bottom but have to suddenly slam my breaks on, my back tyre skidding along the loose gravel on the road. A young girl has run out on the road in front of me smiling and waving. Her house is a bamboo hut on the side of the road, sitting above some rice fields where I can see people, probably her family, busily planting rice. “Sabaidee” I say to her with a smile, and the smile is brightly returned. I point to my camera and ask if I can take her photo. She nods shyly and poses while I take a quick snap. She’s off again before I can even show her the photo.

Young Lao child smiles for a photo near Vang Vieng, Laos

This cute little local smiles for the camera

We’ve been riding for ages now, but it hardly feels like we’ve gone far at all. The scenery around us is just breathtakingly beautiful, and I don’t even care how far we’ve gone or how long we are taking. I feel as though I could do this forever.

House and rice fields in Vang Vieng, Laos

A house sits alone amongst the rice fields

Rice field ready to be planted in Vang Vieng, Laos

A freshly plowed rice field is ready to be planted

Cloud covered mountains in Vang Vieng, Laos

Clouds cover the tops of the tall limestone karsts

Rural road in Vang Vieng, Laos

Following that beautiful rural road

After some time we finally arrive at our destination at the end of the road – the ever popular Blue Lagoon. It’s a lot busier than it was when I first came here two years ago. Back then I basically had this cool refreshing swimming hole to myself, apart from a few locals who had come down for a dip. I look around and estimate that there are at least 25 foreigners here this time, mostly half naked backpackers and a larger group tour who had arrived by songtheaw. The Lao people are quite conservative and the women swim fully clothed, so I guess it’s unlikely that they would come here for a swim now. I’m hoping that they’ve found another swimming hole to go to that will be kept secret.

The Blue Lagoon in Vang Vieng, Laos

A quiet spot in the Blue Lagoon

It may be a lot more crowded this time, but that doesn’t take away the amazing feeling of sliding into the cool fresh water of the swift flowing stream. It’s instant relief from the heat and humidity and the sweat that we had worked up during our bike ride. As I float around I close my eyes again and pretend that there’s no one else here, and once again a smile comes to my face. It’s been another amazing day in Vang Vieng, Laos. I love this country and I love this place. As I float around deep in my thoughts, I wonder what it will be like the next time that I visit. And I wonder when that will be.

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9 comments… add one
  • Jen Seligmann Feb 9, 2014

    A very well written article Dean. Very descriptive and accompanied by some great photos. I look forward, more so now, to exploring this country one day.

    • Dean Wickham Feb 15, 2014

      Thanks very much, Jen. Laos is an amazing country. You should definitely visit when you get the chance 🙂 Cheers

  • Great travel story an beautiful pictures of nature. Thanks for sharing

    • Dean Wickham Feb 15, 2014

      Thanks Victor. I’m pleased that you enjoyed the post. Cheers

  • Thanks for sharing Dean. I really enjoy your writing style. Vang Vieng is absolutely gorgeous- such rich hues of green and brown that you don’t get to see too often.

    • Dean Wickham Mar 18, 2014

      Thanks for your comment Zana. Vang Vieng is a personal favourite of mine. I’m glad you enjoyed the article. Cheers

  • I loved Vang Vieng. Many people thought I was crazy for not going tubing, but I had much more fun exploring the countryside on bicycle and motorbike. The city was pretty much empty when I visited, but that was exactly what I was looking for in Laos. This was one country I didn’t mind getting lost in.

    • Dean Wickham Mar 18, 2014

      Hey Travis. I was exactly the same. I skipped the tubing and went cycling and kayaking instead. I absolutely love cycling around the countryside in Vang Vieng. I’ll definitely keep going back to Laos. Sounds like you will as well 😉

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