The following is general information to be aware of when traveling in Vang Vieng. These are arranged in no particular order – they are just some insights Dave wants to pass on from his experience traveling in Vang Vieng.
The Lao “Kip” is the unit of currency for Laos. The kip fluctuates tremendously from week to week. At press time the largest bill in circulation was a 10,000 kip note which as of mid December 2002 was valued at about 80 cents US. As a souvenir to give to friends Dave went to a local bank and purchased several thick “bricks” of bills – each note was valued at 100 kip. He paid 10,000 kip for this brick – far less than what you would spend for actual “play money” in the United States.
Laos recently received its first ATM – this is located in Vientiane, the capital city. Currently its only for local use (it is only tied in to local Lao banks) – its not yet available for tourists. Be sure to take enough cash with you before you enter the country of Laos. When you leave Laos, it can be difficult to exchange Lao kip for other currencies because the Lao kip isn’t that desirable. Sometimes along the border you can find independent money exchangers who will do this for you. It’s not impossible to do.
The most common request from children in the small villages on the outskirts of Vang Vieng was for pens. I would recommend taking a healthy supply of writing instruments and giving these out in the small villages.Electricity is not always on 100% of the time in this town. When I was there it went out for the entire day and came back on around 10pm. From speaking to the locals, this is a common occurrence.
The temperatures were quite mild when I was in Vang Vieng. At night a even a light jacket was nice to have on.
Internet access has substantially improved in the last few years like it has in many places in the world. We remember first visiting in 2002 and seeing most of the cafes only using dialup access with many computers strung together in a network! Agg! Sometimes the electricity would go out. I always made a point of saving my emails to a certain directory on the computer just in case the electricity went out while I was working. Sometimes the net would be down – but the cafes did not charge me for using the computer during these times. I found it very interesting to read emails that fellow travelers had saved to the computer and had somehow forgotten to delete before they left
Many of the more “touristy” restaurants would show movies during the evenings – often the sound was turned up too high and drowned out conversation in the rest of the restaurant. Its easy to avoid these type of restaurants.
Recommended Art Gallery
Vang Vieng does not have many art galleries. The one gallery I did visit was fairly expensive – and many of the framed paintings on the wall were framed in wide bamboo frames (which would make it difficult for packing). The Phixy Silp Art Gallery did have unframed paintings which would be much easier to pack in a back pack. The artist whose work is displayed in this gallery is Vilakone Sisouvanh. Their PHONE NUMBER is: 856-23 511439
The typical full-body massage lasts about an hour – you can either choose oil or a no oil massage. A normal price for an hour’s massage is about $3. There are several massage parlors you can choose from – usually the massages are given while you lay on one of several beds in a small room.
Never let your valuables out of your site when you are touring – especially when visiting caves or swimming.