If you asked me to put together a bucket list of must-see travel locations, I probably wouldn’t include Vang Vieng, Laos. Oh, I’d probably mention Wow sights like the Taj Mahal in Agra, the Pyramids in Giza, or Petra in Jordan. But Vang Vieng, that’s a second-tier location, a C or D ticket.
And yet. Perhaps it’s time for me to revise my criteria for a bucket-list item.
Vang Vieng, at least for me, is certainly a Wow. Half way between the Laotian capital, Vientiane and the temple town of Luang Prabang, Van Vieng is much more than a mere stop over. A back-country town, Vang Vieng is known more for its natural attractions than its man-made sites. I particularly appreciated its many caves – some lit, some not – reachable mostly by bicycle. Most of the action takes place at the river’s edge, where a tiny, wooden, pedestrian bridge is the only way across. Every so often a truck comes racing up to the river, more of a creek really, and fords the stream at high speech, water splashing all around. This is the opportunity for the local kids to jump in the river and try to swim over to the truck, laughting and flailing their arms. It’s a hilarious scene, repeated a dozen times a day, best viewed with a BeerLao Gold in hand at the small café over-looking the river crossing.
My best day in Vang Vieng looks like this: caving with my tour leader, then lunch in a Hmong Village, followed by floating down the river in an inner tube, slowly rotating as I enjoy the green fields and karst upcroppings. And all for $5. Sounds like a bucket list item to me.
What if we stopped running to flashy locations, flash possessions, flashy people, and instead noticed the subtle pleasures right on front of us.