Laos Journal - Kayaking in Vang Vieng

Our latest Laos travelogue is about our kayaking trip down the Sung River in Vang Vieng, a small town just North of Vientiane. We were staying at a great place called the Eco Lodge (will write more about this awesome place later) where we met a retired Australian couple, Rose & Gary and young French couple, Jeremie & Abby. They told us they would be going on a kayak trip that would start at the lodge and end in the town (about 10 km). Queenie decided we should join them and of course we had a great time. The kayaking, which included two guides and all the gear, worked out to be KIP100,000 (or USD12.50) per person. Not too bad for a lazy jaunt down the river.

The Sung River

The kayaking for us was pretty simple to arrange. I think Gary just told the reception we wanted to go kayaking. We waited at the hotel (which was 6 km out of Vang Vieng) and on the chosen day the kayaks and the guides arrived while we were waiting and drinking tea in the restaurant near the river. Pretty convenient really. The safety instructions were: "Can you swim?" "Yes!" "OK then you don't need a life jacket." We got into the Kayak's and off we went! Oh, and as you will see in the pictures, it was a gorgeous day.

Kayaking on Sung River (picture by Gary)

Everybody seemed to have a good time. Queenie was assigned the job of chief photographer and I was appointed chief paddler so most of the pictures here are by Queenie (except the ones of us and her). Of course the beginning of every journey (even a short kayak trip) is exciting and enjoyable and as can be expected, we were all happy to lazily drift down the river.

Since not much really happened on the river there isn't really to much to write or say about it. The river was low so there were a few small rapids (but hardly anything challenging) and we did stop at an organic farm for a healthy fruit juice (the guides were real and ordered Beer Laos) and then after the short break we drifted down the river to the end.

The most curious people on the river were the people on tubes floating down the river in the hot sun drinking beer. Rose told us that before there were 23 bars between where they started and the town but since some of them got so drunk and fell out the tubes and drowned, many of the bars had been closed and only four remained. Anyway, I wanted to do it not realizing what it was but after seeing it, was relieved we chose the kayak option.

Anyway, I don't really have much else to say about this except we had a great time and enjoy the pictures.

This is the place we launched from. The views from the Eco Lodge in Vang Vieng were outstanding. We loved being there.

Gary and Rosanne setting out.

Beautiful views of the Sung River stay with you the whole trip.

The sparkling water of the Sung River going towards Vang Vieng

Queenie in the Kayak having fun.

The other couple we met were Jeremie and Abby. They come from France, a small town on the border with Germany. Really lovely couple. We met them in the Eco Lodge too and they were a lot of fun the whole way.

Gary and Rosanne shooting the rapids on the Sung River. The river was low but there were not too many huge rapids. As I recall this one was the most difficult of them all.

Some of the local livestock came to the river for some water. Was nice to see them there and made the whole experience feel a little more real.

While we were having fun in the river the reality is that many people there used it as a part of their daily life. Many people caught fish there, collected water and also bathed in the river too. Made us realize what a privileged life we lead.

The picture says it all: I had a blast....was a lot of fun. Yes, it did get a little hot but so what! We had a great time....

The beautiful sparkling water on the Sung River just made us appreciate nature even more and the wonderful beauty of nature.

Everyone was having fun even though it was so unbearably hot.

These guys float 4 km in the blazing sun, exposed, on tubes down the Sung River, drinking beer. I am glad we didn't choose that option. I am sure I would have roasted. They were happy though and seemed to have a good time. It just seemed boring to me. I am glad I was advised against it as I initially did want to do it.

The stunning views of the mountains next to the river never got boring.

So there are a couple of bars next to the river where tubers can top up on the beer. There used to be 20-something bars but after some drownings this has been reduced to four. This was a guitar player welcoming people to the second bar.

You can see our guides out front. I tried to stay close to them so I could follow their path down the rapids. It worked well as we didn't topple once or get stuck once. These guys know the river like the back of their hand I am sure.

Queenie decided to take a break, as did I, and we floated down the river for a bit. It was fun just to relax and enjoy the view.

Well the sign says it all. The last bar for refills.

Just meandering slowly down the river. We were aware we were getting to the end but really were enjoying it too much to stop.

After a few hours of paddling we finally arrived in Vang Vieng. It was nice to paddle in as the night before we had watched some kayakers coming in in the late evening.

We were nearly at the end at this point. We were enjoying the final views of the mountains from the river. Truly stunning beauty.

Happy at the end. What a great experience. Everybody thought it was a worthwhile experience.

Everyone thought it was a wonderful experience and well worth the money and the effort. After seeing the guys on the tubes I was relieved that we chose the kayaks (mostly on the advice of Gary and Rosanne). It was a great day for everyone. Look forward to the next kayak trip somewhere else in the world.


  1. hi Paul. nice photo journal. times have changed it seems. both times we were in Vang Vieng, we never saw those signs for the bars. also i don't recall seeing kayaks either. we took a guided longboat tour down the river, and like on your trip, it wasn't very deep. it was nice reading your experiences. take care.

    1. Hi MJ thanks for your kind words on our blog entry - your comments are always appreciated. I am not sure when the kayaking and tubing started but from what we understand it has been a while. In the night when we went to the town and ate next to the river we saw many kayaks on the river too.

      Yes, indeed, times have changed. We didn't do the slow boat in Vang Vieng, we did a 2 day slow boat down the Mekong to Luang Prabang. Will need to put up a post about that at some point :)

      Thanks again for your comment. Much appreciated and glad you enjoyed reading about our experiences.

    2. oh, can't wait for that post!


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