Vang Vieng has long been known for two things: Outdoor adventure activities and partying. So, it’s no wonder that many parents of infants and toddlers might be reluctant to visit this corner of Southeast Asia. Which is an absolute shame, because it is indeed an amazing, one-of-a-kind area of the globe with something significant to offer for the entire spectrum of travelers.
Here are five totally doable (and fun!) things to do with a little one, taken from our own experience over three visits (and counting) at five-, seven- and, most recently, eleven-months-old — all personally tested and approved by us! It’s important to note that most of these activities require (or at least make the activity much more enjoyable) with some sort of baby carrier. We’ve been using the Ergobaby 360 Cool Air since Noe was about three months old for nearly all of our outdoor activities and would highly recommend it!
(#1) Explore an Amazing Cave!
With or without the babe, Chang Cave (Jang Cave) (View Map) isn’t to be missed! Chang Cave is one of the larger and more developed caves around, and right outside of the main city center. That might not excite most hardcore spelunkers, but if you’re traveling with an infant this activity offers just enough excitement for you and the little one, in between feedings and naps.
Once you get to the cave, it is an easy stroll along well-lit cement walkways through the various sections. Some climbing of steps are involved, but no clambering up slippery surfaces or crawling through tight spaces.
If you don’t have your own transportation, you can easily hire a tuk-tuk or songteau to take you the short distance from town to the parking lot. We’ve walked from town all the way to the cave, but much of the stretch of road is sun exposed, so we recommend bringing ample sun protection and hydration if you are thinking of doing this. From the parking lot, the cave is a short (and picturesque) walk over a bright-orange suspension footbridge, along a wooded path, and finally, up 147 steps (yes, 147, but you can do it!) to the cave entrance.
If you have someone to split baby duty, bring your swimsuit! There’s an awesome crystal clear lagoon that disappears into its own little cave a short distance to the left of the cave ticket booth (follow the series of metal catwalks).
(#2) Eat Your Baby’s Weight in Mulberry Pancakes & Goat Cheese
Long known as the starting point for Vang Vieng’s famous (or infamous) river tubing float, the farm is a superb place to relax, cool off and sample some delicious offerings, all while baby naps, feeds, or toddles around on their well-manicured lower lawn. In addition to the restaurant offering amazing organic food sourced right from the farm, they also offer a guesthouse.
The individual dining cabanas on the lower lawn are prime spots to watch the comings and goings of floaters, kayakers and swimmers. The area around the restaurant also offers countless opportunities for baby to gently explore a variety of fun and interesting native plant species.
Don’t forget to try their mouth-watering mulberry pancakes and delicious goat cheese on bread!
(#3) Climb a Mountain!
No joke! Climbing to the tippy top of Pha Ngeun (Pha Ngern) (View Map) is possible and you are rewarded for your efforts with amazing panoramic views of karst peaks and rice paddies.
While it’s only about a 400-foot elevation gain from the parking lot to the lookout (House #1), it is a pretty strenuous hike, particularly wearing 10-30 lbs. of baby and gear. It is a farther distance than advertised and will take 2-3 hours to comfortably complete (depending on if you visit both House/Lookout #1 and #2 and the length of time you spend at each lookout).
While much of the trail is shaded, you’ll still need plenty of sun protection for you and the kid, and plenty of liquids to stay hydrated, as it’s a fairly vertical climb in a tropical climate. We recommend going as early as possible to beat the heat (and the crowds). Refreshments are sold at the top of each lookout (House #1 and #2), so you may want to bring a little extra money for that.
While the trail can be rough and uneven at times, you won’t find a lot of opportunities to use trekking poles, as much of the steeper sections (as of May 2017) require the use of the bamboo railing, particularly as you reach House #1. If you have telescopic poles that you are able to easily stow (or that your partner or hiking buddy can carry), they may come in handy.
Note: This activity is most appropriate for infants/toddlers who are used to spending an extended period of time in a carrier/backpack. There are limited opportunities on this hike for very little ones to safely crawl/walk around.
(#4) Picnic at a Blue Lagoon
While you’re at the Vang Vieng Organic Farm, order a lunch for takeaway, or pick up some pastries or snacks at Luang Prabang Bakery in town and head west in the transport option of your choice to the Tham Poukham Blue Lagoon (View Map).
Now, unless you’ve got a Mer-babe on your hands, you’re likely not going to be keen on actually taking them into the lagoon. But the grounds surrounding the popular swimming hole are perfect for picnicking and other baby-friendly activities. There are also typically a couple of local food stands for grabbing a lunch or snack at the lagoon, but options are pretty limited. If you have the luxury of flexibility, the Blue Lagoon is a place you’re likely going to want to visit on a weekday, though weekends certainly offer the most opportunities for people watching and cross-cultural experiences (and with baby around, you’re guaranteed a half dozen of these!).
(#5) Sundowners on the Song River
Lastly, it’s important not to ignore Vang Vieng’s reputation for being an all-around fun place to down a drink or two. Whether your going virgin or fully-fortified, you can’t beat sipping on a cold one on the banks of the Song River while watching the sun go down over the majestic karst mountains. Your overall enjoyment, of course, will depend a lot on baby’s age and tolerance of various modes of carriage, but thankfully there are a variety of different options for those wanting to imbibe while enjoying a nice sunset. Some of our favorites are watching the evening action (hot air balloons and paramotors above, kayaks and longtail motorboats below) at Phubarn Cafe (to the left of the bamboo bridge – View Map), swinging on a hammock with baby on the banks of the river at Smile Beach Bar (View Map), or playing out on the manicured lawn or our own private patio at our favorite place to stay in town, Thavonsouk Resort.
This is of course by no means a comprehensive list. Just some of our favorites. Stay tuned for more to do with a baby in Vang Vieng!
Have you visited Vang Vieng with a baby or toddler? What are some of your favorites?
Recommended Baby Travel Gear
Our own field-tested and highly recommended ergonomic baby carrier.
Our slim and lightweight hydration daypack that doubles as our diaper bag! We spent months trying out packs for daily use with the babe, and this one ticked all the boxes.