Following our failed attempt at climbing to a lookout point, we were in need of some mulberry pancakes and an easy stroll around a traditional village. Luckily, we knew just the place.
Vang Vieng Organic [Mulberry] Farm, located a few miles north of town, is a local institution. In addition to being an organic farm where you can stay for months volunteering in the farm or a couple of nights in nice accommodation near the river, their on-site restaurant also dishes up delicious mulberry pancakes and goat cheese, all sourced from the farm.
This is also the traditional starting point for the infamous river float where travelers come from all over the world to drink their way down the Song River on an inner tube. These days, the scene is far tamer than years past, but looks like a pretty good time to me.
Noe’s content for the moment to watch the steady stream of sunburnt tubers unload from songteau’s and tuk-tuks and scramble down to the river with tube and beer in hand. Maybe in a few years he’ll be ready to join us for a float.
Less than a football field’s length from the tubing start point, a local bar has set up to [literally] reel in passing tubers by throwing out a rope and pulling them in where whisky buckets and 3-for-2 beer deals await.
After a tasty and relaxing meal at the mulberry farm, we get back on Road 13 and head north several miles to Nadao Village — or these days better known to tourists as Elephant Cave Village or Elephant Adventure Village.
The village, itself, is known for its “Elephant Cave,” which is accessed buy crossing this Eastern-Bloc-looking monstrosity.
“Please Don’t Walk Big in Bridge”
You likely won’t find any elephants in Elephant Adventure Village, or in Elephant Cave, for that matter. What you will find is a couple of Buddha statues…
…and a limestone formation that bears a strange resemblance to — you guessed it — an elephant.
While the cave is interesting (and a good place to bring a young child), I wouldn’t trek all the way up here from town just to see it. If you’re keen on a taking a stroll around the village and grabbing mulberry pancakes on the way, however, it makes for an enjoyable afternoon.
Elephant Cave is located in this conspicuous limestone monolith in the center of the village.
There are a network of trails through farmland and rice paddies that lead to various parts of the village.
The name Elephant Adventure Village is not a complete misnomer, as there is adventure activities to be had just outside of the small community.
There is an underwater cave that you can tube through and zip-lines in the canopy above — both popular components of day tours arranged from Vang Vieng, and indeed we saw a number of groups coming and going. I doubt most people take the initiative to drive to this village and access these activities on their own, but it appears it can be done if you’re so inclined.
Subterranean tubing and zip-lining sounded fun to us, but weren’t exactly realistic with an eleven-month-old in tow. Maybe next time…
If doing some independent walking/hiking in the area sounds appealing to you, we’ve included an OpenStreetMap.org map to use to find the places we mentioned here. While the water cave isn’t listed, I believe it is at the end (western point) of the trail spur in the center left of the screen.
In addition to Elephant Cave (where you’ll also find the center of the small village) there are apparently three other caves in the area (listed above) that sound worth exploring.
Back in Vang Vieng town, we drive down the characterless back street where an unbroken line of identical BeerLao-sponsored restaurant signs greet visitors coming into town.
After quickly regrouping back at our guesthouse, we make it up to Earth Bar (aka Earth Recycled) just in time to catch the sunset. Rarely do the sunsets from this place disappoint. Head up to the “treehouse” for an even better view!