Vang Vieng, was first settled around 1353 as a staging post between Luang Prabang and Vientiane. Originally named Mouang Song after the body of the deceased King Phra Nha Phao of Phai Naam was seen floating down the river, the town was renamed Vang Vieng during French colonial rule in the 1890s. It is a tourist city about a four-hour drive from Vientiane. Originally settled in the 14th century when it was known as Mouang Song, it was given its present name when Laos was a French colony. The most notable feature of the area is the karst hill landscape surrounding the town.
Because it is located on the Nam Song River, many tourist activities, including kayaking and tubing, revolve around the river. Vang Vieng is popular with backpackers who enjoy the relaxed atmosphere as well as hiking in the hills and exploring caves. Ethnic villages, including Hmong, are located close by.
There are also numerous caves, such as Tham Phu Kham half an hour north of Vang Vieng by tuk-tuk or the Tham Xang and Tham Chang caves closer to Vang Vieng.
Tham Chang penetrates right under a mountain and is fed by a natural spring: perfect for an early morning dip. The cave is said to have been used as a refuge during the 19th century from Chinese Haw bandits and this explains its name: Chang meaning ‘loyal’ or ‘steadfast’. Entrance is via the Vang Vieng Resort south of town. Although the cave is not the most magnificent, it serves as a superb lookout point.
Tham Xang, 14 km north of Vang Vieng on the banks of the Nam Song, also known as the ‘Elephant Cave’, is named after the stalagmites and stalactites that have created an elephant formation on a ledge. The cave also contains some Buddha images, including the Footprint of Buddha. This is one of Vang Vieng’s most interesting caves and in the wet season needs to be explored with an inner tube or by wading, while pulling you along a rope.