Like a rural scene from an old Asian silk painting, Vang Vieng (ວັງວຽງ) crouches low over the Nam Song (Song River) with a backdrop of serene cliffs and a tapestry of vivid green paddy fields. Thanks to the Lao government closing the river rave bars in 2012, the increasingly toxic party scene has been driven to the fringes and the community is rebooting itself as an adrenaline-fuelled adventure destination with some impressive accommodation options on tap. The town itself is no gem, as concrete hotels build ever higher in search of the quintessential view, but across the Nam Song lies a rural idyll.
Spend a few days here – rent a scooter, take a motorcycle tour, go tubing or trekking – and soak up one of Laos' most stunningly picturesque spots. But explore with care and enjoy it sober, as the river and mountains around Vang Vieng have claimed too many travellers' lives already.