Vang Vieng Nightlife - Where to Party in 2017?

By Thibaud (Jakarta100bars)
Vang Vieng is a small town in Laos, half-way between Vientiane and Luang Prabang. It is a great spot to relax for a few days and try outdoor activities like trekking, rock climbing, and of course tubing in the Nam Song river.

For years, Vang Vieng had the reputation of having some of the wildest parties in Asia. It was an essential stop on the 2000's backpacker party trail just like Koh Phangan, Kuta, Goa or Koh Rong. 

(Un) fortunately, those days of unrestricted fun are almost over. In 2011, at least 27 travelers died, often from the combination of drinking + tubing. Facing international scrutiny and complaints from residents, the Lao government decided to cracked down on the craziest aspects of the nightlife. It limited the number of bars on the riverside, imposed curfews and made a few drug-related arrests.

Vang Vieng nightlife in 2017 is certainly not the debauchery it used to be, but it has not completely died yet. Along the river, the two bars allegedly owned by the local police chief are - what a surprise - still standing. Recreational drugs are still easily available (mushrooms, laughing gas, marijuana, opium) and every night you still have at least two hundred backpackers filling up the bars in the city center.

Most of them are westerners in their early 20s on a gap year. I was also surprised to see many Asians, especially young Koreans. They all indulge in heavy binge drinking, similar to what you could experience during summer festivals or student parties.

I stayed two nights in Vang Vieng and that was more than enough to check all the nightlife spots. Below is a short summary of my findings:

Nightlife Areas in Vang Vieng - Hotels Near the Nightlife
Almost all bars in Vang Vieng are located in the city center within just a few streets. Sakura bar is the most crowded, and the other ones are within 100-200 meters.

If you come to Vang Vieng specifically for partying and meeting people, you may consider to stay in a party hostels such as:

Chillao Hostel: It has a loud bar downstairs with a pool table and free whisky from 7pm to 10pm. Double room for 20$. Dormitory 6$.

Real Backpacker Hostel 1 and Real Backpacker Hostel 2: Both are clean, next to the bars and they have organize a fun pub crawl every night. Several guests complained on Agoda of sexual activity in the dorms. Double room for 20$. Bunk bed 7$.

Vang Vieng CentralPark: This is where I was staying. Not a party hotel but it's new and very central. 22$ for a double room. Decent Wi-Fi.

Best Bars and Clubs in Vang Vieng

Sakura (reopened in September 2016)
Beer shotguns in Sakura
Sakura is where the party starts in Vang Vieng. Many of the bartenders and staff are foreigners so it really feels like a college house party. They give free drinks every night from 8PM to 9PM, followed by a happy hour until 10PM. A beer is 10,000 kip, a glass of spirits 30,000 kip. The idea is to get as drunk as possible in 2 hours for less than 20$. If you buy enough drinks, you get one of their famous t-shirt "drink triple, see double, act single".

Once Sakura gets really packed around 11PM, it is more a nightclub than a bar. People go crazy on the podium, couples start to make out, and sweaty guys will tell you they're your best friends.

At midnight, the bar closes! It takes about 15 minutes for people to get out and 30 more for them to leave the street. Many will just move to the next available bar, Viva.

More information (events, photos, etc): Sakura Bar Vang Vieng

Viva Vang Vieng
Even though Viva has free beer from 10PM to 11PM and a happy hour until 11.30PM (half price on all drinks), it does not get crowded until Sakura closes at midnight. It is a short walk away yet more than half the people do not make it. The banana pancakes seller are partly responsible for this.

Viva is a messy, borderline dirty bar with a small outdoor section and an indoor club. Nothing fancy, it's just 4 walls, loud music and a podium. This is not a place anyone would normally enjoy but it is fine if you've had enough beers.

As people get tired of Viva Club (horrible sound and music), some will start heading to Room 101.

Room 101
At the end of a corridor between Milan Happy Pizza and the Indian restaurant Nazim, you will find the hidden club Room 101. It is very tiny (basically just a small room twice the size of your bathroom) but since it is the only club opened after 2AM, you don't really have another option. They charge a bit more than average for drinks. The DJs will mix underground and commercial songs.

The owner is one of the organizers of the Jungle Party. You can check their Facebook page here: Room 101 Vang Vieng.

The 3 bars above are the only ones that are really happening in 2017. There are also a some more laid-back options to start your evening:

A short walk from the city center, this bar has the favors of the hipster/hippie crowd. Made from recycled materials, you can visit it at sunset time and enjoy a fantastic view. During happy hours from 6PM until 9PM, a lao whisky coke costs only 10,000 kip. I didn't try the food but on TripAdvisor it has many positive comments. Live music on most night.

The top photo of this article is from Earth Bar.

Popular bar and restaurant, especially at dinner time. Good and cheap pub fare. Friendly service and owner. Live music. You can watch sports and play pool.

Vang Vieng Jungle Project
This weekly event happens every Friday in an outdoor bar about 10 minutes away from the city center (free tuk-tuk from Milan Pizza). Tickets cost 30,000 kip with advance purchase (see their Facebook page) or 40,000 kip on the spot. You have a bunch of special shows apart from the DJs (painting, juggling, fire, etc). The music will be non commercial (techno, drum & bass, deep house, break beat, ..).

Drugs in Vang Vieng
Vang Vieng is one of the last places in Southeast Asia where drugs are still sold openly. You will see several coffee shops and bars with "Magic Shakes" (mushrooms + opium = 100,000 kip), "Happy Pizzas" (pizza + weed) or "Laughing Balloons" (nitrous oxide = 10,000 kip) on the menu. It is often cheaper than getting drunk, but I can't recommend you to try anything.

If you are curious and willing to go against my sound advice, the following bars will have everything you need:

Full Moon Bar
Psychedelic bar with reggae music and a totally relaxed vibe. It is located by the river and not really crowded. Pool table. Friendly owner. Another bar called Jaydees is about 50 meters further down the road and it offers a similar setting (and similar products).

It seems to be owned by the same people who run Room 101 and Jungle Project. They sell whatever your Highness needs and they also make normal pizzas/burgers. Same as Tifalcony Pizza.

Rasta Bar
My least favorite. It is centrally located just next to Viva but the music is quite aggressive (like Goa Trance). If you are really stoned you may enjoy though.

Meeting Girls in Vang Vieng
Vang Vieng is one of the easiest places in Asia to meet with foreign girls. They are everywhere in the city, especially European students in their early 20s. You also have many Chinese and Korean girls but they are often traveling with their boyfriends. Lao girls are a rarity (and the ones you'll meet in clubs might be ladyboys).

From what I observed, the best strategy is to chat with as many girls as possible during day time. There are really tons of opportunities, at your guest house, in a minivan, while tubing, etc. You can be sure that most of them will be partying in Sakura on the same night. When you'll see them on the dance floor, you will already have half the job done for you (alcohol will do the second part).

If you are alone, you can also try the pub crawl organized by Real Backpacker Hostel 2.

Forget online dating in Vang Vieng, it is terrible whatever the app or website you use.

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