Vang Vieng is on highway 13, halfway between Luang Prabang in the North of Laos and Vientiane, the capital, in the South. I have read that there was very little in the way of a town in Vang Vieng before the Americans built a runway here during the Vietnam War, and then more recently the arrival of (mostly Australian) backpackers who use it as a stopover between North and South Laos, to chill and party for a few days of beers, bars, and “tubing” (see Wiki Travel).
Travelling by road down from Luang Prabang through the mountains reveals some stunning mountain scenery formed by the Karst limestone geology. This mountain road is very dangerous by European standards, with hundreds of hairpin bends with sheer drops but without protective barriers, and there are fatal accidents along the road every year. Even so the journey is something not to be missed as the scenery is utterly breathtaking.
The Nam Xiong River forms the backbone of Vang Vieng and makes for some stunning sunset and misty morning scenes. For those of you who don’t want to spend your daytime watching re-runs of Friends in Vang Vieng bars, it’s well worth leaving the main road and the backpacker tourist areas parts of the original village with cattle in the roads, smiling children, and rustic village homes.
To quote from WikiTravel “Vang Vieng is one of the most beautifully scenic places in the region, if not the world”, and it is reported that the Lao government have clamped down on the party, backpacker, tubing scene, for the better I would suggest.