Robbed in Vang Vieng!

Date: 26 September 2009 to 27 September 2009
Where I’ve Been: Vang Vieng, Laos
Where I’ve Stayed: Vilay Vong Guesthouse in Vang Vieng and Mixay Guesthouse in Vientiane

Collage of travel photos

So yesterday ended up being fairly eventful. To give a brief explanation before I go any further, most backbackers come to Vang Vieng to go tubing. This consists of hiring a giant tyre, sitting in it and then floating down the Nam Song River whilst every half a mile or so a makeshift bar set up on the banks of the river will throw you a rope and pull you to the river bank so you can clamber up and drink. Usually free shots are involved, as well as a multitude of dodgy rope swings, zip lines and jumps into the river.

Anyway the three of us were up early and determined to enjoy a day of tubing. Unfortunately things started to go downhill almost immediately…

Above: Tubing down the Nam Song River


We hired our tubes and headed off to the first bar – the point where the tubing starts. We had our free shot on arrival and then before starting tubing we decided to have a quick go on the rope swing. Off went Ben and Mary with no problems, then it was my turn. I forgot one thing, I was wearing contact lenses. I flew off the swing and into the water without any problems, then I came up and realised I couldn’t see anything – I had lost my lenses. I swam blindly to the shore, just about found Ben and Mary and told them what had happened.

I then spent the next few hours floating down the river with Ben and Mary as my tubing guide dogs, pulling me along with them wherever they went. We stopped at the bars and had a few drinks, but we were around ten years older than most people there and the idea of getting absolutely smashed combined with floating down a river (especially when I couldn’t see) didn’t really appeal to any of us. Instead we had a nice leisurely time and returned to our guesthouse still pretty sober.

Above: At least the view from our Guesthouse was good!


We got back and arranged to get showered and changed and then meet in the lobby area an hour later. I was just about to shower when there was a knock on my door. It was Ben asking if I had had any money go missing from my bag. That morning when we left to go tubing we didn’t want to take all of our money with us and risk losing it in the river so we took a little each and left the rest securely in our bags.

I checked and sure enough 250,000 kip (about £25) had disappeared, along with some American dollars I had in there. Ben and Mary had had similar amounts taken. We knew this for sure as the previous night when we arrived we asked the very friendly guesthouse owner where the nearest ATM was as we needed to get some money out. He very quickly produced a hand drawn map from his drawer, directing us exactly to the cash point. We each took out the same amount and had spent none of it apart from the money we took with us tubing.

Seeing as there was absolutely no sign of forced entry and nothing else was missing then the finger of suspicion pointed at one man – the friendly guesthouse owner who had so kindly directed us to the ATM the previous night. We got changed and then went down and explained, in friendly terms without accusing him, what had happened. We basically said that if the money could be found we would forget about it.

Above: A bridge across the river – Laos style!

The owner continued to deny any knowledge and we continued to explain that we just wanted the money back. He then started to say he had noticed a taxi driver hanging around outside, insinuating that this ‘driver’ might have nipped into the guesthouse and stolen the money. We argued that there was no sign of forced entry and nothing else had been taken. The conversation went back and forth until we said we would have to go to the Police about it.

He kindly led us to the Police Station, had a laugh and joke with the Police in Laotian and then left us to fill in a Police Report, which was frankly pointless as we knew at this stage that the Police were probably to some extent in on it. Fortunately to us £25 each is not a huge amount of money, whereas in Laos, where the average salary is around £800 a year, it is. We forlornly completed our Police Reports and headed out for some dinner with a couple of guys we met tubing.


Today we left Vang Vieng for the Laos capital Vientiane. My impressions of Vang Vieng are mixed, it is undoubtedly in the most beautiful location and visually stunning, but the town itself is a haven for travellers in their teens/early 20s who just want to get drunk and high. The place also has a strange affinity for Friends and Family Guy, literally every bar/cafe has episodes playing on repeat throughout the day!

Above: Vang Vieng is set amongst some amazing scenery

Anyway our bus journey to Vientiane took us three and a half hours and we arrived about 1.30pm. We found a cheap but clean guesthouse and wandered around the city a little bit (not particularly impressive!) and had some dinner and now back in the guesthouse. We leave tomorrow on a bus to Vietnam.


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4 thoughts on “Robbed in Vang Vieng!”

  1. Hi and thank you for your article.

    It´s fun to read and great to see that you enjoy the travel. Looking forward to reading more in your blog.
    About Vietnam, is it difficult to speak English there? And how hot is it in September? Any advice for the best time of the year to travel there?

    • Thanks Johann glad you enjoyed it. Most people speak some form of English in Vietnam – even if it is quite broken, maybe if you went to more rural towns and villages it would be a struggle then. The temperature in Vietnam always hovers around the 30C to 35C mark, but as for best time of the year it is tough as the country has different weather systems depending on which part you go to. If you are looking to travel the whole country I’d say either September to December or March and April.

      Hope this helps!

  2. Besides the missing money, which is unfortunate, this sounds like a great time! But then again, any activity involving the outdoors and a few drinks is a great time! I couldn’t even imagine how fun the zip lines would be, that would be my favorite part aside from meeting the locals and absorbing the culture. I also find it interesting how in more remote locations there are guest houses rather than hotels. Which to me, sound like a new experience every time. Good luck on your travels!

    • Thanks Phil, it was an amazing experience – Vang Vieng is just such a beautiful place, albeit a little crazy! It was a shame about the money – but so far that is the only bad experience I have had. Guest Houses are prevalent here and they are always very cheap and usually pretty nice.


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