We had read a lot about the Vang Vieng Challenge before arriving in Vang Vieng and were so excited to take on the challenge ourselves. The challenge consists of a 6 hour trek through the jungle, a via ferreta across the mountain and waterfalls, a huge 70m abseil down a waterfall, sleeping at the top of a mountain under the stars and then zip-lining/abseiling all the way back down in the morning... what more could we ask for! It was going to be one hell of a trip!
We booked the tour directly at the Vang Vieng Green Discovery office. The 2 day one night tour ended up costing £68 each (after further reductions, explained below) which included breakfast x1 lunch x2 and dinner x1. We thought this was a really good price considering what we were about to do! The other option we had in mind was the Gibbon Experience which was in Dong Xoi. This is similar to the Vang Vieng Challenge as you hike up the mountain and zip-line back down. However, the difference is in the accommodation as with the gibbon experience you stay in treehouses, which are suspended high in the tree canopy and have the potential to see gibbons. We would have loved the experience to see gibbons, however it was £200+ and we just couldn’t justify that with our budget. Looking back now at how good the Vang Vieng Challenge was - we are so, so happy we didn’t spend the money and went with the cheaper experience because monkeys or no monkeys, it was just as good!
We were picked up from our hostel at 7:30 the morning of the challenge and were taken to the Green Discovery office, they kindly let us keep our backpacks here whilst we were away. We had initially booked onto a tour which hadn’t had any other people booked on it yet, it was going to be me, Jac and the tour guide. It was a bit more expensive this way, but the tour guide said that if anyone else joined on the course, we would get be refunded the price difference that comes with being in a bigger group. Well, luckily this was the case woohoo! We picked up 2 more people (and got a little refund) who were a lovely couple from Singapore. We loved meeting them and are planning to get together again when we go to Singapore later on this year (perks of travelling - having a bed to stay in, in every country!)
Our first stop on the journey was the market to pick up supplies for the next two days ahead. The tour guide darted off so quick, obviously knowing the market like the back of his hand and none of us could keep up with him, so we had a quick wonder and then all stood by the truck and got to know each other instead! We’ve all seen our fair share of dead fish and cow heads in the markets now, so I don’t think we missed out on too much...but if you've never seen a cows head - here's your chance! Thank Jac for this one!
After the market, we headed off to the base camp, which was a little area near the river with restaurants and toilet facilities. We started our trek from here after getting geared up with harnesses and gloves. The harness is pretty heavy, so you have two options here - wear it or carry it. Jac chose to carry his whilst I chose to wear mine, we both found our own way comfortable so it’s whatever you prefer.
The first part of the trek was across a bridge and up a very, very, very steep hill! I have to admit, when my calves were burning walking up this hill and we had only just got started, I thought ‘oh flip, I’ve majorly underestimated how much of a challenge this is going to be!’ However, we soon found out that it’s was only really one majorly steep hill at the beginning and then the rest was a steady incline through the jungle, so there was nothing to worry about at all!
The trek through the jungle was awesome, it had rained the night before so it made everything super slippy. We stopped at around 1pm, just before our first zip-line to have lunch, which was a massive chicken baguette.
The next part of the trek was definitely the best bit! We zip-lined our way through to a couple of different parts of the mountain and then climbed the Via Ferrata up the majority of the remaining trek to the top of the mountain. The Via Ferrata was amazing and was mainly placed next to the waterfall that flows down the side of the mountain (which we would be abseiling down when we got to the top). The best thing about this tour was that the tour guides let me and Jac (a pair of little adrenaline junkies) go up the Via Ferrata at some points without attaching on to anything. They were so laid back with us which was great as it made it a lot more fun (or a lot more dangerous) for us pair of lunatics!
We reached the wooden treehouse at the top of the mountain at about 4pm. The treehouse was amazing, it was open air and had one of the best views we had ever seen. There were 4 sleeping bags and pillows laid out on the terrace which meant that we were to be sleeping under the stars with the sounds of the jungle that night!
From the treehouse, we quickly dumped our bags and then headed up a trail towards the top of the waterfall (Thanking god that it was close as we were all pretty shattered at this point). We all took turns abseiling down the 60m waterfall, which was incredible as it was... and then the tour guide only went and asked us if we wanted to do it again as we had some time free. Ermm... yes!? Of course we bloody do! We all had a second go and then headed back to the treehouse for dinner, chuffed with the day we had had.
Dinner was delicious and in plentiful amounts of course, the same as every other home cooked meal we’ve received from locals! We all sat on the floor around a table, lit by candle light, chatting and drinking rice wine until it was time to say goodnight. The rice wine was epic, brewed by the crazy mountain man who lived in and looked after the mountain treehouse. We even did the shots out of home made bamboo shot glasses! They gave the remainder of the bottle to Jac, who polished the lot off before bed!
The next morning, we woke up at 7am to the sounds of the birds and the monkeys calling away in the trees. We actually woke up a few times that night as the chef who lives in the treehouse permanently has a kitten... and that little kitten, adorable as he is, is a nightmare when you are sleeping on the floor! The kitten kept sitting on our faces whilst we slept and at one point I woke up and it was actually inside my sleeping bag!! I have a hard enough time coping with Jac as a needy boyfriend, let alone having to put up with this kitten as well, haha!
We had breakfast that morning, which was delicious and then set out for day two at 10am. However, before that, Jac and I had some unfinished business to take care of. One of the tour guides said we could go up to the very top of the waterfall if we wanted to... without any guidance as long as we be careful! We whizzed up and down it in the morning and it was by far one of mine and Jacs favourite moments of the trip, highlighting once again just how cool these tour guides were!
Day two of the tour was awesome! We went down about 10-15 zip-lines through huge jungle canopies.
It was so much fun zipping between trees, over huge streams and between giant valleys. Some of the zip lines were huge! Some were so close to the jungle canopy that you'd hit the tops of branches on your way! (Keep your legs up guys!)
We also did loads of huge abseils from the tallest trees in the jungle - some were 50m high! We couldn’t believe how many there were and had the best time whizzing down them all. We couldn’t believe the speed of the tour guide too, he literally free fell from the top of the abseils and caught himself just before he hit the bottom every time! Crazzzzy guy!
We zip-lined, literally the entire way back down the mountain we'd climbed the previous day. There was probably no more than a couple of km left to walk back to the base camp when we had finished. It was amazing because the alternative option was to slide down on our bums in the mud as it was pretty muddy on the way up and poured with rain whilst we slept. We had an amazing lunch of sausage, chicken, rice and a great salsa right next to a picturesque small stream. We jumped on the truck around 1pm, feeling absolutely shattered from the challenge but seriously happy with our experience! We’d recommend the Vang Vieng Challenge to anyone and would love to answer any questions if you have them in the comments below!
We've been travelling for 6 months now! Both of us love to blog and vlog and share our experiences with you! We try to only ever include things we've done in our blogs and certainly in our adventure blogs everything has been tried and tested.
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