After a Wet & Wild Laos New Year celebration in Luang Prabang we decided it was time to move further South. It was then that a decision had to be made. After reading many articles and blogs we were unsure if we should stop in Vang Vieng due to the dangers of tubing and the impact tubing has had on the locals. We decided that we would stop in the town as it would break up an otherwise long bus ride to Vientiane. At this stage we were still unsure if we would partake in the craziness that is known as tubing – this was a decision we would make upon arriving in Vang Vieng.
We took a mini bus from Luang Prabang along the bumpiest road yet. The driver also insisted on stopping every half hour making the trip much longer than it needed to be. check out the sticker in the minivan – No farting people! Classic!
Upon arriving we went straight to a guesthouse recommended to us by some friends whom had just come back from Vang Vieng - we scored a nice clean room with wi-fi for just 70,000kip a night.
We met up with a few of the group from the slow boat who had also made their way to the party town and decided yes, we would spend the next day tubing – our way.
To avoid the utter-drunkeness we all decided an early start was required so at 11am we were off. We were the very first people to hit the water for the day – allowing us to stay in front of the drunken crowds most of the way.
We decided the plan would be one drink at each bar as we made our way down river. This plan worked well as we would buy 1 large bottle of beer that would give Duane and I one glass each then we would be back in the tubes to the next stop. We all figured we would save the high alcoholic content buckets for the last bar rather than drink them all day like many do. This would ensure we weren’t drinking too much too fast – this plan worked perfectly.
Many people have died on the river in Vang Vieng as tubing has taken over this once quiet sleepy town and turned it into one of the busiest backpacking destinations in Laos. The deaths are due to a combination of factors, alcohol, drugs, water, rocks, and bad decisions. Also due to a lack of medical facilities in the area, those injured are far from a proper hospital. There are signs along the river at the bars stating just how dangerous the river can be.
As we were floating down the river Duane decided it would be a great idea to try to stand up on the tube as we were floating along – a true test of core strength. He succeeded for a very brief time and the challenge was on. Kim made her way to a standing position on the tube – smashing Duanes attempt however then it was time to get back to sitting in the tube … splash, she was down and the problem was she hadn’t checked how deep the water was before trying this trick. The water was only hip deep her legs scraped the bottom of the river as she fell. No blood was shed but it was a very quick reminder how even if you are not drunk injuries can occur. Also Kim’s sunglasses were lost to the river – damn standing trick, wont be trying that one again.
At the 3rd bar there are swings and slides. These are known to be dangerous according to many things you read online. However, upon arrival (remember we are generally the first people to arrive at a bar with a few others usually arriving not long after us) we sat and watched. As others arrived and gave the swings and slides a go it seemed they weren’t as dangerous as many say. It was then that Duane could not hold back any longer – he HAD to go on the swing – and he loved it. We could see however how easily the swing experience could turn bad as people with no upper-body strength would give it a go and fall from the swing as soon as they left the platform to the river below – not in the area you are supposed to let go in! Also, as Duane was holding on preparing for the swing of a lifetime two girls ran and jumped without looking off the bar area straight into the swing drop zone. Luckily Duane had not left the platform and waited for them to get out of the way but this again was a reminder how things could often and do go so wrong.
As we made our way further down river we went through little ‘rapids’ – ok it was hardly rapids but the water was flowing a little fast and it was so much fun, we were absolutely loving our tubing day.
At the last main bar Duane and I got our first bucket to share – mmMMmmm it was soooooo good!
Below are a few other pics from our day. In the end it was a great day with friends on the water. We did however on many occasions see how things could quickly go wrong – luckily for us they didn’t.
Did we get blind drunk, No! Did we love it, Yes!
We tubed, our way, survived and had a blast.
Duane showing us his latest trick
Kim All ‘Zen’
The local kids on the river with Balloon Floaties!
Friendly ‘Staff Only’ sign at one of the bars
Duanes thong was gifted to the river along with Kim’s sunnies.
Bright signs at FUBar
Too many drinks for Duane – just kidding. Duane acting out what he thinks he might look like by the end of the day.
Jengaaaaaaaa! Games at the bars are heaps of fun.