Trek, Caves and Tubing, Veng Vieng

Vang Vieng Travel Blog

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We grabbed breakfast from the Luang Prabang Bakery (pain au croissant covered in melted chocolate like you had when you were a kid!), and headed down to the tour operator and jumped in a jimbo out of town to a little village down the road. We were lead to 2 small caves (Tham Sang and Tham Hoi), each with a Buddha shrine set a little into the cave and known as Elephant cave for the part-man-made/part-natural figure of an elephant. Apparently mother elephants also use the cave for birthing, though I'm dubious as to the reality of that...


We were then driven to Tham Nam, a 500m cave with a river tributary flowing from its low entrance. We jumped into tractor tubes, plunging our warm bottoms into the cold water and floated under the overhang into the cave, pulling ourselves along with the aid of a rope.

We had headlamps so we could see around us, but the caves were unremarkable, the real fun was the float! We crossed by foot a short pebbly shallow and attaching ourselves one by one in a line to someone else's tube by our feet, paddled up and down the underground river like a long water catapillar.


After a delicious (included) lunch of fried rice and barbecue skewers we then set off for the main event of the day - tubing. No trip to Laos could be considered complete with a trip down the Nam Song on an inflatable tractor tyre inner tube. Infamous on the Asian backpacker route, it's the very best waste of a day.


Arriving at the water's edge with our gear safely stowed in a dry bag, we were greeted by an audience of beautiful brown children with big eyes and smiles.

Buddha statue in cave
They helped us into our tubes and then pushed us, laughing and grinning across the shallow river's edge and out towards the first bar of many that populate the river's edge for tubers to float into. As we reached deeper water they continued to swim beside the tube, pulling it along as best they could, though in more cases probably hindering progress, and as they dived down or lost grip, more than once I thought I'd lost one only for them to emerge smiling and happy after a few moments like water babies.


We stopped at the first bar, and Zoe and I agreed to share a bucket of vodka and 7Up. A bucket being like a child's sandcastle-sized bucket. Our watery friends continued to wait, either for us to move on, or to give them money, but the problem of stowing valuables deep in the dry bag, and of carrying only enough for a day of drinking in large notes meant we had nothing to give them.

Tubing down the Nam Song
Word to the generous - take small change and/or sweets if you want to appease their big-eyed watch over you.


The vodka and 7up was surprisingly strong. Strong enough Dutch courage for Zoe to do the zip wire splash into the river certainly. There were many variations of these down the river, and plenty of graceful flips, bombs and bellyflops. Feeling tipsy we set off again down the river, and as we bobbed along in the sunshine, spinning our tyres to get a 360 view of the river, the mountains, listening to the music, the laughs, feeling the warm sun and the cool water lapping at my limbs, I couldn't help but feel this was the best way to spend a sunny day.


Our 2 friends started looking a bit like they'd copped off, so we jumped out at the next lively sounding bar to grab some food and another drink. And then soon after set off on foot to a bar further down that served 'happy' shakes. You don't have to be a genius to know what I mean. We'd have liked to have had a take-away in a paper cup to sip down the river but were told we couldn't because of police. Our host presented us with a CD of his music however, a lovely souvenier, and we set off again.


The day was getting late so after some amusing kerfuffles at the 'rapids' and after some lazy chatting to other floating people around us, we all jumped out at the Last Chance Saloon (dubbed by me, but may well be its name for all I know) for a final drink, by which time we really were feeling a touch on the wobbly side. Zoe was getting a bit cold too so we headed off, perhaps stupidly eschewing the offer of jumping out at the side to some waiting jimbos and carried on down the river to get closer to Veng Vieng town. It's quite a long way though, and we ended up paddling like mad to stay warm well into the fading light until some straggler Jimbo drivers fished us out with our gratitude.


We headed back to the hotel to shower and change, and then went back out into town in search of some bars we'd heard about. Vaguely walking in the direction we knew from the map we found ourselves walking in the dark across a bridge and arrived in some kind of surreal festival-land. We blinked our red-eyes at the many thatched bars draped in fairy lights, and they blinked right back at us. We grabbed a beer each and headed to one of the wooden covered platforms where groups of people gather, and sat ourselves in a hammock. Unfortunately it was still too early for 'The Island' to have picked up yet, and we were desperately fighting inebriated tiredness, so after to-ing and fro-ing into town to some bars and back again we gave in to temptation and gave up our idea of dancing.

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Buddha statue in cave
Buddha statue in cave
Tubing down the Nam Song
Tubing down the Nam Song
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This came recommended because it was cheap ($3/4) and we agreed because we couldn’t walk any further, but surely there must be better places in Vang… read entire review
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photo by: razorriome