The Wild Wild East
Vang Vieng Travel Blog› entry 31 of 43 › view all entries
March 22nd, 2008 – by: worldcitizen
After a three hour drive, we pulled into a huge empty lot which used to be an airport. We had arrived in Vang Vieng. There were beautiful mountains all around, but the town itself didn't look like much. I was still excited to be there and looking forward to tubing down the Nam Song river.
We checked into our hotel and settled into our rooms which were filled with a puzzling array of puppy and kitten decorations. The bathroom had exposed pipes and the TV appeared to be locked in a cage. I wanted to remember it so I took a few pictures with my backup disposable camera. We put our stuff down and then a few of us went to town with Cat to look for lunch.
We turned the corner onto the thoroughfare and looked like a frontier town, kind of barren and dusty.
In the tube rental shop, sitting amongst ten to fifteen Lao men, was a lone English guy. He was traveling solo and had been waiting patiently for companions. It is cheaper to go tubing with more people, up to a group of four+. So if you're by yourself, you might as well hang around and make some new friends. We had three and decided to wait around for at least one more person for the cheapest price. We were soon joined by two girls from Sweden and a guy and a girl from England.
We grabbed our tubes and piled into a jumbo (larger version of a tuk-tuk). I saw that the ten to fifteen guys who appeared to be sitting idly in the tube shop were actually drivers waiting for someone to drive. We were dropped off and then got in our tubes and floated down the river. I'm apparently not skilled at tubing and somehow always ended up caught on a rock or in the bushes. At the first bar we saw, they threw bamboo poles to us and pulled us in. We hung out for awhile, but then Cat urged us to move on to what she thought was the best bar. We floated down the river some more and then approached a loud energetic bar.
We paddled with our arms over to the steps, dropped off our tubes in a huge pile and joined the fun. There were people playing volleyball, jumping into the river from a tall platform and general merriment. We stood in line to order Beer Lao and Cat also ordered some sort of fish. We found an empty cabana and chatted with our tube group. We sampled Cat's fish which turned out to be delicious. Hanging out with her was a good way to find great local food. Our tube group made plans to meet up that evening at Smile Bar.
I was almost back on the Nam Song when I suddenly decided I couldn't leave before jumping into the river. I think it was the Beer Lao speaking. I climbed the steps to the wooden platform and waited in line while butterflies fluttered in my stomach. When it was my turn, I hesitated and someone behind me said, "GO!" I held on tightly and jumped. I zoomed down the zipline and swung back and forth, filled with terror and excitement. I let go of the swing and plunged down into the Nam Song. I swam back to the surface and my heart was still racing. I had never done anything like that before and I was glad I tried it.
I grabbed my tube and tried to catch up with my tube group members who were pretty far ahead of me. I was catching up to an English couple who were off and on paddling as crazily as I was. We started a conversation on the best tube paddling techniques. We were thinking positively and we agreed that our arms would be sore but stronger, and that would help us with our backpacks.
When we finally reached the stopping point, it was dark. There were dozens of us with our large tubes waiting for jumbos to take us back to town. We had a lot of laughs hanging out in the darkness while we waited for a ride. Some jumbos came, but not enough for everyone waiting. Like clowns, we were trying to get way too many people into a jumbo when finally a several showed up to pick us up. Back in town, I could see that the main road was much more lively. No one is there during the day because they're all on the river, exploring caves, or rock climbing.
Cat and I freshened up and went to dinner. We met up with her tour guide friend who was also from Thailand and leading a trip that was stopped in Vang Vieng. We headed down to Smile Bar. It was basically a continuation of the bar on the river we went to earlier with the same DJ and the same crowd. There was a large fireplace in the center surrounded by benches and cabanas. I met a few new people and it seemed like everyone was either from England or Sweden. Nightlife in Laos generally ends at 12am and the music has to be turned off. But a few of us hung around and exchanged travel stories before heading back to town on the wobbly bridge. Vang Vieng doesn't have much in the way of culture or history, but that's what is nice about it. I had a lot of fun there and thought it was a great place to unwind and meet other travelers.
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Vang Vieng Restaurants, Cafes & Food review
Wholesome food in the most unwholesome (but fun) stop in Southeast AsiaThis was the most basic of the non profit restaurants I went to as far as both the food and the environment. I ordered a rice dish and mulberry tea. I… read entire review