Losing, Tubing and Boozing

Vang Vieng Travel Blog

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Takraw

With the brains of the operation now back in the warm and sunny climes of the good old US of K, my forgetfulness is worryingly exposed. So it wasn't completely surprising when I got to Vang Vieng to find I had forgotten to get my passport back from the hostel owner in Vientiane. Finding the phone number of the hostel to warn them I would be coming to get it proved difficult; there are no phone directories in Laos and typing its name, 'Lao Youth' into Google, unsurprisingly, gave a large and vague selection of results. A whole day going back and forth on the bus was luckily avoided when I bumped into a girl who had stayed at the same hostel and had their card at hand.

Booze + river = perfectly safe
I phoned them and was told that they would give it to the bus driver who would pass it on to me.

The fun and games didn't end there, though. The next day, having not done much because of waiting around for the bus to come, I asked the landlord at my hotel where the bus would stop. I got vague results so set off to find it with plenty of time. However, once I got there, I asked a local who pointed me in the direction of the other side of town. Once there, and with time quickly running out, I was given a third location. By this point I had to start running. In the end I found a tuk-tuk driver to take me where it would stop. Once there, the passport was successfully retrieved. But by this point I was a sweating and very stressed mess.

So...to Vang Vieng. To the culture vulture, Vang Vieng holds little rewards.

"I'm leaving you, you cow!"
But to a cultural simpleton like me it's absolutely brilliant. If the wats and temples are Asia's fruit, then Vang Vieng is a kebab; it's not for everyone and there's little nutritional value, but every once in a while indulgement is much needed. Usually when accompanied by a few beers.

You won't see many Laotians when in Vang Vieng. It's actually all pretty much young English people. So, "what is the attraction?" you ask. First up is the strip of bars. In each, a different programme is played on repeat on big TVs. There are three Friends bars, a Simpsons bar, a Family Guy bar and a few that play constant movies (all pirated, of course). I would be lying if I said I didn't spend a lot of time in the Simpsons bar. Also, if you are that way inclined, you can order some organic goods from the 'special menu;' the contents of which are something more akin to an Amsterdam coffee shop.

Trapeze

The second big thing is tubing, which is understandably very popular on the traveller circuit in Southeast Asia. The formula is something like this. Take one rubber ring. Give to travelling Westerner. Drop he or she off via tuk-tuk with said ring at the top of a fast-moving river (currently in rainy season). Put bars selling cheap beers on the river bank, each with trapeze-style rope swings and zip-wires at the top of high platforms. Throw away the health and safety manual. Then sit back. On paper, it sounds like the stupidist idea in the world. In practice, though, it's one of the most fun things I have done in my life.

I admit that initially I was a bit scared at the thought of mixing drinks with a current. The fear was doubled when I heard that four people had died tubing this year alone.

YouTube
But once I had started floating along I realised, preventing death assumed, it was going to be a really fun day. The rope swings were awesome; you could get some serious height - some were even doing show-off gymnastics and such. The atmosphere at the bars was brilliant, despite the awful music. Games of volleyball were being had, while people watching the jumpers had breaks from their beers only to shout the occasional, "Oooh", as someone fell badly or hit the water hard.

We spent the whole of the wonderfully sunny day sipping beers, doing jumps, and floating along. We even stayed till it got dark, which perhaps wasn't sensible, paddling along in the dark. Once I got back I was on such a high that I wanted to go again the next day. I decided not to in the end - because of a combination of having a hangover, wanting to go and see somewhere new and the aches and pains of doing the jumps.

I read a couple of (below average) blogs on here from others saying they thought it was too touristy and a gimmick. I didn't see one person doing it who wasn't having the time of their lives. If you're in Laos, you must do it.

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Takraw
Takraw
Booze + river = perfectly safe
Booze + river = perfectly safe
Im leaving you, you cow!
"I'm leaving you, you cow!"
Trapeze
Trapeze
YouTube
YouTube
Vang Vieng wat
Vang Vieng wat
Novice monk
Novice monk
Vang Vieng
photo by: razorriome