Losing, Tubing and Boozing
Vang Vieng Travel Blog› entry 88 of 117 › view all entries
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.