Vang Vieng : Not 'In the Tubing'.

Vang Vieng Travel Blog

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Top top place to stay in Vang Vieng. Friendly and helpful. Great fruit smoothies!!!

Yesterday evening I enthusiastically agreed to join Ian, Baskets, Mark and Nicole for a Tubing session today.  Buuuut on quieter reflection after we parted I know that undoubtedly fun (for a while) though it would be it is not the experience I want to take away from my very limited time in Vang Vieng.  ‘Tubing’ for better or for worse is the activity that has seriously put Vang Vieng on the map as far as your average backpacker’s concerned.  Tubing involves the hire of a large inflated tractor tyre inner-tube to float down the Nam Song river in.  Strung along the river bank to the north of the town are (I gather) a collection of bars and the aim of the game is to float from one bar to the other getting rapidly inebriated consuming vast quantities of alcoholic rocket-fuel cocktails from ‘buckets’ whilst trying not to lose your tube, wallet, camera, innards and soul in the process.

  Along the Nam Song here, innumerable swing-ropes, slides and zip lines of varying deadliness have been constructed.  All of the above ensuring that it’s a rare mortal that gets through the day in one piece one way or another.

I leave a note at reception for the lads explaining my decision to take in more of the countryside rather than heave my guts out after chugging back on a mushroom and opium spiked cocktail and head out on me trusty feet to see a little more of Vang Vieng.  By deciding not to go tubing in Vang Vieng; not even to approach the part of town populated by the beer-chugging hang-over zombies I have probably committed an ultimate backpacker heresy but part of travelling is learning better to know what you like and to say “no” to what you don’t.

I start with a walking tour of the southern end of town.  Vang Vieng is a town that seems to be prospering at the moment.  Impressively realised homes and guest houses of pseudo-continental architecture populate the towns landscape, even at the peripheries.  Many more are currently under construction.  This site had struck me too in Luang Prabang.  The hive of social and construction activity at a local level in the country symbolises the payoff from the success that Laos is currently enjoying from rapidly increasing tourism.  Let us hope that this is a sustainable crutch for the Lao economy.  Many countries the world over are of course experiencing financial downturns of all descriptions at present and I am told tourism is notably down this year on last.

  Laos may be least well placed of its neighbours to absorb the effects of this but hopefully it will go from strength to strength.

Strolling around the dusty back streets and lanes on Vang Vieng you will encounter the recurrent experience of the joy and friendliness of Lao children.  They will always come away from what they are doing to wave enthusiastically at you squealing “sabai-diiiiii!”.  The happiness of Lao children is an enduring memory of the country.  School aged children cycle in the streets in large numbers, umbrellas held aloft to shield them from the sun.

I have lunch in the centre of town, near the bamboo pedestrian bridge that spans the Nam Song here.  This is the closest I will come to the part of town populated by the tired, hung over and broken forms of the swarms of backpackers who tube their arses off here, drinking Beer Laos from dawn ‘til dusk, spending most if the day lying on their backs in any one of the innumerable bars that screen repeated episodes of Friends 24/7 for their entertainment and cultural edification.

Chillout shacks on the banks of the Nam Song
  Many visitors to Vang Vieng I gather don’t get far beyond the bars, television screens and the act of purchasing their ‘In The Tubing : Vang Vieng’ T-shirts.  To quote the Local Information Guide from my guesthouse Pan’s Place “…this is an interesting reflection of the interests and desires of the modern traveller”.  I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Heading over the Nam Song after lunch I walk through the countryside towards the line of limestone hills.  Cows amble along the dusty tracks chewing anything green and occasionally lowing at the sun.  I stroll a good way out in order to enter Lusi Cave which is meant to be one of the better caving experiences in the area.  This cave really requires a guide so for 20,000 Kip ($2.

The freeeee bamboo bridge across the Nam Song. The larger bridge a few hundred yards up the river is a toll bridge "Booooo!"
50) entry, a guide and torches can be acquired.  My guide (whose name I forget!) is a young and enthusiastic lad.  Very talkative (and musical!) and happy to show off the geological delights and quirks of the cave he knows so well.  Lusi Cave is a good long stroll deep, deep into the mountainside.  Snakes like ridges and waves of calcified rock ribbon across the ground, limestone stalagmites and stalactites formed over the millennia meet and embrace each other to form stone columns of seemingly extra-terrestrial origin.  To progress into the further recesses of the accessible cave various rickety, mildewed wooden ladders must be traversed.  Up, down and along.  A proper Mines of Morrier experience.  A good 35 minutes walk into the cave brings you to an internal ’lagoon’.
  A pool of dark water stretching far back, reflecting the beams of our torch lights.

Released from the damp and dark of Lusi Cave I stroll back towards town.  The surprisingly loud clatter of large, dried and gnarled leaves sounds throughout the forest as they detach and fall to the ground.  A rusty brown carpet of natures death all about.  The dry season is in full swing.  Walking along the western bank of the Nam Song I stroll and observe as the river starts to teem with the early evening life of the town.  Children swim and play, chasing each other around in the water and upon the struts of bridges.  Large groups of boys and girls come down to the river to wash their clothes and themselves.  Long lines of young ladies and their mothers gossip and laugh on the far bank of the river kneading soap into and out of their long black hair.

  The river is the social heart of this community.  A man exercises his water buffalo.  Another has driven his little van into the shallows too.  Car wash time.  In the street some kids carry each other around laughing on a plank of wood they’ve purloined from who knows where.  “Falang falang!!” ( “Foreigner foreigner!!” ) come the usual cries that greet my arrival and passing.

I lazily stroll across the bridge and back to the guesthouse.  Another back of deliciously cooked pork ribs and then sleep.  It’s been a tiring couple of days with all the cycling and strolling.

Stevie_Wes says:
:)) You always say exactly the right thing for smiles Patricia :) Thank you kindly! İ think İ should also be workıng on some kınd of Vicarious Travel Passport for you too for your commitment to my waffle. Countries Patricia Has Sort of Visited With Stevie wıth little visastamps and everything :) x
Posted on: Sep 07, 2009
pms70 says:
I'd rather hve your experiences over the tubing any day!
Posted on: Aug 29, 2009
Stevie_Wes says:
LOL, you may well be right. As things now stand, I like my body the way it is... NO BROKEN BONES! :)
Posted on: Jun 05, 2009
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Top top place to stay in Vang Vien…
Top top place to stay in Vang Vie…
Chillout shacks on the banks of th…
Chillout shacks on the banks of t…
The freeeee bamboo bridge across t…
The freeeee bamboo bridge across …
Mother and Calf.
Mother and Calf.
Mmate, the guide as we enter Lusi…
M'mate, the guide as we enter Lus…
My pal guide INSISTED that I take …
My pal guide INSISTED that I take…
All the leaves are brown...
"All the leaves are brown..."
Leaf (detail)
Leaf (detail)
One of the many bars where zombie …
One of the many bars where zombie…
Brothers searching under water for…
Brothers searching under water fo…
CarWash :)
CarWash :)
Kids scream and play besides the b…
Kids scream and play besides the …
Bath time
Bath time
Ladies wash their hair on the bank…
Ladies wash their hair on the ban…
Vang Vieng
photo by: razorriome