Vang Vieng - Laos - Get in the momma-jammin' tube!
Vang Vieng Travel Blog› entry 72 of 77 › view all entries
I was heading to Vang Vien, a party town, alone with a head full of worry on a swaying minibus that was taking me to the brink of regurgitation. Not my lightest hour. Just then the bus made a toilet stop and I bumped into Argentino and German Camera Girl from Thailand - they were headed the same way - I had some drinking buddies!
Argentino had managed to befriend his entire minibus so the crew rolled deep: Von Dutch - a bubbly blonde, Ze Doctor - a wise Austrian girl, Ranger (from the Australian insult for gingers derived from orangutan) - a cowboy behatted Ozzie ginge, Team America - special skills: Irony (rare for our transatlantic cousins) and occasional rudeness, Frodo - a small metrosexual Uruguayan, Bilbo - a Uruguayan Jew, Argentino, GCG and representing England, the venerable Mr Richard (er, that’s me).
VV was made for farangs - we’d eat breakfast in a bar that played constant Family Guy episodes (there were a couple of ‘Friends’ bars too) and spend the nights in bars playing King’s Cup listening to western music and drinking Giraffes (a huge tower of beer).
Most bars also have a happy menu. I foolishly thought this was like happy hour - two for one spirits etc., but turned out its actually a menu for weed, opium and magic mushrooms.
You’d also see a lot of fucked up falangs:
A girl with her eyes rolling into her head and flopping out of her bikini sitting down with us for five minutes before realising we weren’t the people she new and a Canadian who asked to join the game of King’s Cup, before spilling his drink and then coming up with a mastermind idea:
“Yeah, like this game is good, but how about a rule where every time someone picks up a card then they choose someone else to down their drink, and like if it’s a red card they have to take their tops off?”.
The girls weren’t overly taken with this potential rule adjustment.
One morning a drunken scouser was singing repetitively for twenty minutes to the tune of Yellow Submarine. Unfortunately Frodo took to this song to heart and for the rest of our time there the annoying song would make an appearance in a thick Spanish accent;
“Noomber hwone ees Gheorgie Best, noomber two-oo-oo - ees Gheorgie Best. Noomber three…” - ad infinitum
The first day we sampled two of the most popular activities in VV - tubing (ish) and eating 1$ chicken baguettes.
The concept behind tubing is that you hire a tractor tire inner tube, sit in it and float down the river, stopping at bankside bars to drink, swing off ropes, drink, use water slides, drink, jump off diving boards, drink, pick up an optional injury.
Rumours were abound that tubes got stolen, or you wouldn’t make it to the end of the river course on time and would lose your deposit so we set off tubeless, planning to simply swim between bars. When we got there the plan changed somewhat.
As we arrived we were given a welcome shot of M-150, the amphetamine laced local redbull. Then we crossed a rope bridge, shocked to see about 200 or so people in swimwear packing out the first bar. Free drinks bracelets and spray on body stencils (generally in the shape of large penises or breasts) seemed to be the order of the day. It was what I imagine Spring Break would be like.
We were all a bit disturbed at first, but after a few free shots and a couple of drinks it all started to get better. We then simply crossed the river by bridge to the next group of three bars.
Lots of beer-pong, buckets of alcohol, beach football, lots of jumping into the river near submerged rocks or being twanged into the dirty water off shaky rope contraptions.
Not so much sitting in a rubber tube, in fact none at all.
We ended the day with only two casualties - Von Dutch had ripped her foot open on some rocks and my flip-flops had been stolen. AAAaaaarrrggghhh!!!!
I bought some new flip-flops in town later, size 10 being the best fit. My previous ones (given to me as a birthday present) were size 8. With hindsight I feel this may explain in some part the huge number of times I had managed to stub, scrape and smash my big toes in my old ‘thongs‘.
The next day a few of us hired bikes for a 7km journey to some local caves. The distance shouldn’t have been too taxing but the combination of baking sun, beer-sweats, single-gear bikes and rock-strewn dirt roads soon took it out of us.
We were about halfway there when there was an ominous ‘pop’. Argentino’s back tyre had gone. Luckily there was a roadside restaurant nearby so we stopped to form a plan.
As we sat there the owner and builder of the shop-cum-restaurant, an ageing Thai guy who looked bizarrely like Ghandi, popped out for a chat. It turned out that he spoke English, German, Spanish and Thai but only a little Lao.
There was a lot of chat but the potted summary is this - he used to live in Europe, owning a Thai restaurant and a tailors, which was quite stressful.
At the age of 60 he sold everything then him and his wife set out with pretty much just the clothes that they were wearing to wander through the jungles of Vietnam, Thailand and Laos for three years.
At the age of 63 they had chosen to settle in Laos, he built his own place and periodically taught English to the local Hmong kids. That was ten years ago, but he only looked sixty. He attributed this to the happiness of his new lifestyle:
“Every morning I wake up at 4 ‘o’ clock. I then pray for one hour, meditate for the next hour then roll up a big joint and watch the sun rise over the river”
Either way the half-baked old stoner managed to fix the tyre and we were on our merry journey again.
We reached the lake and cave area and were told, quite seriously, that it was 2 dollars to enter the area, but the swimming was free.
There was a taxing climb to the cave then once inside a large Buddha shrine, then an incredibly long stretch of pitch blackness. All a bit disturbing when there have been recent earthquakes not too far away.
We spelunked hard and deep.
After a quick swim the journey back was nowhere near as bad, though we swore that that was the last of the cycles.
Vang Vien hospital deals mainly with farangs who have drunkenly jumped onto rocks or (sometimes drunkenly) crashed a scooter, so I was a little nervous about trusting someone else to ride the 100 cc death-machines.
I didn’t need to fret though. Although the original plan was to hire three bikes and rotate drivers and pillions in the end me, Argentino and Team America drove and no one else wanted to take over the handlebars.
I seemed to be getting a lot of grins and waves from locals and at the time I attributed this to being white. Upon reviewing the photos I found an alternative reason - an unfortunate combination of pastel shaded clothing and 1$ retro shades on me and Von Dutch made it look like we’d just driven straight out of the Cliff Richard film ‘Summer Holiday’. Excellent.
The roads weren’t so bad when you didn’t have to pedal, the only real challenge being driving them across an open sided foot-bridge to avoid the toll on the road-bridge and we soon made it to our first destination - the deserted waterfall.
As we parked up we noticed a booth where ’the tourist’ should pay an entry fee, but no-one was around. Odd.
We progressed further down the path feeling that there was a distinct air of neglect - old stalls that were falling down, rubbish strewn about - no people whatsoever. We could only think that it used to be a popular spot but had been pushed aside by other caves or tubing.
We finally reached the waterfall which technically qualified as there was a little bit of water that could be said to be falling. It was a shame in a way as the area could have been a beautiful place to bathe/picnic and with more rains the falls would have been more noteworthy. Would‘ve, could‘ve, should’ve - back to the mopeds, wooooot!
We drove on to a selection of four caves including the bee caves (surrounded by bees) and the lion caves (fortunately not surrounded by lions). By the end of these four caves I felt tired - I’d spelunked myself silly.
The weather soured and the bulk of us decided to head to Vientiane with Ranger and Team America staying another day - planning to actually sit in a tyre tube before they moved on.