Tubing in Vang Vieng
Trip Start Sep 07, 2010
47Trip End Jan 07, 2011
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Our first night there, we found a place to stay, then went out to explore the town. To be blunt, we kind of thought it was a bit of a dump. The town was filled with kind of crappy looking bars, selling Western food and showing endless re-runs of "Friends" and "Family Guy"
Here's a story that kind of sums up Vang Vieng for you: Lao is a very conservative country, and everywhere we've gone, there have been posters advising against wearing skimpy clothing (that's been hard for me), avoiding excessive alcohol/drug use (somewhat easier), and generally telling tourists to keep a low profile. On the walk home from dinner, we came across a very drunk girl, wearing a bikini in the middle of the street, covered in body paint, and yelling at a local (who was trying to help her) that she didn't know where her hotel was. Keep it classy! It was pretty much then that I think we decided we wouldn't be staying for 3 nights as we'd originally planned.
The next day, we decided to tackle the tube ride. We've known a few people that have done it, and based on their descriptions, I kind of envisioned it as a ride down a river on a tube, with a handful of locals selling drinks at the side of the river on the way down. In actual fact, it was more like a pub crawl that you do while floating between bars. Some of the bars were pretty elaborate, and packed both sides of the river. We ended up having a pretty good time on the tube ride - chatting with the other tourists and visting a few of the bars
We decided that we didn't want to just sit on a bus all the way to our next stop of Vientiane, and had heard about kayaking and rafting trips where you drove part of the way, and spent the other part on the river, so we signed up for one of those. We drove for about an hour and a half to the river, in the back of the van that was carrying our kayaks on top. There were three other tourists who were doing the kayaking with us, but they were coming from Vientiane, so we met them at the river. It seemed we weren't the only ones who didn't think much of Vang Vieng - on the drive down, our kayaking guide said to us, "Luang Prabang has good tourists; Vang Vieng has bad tourists". A Swiss guy on our kayaking trip asked us what we thought of Vang Vieng. When I was trying to give a polite answer (something like, "it looked really nice, but I'm not sure it's our kind of place..."), he cut me off, and said, "It's terrible". The Swiss - they're straight shooters.
The kayaking trip was fun, with a few medium-sized rapids to contend with, and a good lunch cooked over an open fire at the side of the river