A Totally Tubular Experience
Trip Start Jul 20, 2006
37Trip End May 10, 2007
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As Tina Turner would shout, "And were rolling, rolling, rolling on the river...."
The 6 hour ride from Luang Prabang to Vang Vien was adventurous. I sat in the back of the mini van next to a smelly, Australian hippie whose odor oozed over me every time the van veered right. And, since the road twisted and turned through the mountains and villages, I had the pungent odor of patchouli overpowering my senses by the time we'd arrived.
Vang Vien looks like not much. The restaurants that line the street all have the same photo copied menu, tables were you can recline and recover, and TV's blaring old Friends episodes where people doped up on happy pizza and mushroom shakes are spaced out in front of the tube for hours on end. Why would you come all the way to Laos, to watch Friends episodes? Lame!
You can take the high road in V.V. or you can take the river - we chose the river. The group had increased in size and now we were about 10. We'd picked up Kat and Lou, two bad ass British girls who had adopted Chris back in Bangkok, another Brit who is the "best man" in many senses of the words. Canadian rock stars Steph and facially fury Pat, and brining up the tail end was the Shadow, who was a lurk in the eeriest sense of the word.
Everyone comes to Vang Vien to float down the river in an inner tube, making Vang Vien a totally tubular experience. Now there's an 80's expression for you! Here's the deal: You pay $4 for an 18-wheeler tire and a ride in a tuk tuk (these ones did not break down) 3km down river. You get in the river, preferably with a drink in hand and a cool rice paddy hat, and float down about 45 meters to the first bar where they reel you in with a bamboo stick and a plastic bottle attached to the tip. You buy a beer and climb a bamboo tower contraption to zip down the zip line. Once "there's a brown girl in the room" plays twice it's time to set off through the rapids down to the next bar to refill your beverage and fly on the swing set. As the river progresses and the beers take their toll, the bars continue and the swings get higher and higher. At bar #3 most people spend the bulk of their day swinging like tarzan, playing volleyball, and pretending that they are on college spring break in Cancun.
On day 2 of tubing, bar #4 became a dance off between nations. Divided into 3 continents we had the kiwis and Aussies, the Europeans, and team North America with only 1 American, me. Out of about 50 people, I was the only US girl and I pleaded with the people to recognize that I was a Californian - not an American - there is a difference. I'd been asked by quite possibly every person my feelings on American politics; this was neither the time nor the place, I was in a bikini and had a good buzz.
The group got back on the river as the sun was setting and the river was moving at a slow Lao speed and my body temperature was growing colder, but James and I stayed on to the end, where he passed out on me downstream and drooled on my leg once we caught another tuk tuk back to town not being able to brave the bone chill any longer (or the hangover).
Can't stop, must keep it going - it was our last night all together and we had to go out with a bang, but staying up till 10 p.m. is harder than it sounds since you've been drinking for about 12 hours at this point. But, with a chocolate, banana pancake in hand it's sweetness fills your stomach and soaks up the alcohol and you're up for more...or perhaps it is the cute man you've been eyeing since noon that keeps you moving.
Vang Vien was the highlight of my trip and what was meant to be 2 nights, turned into 5. One day for tubing, the next for recovering and so on.
But, it was time to really part ways and at breakfast on the last day it was just me and Chris, "and then there were two." I hopped on a local bus for the capital city of Vientiane filled with memories and bruises of a totally tubular experience. It was now back to work.
Vientiane isn't much so there really is no need for a separate entry. My whole trip to Laos was for the purpose of coming to the capital to obtain another Thai visa. And, I was successful in doing so. Without team shadow on this leg of my journey, it was a bit less exciting, however I managed to team up with 2 cool chicks, an Aussie and a Kiwi, and we shared wanderlust stories over Indian and French cuisine.
Lao left an impression on me unlike any other country had. I had met such wonderful people who made my experience both memorable and exciting. It was back to Chiang Mai to close out my last 5 weeks of living in Northern Thailand.