Vang Vieng-More Than Just Tubing

Trip Start May 04, 2011
Trip End Oct 08, 2012

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Where I stayed
Jammee Guest House Vang Vieng
Read my review - 3/5 stars

Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Sunday, June 3, 2012

Not necessarily ready to leave the comfort of Luang Prabang, today we traveled down to Vang Vieng. Vang Vieng is notorious for tubing aka Bar Hopping via inner tube. A recipe for disaster, the death toll averages 12 fatalities a year. And after partaking briefly, I completely understand why the statistics are so high. Procedures are as follows: you rent a tube in town which requires leaving a deposit in the event that you don't return the tube by 6:00PM. Many just factor that into the price since it is more than likely that the tube either goes missing or that you are too wasted to care about bringing it back. The rental company loads everyone into the songthaew with the tubes piled high on the roof. After a 3km drive, they drop you just across from the first of many bars.

By starting at the first two bars, we did exactly what the forums advise you not to do. Nonetheless we got towed into the first bar by grabbing a plastic water bottle at the end of a rope. Upon entrance some young, drunk traveler is hired to greet you with a welcome shot, advise you of the 2 for 1 bucket specials and tie a yarn bracelet around your wrist. The bracelets are collected like beads at Mardi Gras. It doesn’t take long for people to get their buzz on which is why it is common that many people never make it past the first two bars, missing the entire tubing experience.

We did our fair share of boozing but by the third bar I was no longer enjoying the stupidity and danger ensuing. I obviously wasn’t drunk enough to ignore the recklessness of drunk people jumping off the edge into the strong current and hoping that they will be rescued by the bar staff to drag them up the rough rocks back onto the platform. Judith however was not on the same wave length and was ready for more debauchery. She drifted downstream into another bar with a slide and continued her night strong. Needless to say she suffered a massive hangover the next day. I stayed with a couple from Chile and enjoyed the short float before exiting and catching a tuk tuk back to town.

Synonymous with Vang Vieng are Friends reruns screened at every establishment. If you are as lucky as Aussie Alan and I were, you might catch an episode of Southpark instead. This was our destiny the day we got mobilized for nearly two hours in the heaviest downpour to date; part of the joy of traveling during rainy season.

It was through Warren that I met Jan and Jess when we were all coincidentally signing up for a day of rock climbing with Adam’s School. Adam’s brother, Apple led us into the country side and up a steep, muddy climb to our destination. We did a total of five climbs, a few where I succeeded in reaching the top, others I did not. But I had a blast and feel proud to have reached new heights that from below seemed impossible.

The climbing site brought back memories of similar Karst mountains I had admired in Yangshuo, China. Between this adventure, a visit to the caves and the tubing, I can sum up Vang Vieng as "my outdoor adventure stop."

I dedicate this entry to Sinead Duffy, one of the three musketeers I met on the slow boat. Sadly Sinead passed away in late July from Leukemia. Apparently she had no idea of her condition other than a report from a recent blood test taken in Vietnam. She had gone to the hospital due to an infection wound she got as a result of a tubing injury. Sinead was an example of a gem of a friend, always smiling, easy going and full of joy. My heart goes out to her family and friends. May you rest in peace!
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