The morning of the second day in Vang Vieng we get a breakfast of an omelette and an American breakfast around the corner from our guesthouse. The bread in Laos is amazing. I’m not a huge fan of bread, but I like this. It’s hard on the outside and beautifully fluffy on the inside. When you break it open, steam rises from it.
Tubing in Vang Vieng is not to be missed. Think of it as a pub crawl in the sun, on the river, between limestone mountains. Everyone on our Intrepid Travel group are up for tubing and The Koala and I also meet up with an old friend O, and his girlfriend, M. It was M’s birthday and what better way to celebrate than by tubing.
We begin at a shop in town where we hire a tube each and go by tuk tuk to the starting point on the river. Then it’s up to you to float down the river back into town or if you don’t make it by the time it starts to get cold there are many tuk tuk drivers ready to take you home at intervals along the river. If you miss the 6pm tube hire deadline, you forfeit your deposit.
We start around noon. Being winter, the mornings were bit chilly and once the sun goes behind the mountains, you don’t want to be floating in the river. We were there during quiet season and we loved it – no lines anywhere. It was so much fun and a great experience. You just need to keep your wits about you and make good decisions.
We float along in a tube and every now and then you get reeled in by bar staff to one of the many bars along the river. There are swings, slides etc, although it can be dangerous and people are killed and badly injured all the time. Drinks are served in 1 litre plastic buckets and most bars give out free shots. There are mushroom shakes if you want them. As you can imagine, a river, swings, slides, buckets of booze and mushroom shakes can be a recipe for disaster. But it can also be a lot of fun.
The Koala and I didn’t make it the whole way down the river and took a tuk tuk back to base around as the sun was disappearing behind the limestone mountains. We returned our tubes with 5 minutes to spare.
We’re freezing by the time we get back to town and The Koala lost most of the things he started with. Luckily it’s easy to buy a singlet in town. All the shops in town are geared towards the tourists that come for tubing. They all sell the same stuff: sunglasses, hats, boardshorts, bikinis, dry bags etc.
Walking through town barely clothed is not a good look in any country and the Laotion people are conservative. The women dress modestly, even when they swim. Shoulders and legs are always covered. Seeing the high turnover of drunk tourists flow through this town, I hate to think what tourists are doing to their beautiful culture.
After hot showers and dinner, we’re ready for bed.
- The first bucket: whiskey and pineapple slightly creamy cocktail. It was delicious.
- Watching The Koala flying through the air on slides and swings.
- Be respectful to the land and to the locals.
- Take a dry bag.
- Don’t take anything valuable.
- Bring a waterproof camera. I have no photos because there’s just no way to carry an SLR camera while tubing.
- The river takes people at different speeds so even if you are floating next to each other, one can shoot off and disappear while the other slows down. If you want to stay together you need to make a real effort. There were over 15 people that we knew on the river, but we got separated from everyone in the end. We only had each other because we were holding on.
- Have a plan for if you get separated. Like, meet back at your accommodation or at a bar at 8pm. If someone is missing, it can be scary and it’s hard to know what to do as they could be fine, or anywhere along the river in the dark and in a bad state.