Tubing in Vang Vieng, Laos
Fresh from Luang Prabang, we hopped on a bus to Vang Vieng which was one of the most scenic bus rides I've ever taken. Pretty windy, sure, but dreamy nonetheless. Highly recommended. It's also worth noting now, as this post is pretty much all about the tubing, that Vang Vieng is absolutely beautiful. It's karst filled and pretty unspoilt (on the other side of the river). We took a bike ride around it one day and got some beautiful pictures which you can see here. We checked into Vieng Thara, a great guesthouse south of the ugly town (but easily walkable), just on the corner where the main road meets the toll bridge. Annoyingly, we didn't realise there was a free bridge, otherwise we would definitely have stayed on the other side of the river which has gorgeous scenery.
We ventured out into town and were immediately flyered and marker penned left, right and centre by westerners who work for the local bars. As it was Friday night, the town was buuuussssy -- not the ghost town we anticipated at all. Our first stop was food, the onto Gary's Irish bar where we enjoyed our first free drink of the night and did some serious people watching. The atmosphere was lively, and everyone seemed to be out for the long haul -- presumably for the weekly open air Jungle Party which stays open till 4am (oh em geeeeee). We were in bed by 10pm. Too old!
The next day, we had our first taste of tubing. Tubing attire sorted (What does 'In the Tubing' even mean??) -- we hot footed it down to the tubing centre at about 12.30, joined the queue, got our inner tubes and jumped on the free tuk tuk to the start point.
Don't be a bad farang
The first thing that happens when you unload your tube, is getting accosted by the lovely folk at Bar 0 -- yep, the first bar is before you even start. A slick operation, you get a free Lao Lao whiskey shot and a wristband, so other backpackers know you are part of the cult and can be accepted without question. On the day we went, it was Tom's 22nd birthday so he had to do 22 shotguns. Shotguns?!
Nice outfit Tom
A few beers down we thought we'd better actually get on the river. No one tells you how to do it, so I clambered in with minimal grace and maximum water impact.......bliss. It's one of the most relaxing things you can do -- and so simple! No sooner had I settled into my tube for some serious relaxation than this guy started shouting at me.......
A Lao barman throws a rope and pulls you into the second bar....well, technically the first one on the river. More shots, a few more BeerLao's and we were loving life. The river called us once more and off we floated to the next bar, a mere 1 min float away. This seemed a lot livelier and even had boules, which seems to be a big thing in the former French protectorate, Laos.
Reeling the punters in
More free shots & wristbands (this time with every drink) and you could see the effect it was starting to have on some people, and it was only 3.30. Baddddd farang. You can read more about that here.
Off on our merry way, it was getting cooler, darker and altogether a bit dull! We went straight past the last bar in the end and just enjoyed the scenery......until we realised that the exit was a lot further than we thought it was, and we were going to be fined for getting our tube back before 6pm. Eekers. It's almost like they wanted us to fail and keep our deposit.......
Look at me go
We had an amazing time tubing, it was sooooo much more fun than we thought it would be, and the perfect way to cool down in 37 degree heat. So we went again, for our lovely NFF Ruth's birthday. We surprised her with a cake in not one, but 2 bars -- all organised by the amazing staff at Fat monkeys and Bar 0. Ginger Jesus......you are a legend.
Fact. Russell Brand gave Alex this nickname.
This time, it was a LOT messier -- we partied like the pros, and were the ubiquitous 'bad tourists' seperated on the river in the dark.....luckily, as it's the dry season, most of the time it's so shallow you can just stand up and walk. Nonetheless, we were all a bit dopey so don't do what we did -- get out when it starts getting dark and grab a tuk tuk back to town. Don't be another statistic!!!!
Monochrome, so chic.
So......GO TUBING! To quote Adventurous Kate
It's the most fun you can have with your clothes on
You will have heard the rumours, which I'll write about in more detail, but if you are sensible, there's minimal chance if getting hurt. Just don't be a douchebag, enjoy the free drinks sensibly (or don't drink -- it's not obligatory!) and have a great time. Lastly, make sure you go to Fat Monkeys bar in town -- great staff, great drinks....and home to these 2 legends.
Glittery Rose and Ginger Jesus Alex.