Saturday, 4 May 2013

Tubing through the Ghosts of Backpackers Past in Vang Vieng

For Devyn's much better account of Tubing in Laos, and a bit of background info into the culture of Tubing in Laos, please visit her blog post with the aforementioned title: (Dad please include Devyn's post in a print-out for Nan!)

Tubing through the Ghosts of Backpackers Past in Vang Vieng

My Account:

We awoke painfully early for our pre-booked tour which included a visit to some caves in the morning, and then tubing after lunch. We discovered we were late for our departure as we got to the tour office, where the woman shouted at a tuk tuk driver, who rushed us into it, and then raced down the road to catch up with the other vehicle (with Kayaks on it's roof and that had just stopped in the road), which was the vehicle we were meant to be on, woops! 

First, after a brief walk through some green fields, we went to the Water(tubing for those who don't know is floating in a rubber ring/tyre). It was pretty spooky and was quite challenging, holding onto a rope the whole way and trying not to hit our heads or feet on the sharp rocks! We also had to walk through a very narrow arch in the cave, bent double to avoid hitting our heads and stumbling through the knee-deep water in darkness! Not one for the claustrophobic's! There was a French school group ahead of us in the cave who were insanely loud and kept screaming at the smallest thing. Once we'd returned back the way we came we had lunch, which was rice and bread - Laos LOVE their carbs!
Cave which we tubed through,

We then visited Elephant Cave, which had n elephant shaped rock in it. After it was then time for tubing! However what we hadn't anticipated was a guide to do this with!! We were dropped off at the start point of tubing and were told to wait as a tuk tuk was coming with our tubes on...complete with a local guide and his kayak to take us from bar to bar. We weren't too sure of this but we figured what the hell, it was worth a shot! Luckily he turned out to be pretty useful leading up to the first bar...after we'd floated past all the old bars which were closed from the old days and some insane ziplines and jump podiums. We were pretty much hitting rocks all the way down just SITTING in the tubes, let alone being stupid enough to JUMP INTO this low river! You could begin to see why it was so dangerous and controversial. But even with only 4 bars still open, we proved that tubing could still be tons of fun...and safer! So our guide helped me get down the river to the first bar, as I wasn't really moving anywhere fast, and we particularly needed his help getting up out of the water onto the first bar!

It was awesome. Tunes were blaring, there were around 100 people tubing down the river that afternoon so we all got pretty well acquainted down the way. We had some free shots of Laos Laos whiskey, a free bracelet and then we got talking to some guys from Belgium, who we then found ourselves playing a game of beer pong with! Before long there were several games of beer pong on the go with various groups, then once we'd finished, it was time for some Volleyball! I was crap as usual, so a girl from the US was spotting for me most of the game. Once we'd finished, guess who we found?!?! The GIBBON GANG! Maaike, Rik and Tim were out tubing with their gang as it was Tim's birthday. Woohoo, time to get the partay started!

By this point our guide kept hassling us to go otherwise we wouldn't make it to the end of the river. But we decided we wanted to stay with everyone else at bar 1 for a bit longer. So after much persuasion that we would survive on our own, we eventually got him to head home - afterall, it meant he got the afternoon off! So we continued drinking at bar 1, until one group rounded up the troops and convinced EVERYONE at the bar to carry onto the next bar together. So all of us cleared out of Bar 1, headed down to get our tubes, drunkenly fell into our tubes and floated off down-river all together to the next bar. It was incredible, normally at things like this you are kind of annoymous as there are so many people, but because we'd all started at the same time and we'd got this kind of group spirit going on, it was like a massive group of all your friends, tubing down the river together, with a backdrop of stunning karst scenery to look at along the way (if you weren't falling out of your tube, or too drunk to see!). We floated down the river holding onto each others tubes, me and Devyn, the other american girl, her friends, Maaike, Tim and Rik and their friends - just one big tube of people!

The 2nd bar turned out not to be that great so everyone skipped it and we floated on down to Bar numero 3, which was pumping! So everyone got out here and again, the whole group of around 100 people soon enough all piled in, ordering drinks, dancing and playing countless drinking games of Chandelier. Maaike and Tim (being birthday boy) had to down several dirty pints, luckily me and Devyn were good at this game! Before long Tim was near to passing out, so we made him go be sick in the bushes, after which he was almost immediately better and continued drinking copious amounts of whiskey which they'd bought with them - good call! Before we knew it it was almost 4pm, and most people had to return their tubes before 6pm otherwise they wouldn't get their deposits back. So it was decided...everyone head to the next bar, which was near the finish line...

We didn't make it to the end of the 4km of river. Unfortunately we'd left it too late and everyone ended up tubing until it was near darkness! The river flow was so slow that even when paddling, it took us almost 2 hours to get from bar 3 to 2km away from the end. Luckily there was still tons of stunning scenery to look at, lots of people to mess around with on the water, and chat to, and lots of trying to drunkenly hold onto everyone's tubes to avoid getting split up! Maaike, Tim, Rik and co were getting cold after the sun had begun to set so they got out about 1km up stream from us. We were determined to make it but at the next stop tuk tuk drivers yelled at us from the sides to get out before it got dark and dangerous, so sadly we all did - there was still around 50 people with us at this stage. So everyone piled into tuk tuks. We'd met a guy called Lewis from Oz and his sister and her mate, plus a few others along the way and so we all ended up sharing a tuk tuk back into town which took us around 5mins. Once we got back we all arranged to meet up that evening for a tubing night-on-the-town, especially as it was Tim's Bday and probs the last day I'd see them before they went home.

Devyn felt pretty rough so she decided to stay in, and so did I but I was determined to make it out so I showered, made myself look pretty and got back on the buckets down in the bar at Central Backpackers while we waited for everyone to arrive. I met up with Tanya, Lucy and Robyn, but they were headed to Irish Bar so I said I'd see them over at Moon Bar later (the open til late club). Me, Lewis, his sis and the gang then headed down to Fat Monkey's where we drank a lot, played some beer pong, got some free t-shirts and then moved onto the next bar, Jaidee's, where Maaike and the gang were. We stayed here until close and then moved onto Moon Bar, where we stayed for a while, partied and went home to bed!

So, as Devyn said: It wasn’t the crazy party scene we had heard about, but we were happy with that. I don’t think I could have handled the pre-apocalypse Tubing days. It was just the right amount of fun in a safe environment. No-one was out of control, and we all had a great time, meeting a few new international friends along the way. 

Solid day on the Nam Song River.
Another check off the Bucket List!

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