Tubing in Vang Vieng

Tag: Destinations, Laos, North Laos   Type: |
May 8, 2011   No Comments

We were slightly worried that Vang Vieng would be nothing more than a party town with 18 year old gap-yearers throwing up in the street. After all, it’s infamous for tubing (see below). So we were pleasantly surprised to find a pretty chilled-out town, albeit extremely Westernised. The local charm persists in the stunning scenery and friendly Lao people in the villages surrounding the main town.

 Tubing in Vang Vieng

After a tough climb to the top of a near-by mountain, we were rewarded with this view


The town itself consists of guesthouses, restaurants, bars full of horizontal travellers watching endless reruns of Friends on tv, the odd travel agent and basic shops all selling identical stuff. We checked into the Domon Guesthouse and had a huge, lovely room with a view of the river, a balcony, tv & wi-fi – perfect! It cost 90,000 kip – £7. The local regulations in Vang Vieng are attempting to curb the impact of young revellers – loud music is banned after 10pm which worked well for us after tiring days of tubing, cycling or caving.

 Tubing in Vang Vieng

The view from our hotel room - a hot air balloon glides through the spectacular mountains

Tubing – floating down the river visiting bars

We were slightly apprehensive that tubing might be best appreciated by crazy “young-uns” but we decided to give it a go anyway. We bumped along in the tuk-tuk, with our hired giant rubber rings on the roof, along with our friend Rob and a well-up-for-it Welsh couple, Dean & Rhiannon.

We pretty quickly got into the groove of the place, starting off at the first bar at 12.30pm with a beer and watching some “crazy people” launching off a high platform on a swing before eventually smacking into the river. Err…not for us thanks. We then gingerly got onto our rings and were soon floating along at a gentle pace amidst the beautiful landscape. The next bar along threw out ropes which we all managed to grab and we let ourselves be pulled in – easy!

Each bar, usually playing loud dance music, welcomes you with free shots (usually something bright blue or orange!) in addition to the beers and buckets (a small beach bucket full of spirit, mixer, ice and straws that you share). Most bars also offer various death-defying swings, slides and zip-lines from high platforms that anyone can launch themselves off from. Unfortunately, however, it’s not always death-defying stunt as a number of people die every year, with one person suffering a broken neck a couple of weeks before we arrived. Health and Safety regulations wouldn’t allow it within a million miles of the UK, but this is Laos! icon smile Tubing in Vang Vieng The day after we sported bruises, aches and pains.

Before we knew it, it was 4pm and we’d only managed to progress 30 metres downstream (we could still see the first bar!). Whilst watching our friends launch themselves off swings, we decided to get a fetching spray paint tattoo; as well as play a game of mud volleyball and then finally Ben mustered up the courage to have a go on a zip-line! After that there was no stopping him. Everything seems like a great idea after a couple of Mojito buckets!

At the last bar we found a jolly local guy who got us all dancing after a few free shots (see video) and then, as the light was fading, we rushed to get a tuk-tuk and return our rings to the shop to get our deposits back. Soaking wet in both body and mind we swayed through the streets of Vang Vieng at 6pm, listening to Dean’s Welsh songs, and carried on the party at a bar in the town – good times!

Video of tubing on the Nam Song River, Vang Vieng

Vang Vieng’s Other Side

After our hang-overs subsided we enjoyed the more peaceful side of Vang Vieng. We hired bicycles and pottered along country tracks, past paddy fields and villages.

 Tubing in Vang Vieng

We cycled through sleepy villages and quiet fields on a loop around the outskirts of the town

 Tubing in Vang Vieng

A quiet stretch of the Nam Song River

 Tubing in Vang Vieng

Tham Phu Kham cave which houses a reclining Buddha - top left

We trekked up a nearby mountain, from which there was an amazing view of the town and surrounding countryside. We also visited Tham Phu Kham cave with a Buddha monument inside the wonderfully cavernous chamber. The cave was particularly good because with no guide Ben and Rob were able to (safely) explore right to the back of the cave – many hundreds of metres back – and enjoy the perfect silence. A welcome change of pace! Just outside the cave is a ‘Blue Lagoon’, a pleasant cool escape from the heat of the day.

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