Shenanigans on the Nam Song
7.4.10 - 7.9.10 90 °F
When we got to Vang Vieng we knew immediately that it was going to be a shit-show. The bus from Vientiane was a 5-hour ordeal in a sweatbox crammed with westerners. As soon as we tumbled off the bus in Vang Vieng we were all talking about how we needed a drink.
When we arrived at our hotel we found our room to be quite sub-par. It was small and had no A/C, plus the bed was as hard as stone. We were disappointed to say the least but we decided to deal with it the following day, and got some food instead. At dinner we ran into two guys from San Francisco that we had met on the bus and went with them to a bar called Qbar. We quickly realized this was the bar everyone went to. As we were drinking we ran into quite a few people we had meet elsewhere in Asia. First, Laura spotted a guy named Charlie from England we had met in Nha Trang a couple weeks back, then later we ran into two girls and a guy that we had hung out with the first night in Saigon. We were pretty surprised to say the least (a couple days later at another bar I spotted another Englishman whom we had seen in Can Tho and Nha Trang!).
The next day we decided to move to a nicer hotel right on the river that had amazing views of the river and surrounding karst cliffs. It was definitely the right choice, despite being more expensive.
After we moved our stuff, we went tubing, as that was what everyone came to Vang Vieng to do. Little did we know it would be the only thing we did. I don’t think there are enough words to describe how amazing and absurd tubing in Vang Vieng is, and even if there were, I wouldn’t be able to. There are over twenty bars along a one km stretch of the river, and as you float down people throw you ropes and pull you into the bars. Many of them have huge rope swings and they all serve very cheap drinks. One bar in particular had a huge tile slide as well as a swing, and we spent a lot of time there. Laura even got to play some volleyball! In the mud!
The last bar also had slingshots and darts, plus one of the most adorable puppies we have ever seen. That bar quickly became our favorite, and we spent most of our time there. After the last bar it’s about a 35-minute float back to town, and we met lots of people floating on the way back. However, when we got back to town, we had our tubes stolen and couldn’t get our deposits back and we lost almost $30 on them. We decided we would no longer deal with the shady mafia-like tube operators, and the next day we bought our own dinky tubes that were much cheaper, and we also noticed that much fewer people had the big rubber tubes from the tube operators. We think the people are wizening up to the scam that is the tubing operators.
We went tubing three days in a row, and needless to say, it took a lot out of us – both mentally and physically. Some of the bars geared towards tourists hire westerners for weeks or months at a time to bartend, and we were shocked to find that one guy had been working there for thirteen months. It was a great time, and we can see how one could get sucked into the culture there, but astonished that someone could sustain themselves for that long.
Tubing turned out to be one of the most fun things we have ever done, but as is clear when you mix drinking with water, it was quite dangerous. Throughout our three days on the river we collected countless bruises and scrapes, but it was the last night on the river that really tested our resolve.