With a new group of friends I’ve met in Vientiane; Lucy, Claire, Tristan, Abe, Megan, and myself took a VIP bus fours hours north to Vang Vieng, a town in Laos known for lots of boozed up backpackers and merciless tubing down the river.
It’s considered the party capital of Laos, as most backpackers who make their way through this country, almost always stop here on route. I’ve read articles and seen documentaries on TV about Vang Vieng; how backpackers get a little too crazy and end up dead after doing something foolish along the river. There are bars located along the river, and after drinking a few too many Beerlao’s and whiskey shots, backpackers grow feeble-minded. The rate of deaths of backpackers was so bad that tubing was shut down all together for a while. Eventually, it was brought back but with many revisions: less bars, no zip-lining, no huge mudslides, and a few other changes which makes for a “safer” experience. The fact is, there are still some bars along the river with plenty of booze and alcohol for someone stupid to do something stupid. With all of these blurbs and tidbits, Lucy and I were initially going to skip this tubing part altogether, but decided to do it because neither of us would do anything stupid and other than all of the downer news about the deaths, tubing along the river all day sounded super fun!
We went to Vang Vieng without pre-booking a hostel. Once we arrived in the town, we walked along the streets and found a place on one of the corners. I forget the name of the hostel, but the six of us were able to nab a single room together which meant we didn’t have to lock up our stuff since we all trusted each other. It just so turned out that the hostel was in the center of everything! There were bars along the street, a place to rent tubes directly next door, and a bike rental shop right across from us. Perfect! We didn’t have to venture too far for food either as there was a delicious bakery just a few yards away and a sandwich stall in front of our hostel. I thought the bánh mì sandwiches in Vietnam were phenomenal, but the sandwiches here in Vang Vieng blow those ones out of the water! They are massive, stuffed with meat and veggies, and best of all, incredibly cheap! It costs about 20,000 kip which is a little less than 3 USD. One night after bar hopping, Megan, Tristan, myself, and another backpacker we met named Jackson, got split up from the others and decided to chow down on sandwiches as it started to pour rain.
Our first day, we didn’t really do much besides walk around town, getting familiar with the atmosphere and getting to know each other a little better by bar hopping. The next day is when the real fun began. We woke up around 11 in the morning, got into our swim gear, and all wore our Fat Monkey shirts we got from the Fat Monkey Bar yesterday and went to rent our tubes. A tuk tuk ( a taxi bike on steroids) took us down to the river, to the beginning of the tube fest. We were pumped and ready for the eventful day!
The river was brown, cold, but bearable. The current took us along with the flow. We just had to paddle with our hands to the side of the river that had the bar.
It was literally 30 seconds after we first got on and we already made it to the first bar. Kids on the shore would throw ropes at us to catch us and reel us in. Here, if you miss a bar by some chance, there’s no point paddling against the current, just go to the next bar. Fortunately, we all were caught and reeled in by these kids, who seemed to enjoy their job! At the first bar we got our first beers and our first bracelets. During tubing, you get a bracelet for every drink you get.
We played a sorry game of volleyball (we all had drinks in our hand) and returned to our tubes and moved on to the second bar. We’ve been told the second bar is where the real fun is, as most people stay there for the longest amount of time. What we’ve heard is definitely true. This bar was ridiculously fun! Beer pong, ping pong, free shots galore! A basketball court that sprayed water at you, some weird bowling ball lane, tasty food, and great music! The best part was the mud fight that ensued after it started to drizzle!
I was covered from head to toe, a lot of people were. I haven’t been that muddy since last April, when I did the Tough Mudder. After a couple hours, our group kind of split up. The girls stayed behind while the rest of us tubed on to the third and fourth bars. More drinks and fun happened there as all the tubers familiarized themselves with one another from the previous bars. It got kind of messy as my group split up into even smaller units by the end of the day. It just became hard to find each other as the day progressed and the more intoxicated everyone became. I found myself separated from everyone and ended up tubing to the finish with a group of friendly Germans, who gave me plenty of tips about what to do when I get to Germany. Eventually, we all made it back to the hostel where we passed out from the crazy fun day.
The next day, we all rented mountain bikes and rode them about 15 km through the villages of Vang Vieng towards a blue lagoon!
Tristan, Megan, and I made it first and the others joined us about 20 minutes after. It was here we could swing and jump into the fresh running water. It was also here where I jumped from a high branch of a tree into the water and hurt my neck (again).
I couldn’t help myself but I manned up and did my best to not let it bother me. Right after, we climbed a small mountain and entered a cave that went very deep. So deep that locals outside of the cave said we needed torches in order to see, otherwise it would be pitch-black. I was the only one in my group to rent a torch, I still don’t know why anyone else didn’t but oh well. As we went through the massive cave, one by one my group started to stay behind as it grew darker and the route became more difficult. Why on earth did no one else rent a torch? I had to slow my pace in order to light up the path for some of the others, which got old real fast. Eventually, it was only Tristan, Abe, and I who were brave enough to go super deep into the depths of this ginormous cave. We took some photos!
We decided it was best to turn around because it was easy to get lost and it became dangerous. On the way we passed signs warning us to watch our steps because of giant pitfalls. I wanted to keep going, but it was for the best. I had to leave the group early and go back to get my neck brace unfortunately.
This was our last full day in Vang Vieng. We would all leave and take a minivan further north in Laos to Luang Prabang. This would be the last time we would see Megan, as she headed back to Vientiane. Vang Vieng is definitely the party place in Laos and rightfully so. And being with a bunch of people from around the world who just want to have a great time is one of the greatest things to experience. Refreshing. 🙂