In the tubing

In the tubing, Vang Vieng

THE thing to do in Laos, on the backpacker circuit, is tubing in Vang Vieng. It’s not just backpackers making their way here, it has become a Euro/Aussie spring break destination as well. It’s a freakish sort of adult fantasy land with bikinis, booze, adrenaline and breathtaking scenery. As odd as it felt to find this party vibe in the middle of rural Laos, we couldn’t miss out and allowed ourselves to have a fantastic time of it.

The idea is to gently float down the Nam Song river, stopping in at riverside bars along the way to become completely inebriated on buckets of alcohol and beer whilst enjoying and/or injuring yourself on the multitude of slides, swings and ziplines into the water.

We headed to a tubing operator in town nice and early where Mark and I were marked as numbers 19 and 20 with giant permanent marker all over our arms. We were then shuffled into a tuk-tuk and taken to the start, aka the first bar along the river. We couldn’t believe how many bars there were, especially at the start. Someone told us 80% of the people who come don’t make it past the first few bars. To warm ourselves up we started the day with a tasty Beer Lao at the first bar and Mark worked up the courage to take the first rope swing.

The dismount...

The first swing had to be the scariest on the river. It was dizzyingly high and the landing was a thread of deep water. There was a rocky shoal just to the left, the shore just to the right and a tree immediately behind. Timing had to be bang-on. I could tell Mark was nervous, but he couldn’t live with himself if he didn’t do it. I, on the other hand, have no trouble at all living with myself for not doing it. Still, I was more nervous than him. And so he took the big swing. His giant ear-to-ear grin didn’t fade all day. He was hooked.

Leaving bar #1, we plopped in our tubes and allowed the current to drift us all of 20 feet before we were roped in by bar #2. The guys working the bars have ropes or sticks of bamboo they throw at you to grab for them to pull you in because we couldn’t possibly exert energy of our own. They are startlingly accurate with their aim. We had another drink and I watched Mark jump off more things. The next few hours proceeded this way. After much encouragement and a spell of paralyzing fear, even I rode a zip-line. We eventually stopped buying drinks while Mark kept jumping. The bar operators started to detect a pattern and told us we needed to actually buy drinks before jumping. Safety first.

Meg braves a zip line

After making it through the gauntlet of bars we started to realize that daylight was fading fast and we had lots of river ahead of us. With no more stops and some gentle paddling to assist us we carried on down the river past a spectacular dream-like setting of sheer limestone cliffs. We were so awestruck by our surroundings that we almost floated right into the middle of a herd of water buffalo. Just as the red sun was setting over some distant mountains we washed up on shore, back in the town of Vang Vieng. We returned our tubes, grabbed a sandwich from a street vendor, and headed to a ‘video bar’ to watched some hilarious episodes of Family Guy to end our lazy day.

Sunset over Vang Vieng


    Wish I were there! With enough beer I’d even do the zip line. Love Nan xxxxooo

  1. Bruce the Moose

  2. I can hear Mark doing the Tarzan call, swinging from swing to swing.

    Hi Guys, I hope my avatar works this time (thanks for the Gravatar tip). I’ve sent you a couple of messages and tried to use my avatar but each time the message disappears, so here goes again…

    Your tubing adventure looks amazing and hilarious at the same time. I’m curious as to how you were feeling the day after???

    Safe travels and take good care of each other.
    Lots of Love xox

    Fun! The Australians know where it’s at! Mark, that swin looked insane, I can’t believe they put that one first! I wanna go there one day.

  3. Michael from Singapore

  4. Awwwww… you guys have so much fun…

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