Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Tubing in Vang Vieng

One of the only reasons people come to Vang Vieng is to go tubing. So of course that's exactly what we did too. We bought a dry bag so that we could safely store our camera and money and set off in a tuk tuk. We were charged 10,000Kip per person for the ride (you cannot negotiate on the price!) and picked up a tube along the way. The hire price for the day was 105,000Kip, if you return the tube before 6pm you receive back 60,000Kip, if you lose it or are late returning then you lose your money.
If you want to float to the town in your tube, allow yourself a lot more time. You will need about 2-3hrs to make it back in time for 6pm.
When we arrived at the tubing starting point the scene that greeted us seemed a little bizarre. This once quiet and tranquil river has been transformed into a mini Ibiza with bars dotted around the river edge, blaring music and locals chucking bottles with rope attached at 'tubers' in order to drag them to the next bar .

We were immediately offered free whisky tiger shots at the first bar we approached and had a brightly coloured cotton band tied around our wrist to show that we had received our 'free' shot. Not that this mattered, most of the time the alcohol was poured down your throat by a pushy member of staff or left on the side for you to 'help yourself'!

Walking to the first bar

The first few bars are very close together and you don't actually need a tube to get from one to the other. The the atmosphere is good if sometimes a little crazy, but people were in high spirits and enjoyed swinging from rope swings and zip lines.

The beginning (notice how I'm holding sun cream and not beer)

The first bar

There are no locals working the bars, all the bar staff are westerners. There also seems to be a weird club/cult thing going on with the staff, with many having large weeping/infected brand burns on their body, in the same sort of style from the film 'The Beach'. When we questioned the staff about these burns, they replied that it was to do with the amount of time they had spent working on the river, which we all found really strange, not to mention disgusting. Many of the staff also seemed completely trashed, some more so than the tourists but from what i understand this is all part of the job and they all seemed happy to participate.

One of the other things that bugged me here was that if you got talking to someone and asked them how long they had been in Vang Vieng for, many would reply proudly, 'Oh 39 days' or 'Yeah I've been here for 56 days', like it was some kind of accomplishment and would then proceed to show off their arm full of the cotton wrist bands that you get given by the bars, it just made me cringe!
Ian on the rope swing

My turn next!

Ian on the zip line and jumping from a platform

Yeah sooo, we all bought silly hats to get us in the Christmas spirit!

 Jason, Ian, Aaron, Luke, Josh, South African guy we met (sorry can't recall his name!) and me

Tiger whisky shots

Dance time

Jason and I in mid dance

Once you get passed the first few bars you will need your tube for the next part of the river, as it can be quite fast flowing in places and also a bit shallow so you could easily cut yourself on some of the sharper rocks if you decide to swim. By the time we had reached the bars with the slides it was almost 5pm and we knew that we needed to be back for 6pm so that we didn't get fined.

 The tile slide

And then there was the spray paint!

After trying out a huge slide made out of bathroom tiles we all frantically paddled down the river in our tubes. It was now 5:45pm and we had only just passed the last bar when we saw a local guy flagging us down from the river bank and asking us if we wanted a lift back to the town. We decided to take him up on the offer as by now we were all shivering from the cold and the 10,000Kip he was charging was better than losing our 60,000Kip deposit.

Apart from the 'chav tag' that tubing seems to have acquired and some of the strange bar staff, tubing is actually really good fun. Its a place for you to let your hair down, enjoy a drink, have a dance and play around on the various rope swings and slides, a bit like a water playground but for adults.

We did hear many horror stories of the injuries/deaths sustained whilst tubing, but if you're sensible and don't get so drunk that you can't even walk/swim then you should be fine. Most of the accidents that occurred were whilst using the slides/rope swings, but again as long as you're sensible and haven't consumed a stupid amount of alcohol or taken drugs, then you should come away injury free.

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