Vang Vieng is, in many ways, the Amsterdam of South East Asia. To read my post on Vang Vieng itself, click here.
The main draw in Vang Vieng is tubing down the river, from bar to bar. In many ways this is tourism gone awry. In a humble and tranquil country, Tubing in Vang Vieng is everything you don’t expect to find.
The place for renting tubes is a little hidden in the small town, but ask at any restaurant or hostel and you’ll find it. This is also where you’ll get a ride in a covered truck (fitted with benches for the illusion of comfort) up to the beginning of the river. From there, you can throw in your tube (if you rented one).
It used to be that you would have to tube from bar to bar, and make it all the way down the river, but that has changed. Some opportunistic bar owners have built a bunch of bars right at the beginning of the river, so you can actually walk it now, though you will miss some of the bars further down.
There’re swings and a zipline at the beginning, so you can have plenty of fun there, but you will get more out of the experience if you rent tubes and continue on.
As you continue to tube down the river you’ll see a diversity of different bars with things on over. From playing volleyball in the mud, to hitting a huge jump on your tube, to the plethora of swings, you will have no time getting your adrenaline fill here. If you are willing to shoot whiskey with a snake in the bottle, or something similar, you will be able to get a free drink at each bar, so you might as well check out as many as possible. There’s always a rush to try to get your tubes back on time. The chances that you will be anything near sober as you wander back in to town are extremely low, but it seems that this is how the town of Vang Vieng was built. Now that you’re in a slightly altered state and heading back to town what do you do?
A Note on Safety
The bars, and especially the swings, used to be set up in only the deepest parts of the river. In an effort to get the tourists that don’t make it all the way down the river, more bars have set up at the beginning. It is not particularly unsafe, but you have to take your safety in your own hands. No one will tell you to not do something because it’s dangerous… this isn’t the west, this is Laos.
You will also certainly hear stories of people that have died on the river, whether it be from breaking their neck on the tube jump, or hitting the ground off of a swing. Again, this isn’t because it’s particularly unsafe, but rather because people get sooooo wasted, and there’s no limit to endangering yourself… so take precautions and don’t assume that they wouldn’t let you do things that would endanger your life… they will.
Wondering what the town is like, check out Special Menu, Happy Menu in Vang Vieng.
Perhaps after reading this, it’s a little obvious that tubing in Vang Vieng couldn’t continue to head in the direction it was heading, take a look at why Vang Vieng closed down.