One of the most iconic Southeast Asia destinations is Vang Vieng and tubing down the Nam Song River. From the "Same Same, but Different" t-shirts we have seen all over Asia and the world, to the countless stories told, we were ready for this! We met up with our new friends from Australia, Rikki and Jesse, to go tubing together. Rikki and Jesse are recently married 6 months ago and have spent the last 6 months traveling Europe, Nepal, India and Southeast Asia. Great couple and we were up for the adventure of the day.
Starting The Tubing Adventure
Getting to the Tubing Start Point
We left around 12 noon for the tubing place. The odd thing about the rental location was how hurried they were to get us processed and up the river. I wasn't used to this hurried attitude here in such a country where time tables mean nothing. Of course I got the extra-big tube with jeering Laotians in the background, marveling at my size! We spent 115,000 kip which is about 13 dollars. 60,000 would be a deposit on the tube which was refundable when we return our tubes. We took a Hyundai minivan with 4 other British blokes to the drop spot around 3 Km north of town.
Hanging Out On The River
Nam Song River Tubing in Vang Vieng
The area was out scattered with bars and people lounging on pillows and on picnic tables and platforms in the water on stilts. We entered the water and went to the first bar. We sat and talked and watched people tube down the river. This area is one of the largest tourism draws in the area and people from all over the world come here to drink their way down the river. There is at least 1 fatality a year, which surprises me. Not that people die here, but that low of a number. Maybe there are more, we just don't hear about it. I wonder what the statistic is for paralyzation and near deaths?
The Dangers of the River
The Dangerous River
The river isn't dangerous, but each bar has its own gimmick to draw you in. A water slide, zip line or swing into the water entices many to stop off and give it a try. The river is in the dry season right now, so it's lower than normal. We declined to do any of the extra-curricular adventure activities like this along the river. At each bar, they offer you a free shot of some Lao Rice Whisky or a joint. We also declined each of these offers and simply sipped on beer. Safety first! 🙂 We didn't want to become a statistic and just wanted a nice day of people watching and floating without getting trashed or paralyzed on some poorly put together water slide into a shallow river.
As you pass down the river from bar to bar, there are boys on the docks of the bars/restaurants, that throw out a line with a quarter filled water bottle attached. The skill in throwing it right over you, and dropping the line in your lap is uncanny. It's a wonder that more people don't get smacked in the head. We went to about 4 bars and then lazily coasted and floated down the river to the end.
River Tubing and Beautiful Scenery
There is a majesty to the river that is unique to here. The river winds about lazily through gigantic limestone mountains with sheer cliffs. The sun then sets over the mountains in the afternoon casting strange shadows on the clouds with rays of sunshine jutting from its peaks. Truly beautiful and peaceful place when you are nowhere near the hustle and bustle of the bar scene downtown. The sun was warm and the water was perfectly cool enough to refresh.
We got back about 5:30pm and got dinner at the sister Indian restaurant in Phonsavanh. The mutton wasn't as tender, and the food tasted good, but not as good as in Phonsavanh. All in all. A great day with friends.