Crazy Times In Vang Vieng
05.12.2008 - 07.12.2008 28 °C
Vang Vieng is a tourist controlled town which is more like Las Vegas than a small Laos village.
Instead of appreciating its beautiful backdrop of limestone mountains and the river Nam Song, you're unintentionally drawn to the neon lit restaurants and bars that dominate the centre. You cannot help but hear and be forced to watch the series Friends which bizarrely is played on every TV screen in every restaurant in town.
Tubing is the biggest tourist attraction in Vang Vieng and probably the main reason why so many travellers come here. Tubing is a water sport which basically involves a giant rubber 'donut' shaped tube, you and the river. What should be an easy going and relaxing experience is slightly altered in Vang Vieng as there is an added element to the experience - 10 loud bars dotted along the river selling cheap Laos Beer. These bars literally fish you out of the river and reel you into their bars. The bars are thoughtfully positioned down stream so you'll never have to float 100m without having a drink. They compete with each other by who can blast out the loudest dance track from the 90s or by offering free waterslides & zip line rides to that dunk you into the river. It's like an adult's playground where it's up to you how hard you want to play.
We spent a whole day sitting in our tubes and floating down the river only stopping off a couple of times at the bars to enjoy a cold Lao Beer and to sun bathe on their wooden decks. For us tubing in Vang Vieng was actually a really enjoyable and even relaxing experience but for others that we spoke to, an outcome of either A&E, a lost camera or a very sore head was the result. (we have some pics of us on a disposable camera which we hope to develop soon)
Another thing this crazy town offers is a pinch of 'happiness' on anything you order. Many innocent customers have spent the day or night hallucinating after ordering a Happy Pizza or Happy Shake.
After experiencing the bad roads from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng, we decided to sign up to a kayaking trip which would take us from Vang Vieng to our next destination Vientiane. The advertisement stated we would only go down 1-2 grade rapids but as we were in Laos, and nothing is what it says, we weren't really sure what we'd get.
Preparing for our kayaking adventure
We left at 9am in the morning and annoyingly drove for 2hrs to reach the starting point for the kayaking. After a very brief safety lesson, which focused mainly on how to recover when you've capsized!, we were in our kayaks paddling down stream. The first 30 mins were really pleasant & we were paddling at a great pace whilst enjoying the surrounding scenery.
We then started to approach one of the first rapids where the guides were waiting and instructing all 20 kayaks to slow down and form one line. They quickly reminded us about the steps to follow if we capsized and then let the first kayak through. We were about halfway in the line so couldn't see too much ahead. As the gushing sound of the water got louder, we knew we were getting closer to the drop. The couple ahead went down and we watched their every move with eager eyes. Next was us, we thrashed our kayak forward and head straight into the first drop. We successfully made it through, but with all our excitement, we slowed paddling and didn't see clearly the next drop. Milliseconds later we were thrown from our kayaks into the water. Both of us splashed up above the water, coughing & spluttering, grasping onto our kayak for dear life. Some how we made it to the side of the river and stayed there clinging onto the kayak and rocks until we got our breath back. Whilst wading in the water we watched most of the following people go through the same motions & fall, splashing about in the water trying to hold their kayaks and oars. We then realised we didn't have our oars with us! Who knows where they went. Luckily the guides were fully prepared and handed us some new ones.
Shortly after we overturned our kayak and climbed back in. After the initial shock had gone, we found the situation quite funny. Looking like drowned rats, we leisurely paddled our way down the river for the next couple of hours successfully making it through the more minor rapids downstream till we reached the end.
Picture of us after kayaking on our way to Vientiane