Vang Vieng is a bit of a party capital among backpackers. The town is full of bars selling alcohol by the bucket, offering “happy” versions of all types of food and screening old episodes of Friends on a loop. So what the hell am I doing here? Well, the reason why all the hedonists picked Vang Vieng in the first place is that it is in a very beautiful location, on the Nam Song river. And the drink and drugs are not compulsory after all.
On our first day we go cycling round the countryside – following a loop round the local villages and through the countryside, which is full of limestone karsts and reminiscent of Yangshuo in China.
Towards the end of our ride, we stopped off at a swimming spot to cool off.
The cycle was about 35km, which doesn’t sound that far, but is far enough on a hot day with crappy bikes on a crappy road. So the next day I was feeling a bit saddle-sore and wanted nothing more than to spend the day soaking my bum in the cool river. Fortunately, this is exactly the activity that Vang Vieng is famous for, as it is the birthplace of tubing. You rent a big inner tube and get driven a little way upstream, and then you drift back down the river taking in the scenery. Being Vang Vieng, the traditional way of doing this involves stopping at several of the bars on the riverside to get roaringly intoxicated on your choice of narcotic beforehand. I excuse myself from the obligatory rice-whisky shots by claiming to be pregnant and Mr Beet has one Beerlao to enter into the spirit of things. Rock and roll!
At the start, we got chatting to a couple of backpackers who’d been tubing yesterday and had come back for more. They were both covered in scrapes and bruises, because what better to add to the mix of alcohol and fast-flowing water than massive slides.
The boy was particularly hilarious, when some Swedish girls said that their next stop was Cambodia because they wanted to visit Angkor Wat, he was really enthusiastic. But it turned out that he thought Angkor Wat was a beach that hosted a full moon party.
I can definitely recommend tubing, even if you are like me too old and boring for the social scene. Once you get past the bars at the start, you just get to float down serenely, taking in the beautiful karst scenery and listening to the birds.
More photos of Vang Vieng are on Mr Beet’s flickr page.