Local life in Laos is much different that the tourist life in Vang Vieng. One of my personal travel rules I like to live by is to go to tourist places, but find and immerse myself in local life.
By day the main streets of Vang Vieng are moderately tame. Backpackers in their mid-20’s fill the guesthouses, or the restaurants watching re-runs of Family Guy and Friends while recovering from whatever party they were at the night before.
The main reason we went to Vang Vieng was because we heard there was a huge tubing the river phenomenon that was worth the 4 hour bus trip from Vientiane on dirt roads in a rickety bus.
The tubing situation is about as easy to understand as possible. There’s a place in town where you must go to rent a tube. They’ll give you a tube and write in dark marker, very largely, a number on your arm, then load you and your group onto a covered tuk-tuk, tubes packed on top. The number on your arm is to keep count of the number of people on the river that day, which should correlate directly with the number of tubes on the river.
Here are my tips of for a successful and SAFE day tubing the river
make stops along the way
Many of the bars have decks that go out into the river and have staff perched on the deck with a long rope ready to throw out to you and corral you into their bar. Once you float into the bar other tourists from all over the world, drinking games, free shots, water slides await you if you choose to partake.
keep an eye on your tube
The cost for the tube is a flat rate deposit and you get back most of the cost (60,000 kip) if you can successfully manage to bring back the tube in one piece by 6pm. If you show up past 6pm, you’re SOL, and your deposit is gone.
watch what you’re drinking
Tubing the river is one giant party. It’s easy to get caught up in the party aspect and forget that there are a few dangerous elements to this set up when alcohol is involved. I would advise anyone to watch their alcohol consumption.
Be out of the river by sun down
Doing anything around large amounts of water in the dark is never a good idea. Also, you’d be surprised how cold the water gets when the sun is down.
Stay off the slides and rope swings
Ok, this is my personal rule. A lot of the platforms and slides look awesome, but they are completely unsafe, especially when people drinking lots of alcohol are using them.
It is to be noted:
the about one tourist dies every month while tubing or jumping into the river and several more are injured severely. There are many shallow and sharp rocks hidden under the waters of the river, and the drugs and alcohol I have spoke of have their way of making people forget about the dangers of it all. I don’t say this to scare people away, tubing was a great time and a lot of fun. However, never get yourself into a situation were you could become a victim of this. Live, experience, take it all in, but don’t make a mistake that could lead to life long or life-ending consequences.