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Vang Viang

Written on: Wednesday January 16th, 2008

A journal entry from: Around The World Without A Plane

Imagine if you can, a small town with towering hills or karsts as they're know in this part of the world on one side, a huge gravel track that doubles up as a landing strip on the other, with inbetween numerous guesthouses, internet cafes and mini-marts along with multiple cafes playing the activities of Joey, Chandler, Ross, Monica, Rachel and Phoebe from Friends, constantly for what seems like 24 hours a day. Add to this the Nam Xong River meandering elegantly alongside the karsts and you have a pretty good picture of the town of Vang Viang. But you see you don't. Not until you ever come here will you ever realise what Vang Viang really is. It's one of those places where no matter how many photos you see of this place you'll never understand the absurdities that occur in what seems like when you arrive, a very sleepy picturesque town.

It's certainly picturesque, but let me tell you, sleepy it is not. The reason it seems like this is that when you arrive in Vang Viang everybody is already out on the river floating peacefully and serenely down the slow ebb, on an inflated tractor inner tube, casually stopping off at bar after bar where the madness begins and continues if you're Dave and I long in to the twilight hours.

We originally went to Vang Viang on the 16th January in order to do the tubing, as it's called on the 18th for my Birthday. But as coincidence would have it, and it's happened many times on this trip now, we ran in to Dan, Keith and Andy, the guys from Staines we had met in Don Det. Even more weirder they were staying in the next room to us. So instead of waiting for the 18th we headed out the day before with them, and then on the 18th again, and then on the 19th, and then my body unable to physically take any more, stayed in bed on the 20th while Dave went yet again, then we we all went one last time on the 21st. Crazy I tell ye. My body feels as if it's in a state of disrepair.

If you've seen the dire, but funny in a weird way, 'Dude, Where's My Car?' you'll begin to understand my experience here. Take for example the day of my Birthday. Dave and I leave the tuc-tuc and board the river 4km north of the main town at the Organic Farm Guesthouse. Floating down the first, shallow part of the river a guy I'm sure I've never met before in my life paddles over and shouts 'Happy Birthday Si'. At the first bar a guy comes up and shakes my hand "Congratulations mate', then on the next stretch of river I'm greeted with 'It's the Birthday boy'. This continued throughout the day, and although at first brought a proud and happy smile to my face, looking back on it has made me feel quite uneasy about how the hell all these people knew it was my Birthday and who on earth were they!

The river experience itself is immense. Each bar offers you a free Lao-Lao whisky shot on arrival, then inbetween finishing a beer you're coerced to have a go on the zip-lines or rope swings which take you out over the river to where you swiftly depart in a flying, rotating, swinging, yelling mess, before plummeting in to the waters below with the grace of a crumbling 747 and the 'ooooouuuuuuhhhhhhh's' from the watching crowds. Luckily the only damage we suffered was cuts along my feet where I hung by my feet on the trapeze before disembarking and a sore shoulder for Dave as he rotated on to his neck from a full-on dive from the 30ft platform. One girl wasn't so lucky, having to be towed out of the water by Dave as she pummelled headfirst in to the water, and came up floating facedown. My one big loss was the destruction of my camera and the loss of yet more sunglasses and flip-flops. The sunglasses and flops I can deal with, the camera reminded me of the imbicility returning once more. Armed with a water-proof bag and all our essential belongings for the day inside it, I took a leap of faith in to my tube from the rocky side, completely missed the tube and as I started to go under the water realised that the water-proof bag was not done up properly. Water surged in and the next thing you know I'm down one camera and have a complement of wet money and clothing. Nirvana can't be far off now.

Although a fantastic experience and definately one of the highlights of our tour so far, in a weird way I had to leave Vang Viang, and couldn't possibly have sat in a tube one more day. My body, mind and soul simply wouldn't allow it.