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Vang Viang

Written on: Wednesday January 16th, 2008

This place provides about the most fun you could possibly have in South East Asia. On the surface it appears to be a quiet "chilled" town to relax in, as the guide books tell you, but after nearly a week here I can tell you it is anything but relaxing.

The guide books also mentions briefly something called "Tubing". Described as "floating down a river in large tractor tyre inner tubes and being pulled into bars with bamboo sticks by the locals along the way for a shot of Lao Lao" (local and rather disgusting rice whisky). This gave me the preconception of a leisurely float down the river and not actually getting out of the inner tubes whilst stopping at small riverside bars. How wrong I was.

Yes you do float along the river, and yes you do get pulled into the bars by Laos using bamboo sticks, but then you get out of your tube and stay for a few beers, or huge "buckets" of a strong alcohol mix, then you try out the bar's zip wire or rope swing which are over 30ft high straight into the rocky waters below, whilst getting incredibly drunk.

The locals tell you the whole journey from the start back to town should take around two hours, so starting at around midday should provide plenty of time to finish the tubing stint. Again - wrong, as what you fail to realise is that whilst having so much fun getting drunk and swinging of huge rope swings and dancing the day away, you tend to only make it to the third bar by the time it starts getting dark, and cold.

I Tubed for five days in a row.

Day 1) We weren't suppsed to Tube today as Si wanted to save it for his birthday the next day to mark the special occassion, but as we met up with the lads from Staines we had earlier met in Don Det, and due to my insistance that Tubing had to be done, much to Si's initial disappointment we still went. Good decision as this was the busiest day on the river out of the five. We actually made it to the last bar (which is still an hour from the finish) before giving up and getting a Tuk Tuk home. The only downer on the day being drunken Si jumping into the river with the dry bag unfastened, turning it into a rather wet bag whilst at the same time destroying his digital camera and giving mine a good soaking too.

Day 2) Si's birthday and perhaps the funniest of the Tubing days. Not as busy as yesterday and we still only made it to the last bar, where I sampled the interesting fruit shakes (called "Mushroom Shakes" - whatever that might mean) which prevented me from being able to walk properly, let alone tube home, so again it was a Tuk Tuk home for me.

Day 3) Again we ventured out on the tubes, determined to get all the way back. This day's a bit of a blur, and I can't remember any specific events, suffice to say we didn't make it back.

Day 4) After 3 days of body hammering Si took the day off whilst I ventured out with some people I'd previously met. An interesting day where at the 3rd bar a lady I'd previously met in Cambodia who was twice the age of any other Tuber and twice as hammered, managed to let go of the biggest trapeze mid swing, fall flat on her face and knock herself out. After noticing her floating face down in the water I jumped in to tow her to the bank and was aided by several other guys in pulling her out of the water. Fortunately she didn't need mouth to mouth. After this my tubing dream came true as very drunkenly myself and Milo and Chris (two guys I'd also met in Cambodia) found the will power within us to Tube all the way back to the finish, arriving in the pitch black and cold. Much to our disappointment no welcome fanfare greeted us.

Day 5) Si rejoined me for the last day of mayhem.... and the messiest. I'm not sure if I want to go into the details of today as it kind of scares me. But I think the fact that the day was dubbed "Mushroom Monday" and I acquired the nickname "Mushroom Dave" is enough of an explanation.

The next day we quickly got out of Vang Viang without a word of goodbye to the many friends we'd made during our time in this crazy place. Perhaps a good idea as otherwise we might have got stuck there in a tubing oblivion forever.

What a brilliant place. Just brilliant.