Published: July 21st 2011July 21st 2011
You have entered The Twilight Zone!
A lazy town in the middle of towering green moutain faces filled with hungover travelers and eyes glued to big screen tvs playing re-runs of Friends day and night.
It feels like I am in college again! Only this time its far more dangerous. The tubing capital has captured the imaginations of travelers all over the world and brought them all to party in one place.
Its not really how I imagined spending my time in Laos, but I met a fun group of guys looking to party and I went with them for the ride. Luckily, I came out with the least amount of battle wounds from floating the river.
Most days start very lazily with a couple episodes of Friends and a delish meal of Laap or other asian dish. (side note: the food has been so amazing. Laos is one upping Vietnam in this department it seems) Then around 2 pm everyone heads to the river. Most rent tubes to float on, but we opted to just float. No point in paying for a tube when I can swim. My purchase of strap sandals was maybe the best
buy ever. I was one of the few wearing sandals and my feet came out unscathed.
So here is how it goes! You get a taxi ride up river, where someone gives you a colored bracelet for cheap alcoholic drinks after tubing at their bar in town. Then they give you a quick boat ride to the other side of the river to their "river bar" . Then you buy drinks. I stick mostly to beer because thats what I do, but many people purchase "buckets". In a bucket you get some options. The one constant is 1/2 - 3/4 of a bottle of cheap alcohol and a list of mixtures. These generally go for anywhere from $2-$4. After buying a beer someone with a bottle of spray paint and/or permanent marker will find you and tag you all over. Each day, you see how creative people can get. I can no longer run for president because one of the guys decided to write "I'm On Drugs" on my back, which of course people wanted to take pictures of. After some drinking you would then get into the fast flowing river and swim to the next happening place. Since
Cave 1 - Vang Vieng
the river is cruising at a good pace locals stand on the sides with ropes and a heavy floatable on the end. They throw you the rope and tow you in. If you miss the rope, you float to the next bar. No big deal. Most of the bars included a cheap wooden deck and then a variety of mud pits, slides, jumping platforms, or a door connected to a wire spanning the river to sort of wakeboard on. Did I mention they served alcohol? Because the drinking doesnt stop, nor does the music or copious amounts of people trying to get laid. You dance, drink, and float. As the day wears on you make it to anywhere from 1-5 bars. Then its up to you what to do. Some catch a taxi back to town while others try to float the length of the river back to town. On night one we decided to float, without tubes remember. It was almost pitch black, floating down a decent river. Not the smartest decision I have ever made, but I felt safe enough in the drunken haze. We finally called it quits and exited at someones house where they taxied us
back to town. Upon arrival, we decided it would be a good idea to use that bracelet for a cheap drink, so we went to the bar for a big beer. At some point you either go to bed or keep partying. I generally went to sleep before everyone and woke up before everyone.
The ritual of the next day is piecing together then previous day and all of the paint still stuck to your body. Most of the other guys had many wounds as well. Whether it be to their face, feet, or hands. I only ever had a really sore body from flying down the tile slide and launching myself into the river. It was not the safest slide I have ever done.
Anyway, we did this for 3 days (on day 3, i just floated and didnt drink because none of us had actually ever made it all the way back to the town) We actually all felt lucky to be alive.
It turns out there was also sight seeing activities in this town and it was tough sometimes convincing others to go with me, but i found participants. We went to 2 different
caves. The first cave was a 30 min walk from town and we got the entire place to ourselves. It began with a gorgeous blue water flowing from a small opening in the mountain wall. We got in and swam up the slow flowing river into the hold which went back about 20-30 yards. It was one of the coolest experiences of the trip and unlike any place I have been on this earth. I think it was where Hugh Hefner got his idea for his pool at The Mansion. Then we hiked up a steep staircase and walked through the cave. There were walkways going this way and that with some lights illuminating it. It was a great adventure before our day of tubing.
The next cave was very different. I ended up going by myself, but my friends came via various modes of transport behind me. I rented a bike and went down a muddy, bumpy road past rice farms and villages the shear cliffs of these limestone mountains. The bike ride was as much the highlight as the cave itself. Inside the cave was very different from any cave I have been in. There were no
Can you find the people?
lights inside the monstrous cavern that stretches for 3 Km besides one big opening at the front that let fresh light in all day long. I went for the tedious walk on wet rocks for about an hour by myself into one of the darkest places the earth has to offer. The ceiling was anyway from 50+ feet high most of the time with water dripping down all of the place. It allowed for some great echos. I turned around once I realized I was by myself with only one head lamp and no spare batteries. If it were to go out, I would not be in the best of conditions. Not to worry though, groups come through every day. I would have been found eventually. So I left the cave and headed back to town.
I eventually left Vang Vieng. I must say though, that we all tried to leave for a couple of days, but failed. It was one of those mysterious things about Vang Vieng. It really was like something from The Twilight Zone. I did have a great time there and enjoyed its quirkiness. Friends really is a great series if you havent watched it.
I probably saw close to 30 episodes during my time there with repeats as well. This was not your typical town and I feel glad to say that I survived the river. They do have deaths every year and its not surprising. Sticking to beer mostly was a good decision and so were my sandals. One of our friends almost lost his eye from an intertube and could have easily broken his leg when it went through a plank on one of the decks.
Now its time for relaxation in Luang Prabang.
Again, I apologize for a lack oh pictures. I will make sure to post them when I get home!
Love you All.
There are more photos below