Just Floating Around!

Trip Start Nov 20, 2013
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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Thursday, May 15, 2014

Our latest long and winding bus ride took us about 7 hours or so to reach our next destination. As per usual, there were stops along the way to go to the bathroom on the side of the road and for food. Of course, there was also some puking on the bus, which unfortunately we're used to seeing. Vang Vieng is known for its tubing and partying. But the night before we went tubing, we walked around the town and got a feel for Vang Vieng. First off, we had dinner at an Israeli restaurant. We found it strange that a few restaurants had Hebrew writing on their menus and when we found an actual Israeli who had a restaurant there, he wasn't exactly helpful when we were asking questions about why there was Hebrew writing in a lot of the restaurants. He had only been in Laos for a few months and when we arrived at the restaurant, nobody else was there. He didn't have menus (only a whiteboard outside the restaurant) and told us if we need anything we can come into the kitchen to get it. The food was good and it was a fun experience. Before we left, a few Israelis came in for dinner, so we were no longer the only customers! The other interesting thing about Vang Vieng is there are lots of restaurants along the main drag and many of them have TVs and consistently play reruns of Friends over and over again. We learned that many people spend their days in these restaurants "recovering" from a hard day or night of drinking by lounging and watching Friends.

Nam Song River is the main attraction of this scenic tourist town and yesterday, we joined in. We picked up our rental tubes, got into a tuk-tuk and headed to the first of four bars. Already, there were so many drinking games started and Jason joined in on a game of flip cup. We spent most of our time with a couple from Switzerland and after a couple drinks, we were all ready to start tubing.

The water in the river is warm and the weather yesterday was perfect for relaxing on a natural lazy river. But it took us no time at all to reach the second bar. Each bar gives tourists a free shot and a string bracelet. The shots were watered down and really not tasty, but I liked the string bracelets! The couple from Switzerland and us met up with two guys from Germany who had gone tubing a couple days ago and were back for more. After a quick jump into the river for a short swim and grabbing some beers for the tubes, we were back to the river and floating.

The third bar was the most fun. There is a basketball court here with a net that has sprinklers. As the only sober person on the entire river and in the bars (excluding people working at the bars) it was fun for me to watch so many people slip and fall on the soaking wet basketball court and the muddy areas around it. Some of their expressions were priceless! Jason played some basketball (safely as he wasn't nearly as drunk as the other people) and the Swiss couple played beer pong with the Germans. I enjoyed listening to the 90s music blasting from the speakers and taking in the scene around me.

The six of us (Jason and I, the Swiss, and the Germans), all headed back to the river after a couple hours hanging out at the third bar. It was a little further to the last bar, where we just took a quick free shot and bought some beers to take us back to the city. Back in the tubes, we realized we were not going to make it back to the tubing office in time to get our deposits back. We had to be back by 6pm and it was already after 4. Considering there was almost no current in the river, we were moving very slowly. We all accepted that we would forgo our full deposits and enjoy the slow float back to the city. But after almost 2.5 more hours of tubing and still not being close to the city, the sun had set and we decided to take a tuk-tuk back. It wasn't fun tubing in the dark, it was getting really cold, and we were all hungry. After refusing a ride from two different tuk-tuk drivers earlier, we finally accepted the offer of the third. I was so grateful he was there to take us back! We also only saw two other couples floating on the river after the fourth bar. Apparently, most people stay at the third bar (which is the most fun) until about 5pm and then float to the fourth to find a tuk-tuk to bring them back by six. As we were floating, we figured that only a few people must ever actually tube all the way back because it takes so long. In the wet season, it apparently is much quicker.

We returned out tubes and were happy that we still got part of our deposits back. One of the guys from Germany suggested a great sandwich stall where we all had an amazing sandwich for dinner. It was a really fun day and something different for us. Being sober, it was fun to watch how ridiculous people got today, but I can only imagine what it used to be like here. There are only four bars now, but not so long ago, there were about 18 along the river! Along with the bars, there used to be rope swings and jump off points and many people got injured or were killed each year. Now with only four bars, this still unfortunately happens, but thankfully not nearly a often.

It was a fun day and I'm glad we experienced the party scene if Vang Vieng!
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