After celebrating Christmas in true Lone Wolf style in Vientiane, Tom and I said goodbye to Mike and Shauna and got on a bus to Vang Vieng to meet back up with Tom Mills - that's right, it was time to throw Tibbs back into the equation!!
We arrived in Vang Vieng and Tibbs had already booked a bungalow for us, so it was pretty stress free... Vang Vieng is famous for two things... Tubing and buckets... both of these things may require explanation...
1) Tubing - Take an inflatable rubber ring in a tuk-tuk to a specific location on the Nam Sung river, get in your tube and let the river carry you down... Stop along the way at bars and drink buckets....
2) Buckets - small buckets like the ones you took to the seaside as a child, filled with Laos whiskey, coke and M150 (the hardcore Asian version of Red Bull) or some other variation....
All-in-all, we went tubing three times - the first time was Mike-less but we had a big group of people around us, the second time was with Mike and Shauna and on New Years' Eve, and the third time was just to make sure we'd tubed enough, once we were over New Years' Eve :)
Each bar along the way has a swing (more like a trapeze really, ranging from 10-20m above the water) or a zip line or a slide that you can swing or zip or slide on into the river... The rule that Tibbs and his Kiwi mates came up with for the swings was 'from the top, first pop' which means you are allowed to swing once, and at the peak of the first swing you let go... Mike tried to do this unsuccessfully, letting go at the lowest point of the swing so that he was catapulted into the water. He came back up onto the platform a bit worse for wear and described the order in which his body hit the water as, 'knees, balls, ribs'... he was not pleased!!
I did all the swings and zips that we stopped at along the way and managed to only hurt myself once... just a little smack on the thigh, nothing like Mike's!! I did 'from the top, first pop' once... but half the fun of swinging (if not all of it!) is to actually swing a bit, so I gave up on that pretty quickly...
One of the main attractions along the way was the mud pit... it's amazing how much fun grown adults can have when given a hole in the mud filled with water... mud got absolutely everywhere and being a smaller girl, I got thrown in A LOT!! Every time I went to get the guys who threw me in back, they ganged up on me and threw me in again... I didn't really stand a chance!!
At one point we were going past a bar that had no customers in it... being the soft touch that I am, I decided we had to stop there and give them some business... so me, Mike and a German girl called Annetta went to buy a drink each... We were given two free shots of whiskey for our trouble, so I decided to try and get more customers in to pay them back... I went and got the rope they use for pulling in the customers and called out to everyone going past... so the lady at the bar gave me a bottle of whiskey and a shot glass... we soon had a few people pulled in and the lady looked really pleased :) I also swam after a guy who pretended he was coming in and then tried to tube off... he tried to leave again and I swam after him again... after that he gave up and stayed for a while... so it does pay to be persistent!!
After a full day of tubing, we invariably ended up going back to the bungalow to shower and eat and then heading to Smile Bar... on New Years Eve there were at least 500 people there and it was absolutely fantastic and soon after midnight, Tom, Mike and I went back to the bungalow to have a nice quiet drink together... It was a brilliant way to see in 2009 :)
In summary, the best thing I can think to write about tubing, comes from a phrase I repeated over and over after the first time we went... "Tubing is so much fun it's SICK!" And it's true... I can see why people with a lot of time on their hands (and no concern for their liver) would stay there for a long time...a few years ago you wouldn't have got me to leave either!!
After we left Vang Vieng we only had a day or so to spend in Luang Prabang, which is a shame because it's a beautiful little town... Within the city walls there are no trucks or buses allowed, so it's pretty quiet, and all the shop fronts are wooden and quaint, so that it really doesn't look like a city, more a nice old town. It had a really laid back air about it, which I really liked so I was a bit sad to have to rush off, but our visas were running low!!
We visited the Chinese market and bought jumpers because the further north we go, the more nippy it's been getting at night... Then we went and checked out a little book shop called 'L'Etranger' - it sells lots of different types of tea and also has a chill out room upstairs where you can sit and read and drink tea... we went and spent a lovely hour up there, and I highly recommend it to anyone passing through!! We also climbed up the hill to get a good view of the town and rivers. There is a Wat (temple) on top and Buddhas for every day of the week, as well as a big foot print, which is believed to be Buddah's foot print.
From there we had to move on to start the Gibbon Trail.... but stay tuned for the next entry because it's going to be a corker!!
Check out Tom's blog for a different perspective, and