Friday, August 20, 2010

Tubing in Vang Vieng, Laos

The 5 hour minibus ride to Vang Vieng was well, for lack of a better word, insane.  If we didn't hear the wheels skid around each turn, we were going too slow.  Our driver considered himself the Laotian version of Dale Earnhardt and took us around mind bending 180 hair pin turns as if we were the Starship Enterprise entering warp speed to escape the cling-ons.  Off the ever-crumbling side of the roadway was a deep deep ,but beautiful valley, which I pictured the bus being hurled into since there was no railing.  We couldn't decide whether it was better to close your eyes and not see death coming or to be prepared for a death roll and brace for it.  We ran over multiple live animals and almost took out an entire village as our driver made his best attempt to break the sound barrier.  I jokingly asked if we could go back and pick up the chicken that we'd flattened so as to save a few bucks on dinner, but I all got was a sort of gruff "bwah" sound, which I guess meant the answer was no.

Arriving in Vang Vieng, we were greeted with some rather obnoxious (read blood alcohol content of 2.0) English folks singing and stumbling down the street.  Vang Vieng, a town literally in the middle of nowhere, in a country in the middle of nowhere can be defined as southeast Asia's Cancun.  While the scenery is beautiful, the town is completely centered around a new "sport" called tubing.

Tubing consists of renting a tractor tire inner tube and hiring a tuk-tuk to take you upstream.  From there you deposit yourself into the river and prepare to have fun.  The float down the river would probably take about 1 hour at full speed, but due to the stops and "recreation time" at the numerous bars on the river, it takes about 4-6 hours depending on how much you fancy blaring techno and slurring obnoxious folks all wearing the same souvenir t-shirts proclaiming there descent of the river.  Our tolerance level was set at about 4 hours, but they had some amazing (and very sketchy) bamboo towers with rope swings that kept our attention.

Along the sides of the river, there are about 10 different bars, each advertising their own array of swings, ziplines, waterslides, etc. The local Lao workers have ropes that they throw out to you and pull you in with.  It's a great setup and I'm sure they're making plenty of money off of it.  The river s surrounded by yet again, more beautiful mountain landscape, and it's definitely an ironic mix of natural beauty and spring break debauchery. Lots of music, drinks, and water activities made for a fun day, but a few days were enough for us.

After the tubing, we'd had enough and decided to rent some bikes to explore some of the other surroundings.  We drove into a small Hmong Village where we were stared at by little kids as they peeped their heads from behind doors.  We also ended up talking to a local Hmong kid who spoke really good English and said we were welcome to explore around the village.

Later we checked out some caves and some natural springs.  That's about it for Vang Vieng.  Mostly just a stop for us in between Luang Prabang and Vientiane for a few days, but man, was the scenery beautiful  See for yourself.

No comments:

Post a Comment