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running away Traveling south east asia, china, australia, new zealand and america. wherever the mood takes me!

vang vieng

LAOS | Tuesday, 30 December 2008 | Views [892]

yeaaahhh tubing!

yeaaahhh tubing!

we left luang prabang for vang vieng on the 27th of december. Gias and karline were only planning on staying there for 3 nights before heading off to Vientiane for new years. I was planning on leaving the same time and heading for chiang mai in Thailand for new years. As there was a possibility of meeting my cousin from Canada there but I had planned on being there anyway for some time.

I was suppose to get up that morning to see the monks walk the streets at 5am but I just couldn't get myself out of bed with it raining outside, even if I had my shiny new mac to wear.

We got a mini bus down which took about 6 hours to get there. But the time we got there and got guesthouses. Separate ones this time as I found a place before them. We met for dinner and watched friends. As every restaurant there seemed to to be showing some kind of episode of friends. You couldn't get away from it. I had read about it and even heard stories about it but I didn't really get it until I went there. Every restaurant plays friends. Well except, I found one that just played the simpsons and I heard there was one the just played family guy, but I didn't find that one until I was nearly gone.

So after about 4 episodes of friends I said good night and headed to bed.

The next day I got up quite early and headed to the restaurant that was attached to where gias and karline were staying. I didn't see them till later and it was gias's birthday so I was able to congratulate him. I was asking them if they were planing on going tubing as when you come to vang vieng that is what you do. But gias didn't want to tube for his birthday, and just wanted to have a quiet one. They were planning on tubing the next day instead. Since we were only going to be there a few days. I thought I would go tubing that day and join gias and karline for tubing the next day too before we headed off again.

I just had to figure out how you did this tubing thing. I had no idea where I had to go to find the tube and no one seemed willing to tell. Well I didn't really ask as I didn't want to seem like an idiot. The people I did end up asking were these girls that were staying at the same guesthouse as me but they had just arrived also and didn't know where to get it either. So after a lot of procrastinating, I finally bite the bullet and went in search of the tubes. I was only going to find them, I wasn't really planning on going in them as I had my camera with me and all my money and if I went tubing they would get all wet.

But by the time I found it.all i had to go was follow the crowd. I just decided to go for it or else I wouldn't go. I guess I was a bit freaked out on going by myself. So if I didn't go then I think I was going to back out and wait for gias and karline the next day. I noticed that I could rent a dry bag, to put my money and camera in, so I did that. Hoping my camera would be safe. And paid for renting a inner tire tube and got into the tuk tuk that was to bring me up the river to the jumping off point.

I ended up talking to a couple of people in the tuk tuk with me, hoping I could join up with them while we were tubing. I had heard stories of the tubing where there were bars along the river were you stopped off along the way to have a couple of drinks before heading off again to the next bar.

But what I had pictured in my head was nothing like what I saw and I wish I had pictures to show you. All of us in the tuk tuk got dropped off at the river. We walked down to the river edge with our tubes and as soon as we walked out onto the river bank you can hear and see the party down the river. Now I say down the river but you barely get wet before you come across the first bar.

In my head I was seeing these little bars by the river where we would sit in our tubes having a drink around the bar before pushing off into the river and going further down stream to the next bar. No what I saw was chaos. But fun chaos.

There were platform bars were you get out of your tube, leave it there until you needed it again and went off and got drink and danced away to the music that the DJ was playing there. Each bar had its own bar for drinks, its own platform for hanging out on, its own DJ playing music and its own amusement in the shape of a swing, a zip line, spring board to jump off or a water slide. It was amazing. Hard to describe. I heard stories and every one of them were always so vague about the whole experience. So to actually see it in person none of the stories gave it any justice. Now I did happen to be there when it seemed to be low season so maybe it wasn't as good when it was really packed but I couldn't see why not. And being set in among the river valley among the karst mountains, it was fucking paradise.

I put my shorts and flip flops into my dry bag, got my tube in the water and sat into it, letting out a little scream as the cold water hit my bum. Once I was in it, it wasn't too bad though.

I slowly floated down the river and came upon the first bar in about 5 mins. I had started quite late and the bar didn't have that many people at it at this stage as it looked like the party had moved on to at least the 2nd bar, where I could see more people and people zipping down a zip line and landing in the water.

As I was passing the 1st bar a couple of girls had launched themselves away from there. I ended up talking to them and we all got out about 5 mins later when we arrived to the 2nd bar. Well got pulled in as you don't have much control over the tube. So for us to get near the bar, most off them threw out ropes to us and pulled us in.

we got up to the platform and first thing is first. To the bar!

The girls I was with went there first and I ended up talking to a couple of people in the queue. When it was my turn, I wasn't sure what to get. It would be so much easier if I actually drank beer and I wasn't sure if I should start drinking so early. In the end I decided to go for a bucket of drink as it was cheaper than buying singularly and I was thinking I could bring it with me along to the other bars down the way. So I got a bucket of Lao Lao whiskey, similar to Lao Lao but instead of it being clear it was brown like whiskey, mixed with coke and red bull. I moved away from the bar and was looking around and seeing if there was anyone to talk to. Most people were in a group sitting around chatting and I wasn't sure how to get talking to anyone. So when I saw the girls I met on the river, I went over and asked if I could join them. So I sat with them and found out that they were Australians and guess where from. Yes. Melbourne.

They were all really nice and we were chatting away. 2 of them went up to do the zip line and we watched as they did it cheering them on. It was actually quite lethal. If you held on to the very end, the line stops abruptly and you get flung into the air and do somersaults before landing in the water. Some of the people we watched did some spectacular somersaults.

When they came back from the zip line they were trying to convince the other girls to do it. Saying it wasn't that bad. So they eventually decided to do it and I went with them as I don't think I would have done it on my own. So we climb up the ladder to the platform that you launch yourself off. Once you were up there it turned out to be really high. I nearly chickened out. But the other girls with me, went before me. I was telling them to let go before the end so you didn't get flung into the air. The first girl did and it didn't look so bad. The second girl didn't let go in time and flung up. But hers didn't look so bad either. So I was next. I had butterflies running riot in my tummy and my hands were all sweating, which isn't a good thing when you need to hold on. But I grabbed the pole and let myself go. It wasn't the same experience as zipping in the gibbon experience. I was watching the line so I could see where the end was so I could let go before I reach it. It wasn't to hard to notice as there was a big stopper and I let go and made a graceful landing into the water.

I think the spectators were a bit disappointed, they liked a good somersault.

After that, we hung out at the bar for a little while longer. The bar at this stage was starting to clear out and move further down the river. I went up to the bar and asked them was it OK for me to bring the bucket with me. They decided to transfer my drink into a cut off empty plastic bottle instead, which worked fine for me. The DJ from the bar was wandering around talking to people. He was trying to get them to go to his bar later that evening. It seemed that each bar along the river belong to one the bars in vang vieng itself and they were promoting their bars to all the people to go there later. Well the DJ asked me where I was from and when I told him Ireland, he said he would play a sound for me. And what came on but

“galway girl”. I went mad. I hadn't heard that song in ages. But of course I was the only one to go mad, doing the bogger dance, where you put your hands into a fist and pump your arms up and down while stamping your foot. Ha ha Joanna would have been so proud of me. But I also had a group of people looking at me.

The girls decided to head after that and I was ready to go with my takeaway drink. So we got back into our tubes and head out. Now the next 3 bars are actually right beside the last one we were at. Well two were and the other one was on the opposite side of the river. The one on the opposite side seem to be quite busy but we needed to get further down the river. But the river there seemed to get really slow and you almost get stuck going towards that bar. As I got a little closer there was a guy there trying to get people to go in as they drifted by, by giving out free shots. I got pulled in just to get the shot. But the guy wouldn't give one to me until I got out of the tube. So I got out the tube and I got my shot. I noticed the rest of the girls I was with were still floating down the river and I was losing them. So when the guy had his back turned I grabbed my tube and got back into the water. He started saying you just can't come in for a free shot and started to splash water as me. It was really quite funny.

But I had lost the girls. There was a little rapid around the bend and they just seemed to disappear. I know they got off at some bar but I could tell which one. At this stage the sun was already going behind the mountain and it was starting to get cold. I knew I still had some ways before I got back to the town so I decided to stay on the river and make my way there. I don't know what it was but I seemed to be going the slowest out of everyone. The people In front of me disappeared and the people behind me seemed to be catching up on me. I passed one of the last bars where I saw a water slide that looked like a lot of fun, making a mental note to do that next time.

There was a bit of distance between that bar and the very last one and by the time I was approaching that bar my drink was all gone and I was getting even colder. Of course. Brain box here thought that it would be a good idea to stop and get another drink for the road so to speak and hoping that I would get drunk and not feel the cold.

Just as I was coming up to it I noticed 3 tubes coming up behind me. And guess who was in one of the tubes but ally. I knew he was coming to vang vieng too but it was funny to meet him on the river like that. He was tubing with these other 2 girls that he had met. they were stopping off at the bar too so we all got out of our tubes and went for drink. The girls were sharing a bucket while I got one all to myself again. They went on the swing that was there, which was like the zip line but instead you hold on and swing back and forth until you let go. It looked like fun and I had seen it at other bars but I didn't want to get wetter than I had too.

There was even a bonfire at this bar so we got to warm ourselves at it before we got back into the water. It was even colder when I got into the water this time as of course it was later. And the river didn't seem to be going any faster. I tried paddling but it didn't seem to do any thing other than make me go around in circles. I lost ally as he seemed to get the whole paddling thing down and was getting down the river faster than me. He soon disappeared and the girls he was with seemed to get lost behind me. I found out later they ended up getting a tuk tuk back to the town.

So I was back on my own in the river. With people going past me on their tubes. I ended up talking to this lovely Canadian couple. The guy had a Canadian flag tied around his neck just so everyone knew. But we held onto each others tube so we drifted together. At one stage, the Canadian guy even got out of his tube and dragged us by walking down the river cause it was faster.

Some how I even lost them and they drifted ahead of me. But I saw them walking back upstream as I drifted as he had lost his flag from around his shoulders in the water and was trying to find it. I met up with another girl and we ended up drifting together to the end. I wasn't looking after my bag at this stage it was the last thing from my mind. As I was drunk and cold. I had twisted around and I lying on my tummy so I didn't have any part of me in the water.

Although my bag could have been, not too sure.

But by the time I got back to the town and out of the water. I opened my bag to put my pants on, they were soaking. Water had gotten into the bag. My camera was even wet. I didn't know if I had ruined it or not. I was pretty merry at this point, and I had to get the tube back to get my deposit back and I went to complain about the bag I had as well. It turned out not to be a dry bag after all. They tried to say I didn't use the bag properly, but I argued my point somehow, maybe cause I wasn't moving anywhere, but I got my money back for the bag. Though that wouldn't help if I ruined my camera. Should have known.

That whole incident with the bag was a bit blurry but after that I don't remember much. I remember i wanted to find gias and karline to tell them about tubing, but that's about it. how much had i to drink?

Next thing I know I'm waking up in my bed, showered and dressed to go out for the night. I vaguely remember getting in the bed after the shower thinking I needed a little rest. Ha ha

it was 10 at night and I went out to see if I could find anyone I knew. Not that I would remember any faces in my state. I wandered from bar to bar getting a couple of free shots on my way. The bucket bar to smile bar to sunset bar to jay dees. I even got a pancake on the way at a food stall as I was starving. I was just about to give up and head back to my room when a guy that worked at one of the quiet bars gave me a token to get a free drink at his bar. So I decided why not.

I got my drink and hung out there for a little bit talking to some Spanish people, who didn't have much English. I left them pretty much as soon as I finished my drink. I decided I would do one last round of checking the bars to see if I knew anyone and if I didn't I would head. I left the sunset bar, walked through smile bar and took the back track through bamboo bar to bucket bar, when I saw a girl peeing on the path. I was shaking my head thinking there was a toilet I just passed that she could have used if she waited 2 more seconds. She had finished and her and her partner were walking towards me and who was it but the kiwi couple from Christmas day in the Lao Lao garden.

We greeted each other like long lost drunk brothers. She apologized for peeing if I saw her, but she couldn't hold it any longer. They dragged me back with them to the smile bar, where I got another bucket and danced and partied till the music stopped. I met a guy called augusto, from Spain. We ended up finishing our drinks In front of the bonfires looking at the sky where I saw my first 2 shooting stars ever. Augusto couldn't believe I had never seen a shooting star before as he said he had seen them all the time. I don't know am I the only one who hadn't seen shooting stars in Ireland?

I think I made it back to my room at about 5 in the morning. thats why now i believe Buckets are lethal.

The next morning I got woken up by karline and gias. It was 12 O. clock and they were heading off to go tubing. I didn't really feel hungover persay but I was definitely tired. I told them I had to eat breakfast first but I would meet them on the river. I then remembered. I asked karline did I see you after tubbing yesterday? She starts laughing and said yes. That I was quite drunk and kept cursing about my camera getting wet. I said I was so sorry and that I didn't remember meeting them last night. I told I would tell them about my night when I saw them later. They headed off and I got a shower and changed to go have breakfast.

At the restaurant, what was playing but friends. I got sucked into watching a few episodes. I wasn't really in the mood to go tubing again and I was really enjoying the place. Maybe I could spend new years here?

I ended up meeting augusto. He was a bit worse for wear also. I hadn't noticed the night before but on his first tubing day a couple of days before he pulled a muscle in his chest, so he found it hard to lift his left arm. I guess when he drank in the evening, he forgot about the pain and had a nice reminder in the morning. He said he wasn't going tubing, he was just going to go and hang out by the river for the day.

It actually sounded good. I think I had already convinced myself that I was staying for new years, so I knew I was going to go tubing again. The thought of doing what I did the day before again, I don't think I would have survived. Down by the river was fucking paradise. The sun and little hut with a hammock to relax in by the clear water of the river with karst mountains overlooking us. What more could you ask for.

I had heard so many things about vang vieng, and I didn't expect to love it so much. It was so relaxing. I left augusto when the sun had set, we hadn't made any plans to met later and I wanted to see gias and karline as I knew they were leaving the next day.

After I had showered, I went to see if I could find them. I found them watching cartoon movies at one of the restaurants. I joined them and said sorry for not joining them earlier. But i told them I had decided to stay in vang vieng for new years. They seemed a little surprised. I guess they didn't like it as much I did. I asked them if they were going to come to the bar that evening but they said they were staying in and packing as they were getting the bus the next morning. So after dinner it was time to say good bye.

It was strange other than aoife I hadn't travelling with anyone as long as them. Everything was good, until we got to luang prabang. I gave them space being a couple and a break from having a third wheel hanging on. But maybe when I did, they thought I didn't want to hang out with them anymore. And when it came to having some fun, my style, it wasn't their style. So I think we drifted apart. But it was fun while it lasted and I was so glad to have met them. Such a nice couple.

So I was on my own for the evening, and wasn't sure what to do. I wasn't ready for bed but I didn't want to go mad either. I headed towards the bars to see if I could see anyone I knew.

I wandered from bar to bar, even got myself another pancake. Really good. I didn't see anyone. I think I was too early as well. I was heading back to my room when ran into ally. I hadn't seen him since I lost him on the river. He said I was heading the wrong way for the bar. I said it was dead and there was no one there. He invited me back for a drink. So I headed back, he twisted my arm. Got the dreaded bucket. But I was really good I only had one. Ha ha. I chatted to ally and finished my bucket and went to leave, I was just to tried to do it again that night. I was on my way out. I ran into augusto, he was looking for a friend of his that had a mushroom pizza for dinner and was going a bit awol. I didn't know the friend he was in about so unfortuately i couldn't help him. i was dead on my feet so i left him too it.

The next day was the day before new years eve. And as the plan was to go tubing new years eve, I didn't want to do it the day before aswell. I wasn't sure what to do.

In the end I decided to head off cycling. So I rented a bike. I had checked my camera each day since I had gotten it wet. And gradually it had been working a bit more each day. This day it seemed to be back working so I was excited to be able to take pictures again and brought it with me.

I went off cycling, crossed the river by bamboo bridge. Not as exciting as the one in luang prabang though.

I got across and followed a sign that said cave and a lagoon for swimming in. swimming sounded good. I came across a sign that said cave and I thought that it was the one with the lagoon. But I was wrong. but I got to do a nice climb to the top of the hill though. At some stages there wasn't even really a path so they had made bamboo ladders to get up in some places. It was some climb. But there was a nice view of vang vieng across the river and there was a orange flag at the top. I had seen the flag the day before while I was lazing by the river and wondered what it was was. Now I knew.

I met a group of Germans on the top of the hill and they started going down before me. But they were pretty slow so I caught up on the way down. They were going to let me go ahead but it was good for me to slow down I was less likely to fall. On the way down they saw a sign that I noticed on the way up pointing to caves. It didn't look much like a trail there so we weren't sure if the sign was right. But one of the German guys went ahead and sure enough there was a cave there. I followed them down and after the last incident you think I would learn to bring a flashlight every where with me. as I didn't have a light, I was on my way back out when one of the German guys called me back and said that they had a spare flashlight and i could go withh them.

Even if I had my own flashlight, I don't think I would have gone in the caves unless the guys were there. it was quite dark and a little scary. The cave split in two. We went the easy route first but that came into a dead end quite fast and then we went the harder route. Where we had to climb up a ladder and then climb through a tunnel to get to the cave. It wasn't as bad as the last cave I was in. so it was easy for me. But we didn't know where we were going. In the end there actually wasn't much in there and it all came to a dead end. There was some small stalagmites forming but nothing much. Unfortunately, I slipped on a slippery slope and hit my camera. It wasn't until after I took a picture of a large spider and tried to turn it off that I noticed that it seemed to be broken. I was hoping like the water incident that it would start working again in a couple of days. after the shock had worn off. 

I guess I wasn't to get pictures of vang vieng.

I left the German guys and thanked them for using their flashlight and headed off cycling again. I found another sign just past those caves i had been to, to the other caves and the lagoon. I took a detour I wasn't planning on taking. I cycled towards these caves and the cycle was really nice. Very peaceful, just me and the track. I came to the entrance but it was already getting late a this stage and it would be too cold to swim in the lagoon, so I decided not to pay to go in and thought maybe if I was up early enough I could come back in the morning before heading off tubing.

So I turned my bike around and headed back to town. I got ready for dinner and headed out. I was looking to see if I knew anyone around in the restaurants, but I didn't see anyone. So I went for Indian, where there was no TV to distract me. so when I finished eating I went next door to the restaurant that did have a TV with friends on, so I had something to watch. I was going to order desert. But I noticed across the road, there was augusto with a couple of guys. So I left the restaurant and headed over to them. They were just heading off for something to eat, so I tagged along with them. Augusto said that he was going to DJ in one the bars that night. Which would be pretty cool. He hadn't seen the machine yet so he needed to head over there to have a look before he played.

I met his friends that were with him. Raul was from chile and the other guy was gabriele from Italy, that had just arrived to vang vieng that day. After raul and augusto ate dinner we headed to the smile bar, where I got a bucket and met Marie and dominique, who are French Canadians. The group of augustos friends were a really nice crowd and very welcoming. We spent the evening, drinking and dancing and having fun. Augusto never ended up being Dj as there wasn't any proper machine. All they had was a CD player and he said he wasn't that kind of DJ.

So we had to make do with the stupid Irish DJ that played the same stupid music every night we went there. He gave Irish people a bad name. I left that night on high form. Augusto was telling me about going tuk tubing the next day for new years eve. Which is going to the bars but not having a tube and either walking or swimming from bar to bar and getting a tuk tuk back in the end. The last experience of getting cold in the river last time was still fresh in my mind so the idea of tuk tubing sounded great, also it was cheaper. Ha ha

new years eve and tuk tubing here I come!

Tags: buckets, caves, cycling, smile bar, tubing, tuk tubing


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