After a lovely few days in Luang Prabang it was time to head down to Vang Vieng, the home of tubing. There are two different options available, one a big VIP bus, and the other a mini bus. The minibus is a lot more uncomfortable but a hell of a lot safer. The road can be pretty treacherous and bumpy at times and the Ozzie guy we’ve been traveling with, Dave, got sent some pictures of a big VIP bus being lifted back up from the road via a crane, with that crash unfortunately killing 4 people. The minibus takes around 4 hours, with a short toilet break half way and costs anywhere from 100000-120000 Kip (£10-£12). The minibuses leave at 08:00, 09:00 and 14:00 but I’d say the earlier buses are better to give you enough time to get your bearings in the afternoon.
Vang Vieng is basically a great place for a party. The tubing is not as it was a few years ago but things had to change. Crazy, drug fuelled, drunk tourists were drowning in the river, or breaking their necks diving in from the riverside bars so the Laos government had to tone it down a bit. Now I’m not trying to put anyone off, this really is a great experience and I would highly recommend it, just don’t do anything too stupid! Tubing costs 55000 Kip (£5.50) and you can leave anytime you want. It’s great if you ask around the hostel and get a big group together because you’ll have a lot more fun in the bars and on the water. We left around 13:00 and I’d say this was just enough time. Some places you need to put a deposit down, others you don’t, with the one condition being that you return your tube by 18:00. You don’t want to be getting back any later than this as this is when it starts getting dark. The price included a Tuk Tuk down to the river where there’s nothing left to do but sit in your tube and float lazily down the small rapids. There used to be tons of bars open down the river but now it’s limited to 2 a day, I think this is how they tried to reduce the risk, along with shutting some of the zip lines, and apparently there are now a lot less injuries and deaths.
Our first bar was not very far from our start position and as you approach you’ll see people on the side with ropes. They attach some weighted plastic bottles to the end and launch these out to you so you can grab on and be pulled to the bar. Once up in the bar beers start from 20000 Kip (£2) and there are plenty of table for beer pong, flip cup and a big sun deck to chill with your new pals. In our bar there was also a volleyball court and 2 small football goals. A good thing to note is to buy a waterproof bag to carry your money in otherwise it’s going to get soaked. This is also where I put my insulin and dextrose tablets just in case. Some people took their phones along with them in the bags in order to get some great pictures, however I’m glad I didn’t because everything I took ended up soaked, including my money. Other people were carrying their money around in a plastic bottle which is a great idea as that’s all you really need to take with you. You can leave your flip-flops and t-shirt at the tubing centre, or take it with you. If you take it with you make sure its something you don’t mind getting ruined. After about an hour of drinking and having a great laugh the bar owners set up a game of musical tubing. They set up the tubes in a big pile of mud and when the music starts everyone has to really let themselves go and dance round the tubes. When the music stops everyone dives to get their bums in the tubes and if you lose you get a free shot and sit to watch the madness unfold. The whole time you are getting squirted with hose water and getting muddier and muddier. At the half way stage everyone had to dance around the tubes as their favourite animal. Unfortunately my duck impression isn’t the best so I decided to be a penguin instead, this was actually a genius idea. As a penguin you are going so slow its easy to jump in a tube when the music stops. Ozzie Dave got through to the final and had to slow dance, spinning in circles with the other male finalist, the only catch being they moved the tube to the other side of the mud pit. The winner and the loser were both getting given a couple of free shots, a big bucket of rum and coke and we were all sent on our way down the river to the next bar. The next bar is pretty much the same, they throw you out bottles attached to ropes, pull you in and the same thing starts again. After that, around 16:30 you jump back in your tube and cruise back down the river until the exit point, where once again you are tossed a rope, pulled in and then jump in a Tuk Tuk back to the tubing center. The driver may ask you for money, pay him if you want depending on how drunk you are, but you don’t have to, its all included in the original price. This really was a great day but the party isn’t over yet, you all head back straight to a bar to carry on grooving until last orders. There is also the option of kayaking and rafting trips but I didn’t try these this time.
After 3 days in Vang Vieng we decided to head to Vientiane, the capital of Laos. The minibus cost 40000 Kip (£4), left at 08:45 and arrived, after a short break, at 12:15. Now there’s not much to do in Vientiane, there are plenty of restaurants and cafes to visit, I did have one of the best burgers I’ve ever had, but we decided to only stay for one night before catching the overnight train to Bangkok to sort out a visa for Myanmar. The main temple was under construction so there wasn’t much to see, but we did decided to head out to see the Buddha Park, about 20km outside the city. To get to the Buddha Park you can either catch a Tuk Tuk there for around 200000 Kip (£20) or get on the local bus. In order to do this head to the bus station and jump on the green number 14 bus. It will first stop at the Laos immigration post where the majority of locals will get off in order to visit the market and do some duty-free shopping. However stay on the bus until it reaches the Buddha Park and pay the bus driver 6000 Kip (£0.60) when you get off. The park, also know as Xieng Khuan costs 5000 Kip (£0.50) entry and then 3000 Kip (£0.30) for permission to take photos. However no one checks if you have paid to take photos, but I like to be honest and I hope the 30p goes towards the maintenance of the park. Xieng Khuan was built in the 1950’s and is a selection of massive stone Buddha’s dotted around, it’s a nice cheap thing to do if you have some spare time in Vientiane. We then caught the bus back to the city and visited the museum. Entry costs 10000 Kip (£1) but there’s not much there, again it’s okay if you have some spare time in Vientiane. From here we caught the night train to Bangkok ready to go to Myanmar!