The jeans have been binned, the travelling pants are back on and the mosquitoes are back in fighting force. They were all over our 4 hour bus journey from Vientiane to Vang Vieng that day. But whilst I was trying to kill them like a ninja, others were simply fluttering them away. Help me out here people!!!
We arrived at Vang Vieng Bus Station which is located out of town in the middle of no where. I’d forgotten this feeling, arriving in a new place not knowing where you are or how you get to town… I expected the usual 20 tuktuks hauding people over but there was just two small buses that turned out to be free shuttles into town. Unheard of! Thank you very much!
After a hot, sweaty walk around town to our accommodation we found it, Bountang Hotel. For 48,000 kip a night (£4) we had a dorm room including breakfast. Many people can just turn up to this place and wander around for a place to stay – very easy in this town, but without knowing how stressful towns are in Laos we prebooked. But it was a good little hotel with a lovely view outside.
Off to explore… and we weren’t disappointed. A lovely little relaxed town and if you just walk towards the mountains and over a wobbly wooden bridge across a river it just gets better
We stood in an empty field for a few minutes admiring the view and all of sudden we were no longer alone. A heard of cows were heading in our direction.
We continued to explore and it really is a picturesque place. As usual, no paths or roads… motorbikes were driving over the questionable wooden bridge, cows roam freely and cars were driving through shallow-ish sections of the river… it was very strange but very much a place you can sit back and people watch or explore for hours.
That evening we met Maria, a Spanish lady from Brighton… we were both on the desperate search for air con in our rooms. I instantly loved this lady – so charismatic and full of life! We had a lovely evening meal with her. She too had quit her job and has never felt more free.
We met with Maria again the next morning along with Louise in our room to go Tubing!!
A bit of history about Tubing… it basically put Laos on the young party tourist map the same way Thailand did for their full moon parties. Basically you hire a tube for 55,000 kip from one of two stores in town, along with a 60,000 kip deposit in case you return it late, lose or break the tube. Back in the day, as you would float down the river on your tube there would be loads of bars to stop off at on the way for a drink and a boogy. Now, due to too many drunken deaths and mishaps it only has 3 bars. We weren’t phased by this, we were more excited to try our tubing itself then drink too much. It’s a three hour float down the river after all!
What to take with you:
1. Money and camera and put them in a waterproof case. You can buy them around town for 5,000 – 10,000 kip (under £1)
2. Clothing – You can wear swim wear whilst tubing and in the bars along the river but when heading back through town it’s frowned upon to be showing too much! You need to be respectful and cover up! Luckily for us Louise had a large waterproof bag for our dresses and flip flops!
And we were off down the river…
Now onto what they DON’T tell you about tubing…
1. The river in dry season.
The river doesn’t get as much water so it doesn’t pull you along.
Be prepared for three hours of paddling! It starts off fine but after the last bar you are fighting for your life for movement. We had a good arm workout that day!
2. What lives in the water.
As we were floating along the river, admiring the mountain views, soaking in the sun and thinking life is good… I noticed something in the water. What is that?
“Ooo it’s a snake… a snake? Oh myyyyy life it’s a SNAKE!!!!!!!” and it was making a beeline towards me and swam over my foot and under me…
Paddle faster girls, paddle faster!!!
3. The children.
Aren’t they cute, swimming, washing and enjoying life in the river?
Yes they are adorable… but don’t underestimate them. Whilst many waved at us on the way down and splashed water at us from time to time. One group took hold of my ring and I paddled by. Very funny boys, let me go! Then one of the boys lifted out of the water a sharp ended stick like something out of Lord of the flies. OH. Not what I expected. You let me go right now!!!
Paddle faster girls!
All in all, it took us 4.5 hours with a half hour stop in between. It’s hard work!! A lot of paddling the whole way down. I’m glad we left so early in the morning because if you don’t get back to base by 6pm you don’t get all of your deposit back. The guys leaving base at 3pm when we returned didn’t look too impressed by this news when we told them the river conditions.
This river may sound abit hit and miss but I did really enjoy it. It’s definitely a must do while you’re here. I imagine if the river was abit more fast moving it would be an effortless activity.