To Tube or Not to Tube?

Apr 03, 2011 2 Comments by

The ultimate question posed in Vang Vieng to which the only answer can be: hells yeah! Tubing is this town’s claim to fame and they have embraced it with undying enthusiasm. Minutes after my arrival at my hostel a group a guys invited me along for some tubing fun. When I mentioned that they didn’t have any tubes rented, they merely stated, “oh yeah we gave up on that days ago. Now we just swim from bar to bar.” Hmmmmmm perhaps I need some food before attempting these shenanigans. I opted out of the swimming option and chose to venture out the next day.

Grabbing my two new Brit friends, Victoria and Nita, we headed out for the day. Let me tell you, if you can find any British solicitors to travel with, go for it! These girls thought of everything and more. What to do with our money? Passports? Cameras? Flipflops? Towel? No towel? I’m telling you I would have gone to war with those girls, I was more prepared for this boat trip than anything so far. The final verdict? I bought a small waterproof bag to hold my money and keys, attaching a carabineer (carrrrrribinererers!) to hold my flipflops, and finally wearing my sarong over my swimsuit. Done and done! Off to the rental station for our tubes! We managed to grab a tuk-tuk with a fellow couple from the Netherlands and we set off to the load zone.

It’s about a 4km drive north of town to the drop in point on the river. About halfway we stopped to pick up a local bartender who told us to stop by and grab shots before we started. He wasn’t kidding. Once we reached the starting point he was off like  well shot, to the other side of the river and back with a tray of shots! It was 10AM and by the numbers tattooed on our hands we were the 7th, 8th & 9th people on the river that day. Ummmmm maybe not so fast. We stopped to take a few “before” pictures and then jumped in the river!

The beginning section of the river was like a miniature version of Las Vegas. Well if Vegas was built of bamboo and bars. The river is lined with bars all selling variations of bucket whiskey, shots and free bananas. Yes, I said bucket. It comes in a small bucket with several straws, I’m sure this means you’re supposed to share them. However that doesn’t seem to happen often. Most of the bars along this stretch also have swings and slides out into the river. We had been warned beforehand by our guesthouse that the river was EXTREMELY low for this time of year and not to attempt any of these. “Farangs die here! You no jump!” Yes sir, no sir I won’t jump!

Since we were there so early we almost had the river to ourselves apart from a few locals making their way to work. Best way to commute in an inner-tube, though to be honest most of them just swam. We bypassed most of the first bars wanting to get further downstream. Just as we were passing the riverbend we were kidnapped by bartenders! These three came up and started pulling our tubes into their bar no matter how many times we said no. And we said it a lot, and with increasing force. Finally giving up, I jumped out of my tube and started dragging it back out into the river. They then turned full force to Victoria and Nita, and I had to go back and grab them as well.  They had FREE SHOTS by god and were determined to give them to us. Eek! Soon we were back to floating merrily along.

Further down river the scene calmed down slightly and we decided to hop out. We chose the “Last Bar!” though it was the 5th place advertised as such. But they had good cheap beer, umbrellas to keep off the brutal sun and decent tunes.

While enjoying our beers we got to see what the locals do during the quiet hours on the river; they go fishing. Not for fish, for stuff dropped by tourists. They put on scuba masks and free dive the river looking for buried treasure. It must be pretty lucrative because in the 30 minutes we sat there, they came up with 2 digital waterproof cameras! They evidently find several per week. Free shots = free cameras! Gotta give to them, they’re smart.

The second section of the river was much quieter and laid back. Bars were much further apart and no swings to be found. I’m not sure many tourists actually make it that far, as the closer we got to the end we received stranger and stranger looks. It was awesome to be back tubing on a river though. Made me feel like I was back in Missouri and having a float trip. Just as we were nearly the end of our trip we spotted a herd of buffalo grazing along the river banks. We mooed at the cows and were happily snapping their pictures when everything went to hell. Just as we were passing the herd, they decided it was time for a swim…. in the river… where we were swimming. Holy god. Now I know that they’re herbivores and they weren’t going to eat us, but they are freakin huge! And when an entire herd starts coming for you, you panic. And run. Well we tried to run. Really I think we just made a lot of noise splashing around and screaming. It’s extremely difficult to run away while holding onto an inner-tube in knee-deep water. In any case, the buffalos didn’t even seem to notice. They just went for a dip and we were left laughing our asses off downstream. A perfect end to a perfect day!


About the author

One die-hard Mac Geek set on traveling the globe.

2 Responses to “To Tube or Not to Tube?”

  1. Drew says:

    The image of you kids running from buffalo while holding innertubes amuses me immensely.

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