Tubing, on the face of it, couldn’t be more serene. Sitting in an inner tube and floating down the Nam Song river in the afternoon sunshine. Add in bucket-loads (literally) of alcohol however and it becomes a different story
Here’s how it works. Head into the centre of town to get your tubing outfit (vest, shorts and waterproof wallet) and your tube, jump on a tuk-tuk and head 3 km up river to the start point.
First stop is one of the riverside bars. The traditional welcome is a good luck bracelet tied around your wrist followed by a shot of the local whisky after which you’re free to choose your own poison (typically a bucket full of vodka and Red Bull) and start partying. Once you’ve finished your bucket, you jump in your tube and as you float downstream you get dragged by a rope into bar after bar for yet more of the same
5:00 p.m. is the cut-off by which time you should have made it down the river. After a short tuk-tuk ride back to town you’re free to carry on drinking and partying until the early hours of the morning, catch a few hours sleep and do it all again the following day
A word of caution though, tubing is entirely unregulated and not recommended by any of the tour guides or guidebooks. Even more sobering is the fact that, in 2011 alone, 27 people met their untimely deaths at the zip lines, water slides and jumping points along the river.
Check out this article for a more detailed account of how tubing has transformed Vang Vieng
We arrived in Vang Vieng yesterday. After checking into the hotel we wandered round the grounds where we saw two enclosures, one containing a tortoise, the other a monkey who was on his own and looked in need of some company. First stop was the local shop for some bananas and watermelon which he couldn’t wait to get stuck into
The Laos people seem to like unusual and exotic animals as pets but don’t appear too interested in ensuring their welfare. On several occasions we’ve highlighted the lack of food and water to the owners whose usual response is a brief embarrassed laugh after which they take action. It’s a pity so many of them need to be reminded
We’ve been in Luang Prabang for just over a week. My Dream Boutique Resort has turned out to be just that – swimming pool, a/c, room service, free bikes not to mention the fact it’s also spotless and has proper plumbing!
Luang Prabang itself is a mish-mash of Laos and French style, with trendy boutiques and cafe bars set alongside back street kitchens and market stalls. The town sits on the banks of the Mekong river which flows through SE Asia. The locals rely on it for transport, food, washing and having fun!
The temperature regularly hits 40 deg in the middle of the day and the humidity gets as high as 60%. Needless to say you only venture out early in the morning or after sunset
On Tuesday we head down to Vang Vieng, the tubing and party capital of Laos – hopefully the last week has recharged our batteries sufficiently to keep up with the 20 somethings!
More by accident than design we arrived in Luang Prabang as the New Year celebrations kicked off in style
The four day festival, called Pee Mai Lao is based around the principle of washing away the old year and starting anew. Rather than being done in a spiritually cleansing way as in previous years, these baptisms are now administered using buckets, hoses and water guns!
No-one is spared, especially the Falang
Accommodation in Laos during the New Year festivities is, not surprisingly, hard to come by, so when we got to Luang Prabang we were grateful to be told we had a room in Sokdee Guest House in the old quarter.
First impressions however, are often correct and the fact that the room looked like a cross between a Swedish sauna and a prison cell wasn’t far wrong. Cellmates consisted of flies, ants and mosquitoes and a gecko who was doing his best to keep the others in check.
The mosquito grille was held in place by a mixture of sticky tape and toilet roll and the door only opened and closed with maximum force
The ‘cleaning the house’ bit of the Laos New Year clearly hadn’t been put in to practice, the sink emptied straight onto the bathroom floor and there was nowhere to hang the shower head which in any event only provided us with cold water. Each morning we examined the BPN (Bites Per Night) with 22 being the highest recorded count
Needless to say as soon as the New Year celebrations had come to an end we checked out and headed off to My Dream Boutique Resort. Would it turn out to be a dream or a nightmare?
I’ve been resisting the temptation to share some of the more exotic culinary delights of SE Asia, however I think I’ve now managed to come up with a menu that reflects some of the best local produce the region has to offer
Appetiser – Fried Insects
Main Course – choice of Fresh Frogs or BBQ Pig Entrails
Dessert – Duck Embryo
After Dinner Liqueur – Snake Whisky
We stopped off on the way to Nong Khiaw and were immediately greeted by a bunch of kids all desperate to have their photos taken, each insistent that the photo would be even better if they were in it!
As it turned out they weren’t far wrong, happily striking poses like mini super models!