Wednesday, August 31, 2016


This is a recollection of my solo backpacking trip to Laos in July 2014.

You can read about my first and second day here (

Vang Vieng is notoriously known for it's river tubing scene, so I decided to get with it. When in Rome, right?

On my second day in VV, I went tubing with Charles and Maddy, a Canadian couple I'd met the day before.

Sign stating the prices and tubing etiquette. It's fine to have swimwear (bikinis / swim bottoms) on the river, but not in town.

You pay 55,000kp (MYR27) together with a 60,000kp deposit (refundable upon tube return), making it 115,000kp in total for your very own giant rubber tube. You then climb into a trundling truck bound for out of town, jump into the river with your tube, and float back to town carried by the lazy current. On the way, riverside bars ply the route, with enthusiastic bar boys flinging ropes out to pull you in hopes of you buying a drink or two. 

Magic mushroom shakes and Happy pizza are common options on the menu, EDM music blares from the speakers, partyers don rainbow paint, and games such as volleyball, bowling, and basketball are played on crude courts and lanes.

(Image taken from Internet)

(Image taken from Internet)

There are many stories of people dying while tubing, and looking at the bar menu I can clearly see why. However, this is something that can be easily avoided - know your alcohol tolerance and don't do drugs on the river! 

After the first couple of bar visits, I observed some people barely even able to stand up straight. I really wonder what happens to them.

I picked a bad day to go tubing - the sky had been looking gloomy and there had been rumblings of thunder throughout the day. True enough, midway through it started pouring with rain.

I got separated from Charles and Maddy due to the strong current and they drifted out of sight. I knew I'd run into them again along the way, but it was a bit worrying to be all alone on the river during a storm.

I noticed something black and round bobbing near me. Was it a coconut? A ball?
It came nearer and nearer, causing me to be slightly alarmed.

Suddenly, the head of a local guy popped up!
He clung onto my tube, and we stared at each other. 

" Sabaidee! " He said to me (which means 'hello' in Lao) and continued trying to speak to me in Lao, of which a word I did not understand (obviously).

I wondered what on earth was going on. I had a big stick with me which I had been using to paddle, and I decided that if he tried anything funny I'd wack him, kick, bite, and scratch all I could.

Carried by the current, we drifted on for a distance in silence. 

A village came into sight. He gestured towards the riverbank, swimming towards and tugging me together.

" No, no, no! " I protested, strongly paddling my legs in the opposite direction back to the middle of the river.

" Ahhh, kapchai! " he wished me (meaning 'thank you' in Lao) and pushed off, swimming the short distance towards the village and getting out of the river, turning back to wave at me before heading into the village. 

Looking back after the incident, I've come to the conclusion that he probably was swimming in the river when it started raining, got tired, and then conveniently decided to hitch a ride back to village.

After an eventful day, I wound down watching Friends and Family Guy at my usual riverside bar before going back to my guesthouse to sleep.

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