Vang Vieng. Whenever someone hears those two words the immediate thought that comes to their head is: Tubing. Tubing takes over the town and puts Vang Vieng on the travellers map. A sleepy town before tubing arrived on the scene, it has now been transformed. The town is full with tubing merchandise, restaurants playing FRIENDS or Family guy on repeat, and hostels full of inebriated backpackers. For many in Vang Vieng, life is a constant party.
What tubing entails: you rent a tube for the day and move from bar to bar along the Mekong River floating in it, staring at jaw dropping scenery and waving your hands in your air to catchy music, like you just don’t care. You are then reeled in by locals with plastic bottles to the next bar. Each bar is resurrected on stilts and sells whatever you require to get completely out of it and have either jumps or swings to play with. Before going, I had heard mixed reviews of the place- all positive from backpackers and all negative from the press. Although enjoying the spirit and atmosphere of the place, with the anything goes attitude and everyone determined to enjoy themselves with random other travellers was fun and liberating, I did see sights that I didn’t expect to see. Watching a birthday boy being forced to down a bottle of whiskey and then being forced to drink his own sick afterwards, was not a sight I enjoyed or would like to see again.
The first day we did tubing the real way with the renting of tubes. We spent a lot of time in the first main bars which meant we had to rush down the river to return the tubes on time. Although renting the tubes is expensive with the deposit and with a strict curfew, we spent the second day walking to the bars and taking the boat across the river meaning we could take our time and enjoy ourselves more. Most people go straight from tubing to either Bucket Bar or Smile Bar to carry on drinking till the early hours.
I am glad I went to Vang Vieng to experience the party atmosphere although it wasn’t for me. I enjoy drinking and partying but in places that are cool, unique and tell me something about the place. Whilst here it was a majority of people getting so wrecked they didn’t know who they were, causing harm to themselves and to others.
The rumours are true about the level of health and safety. It is a highly dangerous place, with our group of friends we had two injuries there and both when they were sober. The bars themselves are dangerous as well as the amount of people who try to swim in the river and fight the current to avoid paying for the tubes. The slides and those that jump in the river are faced with many rocks that they can easily injure themselves from. Throughout the entire time I was travelling in South East Asia every injury I saw was tube related. From head injuries to broken legs and arms, I saw everything and even heard stories of death related incidences that people saw. If you go, please look after yourself.