Back in the Tube Again

by Poi on December 7, 2011

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I recently wrote about how it’s sometimes best not to ruin a good thing. That post spoke of how our opinion of Chiang Mai had changed but that’s not the only place I have re-visited lately.

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to have a group of friends come across from home (more on group travel later) and I took them to one of my favourite places of our trip so far.  Tubing in Vang Vieng, Laos.

We both loved our time on the river and have been bigging it up since, everyone should go to Vang Vieng.  Friends visiting was the perfect time to get stuck in again.  However, shortly after arriving at the river the day after arriving I began to panic.

Everything had changed but more importantly my favourite bar had gone and perhaps even more importantly all my favourite rope swings.  From the first bar on the river I couldn’t see any swings at all.

spray paint when tubing in Vang Vieng

Looking awesome with green nipples…

Had I just dragged my non-traveller friends through nearly 24 hours of travel with the promise of incredible riches at the end, for nothing?

We quickly left the crowds of the first bar in search of more high flying fun downstream. Thank fuck Thankfully we came across a few rope swings, all now claiming to be the biggest on the river despite only being half the size of the old ones. We made the most of all of them.

This isn’t a post about how returning somewhere again ruined it for me because it didn’t.  I went with a crowd of very close friends who despite it’s changes had never experienced anything quite like it and we had an amazing time.

Tubing in Vang Vieng, Laos 2011

Rope Swing!

The fact is tubing is just not as good as it used to be – Still awesome and a must for anyone who hasn’t been and yes, I’ll probably go back again but why the change?

That’s the question I put to a guy who was telling me what it’s like to work and live in Vang Vieng.  Apparently not long after I left the first time there were a couple of deaths in quick succession.  As he described it, they had nothing to do with the rope swings but people getting too drunk and drowning in the river.  Unfortunately the police put the blame on the swings and a number of bars closed being replaced by others deemed more safe (swing-less.)

As I wrote in our first post on tubing in Laos, no one can be wrapped in cotton wool the whole time.  People have to take responsibility for their own actions be it drunk or sober and this time it’s future tubers who have suffered as a consequence.

So if you’re thinking of going tubing in 2012 don’t be a dick and ruin it for the rest of us – have fun but take care and skip the odd tiger whiskey shot, it’s terrible anyway.




{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris December 8, 2011 at 2:49 am

Yeah man, I arrived in VV a few days after all those deaths happened. My friend saw one of them. Crazy stuff. But right after I left they had one of the most intense rainy seasons in years, and some of the bars must have been wiped out cause the river got super high. Some of the people I talked to who’d been there before my first time said it definitely changed, but hey, how bad can it be with tons of cheap alcohol and girls in bikinis?!!


Poi December 8, 2011 at 8:21 am

That’s the thing it’s changed but it’s still so much fun!

Must have been really nasty for your friend witnessing a death there, I guess it’s easy for me to say it’s all good when I haven’t had to see something like that.


Turtle December 8, 2011 at 5:38 am

It’s a pity they’ve scaled things back a bit but it was super dangerous. I saw a lot of stupid people doing a lot of stupid things when I was there a few years ago!


Poi December 8, 2011 at 8:23 am

People do a lot of stupid things but if everything a bit dangerous was sopped life would be a tad boring. People just need to be willing to take responsibility for themselves.


Jonathan December 8, 2011 at 10:21 pm

Thanks for posting this, informative to see how things have changed there.. I still plan on tubing, just have to go easy on the boozing I guess!


Poi December 9, 2011 at 11:16 am

Not to easy – Beer Lao is very very tasty!


HannahD December 14, 2011 at 5:46 pm

This looks like a ridiculous amount of fun. Good modern moral to end on too. Bit worried about the green nipples though – might need to get those checked out.


Poi December 20, 2011 at 11:20 am

It is soooo much fun! The green nipples lasted for days, it’s not a good look once you’re away from the river…


Tom | ActiveBackpacker December 21, 2011 at 6:35 am

Oh man, I LOVED tubing in VV. Was a real highlight of Asia for me. I was with some friends and it was just plain fun.

The problem is, as you state, people just aren’t using common sense. They are getting absolutely smashed off their face and then sitting in a tube going down a river with a pretty strong current. It’s not exactly a recipe for danger-less success .

Still, a couple of Beer Laos and swings on the rope and a leisurely ride on your tube between bars – great fun!

I think I met one English girl there about 6 times, and each time she couldn’t remember us because she was so drunk all the time. Ahh, the good memories.


Poi December 21, 2011 at 8:52 am

Haha sounds about right with the drunk people, I have pictures with people who couldn’t remember seeing any of us either. To be fair I was in a bit of a state most the time but mainly after the river a night.

Glad you loved it, gonna go back someday?


Jeremy January 12, 2012 at 6:17 am

Haha “don’t be a dick and ruin it for the rest of us.” Quote of the year! I haven’t been tubing yet but, when on the backpacker route in Australia, I heard plenty about it. Will get there some day!


Gemma January 12, 2012 at 8:01 pm

I’ve never been tubing, actually never heard of it before this post. Must attempt to do it someday. More water-related sport is on the resolutions list this year 🙂


Paul July 16, 2012 at 8:24 am

Don’t want to appear as a killjoy but be real careful guys, the accidents involved with tubing can be horrendous, 27 tourists killed doing this in 2011 alone!


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