Laos is a binge drinker’s dream. Responsible service of alcohol simply doesn’t exist, so much so that there will almost always be more alcohol than mixer in any given drink. Since the price of local alcohol is lower than the price of soft drink/juice/red-bull/what have you, it makes perfect economical sense. This is the case pretty much all over Laos, and most of Cambodia as well, but no such place is as famous for its drunken debauchery than the picturesque riverside town of Vang Vieng, where the infamous “tubing” takes place.
Basically, “tubing” is floating down the Nam Song River in an inflatable tube, taking in the beautiful scenery, making new friends, and getting absolutely shit-faced. Yep, there are bars lining the river. Bars that welcome you in with a chorus of “TUUUUUBERS” whilst forcing free shots of Tiger Whiskey into your hands and singing praises of $2 Vodka Redbulls. Oh, and by “bars” I don’t mean a swanky outdoor terrace, I mean a person pouring drinks in a bamboo hut, surrounded by beer pong tables, a giant game of drinking Jenga and in one case, a beach volleyball court.
Tubing was at it’s peak in popularity around 2010, when there were dozens of bars along the river, along with rope swings, zip-lines and water slides. With absolutely zero safety precautions in place, these are dangerous activities at the best of times, but add drunken backpackers and it gets out of control. Sadly, as tubing grew in popularity, so did the death toll and so measures were taken and the bars were closed. The rope swings and zip-lines were taken down and the slides were dismantled.
These days, things are up and running again, but there are only four bars along the river and there are no rope swings, zip-lines or slides to be seen. But that doesn’t mean that Vang Vieng isn’t still one of the best (if not the best) party towns in South East Asia.
I went tubing three times and given the opportunity, I would go a hundred more. I freaking loved it. It is so so so much fun and one of the top highlights of my entire trip.
The party doesn’t end with tubing though, Vang Vieng town is full of bars that kick on well into the night. Whether you’re into playing beer pong at Kangaroo Sunset, chugging Guinness at Gary’s or getting happy at Jaidees, this place literally has something for everyone. And no night in Vang Vieng would be complete without a chicken baguette eaten on the side of the road at 4am. Oh man I miss those baguettes…
Stay tuned for my post about volunteering at educational and environmental sustainability project, SAELAO !