The Most Ridiculous Place on the Planet
Vang Vieng, Laos.
WHAT. A. PLACE. Just hearing the name brings a smile to my face. The 4 days I spent there were quite possibly the 4 most outrageous days and nights in my life.
Anyone who’s been to Southeast Asia has heard of Vang Vieng. Anyone who’s been to SEA has probably also seen the throngs of backpackers wearing the “In the Tubing: Vang Vieng” tshirts. As tacky as they seem and as resistant as I was in getting one, there’s one sitting in my dresser two feet away from me right now because you realize you can’t leave Vang Vieng without taking a piece with you.
The draw to it is simple: a river splits the town and local people decided to build bars, rope swings, ziplines, slides, etc. all along the river bank. Then a modern day renaissance man started renting out tractor inner tubes to tourists who float down the river stopping at the hodge-podge of bars along the banks. Thus, tubing was born, and with it the fame and notoriety of Vang Vieng.
Picture this: a wild-west version of Disneyland, made just for adults. Backpackers from all over the world, no rules, no authority, free flowing alcohol, parties that start in the morning and last till the next morning, all on a river set in the lush Laotian background of limestone formations and fertile fields. It’s like spring break on crack, 24/7/365, except its so cheap that you can buy a BUCKET of alcohol for $2. If you can survive the place and come out in one piece, you’ll have stories to tell for the rest of your life.
I know all of this is quite hard to believe but luckily I had, in whatever temporary moment of sobriety, the state of mind to film an introductory video for situations just like this (excuse the shitty quality and loss of sound at the end):
That was the view from the second bar that you float down to.
How things typically work is you start by renting a tube around noonish. There’s 4-5 bars that you float to throughout the afternoon with each selling incredibly cheap booze (you tell the lady that your bucket isn’t strong enough and she’ll empty a fifth of Tiger whiskey with no hesitation) and many that give you free shots. The bars are all overlooking the river and many have swings, jumps, etc. By 5-6pm, you’re completely wasted and you float back to town to return your tube. Some people pass out for the night but our crew had two nights of epic “rally and regroup” efforts.
Some of the attractions of Vang Vieng:
Rope swings - These things would fail every single safety inspection/regulation in just about any country with safety standards. God bless Laos for not having any. The swings are pretty dangerous not only because they are suspended on iffy rope tied to bundles of bamboo rods, or the fact that you have to climb 30 feet up a tree with nailed on foot boards. It’s the fact that people fly off these things and land into a river while completely hammered that makes these rope swings as dangerous as making out with a “chick” in Thailand.
I’ve heard of people cracking their heads open and the worst I personally saw was a girl who lost her grip at the very beginning of the fall, smacked into the water full speed and probably suffered a concussion. Luckily my friend Ado scooped her up because I later heard she didn’t remember anything and was puking later. I was fortunate to escape only with bruises on my chest from hitting the water so hard. Not bad for Vang Vieng.
Here’s me on the first and biggest swing.
Flying fox - Specialty at the second bar. What do you get when you mix a zipline with a spring at the end? Epicness.
One person = amateur hour. That’s Ado and I showing how things are done.
The Big Waterslide – This is at the last bar along the river. By this point, pretty much everyone is completely wasted s0 of course there’s a massive water slide. I think I nearly drowned when I went down this because I ended up getting a lot of water up my nose and in my mouth. Oh well, you live and you learn.
Some random video of the slide:
Drunk Jumps - Not official attractions but there’s so many platforms you can jump off of. And when you’re drunk, they are all great ideas.
But of course, Vang Vieng, as magical as it is, is just a dot on the map. Only with people is it an experience and what an amazing crew we had there.
Here’s a shout-out to Ado, Ang, John, Tom, Amber, Renate, Katie, Joanna and Dana that made Vang Vieng what it was.
Richard from The Beach said:
“And me, I still believe in paradise. But now at least I know it’s not some place you can look for, ’cause it’s not where you go. It’s how you feel for a moment in your life when you’re a part of something, and if you find that moment… it lasts forever…”
For me, Vang Vieng was one of those moments.