We left Vientiane and headed for Vang Vieng – a town renowned for it’s right-of-passage tubing down the Nam Song River. The tubing route was once lined with many bars, platforms, zip lines and rope swings, but after many fatalities most of this has been demolished with only a couple of bars remaining. So the tubing isn’t what it used to be. For our demographic I think it’s now better. Not so many drunk teenagers, more relaxing and enjoying of the scenery as you float down the river. A few Beerlaos are of course still part of the deal. The water level was a bit low in some places as it was the middle of the dry season. Often we had to tuck our bums up to avoid copping a rock in the ass.
We went hot air ballooning – the first time either of us have done it and it was tremendous. Silently floating above Vang Vieng with the view to the karst hills was spectacular. The people operating the hot air balloon could do a bit better. There’s no communication, no safety briefing, no explanation about hot air ballooning or the actual flight we were about to undertake. They just usher you into the basket and off you go. The excitement of almost skimming the tops of trees and powerlines made up for the ordinary service from the tour operators. Not sure if it was the expert skills of the balloon pilot that allowed us to descend into fields between trees and powerlines or whether it was an accident waiting to happen. Exciting nonetheless.
We hired a scooter and rode out to Blue Lagoon and Tham Phu Kham Cave. The walk up to the cave is steep and difficult in the heat but there’s relief with a swim in the lagoon. After a swim we hopped back on the scooter and rode around the countryside trying to find some famous mountains and walking trails. We got lost and ended up just riding around for a few hours, but it was still fun to ride through villages and explore the region.
The evenings we spent chilling out in a few of the many bars and restaurants in Vang Vieng. Many play Family Guy and Friends episodes continuously. It’s quite a tradition in Vang Vieng. On our last night we went out for dinner with some friends we had met in the previous days. Next on the schedule was to head north, check out the Laos northern highlands and hopefully escape the extreme heat and humidity of southern Laos during the build up to the wet.