One of the most favourite activity in Vang Vieng was, and probably still is, Tubing.
What is tubing I can hear some people ask. It is very simple. You sit on a big inflatable tube and float down the river, without the real need of paddling. In the past it became a synonym for Vang Vieng. And I most admit the first time I heard about Vang Vieng was at a documentary on television…and the journalist was peacefully tubing down a river.
Unfortunately over time it didn’t stay peaceful. Instead tubing became a mecca for backpackers as a binge drinking paradise. Stories of bars lined along the river serving cheap beer and shots and in some instances drugs, while having swings and ropes above the water to have a good time was well spread. But so was the amount of deadly accidents, and VV got kind of bad reputation.
After a big clear up in 2012 it has changed. Tubing is still there, minus the binge drinking. So it is a very enjoyable activity to do, I even saw families doing it. But one warning, it is not totally safe. It is a river with some strong currents and anyone doing it should be able to swim well enough and not panick easily in the water. If required life jackets will be provided.
So if you are interested you find plenty of agencies in VV providing a tube, prices should be around the same, including a deposit. To get your deposit back you need to return your tube by 6pm the latest. Otherwise you won’t get it back. And don’t be surprised if they write down a number on your hands….it is aligned to the tube number. Some claimed it is there to identify your body if your body is found. I think it is linked to your tube given. But who knows…
When you get your tube you will be put into a tuk tuk and brought north of the river to the starting point of the typical starting point, a few km away from VV. This is a nice place where you can easily get into the river.
In theory you could float down the river in one go. But there are still a few legal places where you can stop for a drink. Staff will help you to get out of the water and put the tubes out of the water – but remember the number of your tube. If in doubt – check your hand. The stops might have a seating area to sit or lie down, one even had a beach volleyball field. Being in the shade is nice – sitting there with a cold beer is even better. But there are no more crazy stunts.
There are a handful stops to get out of the water – otherwise you can enjoy the beautiful surrounding while floating along the river, relaxing. It really is just a nice activity. Without lengthy stops you will be back in Vang Vieng in 2 hours.
Two warnings. Near the town kids will wait in the water to help you to get to the shore – and expect payment. If you do not want nay help shake your hand or wave your hands that you need no help.
The best place to get out is either on the little island where the river bungalows are, or just after the bungalow. Try not to float down too much, as you have to walk a long distance with your tube.
And remember to arrive before 6pm. Firstly to get back your deposit, and secondly for safety reason as it gets dark after 6pm.
Overall, if you feel comfortable on the water, just give it a go – it really is a nice relaxing activity. Just remember to look after yourself and not getting drunk.