There are a lot of different reasons to come to Vang Vieng. You can go trekking, there are loads of caves and then there is tubing. Nicole and I decided to spend our first day floating down the Nam Xang.
Around 11 am we headed out along with loads of other people to pick up tubes. Once we had signed our lives away we were taken a few kilometers upstream to the launching point. Well, it was the first bar. That's sort of the draw. You spend the day floating between bars and using the crazy swings and zip lines that they have set up. We had decided in advance to split one beer between us at each bar and to stay away from Lao-Lao, the local whiskey.
The first bar had a huge trapeze swing and there were lots of crazy people jumping off of it. Neither of us were brave enough. I'm not a very strong swimmer and Nicole, who is a life guard in her real life, thought that the water was a bit too shallow for the 7 meter or so drop. When we finished our beer we floated about a minute before being dragged in, literally, they used string to pull people in, to the next bar. They had a monkey tied up in the sun here. Had we seen it, we wouldn't have stopped. I decided to be brave and try to do the not so high zip line here. Once I climbed up to the top it looked really high and I just climbed right back down. Apparently I hadn't had enough liquid courage. Nicole had no problems doing it though.
When we left the bar I put my tube in the water and jumped in, right on a rock. Of course I hit my still not healed left foot. I reinjured whatever I had done to it in Indonesia and I knew that I would be limping around for a bit again. When we got to the next bar I surveyed the damaged and was unhappy to see that I had also managed to cut my ankle. There wasn't much we could do about it at this point so I decided to just buck up and carry on. I just can't believe that I didn't do any of the dangerous things and managed to hurt myself just getting into the stupid tube!
At the third bar we stayed put for a while. Nicole started trying to bring people in for fun at first, but when the bar owner started paying her in beer for her work we stayed a bit longer. I did a bit of swimming around, but didn't go too far. Nicole had a great time swimming against the current. The last bar we went to had a big slide on it. Once again, I didn't do it, but Nicole did. It wasn't very well built though and everyone was stopping before the end and having to jump in.
We had been having a lot of fun and had met a lot of people. During the day we had been ahead of the crowd so we didn't think anything of it when we left the last bar. Both of our guidebooks told us to just float back to Vang Vieng and get out at the Smile Bar. This is just what we did. We just didn't expect it to grow dark so quickly and for there to be no one else floating around us.
Eventually a couple of Aussie guys caught up with us. They were far more drunk than we were. In fact, we were mostly sober because we had shared everything all day. It wasn't really scary. There was quite a bit of moon light and there were four of us together. Plus, there isn't anything dangerous in the water.
One of the Aussie guys fell behind and the next thing we knew his tube bumped into us. We were only in 6 inches of water so we didn't think anything of it and just kept floating on. When we were too far to see anything any longer we started to hear yelling. "Damion, where are you, are you alive?" We were too far away to go back to help and had to just keep floating. The yelling went on for about 30 minutes. I don't know if we got too far away to hear or if they stopped yelling. We held each others hands and tried to block out the noise and get back faster by kicking. We just weren't passing anywhere that we could get out of the water.
After some time we heard some yelling "ozzi, ozzi, ozzi" behind us, we replyed with "oi, oi, oi." When the guy caught up with us I thought that I recognized him as one of the Aussies from before, but he said that it wasn't him. I figured that it was just too dark to be able to tell. Shortly after he caught up with us we found a place to get out by some rather posh looking homes. A man here called us a tuk-tuk. It was a cold wet walk back to our guesthouse, but we were fine. We had been floating for about 9 hours. Later on we found out that there was a bridge we were meant to have crossed at the last bar, but because we were one of the first groups to leave no one else was on it and we didn't notice it.
That evening we tried to find out what happened to the Aussie guys but couldn't find them anywhere. Eventually we just gave up. We were both exhausted from our very long day.
Update: Just so you don't have to wait as we did. On our last night in Vang Vieng we ran into the Aussies. They had been so drunk that they hardly even remembered us. Basically Damion lost his balance, fell off and then wandered up a hill full of trees. How he did this drunk I have no idea, he seemed sketchy on the details as well. He then found a tuk-tuk and then made his way back. When his name was being called he was no where to be seen. This is the story he pieced together after the fact, he said he didn't remember much.
Also, tubing was a lot of fun, up to the part after the last bar. So if you give it a try, for goodness sake, get out of the water at the bar with the slide!