So I was told a few weeks back that tubing was no more in Vang Vieng, Laos, and my heart broke. I know all logic states that this was bound to happen, and that this glorious backpacker haven was a massive safety risk to all involved but still every morsel of me is so absolutely gutted about the news.
So many backpackers wander the world, in search of the next adventure. They know of the risks involved but like a skydiver to heights, and shark swimmer to well.. sharks, we know the risk but if we knowingly untake this: should we not be allowed to if we like?
The mothering world we live in molly coddles us as though we are these fragile beings. Standing in the rain gives us a cold, every illness should be treated with pain killers and anti-biotics, don’t play on the street its too dangerous, don’t eat 1 day out of date milk… I mean cooooome on!!! To the days where people blissfully unaware ran around bare foot, swimming in lakes and swinging off branches of trees. No longer is nature seen as our friend but our foe.
Now okay, I know, people died younger, risks were higher back in the day… but was it not a happier time to be so unattached to fear with every step of our lies. What kill us makes us stronger right?
Now I am first to put my hands up and say I was so scared tubing, i watched a documentary on giant sting rays in the Mekong River, I heard the tales of drowning and all that aside, I am a wuss. Nature scares me as I am so accustomed to the city life where nature is seldom seen and enjoyed. But yet tubing for me was still a great time when i did it, and even though i was scared I found myself finishing and saying: AGAIN AGAIN!! Me and my partner even secured the idea in our minds to revisit it in the future for our hen and stag. But now it’s gone!
[For the Ban] I know it’s logical
Now let’s discuss the logical side, are there pro’s, certainly. On both days I went tubing things started rather peaceful, floating along the Nam Song then coming along to the bars where we were then given super boozy whiskey buckets in the peak day of sun, with summer tunes and picnic seats. Trapezes, slides and Zipwires hung, it was what seemed to be a paradise. But then you realise what lurks behind this easygoing party village:
Opium and mushroom laced alcoholic drinks, slides called the ‘death slide’ known for a horrendous incident where someone slide, flew and landed back onto the edge end of the slide where the cracked their skull and died (Myth?), drowning drunks (on two occasions we were spectators to two casualties), and late night high and drunk floaters.
Picture being in a village where no street lights lie, where the mekong is an endless path to no where, where the isolated environment has areas down the river where few live but grassy planes…
Now picture floating in peak of darkness, drunk, high, or both, on a rubber ring where its so dark you cannot see, no signals lay to exit the river, where rapids can quickly sweep you into the rivers darkness. Tubers were given a flat rate for the day with a penalty rate at 8pm, knowing that they would not make it before dark. it was encouraged by bars to start the bar crawl down the river at 8.30pm so no choice but to return in absolute darkness, where no paths lay for walk home, just a long stretch of river awaits.
On many instances people swam down the river in the day, trying to cheapen their night by not paying for a ring and then stealing the rubber rings of others. But what happens when theres a shortage of rings, its nightfall and you are swimming down the mekong with no floaty?
One irish guy had this problem on our day of tubing and begged to attach himself to our ring as he was exhausted from swimming, He was so drunk that he was literally cross eyed. So much so that when we asked him to push us in directions, he was pushing us into the walls of the river banks, with no ability to see any of the surroundings around him.
In 2011, it was stated that over 20 deaths and casualties occurred, but I have no doubt that this was an understated estimation.
Ok – so I’m not selling it, but let’s face it, it was awesome. Experiencing it quickly makes you forget the flaws of this treasure. Hot air balloon rides seem to be high risk at the moment, but I don’t see that industry dying anytime soon.
Whatever your decision may be, it may not be the end for tubing in Vang Vieng. Government has intervened in the past, it never stopped it then, it won’t stop it now. Viva La Tubing!
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