It’s a lot of fun, it’s a lot of pain and it’s a trap.
Ah, Vang Vieng. Backpacker holy grail. The infamous river float and Friends bars. In comparison to what it really is, these visions are actually quite glamorous. Situated on a river flanked by some very picturesque limestone mountains, VV has a severe infestation of drunk and/or high young adults.
Imagine if backpackers were urban planners and could design their very own ghetto. VV would be it. There would be extremely cheap beer and it would be 640ml. It will be named Beerlao and cost 10,000 kip ($1.25). There would be restaurants with tables that you can lay down at (hungover) and watch endless (read: ENDLESS) loops of Friends or Family Guy episodes. There would be bars with multiple platforms in mud pits and these bars would have menus chock full of Opium, K, Special Shakes and weed. Of course our backpacker engineers don’t quite have a grasp on plumbing or sewage management so all bar bathrooms would be absolutely intolerable. Our ghetto would have a lot of free whiskey! Whiskey shots for arriving at a bar, whiskey shots for arriving on the river and free whiskey buckets for going to the bar at 10:00 (so early!). We should need a lot of food stands conveniently placed along main street and they should operate all night to provide party sustenance. 15,000 kip chicken baguettes, 20,000 hamburgers and 10,000 kip crepes! We would build bars along the river and equip them with beer pong tables, slides, swings and dance floors. Who ever gets to the the third bar? Smart party goers will forfeit the tube and simply stumble from bar to bar, saving themselves 60,000 kip. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Vang Vieng. It’s a lot of fun, it’s a lot of pain and it’s a trap. Consider planning a couple extra days to the number you intend to stay.
So it’s about time I inject myself into this blog entry.
Greg and I arrived in VV, quickly settled in and were intent on finding our friend Jay, whom for blogging purposes we will rename GTO. If you recall, GTO was one of the friends we met at Big Blue Diving in Koh Tao. GTO traveled directly to Laos following our last rendez vous in Thailand for a DJ gig. It took little time for us to meet up and start making our own VV history. The following day friends from Canada (who were traveling Australia and SEA) also arrived -yay! I love meeting up with friends from home in distant places. Somehow it seems to transcend the friendship to some other level. Then we started making our own VV history.
We wrangled some tubes and were deposited at the top of the river. It took us four hours before we stepped foot in the water. We played volleyball, beer pong and not a whole lot else. Finally we kicked off and floated 100m to the next bar which had a ridiculously high platform to jump into the river from. No serious injuries here but one of us managed to slice a toe pretty good upon exit. At this point we had collected another Canadian couple and we all floated down to the next bar. From here it started to piss down rain (oh right, we came to SEA during the rainy season…) which impeded no one from monkey swinging into the river and dancing in the rain. As the day was wearing on I played the Mom Card and encouraged our group to call it a day and return our tubes. (Tubers are infamous for not getting tube rentals back on time and subsequently penalized monetarily). We rowed violently across the river and exited into a field. Since we had only floated about 400m down from our starting point we trekked back to where we had originally been deposited. On our way we came upon an abandoned bar that had a big muddy pit, presumably used for tug of war (well according to a sign). The playful members of the group (namely everyone apart from me) happily jumped into this slimy pit that concealed who-knows-what and started tugging-of-warring a small rope. After I was bitterly recruited to help the cause (‘Oh it’s so fun in here, get over yourself!’) I was pulled into the pit and fell into what I describe as extreme personal discomfort. Gross. The rope was reset between teams and I was not so secretly thrilled when it stretched and broke in two. Cue my prompt exit. Greg (and I) realized during this experience that I am a bit of a priss, and I am okay with that. We left shortly thereafter and I definitely biffed it on the slippery trail and was very enthused about this. This also destroyed my very nice hand crocheted top. After a failed attempt to negotiate a tuk-tuk back to town we all boarded a songthaew. Of particular interest during this ride home, one female party in our group (NOT myself) was standing on the bumper, holding onto the steel frame. She then announced she had to pee and proceeded to pee off the truck whilst traveling down the highway, for the win. We showered and all gathered for dinner which I will remember for the company rather than the food (though the food was really amazing and the restaurant sold delicious cakes). We quickly realized that the Canadian couple we had picked up was a unique breed. The girl (who was kind of a psycho) actually had a boyfriend back at home but was traveling with her ex boyfriend who was still in love with her. They were traveling primarily by air between destinations and I recall (after she had left for the washroom) that he said he was pretty broke from the trip. Buddy, I don’t think that money is your only issue. Given that they are exes traveling together, we were privy to a particularly nasty exchange during the aforementioned attempt to find a ride back to town. She said something to the effect of, “Five thousand [kip] each IS 60,000! You can’t be that stupid and expect to get into law school!” Ouch. I think I hugged Greg a little tighter that evening. During dinner she blurted out that she wanted to change the flight so that they could party with us that evening. I can’t imagine that I concealed the horror on my face very well. I could pretend to like this girl on the river and even during dinner but decidedly not for any longer.
Two other awesome instances occurred during our stay.
While we were arranging a motorbike rental to a nearby cave system, we were casually advising a guy about driving a motorbike. It was his first rental and on top of this, it was a semi automatic. He struggled at first and then tottered off at a very slow pace. We finished up the paperwork and must have been waiting for one of us to get their shit together, so we were loitering near our hotel. At some point we heard high pitch screaming just up the road. Looking ahead we saw a hoard of locals gathering around a corner of our preferred internet shop, retrieving a collapsed sign. Upon closer inspection there was a motorbike that was on its side just in front of the large cafe windows. “Oh my god! That girl nearly drove her motorbike through the fucking glass windows of the internet cafe! Good lord!” We trotted up the street for a better view. To our surprise it was the backpacker we had just been conversing with. He had driven up the street and then somehow managed to veer right, directly into the storefront! His blood curdling scream also had us convinced he was a woman. It was awesome. We laughed it off with the guy and he then continued on down the street. Novice!
The second instance doesn’t belong to me, but was told to me by Greg so I have utmost confidence in its validity. Greg went to party at the river one day without the rest of us (but he met GTO at the bar he works at) as we were either hungover or ill at the time. Hours later when he was returning to town he jumped into a truck with about six others. One occupant was a girl with very questionable judgment. At some point she offered another passenger oral sex. Uncomfortable with this, he denied her and she then solicited anther guy, who was quite comfortable with this. So in a songthaew full of tubers this girl proceeded to perform oral sex in front of everyone. Just another day in VV…