What we say:
One of the most popular pastimes in Vang Vieng is to hire an enormous tyre inner tube, be driven a couple of km upstream, and hop into the water. The river flows at a slow steady pace, and the idea is to relax and absorb the scenery as you float home.
This 'sport' can be practised in a number of places in Laos, but nowhere is the view as spectacular as here, with karst limestone mountains lining the route. For many, tubing on the Nam Song is the entire reason for a stop in Vang Vieng. Caves are well sign-posted and it's easy to take a break from tubing and explore a bit.
Five years ago a handful of simple bamboo bars catered to tubers stopping for a drink or a light meal, but these bars have since flourished and become an attraction in themselves, with free shots of lao-lao whiskey to lure in the punters, "happy shakes" and thumping music. The newest additions are the rope swing and slides that crisscross the upper reaches of the Nam Song, where the water is deeper. The "rides" are free to customers, who spend the afternoon launching themselves into the river.
Inner tubes and songthaew transport upstream to the launching place is a part of a co-operative Village Development Group arrangement and they have a building in town near the river. Tube rental costs 55,000 kip plus a 60,000 kip deposit. You'll get the full deposit back if you return the tube before 18:00, otherwise they'll keep a 20,000 kip fee. If you plan on visiting the bars you will need some money, and dry bags for your wallet and camera can be rented for 10,000 kip. Life jackets are also available.
Without any pit stops, it takes two hours during the dry season to float down the river. During the rainy season the river really speeds up and there are deep patches and a current. Make sure you're a confident swimmer and tell your friends where you're going.
We're not sure how anyone thought it was a good idea to mix alcohol and water sports, and tourists die every year while tubing and even more get injured. It's really unlikely that any of these bars have insurance or even first-aid supplies on hand, so do use some common sense.
On another concerning note, there have been increasing reports of drunk travellers being robbed on the way home. Try your best to stay in control and keep at least some of your wits about you.
More detailsOpening Hours: Open 08:30-15:30, return tube by 18:00.
Last updated: 2nd July, 2010
Read 1 opinions from Travelfish readers
15th December, 2011
Tubing was lots of fun. You really have to keep moving to make sure you hit all the bars though. Also, if you cannot handle your liquor, avoid the buckets - they usually have about 1/3 a bottle of tiger whiskey - about 5 or 6 shots worth.
Also, people will steal your tube, so make sure you don't stay at a bar after the crowds start heading out
River Tubing reviewed by jamesm113 (1)
Written on 15th December, 2011, rated Visited here in December, 2011
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