Okay, so we have all seen crazy pictures and YouTube videos of how tubing was back in the day in Vang Vieng. However, this was before all the zip wires were removed, and the ‘slide of death’ had been dismantled. So, is it still worth a visit to Laos?
I travelled to Laos late June last year and was expecting crazy and wild things. First arriving in Luang Prubang, this is one of the most beautiful and tranquil places I have ever had the pleasure to travel to. The Kuang Si waterfall was the highlight of my entire trip. Large cascading waterfalls tumbling through the jungle feeding into separate pools for swimming and sun bathing. Laos may not have long, stretched-out white beaches, however the tranquil turquoise waters of the waterfall adequately make up for it.
Then the night time arrives. There is no where else to go than Utopia bar, so aptly named. This is the most surreal bar, hidden on the banks of the Nam Khan river. This giant hut, filled with cushions, sleeping mats, hammocks, and fairy lights is the perfect place to meet interesting people. However, just as I was really starting to enjoy myself, 11:30pm hit and we were all asked to go home. Due to the new curfew in Laos all businesses are required to be closed by 11:30. Disappointed, and too drunk for bed I stumble out of the bar only to find crowds of people jumping into tuk-tuks and going to the bowling alley. The bowling alley? I was like, what! But strangely, this location just outside of town has found a loop-hole in which they can legally serve alcohol past the curfew. With the lights on full, cheesy music playing, and people bowling, this really was a surreal night.
Then onto Vang Vieng. Well you can imagine what has changed their since the new laws have taken hold. My first thoughts once getting my tube and walking down to the river was that it was so quiet. I wasn’t naive in expecting it was going to be like the videos I had seen, however this was like a ghost town. It was almost dead. I couldn’t stop daydreaming about what the atmosphere would have been like in the peak of it all. I could almost hear the distance screams and the party. It was quite harrowing to see parts of bars that once were, and half a zip wire handing from a tree. Looking onto the bank you could see the burnt out bars, and knocked down walls, it was quite sad really. The ride itself was relaxing though.
We finally hit our first bar. It was a great bar, with beer pong tables, a volleyball net and basketball. Even though it was much calmer than it would have been previous years there was still a good atmosphere.
There was a small party vibe at this bar, and we ended up befriending a good group of people. Even though it would of been the polar opposite of what we expected the group of friends we joined made the trip much more enjoyable. We developed a strong bond between us all and ended up getting very drunk, in tribute to the lost Laos. The time we spent on the river, and even at the bar, had a very chilled out vibe to it. I would definitely say tubing was different to how I imagined it, but it was not a let down. It is much more about relaxing, and chilling out with friends rather than getting wasted and jumping off stuff.
People still need to visit Laos, and experience the town and the stunning scenery it has to offer. During my month away I traveled all through South-East Asia and Laos is by far my favourite place. However, be open minded. It is not a party central like it used to be. For that you need to head to the Islands. However, if you want to relax and drink in good company, in stunning surroundings then Laos is most definitely the place for you.