Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Tubing the Nam Song

Before arriving in Vientiane we stopped for a few days in Vang Vieng, a truly bizarre place we had promised ourselves we would never go. It is essentially a small village that has turned into a drunken and drugged-out tourist amusement park centered on tubing down the river, drinking, and ingesting large amounts of mushroom tea. There is loud music playing until 4am and drunken scantily clad Westerners trying to seduce one another, and sometimes villagers. Certainly makes life more interesting for the local adolescents, but clearly a very problematic and troubling place.

Besides sitting in restaurant/bars, which all play re-runs of Friends or Family Guy, and getting drunk, the main thing to do in Vang Vieng is to rent a tube and float down the Nam Song river. The river and the scenery beyond are spectacular, and the first few hundred meters are lined with family-run riverside bars whose employees throw lines out to tubers and hall them in with offers of free shots. People are then encouraged to climb up tall bamboo towers, grab onto big swings or zip lines and then jump 30 feet into the water, all the while listening to American music such as Wesleyan alum MGMT. This goes on for about four hours and then you spend the next two hours floating slowly back into town as the sun sets. Given the high level of intoxication among many party-goers, it comes as no surprise to see the large number of backpackers with slings, crutches and bandages walking through town. To some of you this may seem pretty dumb and to others pretty fun. We thought it was pretty dumb but we still had a good time (although we fled after one day.) Also, despite swearing she never would, Ali went on the “death slide” and “death swing” among a few others (they aren't actually so dangerous unless very drunk) after making sure there were no rocks below and watching many other people do it first. She really likes those kind of things and couldn't help herself.

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