Tubing and the human sized catfish

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We had a lazy morning as the tubing didn’t get going till 12:30/1ish so we chilled out and slowly got ready.

Wandering back into town the views really are something else. The karsts tower over this sleepy little town. We went for breakfast where I watched a hornet goad a spider out by tapping it’s web, pick it up and fly to a plant above me and eat it! I felt like I was in a live version of plant earth.

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Although Leia and Liam weren’t quite as excited. Finishing breakfast we went looking for transport to tubing. This is where you get given a huge inner tyre, taken up river from town, and float back down. It’s got some notoriety as a lot of backpackers died from various incidents at the height of it’s excess. You could buy drugs in the form of opium and mushroom shakes and jump into a fast flowing, various depths river. Not the best recipe for success. Gladly that is in the past as there are now only 4 bars left and they just sell booze.

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We arrived at the top of the river and watched the first few people dive onto their tubes, noticing that the current was strong. One guy lost his flip flops immediately and another went backwards off the tube into the water.

Learning from these mistakes and laughing the whole time we manoeuvred ourselves into the tubes. It was pretty difficult as we are at the end of the rainy season so the water was surging past us but we somehow got on and started to float down the river.

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If anyone knows me then this was a pretty brave move, floating along a deep river not knowing what was underneath us. Especially as the people in our tuk tuk up were discussing various doomed travellers including one eaten by a crocodile and supposedly giant Mekong catfish that sat at the bottom of the river waiting to drag you down.

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Once I was doing it though it was just too fun and we quickly made it to the first bar where people threw you ropes to haul you in. I of course tried to reach out for a guys hand as I floated past, slipped off the tube, down into the river where I couldn’t touch the bottom. I panicked a bit but grabbed my tube as I wasn’t going to lose it and swam for shore.

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I think it shows why people die tubing. We saw a few other instances where the ferocity of the river coupled with ignorance could have been more dangerous.

After this near death experience I was soaked through and ready for a beer. Luckily it was a scorching hot day so we sat on some steps, looked out over the river where some water buffalo were chilling out and relaxed. I had put my money in a sealable freezer bag but it was no good so I spent the day handing over soggy notes.

It was so relaxing just enjoying the sun, determined to get a tan. Then more and more party goers arrived as the bar pumped out cheesy dance music.

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Then we had our first encounter with the party gremlin of vang vieng. A little Lao man in leopard print spandex pants running around encouraging guests to drink and catapult water balloons and various other activities. It was hilarious to watch but the bar was getting busy and we decided to float down and check out the next bar.

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Something I would recommend. We got there and only a few people had arrived before us. This bar was the best of the three we went to, it had loads of platforms to sit and chill out on, a better indie and old school rap soundtrack and football! We grabbed a beer and had a kick about. After running around and sweating in the hot sun and managing to do a Carlos Valderamma type save from Leia, we went to a platform to relax.

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One of the highlights of this bar was watching fellow tubers consistently miss the ropes thrown out to them and sail down river screaming for their friends to help. It was a slightly sadistic way to enjoy the views but the hilarity of the situation was too much. People clutching to their drinks as they tumbled out of the tubes before realising maybe you need two hands to haul yourself into a bar. One girl in particular had gone really far before a small child dove into the water and swam out to rescue her.

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At times it was like watching a rescue mission with one middle aged Laos lady wading into the river to help drunk teenagers to the shore. We dubbed her the Laos Mother Theresa the ying to party gremlins yang.

After getting free (bright pink) friendship bracelets off an Irish girl who lived and worked in Laos and warned us not about snakes in the river at night we realised everyone had pretty much gone and there were only a handful of tubes left. So we quickly got back on the river, skipped the by now busy third bar and headed to the final bar.

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Arriving at this bar we realised we had enough money for a drink or the tuk tuk back. So we all walked away from the bar, drinks in hand This bar had table football, darts, and pool. So we immediately went for the football. We had just started playing when a Laos lady with a pint of beer came up and joined in on Leia’s side.

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Next thing we knew I had been joined by another Laos lady. This was hilarious as one team scored the other threw their hands up in mock despair and the scoring team danced and hi fived. There was lots of laughing and cheering drinks. The best part was no one cared about the score. It was the same with darts. Leia and I played a game of pool which I won and we headed back onto the river, with the Irish girls warnings of snakes and the river at night resounding in our heads.

As we floated down the river, every bend resulting in longer stretches of river with both banks covered in impenetrable greenery we started to worry. It was dusk, every insect in Laos had headed to the river and we now had to worry about snakes as well as catfish. We were soon joined by several other tubers who had run out of money and as night settled in we rode down rapids with no end in sight.

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In the gloom we soon saw a weird wooden fence across the river with an open gate in the middle and men started pulling the others out of the water. We had finally made it to town! Our happiness was short lived as the familiar questioning tone of tuk tuk?? Sounded out through the night. It was then that we saw a sign, town was a further 2km away on the river. With no money and no idea what time it was we started to walk, before we were given hope by a very loud and forceful Dutch girl. We had completely forgotten about the deposit on the tube! This gave us 40,000 kip back and the tuk tuk was charging 10,000 each. We were even more thankful when we realised just how far we were. Passing two guys who decided to walk the whole way. We were soon back at the hotel, tired and exhilarated from our day of tubing.

We got changed and went for food, where we were knackered. So we ate up but the highlight was the smallest, most adorable little cat that joined us. Treated ourselves to 30,000 kip worth of chocolate cake and went back to the hotel. All three of us were soon fast asleep. Ready to hit our fourth destination in 7 days. Luang Prabang.

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