Vang Vieng is the world home of tubing (pronounced "tube-ing"). This is the act of floating down a river in the inner-tubing of a tractor tyre. Except in this town, they do it slightly differently; every 50metres or so down the river, a bar will chuck you a rope and pull you in for some drinks and free Lao Lao (rice-whiskey). Then, after a few drinks you can go on a rope swing and fling yourself out into the river. It is also the home of the "Friends Cafe's". These are bars with reclining chairs that only show episodes of Friends - 8am until 11pm, 365 days of the year. They are very strange places, as every public cafe or pub ONLY shows Friends on their televisions (except for the two "Family Guy" themed cafe's we managed to find!).
Monday 19th May was quite a good day. 5 hours on a coach to Vang Vieng was the main activity...or so we thought. We had planned to go tubing on the 20th (my birthday - rather well engineered don't you think!), and so figured that on the 19th, we should go out for a few drinks to see my birthday in with a bang. Ian, for some reason, took this a bit too far! A few drinks turned into a few more, and Ian proceeded to disappear. After having a great conversation with a few Europeans (fromvarying countries), Matt and I realised that we had no idea where the boy had gone. Shortly after midnight I had a look around the local streets shouting out Ian's name...with no luck. Ian also had our room key. As it was after 11pm, the owners of our guesthouse had gone home. Therefore Matt and I slept the majority of the night on the tiled floor outside our room...thanks Ian! We were let in at 6am by the owners and after much Ian-slating and wondering where he was (but assuming he would sort it out himself), we went to sleep again.
9am...Ian walks in looking nothing short of terrible. There was no time for a "Happy Birthday Jack!", as he had been instructed by the police to shower, change, grab his passport and meet them outside as quickly as possible. Wow...Matt and I were slightly shocked. So we headed down to the Police Station with Ian, who was clearly injured, to try and sort this out. It turns out that Ian had wandered onto a local building site, where a couple of builders were sleeping with their wives, and in his drunken state he appeared quite threatening to these 5ft 5, 9 stone, 17 year old builders. So, naturally, they beat him up. The police came to take him away, but he resisted arrest and was a bit of a handful. So, as anyone would, they locked him up in shackles, nicked his shoes and threw him in jail overnight.A 1,000,000Kip fine (about 60pounds) and the threatening of 6 months - 2 years imprisonment later, he was raleased totally and we visited the hospital to get him checked out. A scan on his left foot revealed it wasn't broken (phew!), and the other cuts and bruises on his face weren't that bad.
So after a quick meal, Ian and I went tubing! Matt decided not to go because of his rather exposed and still leaky cuts from mountain biking the previous Saturday, so the two of us decided to go ahead anyway, to try to forget Ians woes and celebrate my birthday.
Tubing is probably one of the best things I have ever done! Floating down rapids when a little drunk, after swinging out and flying from a great height into the river is such a thrill, and it didnt surprise me when I met someone who had done it 23-days running - it is just THAT much fun. The pictures just cannot do it justice. Rock music blared out all the way down the river, people stood scantily clad and soaking wet just having a few buckets to drink, and free whiskey circulating - what's not to love! Not to mention the free Birthday shots I recieved! At the last bar however, Ian managed to extend his run of bad luck. As we climbed up to the platform of the rope swing, Ian managed to thrust his big toe into some sharp bamboo, and began bleeding heavily. This didn't dampen his spirits as he still wanted to do the swing. Having talked him out of it we boarded a fast-boat and sped off down the river, for our second visit to the hospital that day. 6-stitches and another hospital bill later, and me ferrying back and forth to the ATM on a moped taxi (which when rather drunk was great fun), I delivered Ian back home to our guesthouse, for him to sleep off one heck of a day.
So I rejoined Matt, who had spent the day in a Freinds Cafe catching up with us on the drinking-front. Matt then had a good laugh at Ian and we headed out (leaving Ian to rest up). Matt (proving his worth on the trip) had organised a pink, heart-shaped birthday cake for me, inscribed with "Happy Birthday Jack". In good fashion we ended the day with a couple more drinks and an argument with some Irish people.
The next day the plan was for Matt and I to go tubing, but we were both feeling a little average and Matt insisted that we didnt. We took stock, watched a lot of Friends, and sorted out our trip down to Vientiane the next day.I was annoyed not to be going tubing again, as it was in my top-3 things that I've done so far, and I will try my best to return and do it again at some stage...perhaps without Ian!
A hilarious and very memorable couple of days was rounded off by getting up at 1:30am and ambling down to a bar to watch Man Utd win the Champions League Final...eventually returning to bed at 4:50am...it was well worth it!