Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Vangvieng Tubing Experience

In the evening the street is witness to the young crowd, shirtless, shoeless, in bikinis, bandanas, permanent marker and spray paint displaying crude sayings worn as badges to signify some of their crazy moments while going down the river. I watched a tuk-tuk come in at dark with Australians surfing the roof singing, "f$&k you motherf$&kers!" I would bet by the next corner they would be pulling their pants down.

I must first say this, in my younger years of traveling I found the crew from down under to be an insane bunch. It is always exciting to spend some time with folks from the rowdiest continent in the world. They go well beyond danger and deep into belligerence in their quest for adventure. I wonder if it's the "convict" gene? Either way, I think Australians are a blast and a blessing. Any expression of of nuttiness towards them is in complete respect.

I had often been the one who ends up in the clinic, ends up in a sling, or at least has a part of my body dysfunctional because of doing something stupid. It took me until recently to get over the look-what-I-can-do syndrome that left me in big discomfort and rebuilt parts way too much. The kids walking the streets here are limping around, bandaged up, sunburned, their faces swollen from impact. Wrestling in the street with a large beer in one hand. Ten plus hours of drinking makes people real funny. I did not want to get that funny. Mostly, I did not want to do something that would send me to the clinic - again.

We got an early 10:30 am start. We joined three super great Swedes that we had met the night before by campfire at our cabanas. A bumpy tuk-tuk jarring up the road and a beer at the first bar and we were off down the river. Only two bars down we found an enticing zip line that looked much less sketchy than the 60 foot trapeze swing that we had just passed. Free shot of whiskey and down the line. Everyone in our crew made it safe so BeerLao was in order. And we floated on.

The liquid valley is a funny scene of beautiful Karst cliffs with jungle poured over and white limestone peaking through. The river is slow. I would not even suggest there was anything I would call class 1 rapids. The dangers line the banks where every hundred feet there is bar enticing the adrenaline seekers to fly off their rope swings compounded by a mob mentality that challenges each swinger to do some trick that has them crashing into the water at very unnatural angles.

We were told the only way you will make the whole run is to skip at least four bars before stopping, but two bars later we found a rope swing that looked tame enough for us elders to get our feet wet. This one was only a 50 foot swing and it was fun enough to ride a couple times. Floating on...

The music was getting cranked up at most of the bars. People were dancing on the bamboo decks and the party was in full swing. If Burningman only had a small river flowing through it.

We certainly made a lot of quick friends and loved sitting in the sun. I was able to avoid the pressure of doing something stupid and was content to lounge around watching others. My parents would be proud and happy I was not calling them from some foreign hospital. Unfortunately, the call of one last zip line for Asiana was too strong and the urge to be acrobatic lead her into the water in a very wrong way. This belly flop knocked all the air out of her. Luckily, a local threw her a rope because none us us could see her in the water from where we were. We would be floating the rest of the way home without any danger stops.

In the days following, we would find that Asiana could hardly move or lift one of her arms due to some intense muscular trauma to her ribs. The next day would be spent in a hammock.

Location:VV Laos

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