Tubing in Vang Vieng


Michelle, Kezia, Jim and the Kids

From speaking to people I have met that have backpacked, to all the research we both put in before we left, we came across/heard what seems to be some sort of “right of passage” for backpackers who go through South East Asia, this “Right of Passage” comes in the form of tubing.

Tubing PRE Vang Vieng:


Pronounced [too-bing]


1. Material in the form of a tube: glass tubing.
2. Tubes collectively.
3. A piece of tube: two feet of copper tubing.
4. Also called inner-tubing. the sport or recreation of floating down a river or stream on an inner tube.

Origin: 1835–45; tube + -ing1

And now POST Vang Vieng


Pronounced [toooooooo-bing! Man I am drunk. Hey let’s jump off this tree into shallow water!]


1. To take the inner tube of a tractor and float down a stream
2. To fully “Tube” one must be intoxicated with a variety of unproofed local whiskey called Lao Lao and anything else you can get your hands on at the time.
3. Must involve climbing of nearby tree’s (The taller the better) to jump from; back onto the tube or into the river adjacent (whilst preferably adhering to point number (2) above).
4. If no tree’s are free or available then build a platform to jump from or better still build a slide that after a number of ill-fated events resulting in a number of people losing face (quite literally) and/or dying, the locals would refer to your construction as “The Slide of Death”.

Origin:  Somewhere in the 90’s (at an uneducated guess); tube + -ing1

Tubing over the last couple of years has gained somewhat of an unfair reputation, some could argue, but a reputation that has excited the very core of all backpackers and united many a nation over the Nam Song River.

IMG_7819After extensive research and tales both from the mature of Kin (Stephen Selby) and from the most immature of friends (you know who you are!), we did the only sensible thing in Vang Vieng…. we got some tubes.
For 55,000 KIP plus a deposit of 60,000 Kip (along with a 20,000 KIP rental of a dry bag)  meant that for a total of just over eleven pounds we had a tube each, a crowded Tuk Tuk of excited travellers and the day ahead planned.

IMG_7843The water was sparkling clean and the backdrop our upcoming adventure was something no one had actually mentioned to us at all. IT WAS STUNNING, what is written as “Red Rock” on the “who needs maps to scale” hand drawn maps given out carelessly by the guesthouses; sits an impressive figure of limestone that pretty much stalks the entire trip along the Nam Song. This does also limit the sunlight at times but the view along the entire journey was beautiful.

Jim and Kezia, our brave and equally excited tubing friends (we met on the way up) led the way and we, fresh from temples and ruins whispered and bowed our way to the water’s edge as respectfully and as quietly as we have learnt.

Something wasn’t right, no brash if ever slightly repetitive beat was bouncing off “Red Rock”, no Australians were swinging from tree’s (we read that the majority of injuries belonged to the Aussies. Finally the British were not at the top of the Darwin list of an activity in SEA for once!), and there was no sign of any local’s bringing us into bars with long bamboo sticks on the river bank.

IMG_7835Quenched for thirst… or the need for beer (same thing) we decided to pull over at the next set of steps and chance our arm at getting a cheeky beverage. Not too long after the pact was made Kezia who had seemed to “Tube” far more efficiently then the rest of us came across a set of steps and started her ascent. By the time we caught up with her it was too late, as we soon realised that we were actually in a lovely little old couples house. Embarrassed and more importantly sober Kezia had already inquired into the possibility of BeerLao… Lovely and little were two of the adjectives used for this lady, but if only one were allowed then the word “wise” would be prioritised, for as soon as she sold us a cheeky can of rice curated bliss, did she recommend that we enjoyed the Beerlao in the sun… so basically “get out”. Jim and Kezia gifted some chuppa chups for the children, from a dry bag that must have previously been owned by Mary Poppins, which bought us some time.

As we got down there were a few too many, younger and even more excited “Tuber’s” which made the four of us all try to float as effectively as we could downstream and reflect upon the fact that perhaps our “quiet, tranqil day” may in fact be even better than our previous expectations of the day.

A while later a shout from one side of the Nam Song sung to us “BeerLao!” A bar! Finally a bar! As we scrambled off the tube and onto the decking leaving the girls behind us, only to be called back and told to do the gentlemanly thing, we finally arrived at the bar…. it was empty… but it was a bar!


Michelle, Kezia, Jim and Steve enjoying the only bar

Jim, the charismatic quarter of our tubing sect, took it upon himself to order the first round of bucket’s and as soon as we got them they were pretty much empty. The bar was then out of vodka (somehow) and this was why the word charasmatic was used as Jim convinced the barman/owner to go to the neighbours and see what booze they had. The answer? Lao Lao. Rice whiskey previously mentioned in article (2) of the Post Vang Vieng definition. Somehow Jim had convinced the barman to liberally share the bottle between the four of us in one sitting and to be honest the second half of the journey was a blur.

IMG_7854After being escorted by some local children (for a small fee), a burger each, a sharing of garlic bread and a broken shower later we were fast asleep at 8pm.

But where were the infamous “Tuber’s”, where had they gone?


This will have to be another post as it seems this one has gone on a little longer than I thought. Stay tuned.


4 responses to “Tubing in Vang Vieng

  1. Pingback: Where have all the “Tubers” gone? | Two Amateurs Go Backpacking…·

  2. Pingback: Our Bucket list | Two Amateurs Go Backpacking…·

  3. Pingback: The Do’s and Don’t’s of Vang Vieng | Two Amateurs Go Backpacking…·

  4. Pingback: Respect the Lao! | Two Amateurs Go Backpacking...·

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