Vang Vieng Experiences: Tubing in the Nam Song River

Blessed with spectacular natural landscapes adorning the entire region with limestone karsts erected just on the opposite bank of the Nam Song River, Vang Vieng is certainly a nature lover’s paradise to just relax, unwind and throw himself into the embrace of Mother Nature.

You will instantly fall in love with the majestic mountainous landscape.


In spite of all the sights and outdoor activities available along the river banks of the river, river tubing remains the absolute favourite and must-do experience for travellers, young and old, who have come to this town.

Sit in your tube and just admire the gigantic limestone karsts towering above you!

The Dark History of Tubing

If it had not been for tubing, Vang Vieng would definitely not be what it is today and probably would remain unknown and insignificant to the outside world in spite of its picturesque natural landscapes.

You heard me right, travellers began flocking to Vang Vieng not for this but rather for tubing!

Starting off as a means of relaxation for volunteers working on a farm to unwind in tractor-tyre inner tubes down the Nam Song River, the trend of tubing began spreading like wildfire and gained international attention amongst backpackers who were travelling along the well-trekked banana pancake trail around the Southeast Asian region.

How peaceful tubing must have been back in the day before all the chaos!

Dozens of bars began setting up along the river banks with bamboo swings and water slides erected all around to cater to the fun-loving backpackers who began swarming to Vang Vieng.

The Jumping Bar of today probably had tubers jumping into the river back in the day!

Despite the boom in visitor numbers that brought in tourist dollars, tubing created a massive problem for the townspeople as travellers paid no heed to local culture and dressed scantily whilst traversing the streets of Vang Vieng. Restaurants served ‘mushroom’ shakes and ‘happy’ pizzas laced with drugs, absolutely destroying the local way of life.

Seeing how close the river is to the locals' homes, one can imagine how greatly affected the locals were by the drug-infused and drunken backpackers.

However, the final blow struck when travellers who had too much to drink started disappearing and losing their lives by either playing along the swings and slides half-conscious or drowning in the rivers – with a depressing number of 27 tourists losing their lives in 2011 alone. 

I can totally imagine drunken backpackers ramming their heads against these massive rocks which emerge in the middle of the river.

Under pressure by regional governments, the Lao authorities have abolished deadly activities and regulated the local bars such that they operate in a rotatory manner such that only two bars are open at any one time. Today, Vang Vieng has certainly cleaned up its tarnished reputation and is slowly on the road to recovery from the tragic events that had occurred here not too long ago.

Vang Vieng is certainly a fantastic place that has upped its game!

Cost of Tubing in Vang Vieng
Tube Rental Fee: 60,000 LAK (USD 7.20)
Tube Deposit: 60,000 LAK (USD 7.20)
Tuktuk ride (if applicable)

The deposit of 60,000 LAK for the tube will be returned to tubers who manage to return their rubber tubes back to the shop by 2000h. Failure to return it punctually will result in the unnegotiable forfeiture of their deposits. The price of the tuktuk ride is included in the tube rental fee (if there are at least 4 people in the tuktuk). However, if there are less than 4 in a tuktuk, tubers will have to foot an additional tuktuk fee as stated here:
  • 1 person in a tuktuk: 20,000 LAK / person
  • 2 people in a tuktuk: 10,000 LAK / person
  • 3 people in a tuktuk: 5,000 LAK / person
That's a steal for being able to ride rapids and admire the epic views!

Location of Tubing Office
Where all the fun begins

There are numerous tubing offices around the town centre of Vang Vieng, which makes it very easy for visitors to organise their own tubing expeditions independently without needing to sign up with restrictive guided tours being touted throughout the entire town.

With guided tubing tours, you will probably have tubers in every single one of your photos...

These tubing offices primarily fall into two main categories – red tubes (catering to more family-oriented fun with a comparatively shorter distance to cover) and the yellow and white tubes (which allow for a longer tubing experience further upstream from the town centre).

These white tubes must have around for quite some time and are ready to head down to the river!

Unless travellers are really tight pressed for time, they should definitely sign up with the yellow and white tubing offices, be it for more time to party or to admire the breathtaking views all around.

Trust me, you'll want more time to take in the views or to party!

Having had a pleasant experience with the tubing office which I had signed up with, I would suggest that visitors consider trying it out with this agency which is conveniently located right in the middle of town and offers an extraordinary experience down the ‘white tube’ route. 

The tubing office where I managed to enjoy a wonderful tubing experience

A Peaceful Tubing Experience
Recommended for: Nature Lovers

For travellers who are not into the entire party scene and just want to enjoy and admire the magnificent natural scenery that accentuates Vang Vieng’s beauty like me, I would like to urge them not to completely forsake the unique tubing experience and dismiss it as a drunken escapade.

"Are you really willing to give up the opportunity to explore and admire this? This is only a shot from the tuktuk ride out to the starting point where you start tubing!"

Instead, I would highly recommend that they head over to the tube rental shop early in the morning after breakfast at around 9am, where they can have the river all to themselves (less some kayakers and canoeists) and enjoy the peace and quiet that Vang Vieng has to offer.

You heard me right - we had the river all to ourselves!

After completing a couple of indemnity forms and collecting their life jackets (if necessary), visitors will be whizzed off for their tubing adventure in a tuktuk approximately 3 kilometres upstream in Nam Song River.

Taking in the sights of Vang Vieng as we whizz past and head out of the town centre

The drive out of town is equally scenic as the tube ride down as travellers are brought to the outskirts of Vang Vieng and are able to catch a glimpse of the livelihood of the locals in the unspoiled countryside.

The countryside emerges before our very eyes as we leave the town centre.


Upon arrival, tubers will be able to hop into their tubes and commence their journey downstream while admiring breath-taking scenery all around.

Where it all starts: No instruction manual, just hop in and relax!

Floating down the river certainly offers a relaxing experience to just see the views past by and explore the various interesting structures in the layers of limestone karsts that seem to go on forever.

Photographs do not do these beautiful mountain landscapes justice!

Visitors will also pass by little wooden houses with miniature farms where they can greet friendly locals who are tending to their plants and have a sneak peek into their houses.

Now, that is what I call a house with a view.

Closed bars flanking the Nam Song River allow tubers to visualise how chaotic the town must have been back in the day entangled in a dark history of backpackers high on drugs and alcohol.

So you can truly enjoy nature and check out how the locals live in the countryside!

Passing by small villages and wooden bridges over the Nam Song, tubers will be able to appreciate this tranquil atmosphere where human activities and natural beauty can coexist harmoniously and be integrated into a single entity. 

This wooden bridge links the urban town of Vang Vieng with the rest of nature in the wilderness.

However, during the dry season, the waters actually move much more slowly, thereby resulting in the entire journey downstream back to the centre of town potentially taking up to 5 hours (without any stops at bars) – double that of the advertised time of 2.5 hours!

With the slow speed of the waters, tubers can slowly admire the views.

At some points in the journey, the waters were not moving at all, resulting in tubers potentially remaining stationary and not even inching a single centimetre downstream.

The calm waters certainly make tubers come to a standstill!

As a result, I will recommend that tubers consider paddling down the river either with their hands or probably a stick from the shore to make it down the river in a shorter period of time before enjoying their time floating down the river when the currents start picking up again. 

And when the currents do pick up, it means that the waters are shallow so mind your bottoms!

Throughout the journey down the Nam Song, tubers will be joined by numerous friendly kayakers and canoeists who will happily greet them, wave hello and subsequently splash them with water using their oars. 

Every wave of canoeists passing by offers an opportunity to say hi and make new friends!

As tubers are a rare sight early in the morning, they will probably enjoy being the centre of attraction as kayakers begin snapping shots of these ‘weirdos’ floating down the river in rubber tyres.

The number of canoes should give you a rough indication of how many canoeists there were!

(Some even asked me how long I had been on the river and told me, “You’ll eventually get there!” after hearing that I had spent more than 3 hours in my tube.)

At least, I can enjoy the sights without needing to paddle the oars.

Besides kayakers and canoeists rowing past, tubers should also keep a lookout along the zip-lines above them, either those crossing the width of the river or those surrounded in the foliage of the trees on the river bank opposite the town of Vang Vieng. 

Nope, these are not electrical wires - they're zip-lines!

Travellers who have signed up with tour packages including zip-lining opportunities will be whizzing along these lines like flying foxes and Tarzans, so tubers can feel free to probably cheer and encourage zip-liners who are feeling the nerves when standing high up on the wooden planks.

This poor lady was so frightened - she must have been made to do this on a dare!

It is certainly quite an experience seeing travellers turn off their electronic devices and truly get up close with nature and embark on these outdoor sports and activities, which is becoming increasingly rare in our modern-day world where technology seems to be bread and butter of our lives.

The impetus for this? The absolutely breathtaking views all around Vang Vieng!

Tubers will soon realise that tourists are not the only source of traffic along the Nam Song, as they will have the opportunity to witness locals going about their daily activities such as harvesting water plants and herding the cattle along the river banks. 

Cattle quenching their thirst along the river banks of the Nam Song

Some locals will also be carrying their purchases from the morning market near the centre of Vang Vieng and crossing the river along its shallowest area with a bamboo pole in hand to test how deep the waters are, offering tubers a unique sight and photo opportunity.

A local woman crossing the river in a highly skilled manner with her groceries in tow

Local children can also be seen playing with the water cheekily and will be more than happy to shout "hello" when they see tubers floating down the river.

The little boy is intrigued by a fish that he discovered whilst playing with the water.

The older kids are even diving in with water goggles over their eyes to collect river plants for their families at such a young age, showing just how mature they are.

A teenage girl searching for river weed in the middle of the Nam Song

As with all other Lao locals, the ones in Vang Vieng are extremely friendly and amicable as well, so travellers should not be afraid to interact with them and offer them an affable greeting or simply a wave as they appear in sight.

After having a simple conversation, the locals head back out to work.


A Day of Booze and New Friends
Recommended for: Party Animals

Tourists who intend to join the parties and mingle with other backpackers will be more inclined to embark on their tubing adventures starting in the afternoon at approximately 1pm, as that is the peak period for visitors to hop on their tubes and get a drink at the bars along the river.

The first bar along the river is just a short distance downstream of the starting point!

This will also allow them to enjoy a full 7 hours of floating down the river and making random pit-stops at the various bars along the river before returning their tubes, which should be more than sufficient time.

One of the bar-hopping stops along the Nam Song with a great view of the mountains

Tubers will be able to grab onto ropes hurled out into the river by bar operators to be pulled in to the bar where they will have the opportunity to grab some booze, enjoy some beach sports and pub games such as beer pong. 

Fancy a game of petanque (French boules) with some beer buddies?

Alternatively, they may choose to just relax, unwind and simply have some lovely conversations to befriend other backpackers from various countries, possibly opening up doors for meals together and even combined expeditions and day trips out to the popular tourist attractions in the area.

What better place to shoot the moon than these sheltered huts with a magnificent view?

Given the small size of the town, it is almost guaranteed that these pub buddies will meet each other again somewhere in Vang Vieng!

This town is essentially that small, so it's quite a lot of nature for that amount of land!


My Story: Getting Stranded and Being Rescued
Noting the end-point of the tubing experience

Tubers who have chosen to float down the Nam Song River in the afternoon together with the massive crowds will probably not have any problem locating the end-point of the tubing route.

That's why they say 1 + 1 = 3! When there are other tubers, you can just follow them like how these canoeists are following each other.

However, for those who have opted to head down early in the morning to enjoy the peace and quiet, knowing where the tubing ends can pose a relatively huge challenge, as there is no one else to look out for and no signs to direct them along the tubing course.

I bet you can't even see the "End of Tubing" sign from this photograph!

I, for one, was faced with an insurmountable challenge during my tubing journey. 

Busy waving hello to the locals and taking photographs of the cattle which were beginning to appear along the river banks, I realised that I was slowly being swept by the waters to the right side of the Nam Song River. 


Yup, this one of my last shots before the disaster struck!

However, I did not take much notice as I was unsure as to how much longer I would take to arrive at the destination. “Anyway, the waters were moving at such a slow speed that I would be able to wade my way back to the middle of the river,” I thought to myself. 

Just a few minutes later, I saw sheltered huts appearing on the river bank on my left and a huge sign that wrote “End of Tubing”, so I began paddling towards my left with a tree branch which I had obtained after being swept to one of the banks previously. 


By the time I saw the sign, I realised how much trouble I was in.

However, the waters started gushing and pushing me towards the two river banks (unfortunately, for me, I was being pushed to the side opposite of the sheltered hut). Everyone who was sun-tanning in the sheltered hut started staring to see what I was doing there, and a lady even cheered for me. 


That's right, guess who just overshot the end point? I should get a medal for this!

I thought of wading across the river but realised that the depth of the water was only shallow on the two sides and the middle was relatively deep, so I probably won’t be able to walk across just like how the locals did further upstream. 


One of these would come in really handy now...

I also started planning my route of heading onto the shore on my right before crossing the bridge back to the huts on my left, but I realised my cash was with my friend (who did not have it easy and had fallen into the water before arriving at the huts) and I did not have money for the toll bridge. 


I was stranded amidst piles of rocks... but on the bright side, I had a great view!

Just when I was probably at my wit’s end, my knights in shining armour appeared. 4 local children in a canoe started paddling with oars in my direction and dragged my tube across the river to the shore where the huts were. (I am guessing that these incidents happen often enough for the locals to begin such services.) 


These superheroes are ready to head off to save the world!

Upon arriving at the huts, one of the little kids stretched out his hand and said, “Money.” The children received their tips, I was saved from the gushing waters and the backpackers at the hut got front-row seats to watch how I was rescued from the other side of the river, so everyone was happy. 


I was actually enjoying the process of getting rescued!

That was quite the experience. 

My two cents from this experience will be for tubers to consider keeping to their left when they begin seeing signs of civilisation and locals appearing, as that will probably signal that the tubers are nearing the centre of Vang Vieng and the end of the entire tubing route.

Signs of locals appearing - even in a boat - probably indicate that you are entering the town.

This will certainly reduce the chances of them missing the sign and encountering the same problem as me, but they are also recommended to be careful when disembarking from their tubes in order to prevent any nasty falls or injuries.

The rocks are sharp and slippery, so please be careful!

Upon arriving at the huts, tubers will probably wish to freshen themselves up by heading to the john and probably grabbing some snacks at the Smile Beach Bar before returning back to town.

You can relax here but don't forget to heed their reminder to return your tubes before 8pm!

I have seen online reviews where tubers have been offered tuktuk rides from the Smile Bar back to the centre of Vang Vieng for extortionate prices, given that the journey is probably 2 minutes or so. Instead, for those who are not in a hurry to return their tubes, I would recommend for them to simply stroll into town with their tubes in hand.

The way back to town is well trodden by backpackers, as seen by the tracks that are left behind.

Not only is the walking distance relatively short at only about 5 minutes, this will probably help get their backs dry under the sun so that they are ready to embark on their next adventure for the day without worrying about staying wet from the tubing.

As you glance at the mountains in a distance when you are back in town, you can safely say that you have embarked on one of the best adventures to admire the beautiful landscapes.


Tips for Tubing
  • Wear lots of sunblock. The sun will be scorching and can cause extremely serious sunburn during that short period of time when you are tubing. (I’m speaking from experience here – and it really, really hurts!) 
You can imagine how hot it must have been with that cloudless sky.
  • Remember your passport number. The indemnity forms at the tube rental shop will require you to indicate your details including your passport number. 
Grab a life jacket if you need one and you'll be safe - unless this metal bridge falls on you (and I'll say the chances of that happening are really slim)!
  • Be prepared to lose whatever you bring, no matter how careful you may think you are. Your belongings may either fall out of your pockets into the riverbed or be carelessly left at one of those bars you partied too hard at. Non-waterproof cameras may suffer from severe water damage if you are not careful as well, so bring the bare minimum. (Thankfully, I only lost my camera lens cap, but I’m also speaking from experience here.) 
I dropped my lens cap just moments after I hopped into the tube - ugh!
  • Purchase a dry bag if you need to. Dry bags are available and sold by numerous stores all over Vang Vieng, so you may wish to get one to keep your belongings in while tubing down the river. Some online reviews have lamented the ineffectiveness of dry bags, but I guess an extra layer of protection may help prevent your valuables from getting wet. 
It is wet and you don't want a spoilt gadget to destroy the entire experience!
  • Be mentally prepared that your clothes will get wet and may stink. Unless you have every intention to do laundry, I would suggest that you wear clothes which you are alright with not wearing again during your vacation. Your bottoms especially may reek of water and algae for quite some time, so you may want to grab an old set of clothes instead.
No worries, the river isn't smelly or polluted - it's just the algae, I think!
  • Consider sandals instead of flip-flops. People have been known to have gotten their flip-flops washed down the river and have had to resort to walking back into town barefoot. Sandals are certainly more desirable, and sneakers are a huge no-no. 
Now, just sit back and enjoy your once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Now that we have experienced the most signature activity that Vang Vieng has to offer, let’s get ready to explore more of this picturesque little village as we hike to the most picturesque vantage points (including an exclusively secret viewpoint) in the whole of Vang Vieng and enjoy the tranquil, peaceful atmosphere emanating throughout the entire area.

Are you inspired to visit Vang Vieng after reading this post? If so, please feel free to check out the affordable accommodation options in this capital city which have been made available by Agoda in the widget below. You will be able to compare among a wide range of hotels, hostels and apartments to find your ideal accommodation in terms of price, location, comfort and service - to make your vacation a lovely experience!

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Comments

  1. I'm so glad I read this - I was debating whether to do the river tubing when we visit Laos in a few months, based off how dangerous it had got. But I'm SO glad to hear that it is still going strong, and is a little safer. Sounds like you had a real adventure missing the exit!! I breathed a sigh of relief when the kids showed up on their canoe. Looking forward to reading more about Vang Vieng so I can make notes for my trip :)

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    1. Hey Chesca, it's fantastic to hear that you're heading down to Laos this year because it is really a charming travel destination that is oftentimes being neglected by tourists who are visiting the region. I'm sure you'll have a great time travelling around the country as there are not only friendly, amicable locals and rich culture and heritage but also picturesque natural landscapes that will definitely impress all of you.

      Indeed, I actually contemplated as to whether I should participate in tubing because of the numerous reviews that it has become too much of an affair involving booze and drugs. The news reports of the tourist deaths did not really help to mitigate the situation, but after seeing how they have upped their game by making it more safe and also since it is undoubtedly the must-do activity here in Vang Vieng, I decided to do it - and I'm definitely happy that I did. Hope you guys will have as much fun as I did, and please remember to look out for the exit :)

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  2. I have a confession to make, I have never been tubing down a river! Your description of it looks really beautiful and peaceful though. The dark history makes for slightly uncomfortable reading but it's good to hear they have cleaned it up somewhat now.

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    1. Hi Nicola, I've got the same experience here and I didn't even know such an activity even existed until I decided to travel out to Vang Vieng where I realised that tubing was the star activity that every traveller must embark on during a visit to this backpacker haven. It is definitely a great way to just relax and unwind amidst the picturesque natural landscapes of the limestone karsts towering way above you. Those who are looking for a suntanning opportunity will enjoy this as well, killing two birds with one stone essentially.

      Indeed, the dark past of the disastrous effects that the backpackers and tourism as a whole have dealt unto the town is definitely perturbing. One cannot fathom how much the town must have been overrun and overwhelmed by the external influences of these tourists from all over the world, but it is heartening to know that that's a thing of the past. While there is very much the party atmosphere here, the town has been shifting from booze and drugs to opening up their market for outdoor activities and capitalising on the nature they've been blessed with.

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  3. It sounds like you really enjoyed your time tubing down the river. I have a feeling tubing might be a bit too slow an activity for me though, and actually might prefer taking a kayak instead. The photos capture life in Laos very well, reminding me of my own time there.

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    1. Hi Denny, I definitely enjoyed myself tubing down the river even though I got a nasty sunburn that went on to torment me for the next few days (why didn't I think of putting on sunscreen?!) I've got a feeling that kayaking will offer an alternative perspective while exploring the river, as it is probably more exciting being able to row down the Nam Song together with a friend, although they are usually only offered by guided tours.

      Like you, I'm a traveller who prefers a faster pace when exploring foreign cities and towns and oftentimes jam-pack my itineraries with things to do and attractions to see, but I discovered that taking it in a slow and relaxed pace may not be that bad either. At least that's what I got out of tubing - I managed to admire and marvel at the limestone karsts that I probably would've missed if I were rushing about to get to the next attraction. Perhaps, you may wish to consider trying out tubing in addition to kayaking / zip-lining too!

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  4. Veng Vieng tubing is super fun! Great guide and how to find everything.

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    1. Hi Kylee, glad that you found this guide of mine to be useful! Many bloggers actually embark on tubing as an activity together with guided tours that bundle tubing together with other activities including kayaking and zip-lining as well as other attractions like the Blue Lagoon and other caves. However, very little information is available on how to do this on your own DIY tour, so I hope that sharing these tips will be able to help other travellers (who shy away from guided tours) to be able to know how to go about doing it.

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  5. The view of that river is absolutely beautiful! Only one thing comes up to our mind by seeing it: grab your kayak and drift all the way :D
    Thanks for sharing,
    xx

    Patricia & Miguel
    www.freeoversea.com

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    1. Hey Patricia and Miguel, Vang Vieng is definitely one of the most beautiful places that I have ever been to, with the spectacular mountainous landscapes of limestone karsts towering over the town as well as the peaceful waters slowly moving along the Nam Song River. The entire atmosphere was so tranquil that it almost felt like we were in a paradise of our own, as the river was just unbelievably gorgeous and calm.

      You most definitely can grab the opportunity to kayak down this peaceful river. Since there're two of you travelling together, you can even take turns to paddle while the other one of you can get awesome shots of the river and the mountains concurrently. Don't forget to splash the other kayakers and tubers with water using your oars and make friends along the way - everyone is very friendly and approachable on the Nam Song River, so don't feel shy to interact with the locals who will be going about their daily duties but will spare the time to say hello and welcome you to their town.

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  6. This is a really useful post, glad you got saved in the end, but does highlight the dangers! Have pinned this for future reference.

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    1. Hi Carole, glad that you found this guide of mine to be useful! Many bloggers actually embark on tubing as an activity together with guided tours that bundle tubing together with other activities including kayaking and zip-lining as well as other attractions like the Blue Lagoon and other caves. However, very little information is available on how to do this on your own DIY tour, so I hope that sharing these tips will be able to help other travellers (who shy away from guided tours) to be able to know how to go about doing it.

      Even though it was not much of a dangerous encounter per se (more coming up in a subsequent post of mine, albeit in the same town of Vang Vieng), it definitely highlighted certain shortcomings of the tubing experience being that it is not very well demarcated and there is insufficient signage. When we were dropped off at the starting point, we were quite lost as to how to go about tubing, but I guess tubers will face much less issue heading down the river in the afternoon when there are tonnes of backpackers in their tubes - just watch and learn from the pros!

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  7. Beautiful pictures! Van Vieng looks gorgeous, so serene and peaceful. I'd love to visit here some day!

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    1. Hey there, Vang Vieng is definitely one of the most beautiful places that I have ever been to, with the spectacular mountainous landscapes of limestone karsts towering over the town as well as the peaceful waters slowly moving along the Nam Song River. The entire atmosphere was so tranquil that it almost felt like we were in a paradise of our own, as the river was just unbelievably gorgeous and calm.

      You should definitely consider visiting this little town which has something for everyone. For the party animals, the town is overwhelmed with a backpacker vibe with happy hours at the bars in the town centre and bar-hopping while tubing. Nature lovers will be thrilled to embark on hiking trails to spectacular vantage points and even consider staying at an accommodation on the opposite riverbank set in the middle of the mountains to which you can wake up every morning to see the towering limestone karsts. How cool is that?

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  8. I heard about the bad reputation of tubing and I know it had got better, but I didn't know so many people died. I am glad they have cleared it up a lot more and its very sensible

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    1. Hi Amber, it is so ironic that tubing gained international attention when it first started to attract hordes of backpackers and yet the same activity also gained global notoriety for being unregulated and having negative connotations with drugs and booze. It took so many tourist deaths and much pressure from the international community for the authorities to implement this restriction and control over the local town to transform its image.

      Nevertheless, it is heartening to know that that's a thing of the past. While there is very much the party atmosphere here with happy hours at the various bars in the town centre, the town has been shifting from booze and drugs to marketing itself as a hub for outdoor activities such as hiking and zip-lining whilst cleverly capitalising on the nature they've been blessed with. Nature lovers even have the option to stay at the opposite riverbank of the Nam Song in the middle of the mountains to enjoy the scenery, so there's something for everyone here.

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  9. I love tubing but I've only been in the US, never Laos. It is sad that people were actually losing their lives tubing. It's good that the government cracked down on it. And it's amazing that tubing has been so important to Vang Vieng. You'd never think something so small could make such a big difference.

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    1. Hey Stella, it is truly intriguing and interesting to know that the activity of tubing managed to put this otherwise unknown little town tucked in the Lao countryside on the global map and attract massive hordes of backpackers and tourists to stay here to include it in their itineraries and embark on a wide plethora of activities. It has definitely made a huge difference in the livelihood of the locals and the way of life in Vang Vieng.

      Indeed, the dark past of the disastrous effects that the backpackers and tourism as a whole have dealt unto the town is definitely perturbing. One cannot fathom how much the town must have been overrun and overwhelmed by the external influences of these tourists from all over the world, but it is heartening to know that that's a thing of the past. While there is very much the party atmosphere here, the town has been shifting from booze and drugs to opening up their market for outdoor activities and capitalising on the nature they've been blessed with.

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  10. Wow! Definitely you had a wonderful tubing experience. At the moment I was feeling to just jump over there. All the pictures are stunning. Those views of majestic limestone mountains are seriously breathtaking. What a wonderful eye delight.

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    1. Hi Supriya, the Vang Vieng countryside is quite a natural spectacle, isn't it? Not only does it have those towering limestone karsts that seem to make the town look so small in comparison to the expanse of the land, it also boasts pristine waters that flow peacefully down the Nam Song River. It is essentially a nature lover's dream come true and offers numerous opportunities to capture the most epic landscape shots for any photography buff.

      My sentiments exactly when I first saw the photos taken by other backpackers and travellers of Vang Vieng on online forums. I was actually scrolling through to figure out which country to visit next until I saw these gorgeous shots of Vang Vieng just beckoning me to visit Laos. There and then, I impulsively set my heart on visiting this country and especially this lovely backpacker haven set in the mountains, and I'm really glad I made this decision where I managed to enjoy a ball of a time in this charming town!

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  11. Oh my, the scenery is beautiful but what an adventure! Thank God everything turned out well in the end!

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    1. Hey Claire, I guess that the adventure made the entire tubing experience much more memorable for me. Even though it was a journey that allowed me to admire the beautiful mountainous landscapes and float down the calm waters of the Nam Song River, it was definitely that moment where I realised that I was stuck on the opposite riverbank that constantly makes me laugh and ponder on what I must be thinking to have steered so far off the course. (And I wasn't even drunk. I wonder how the backpackers who hop from bar to bar cope with this problem of not knowing where the party ends.) Got some serious sunburn, but all else went fine!

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  12. Vang Vieng looks incredibly beautiful with all those limestone rocks and breathtaking views! Tubing in such a place is a heavenly experience. Sad to know about so many tourists losing their lives. Thankfully the government has finally put regulations in place for ethical tourism. This heavenly place is definitely worth adding to my bucket list. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Hey Shaily, Vang Vieng is definitely one of the most beautiful places that I have ever been to, with the spectacular mountainous landscapes of limestone karsts towering over the town as well as the peaceful waters slowly moving along the Nam Song River. The entire atmosphere was so tranquil that it almost felt like we were in a paradise of our own, as the river was just unbelievably gorgeous and calm.

      Indeed, the dark past of the disastrous effects that the backpackers and tourism as a whole have dealt unto the town is definitely perturbing. One cannot fathom how much the town must have been overrun and overwhelmed by the external influences of these tourists from all over the world, but it is heartening to know that that's a thing of the past. While there is very much the party atmosphere here, the town has been shifting from booze and drugs to opening up their market for outdoor activities and capitalising on the nature they've been blessed with. You should definitely give it a shot when you're in the area!

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  13. Absolutely amazing views! The landscape is just amazing! Tubing sounds like a fun experience

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    1. Hey Julie, Vang Vieng is definitely one of the most beautiful places that I have ever been to. The entire atmosphere was so tranquil that it almost felt like we were in a paradise of our own, as the river was just unbelievably gorgeous and calm. What better way to explore the town than embarking on the very activity that made this town famous and floating down the peaceful waters moving slowly along the Nam Song River whilst admiring the spectacular mountainous landscapes of limestone karsts towering over the town? You should definitely try it when you visit Vang Vieng - I'm sure you'll enjoy yourselves tremendously!

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  14. Who would have thought tubing was invented using tyre tubes! I would absolutely love to try this sometime. And I am glad that the government put its act together to prevent further accidents and drunken drowning.

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    1. Hi there, the man who started this entire hype over tubing in the Nam Song River is an absolute genius who managed to think of such an innovative way to entertain the volunteers on his farm. After all, it is his ingenuity that placed his town on the radar of numerous backpackers and tourists, effectively bringing in much business for the local villagers and townspeople. Indeed, Vang Vieng has experienced some tough times being overrun by backpackers who paid absolutely no heed to local cultures and traditions as well as becoming notorious for its drug and alcohol trade.

      Even though it has been quite a long wait and there have been countless incidents of drunken drowning, the international pressure has managed to drive local authorities to regulate the town and it is really nice to see that it being re-branded and beginning to market itself in a different realm - outdoor activities and nature. This effectively opens up a whole new tourist market for the people who love scenic views rather than just partying every day. You should definitely visit this charming little town and while you're do, definitely try tubing (in the morning if you're into the views, or in the afternoon for some socialising)!

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  15. I've heard of bicycle bar hopping tours but not tubing bar hopping hahahaa. So unique although I'd imagine it not being such a fun experience towards the end after a few too many drinks. This looks like the most perfect spot to go tubing though! And thanks for sharing the beautiful local life with us!

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    1. Hey Jas, Vang Vieng is definitely one of the most beautiful places that I have ever been to. The entire atmosphere was so tranquil that it almost felt like we were in a paradise of our own, as the river was just unbelievably gorgeous and calm. What better way to explore the town than embarking on the very activity that made this town famous and floating down the peaceful waters moving slowly along the Nam Song River whilst admiring the spectacular mountainous landscapes of limestone karsts towering over the town?

      Same here - I've never heard of tubing and bar-hopping at the same time. I guess it's one of the remaining relics of Vang Vieng back in its heyday, albeit much more mellowed down and a more family-friendly experience nowadays. It is also probably the hangover from having too many drinks that causes the town to be so quiet early in the morning (everyone must be recuperating from the booze they downed the previous day). I can't fathom how they must be feeling after drinking too much - I got stuck at the ending point of the tubing and I didn't even drink a single beer!

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  16. All your shots are cool. Your experiences are fantastic, great :) Continue this way Nathan

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    1. Thank you for your lovely comment, Daniele. I really enjoyed my tubing experience and am glad to have been able to capture just a few snapshots of the picturesque natural landscapes of the massive limestone karsts and the peaceful waters flowing down the river. You should definitely visit Vang Vieng and experience the whole tubing adventure for yourself - I'm sure you'll enjoy yourself tremendously!

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  17. I absolutely LOVE tubing and I know I'd enjoy tubing along the Nam Song River! The sites and scenes are so gorgeous!

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    1. Hey Aisha, that's great to hear - I'm sure you'll enjoy tubing down the Nam Song River when there's just so much to take in. You'll be able to get sneak peeks into the daily routine of the locals as they tend to their duties along the river or in their residences while admiring the amazing landscapes of the limestone karsts and the waters. The calming effect of the waters just slowly moving along the river, coupled with friendly bunches of kayakers just splashing water on you and locals who are always ready to wave amicably, just make it an epic experience.

      You should definitely visit Vang Vieng and give tubing a shot, as there's something in this experience for everyone. If you're looking into socialising and making friends over a couple of drinks, bars are set along the length of the river with beach games and beer pong. If you just want to indulge in a mountain-admiring and people-watching experience, you'll be good with just floating down the river and enjoying the suntan in the meanwhile.

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  18. It is almost unbelievable how such a beautiful and paradise looking place can be yet so dangerous. 27 dead tourists just in one year. But good to see that this is now history. Anymway, I can already see my self there, jsutn spending days withn canoeing through this incredible landscape. Funny story also, how the kids saved you :)

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    1. Hey Hendrik, it is indeed quite depressing to know about how many catastrophes and disasters occurred along the length of the Nam Song River not very long ago. One can just imagine how crazy this backpacker haven must have been back in its heyday with drug-infused 'happy pizzas' (yes, they contain marijuana) and too much alcohol. Mixed up with too many water slides and swings over shallow waters, backpackers were literally jumping to their deaths from epic heights headfirst onto the riverbed covered with jagged stones and tough rocks.

      It is definitely nice to see that the craze has mellowed down and that Vang Vieng has become more of a peaceful town nowadays. Kayaking is rather popular with tourists as well, especially those who wish to take on a more physically stimulating activity as compared to just sitting in a rubber tyre to float down the river. Another upside to that is that you won't need to be rescued by others - even though it was embarrassing at the moment, it definitely makes for an epic story and an interesting memory of the trip that I won't forget! :)

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  19. A tubing adventure in Vang Vieng looks like a wonderful experience. I can imagine taking in all the views of the landscape, and taking in the beauty of the region. This is something I really would like to do one day. Will remember this for the future!

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    1. Hi Lisa, Vang Vieng is one of the most beautiful places that I have ever visited. When we think of the mountainous landscapes covered with limestone karsts scattered all over the area, we immediately think of hiking up to spectacular vantage points to take in the scenery from above. Nevertheless, tubing does offer an alternative experience and opportunity to see this from the river - and it's not all rushed and fast-paced like with boat tours, but really allows you to unwind, relax and admire the mountains for as long as you wish.

      Despite its dark past and blemished history, tubing has definitely become much more family-friendly and peaceful as compared to what it must have been back in the day with loud, blasting music from the bars and too many backpackers jumping off trees into the waters. You should definitely give it a shot when you are in the area as it really makes for an amazing memory and experience. If you go to Vang Vieng without trying tubing, it's like visiting India and not going to the Taj Mahal!

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  20. I have got to agree with you that Vang Vieng is certainly a nature lover’s paradise. And a perfect place to relax and unwind. It seems to have the perfect backdrop of mountains against such refreshing water body. I wish to visit here some day.

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    1. Hi Neha, Vang Vieng is definitely one of the most beautiful places that I have ever been to, with the spectacular mountainous landscapes of limestone karsts towering over the town as well as the peaceful waters slowly moving along the Nam Song River. The entire atmosphere was so tranquil that it almost felt like we were in a paradise of our own, as the river was just unbelievably gorgeous and calm.

      Normally, where there are amazing scenery and natural landscapes adorning a town, you'll be stuck with a whole bunch of other tourists and travellers jostling to get epic shots of the mountains and the waters. However, when I went tubing in the morning (after breakfast at around 9:30am which isn't that early), I managed to have the entire river to myself and even be able to interact with some locals along the riverbanks. This is definitely a great way to spend a day admiring the views and just unwinding after all the hectic travelling - it's also nice to treat yourself after that long bus ride out to the countryside!

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  21. Can you belive it, when we were there in 2011 we didnt to the tubing because we found it too expensive so we found some a
    big wooden log and float down on it. But it was more just to go to the bars by the river. I am soooo glad to hear that all that drunk stuff are gone because it really got out of hand when we were there.

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  22. Vang Vieng looks like a pleasant location rich in flora and fauna. It's disheartening to know that tourism caused so much of disruption to the life of the villagers. Even terrible is the use of drugs and the missing of the visitors. Good to know that there has been regulatory actions in place and things are getting back to normal. We would definitely love to visit this beautiful place whenever we plan a visit to Laos.

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  23. It's such a shame that tourists invade places with no regards for the locals. I'm not one for drinking on water, which I think is reckless and stupid, so I would probably head off early to have a quiet journey! Though... 3 hours is a bit long if you ask me.
    I must also say that I had a nice chuckle when I read that you were rescued by children, that must have been pretty funny!

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  24. The natural landscapes around Vang-Vieng look so pristine and untouched, the gigantic limestone karsts look really magnificent. I can imagine how it must be like tubing leisurely and experiencing the beautiful views. But what really amazed me was that it was not these beautiful natural landscapes that drew tourists initially but the lure of tubing.

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  25. What a peaceful and serene way to explore parts of Vang Vieng on a tube on the Nam Song River. The mountainous landscape looks incredible and makes for a beautiful backdrop while you're floating on a tube along the Nam Song river. I have heard about all the bars setting shop along the river, and the party scene really gets going...but I think I would much prefer the peaceful floating.

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  26. I've never been tubing. The river looks really peaceful. Passport number does come handy in a lot of places. Over a period of time, I have luckily just managed to remember it. I can imagine this happening to me as well. I tend to get distracted by scenery and eventually get lost. Thanks for the tips.

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