Laos Series No. 3: My Literal “Go with the Flow” time

As a person who enjoys partying but doesn’t think it is the most important element in life, I will throw in a mini disclaimer here:

I chose to visit Vang Vieng because of its breathtaking scenery first and discovered the whole tubing thing later.

Why am I writing this? To assure you that I would have gone to Vang Vieng even if there was no tubing offered there. And, also, because I’ve gotten tired of “Oh yeah, tubing!” comments when I start sharing my Laos story with fellow travellers. However, I did go tubing and it was indeed a great fun.

It would be too easy to start convincing people that it is nicely relaxing to have some drinks on a riverbank surrounded by the most beautiful scenery that I have ever seen. What’s a bit more interesting is to describe to you an unexpected combination that any partier – as soon as he or she looked up a bit – could notice there: you have this serene landscape that any artist could be successfully getting some inspiration from, and yet when you zoom out (my “camera eye” is on now) you see a mass of people partying to a loud – and sometimes surprisingly good! – electronica.

Yes, for some time I was one of those people. But, as I say, hey – even partying has its intellectual dimension; it only depends on who you’re with. Also, I never really claimed my blog will be a series of eye-opening posts. Hmmm unless that eye is a “camera eye”, I guess.

I’ll skip almost everything in my story (a nice way to get people interested in my post, I know…) and tell you about three specific minutes of my tubing time upon which my whole experience depended.

Before I do that, I will briefly describe what tubing is because I realised it just now that I haven’t yet. So, basically, you’re in a huge tyre floating from one bar to another. People working in bars throw you ropes,  you catch them, somehow row towards the shore, leave your tube to rest, and go have drinks. The same happens after you decide to go to another place.

Sounds easy. Simple. Basic.

Not for me it was.

I was in the second pub already with three other girls (I mean, there were more people than just four of us; four us agreed to stick together) when we decided to skip the third place and go straight to the last bar where more people were heading to already.

“OK, so we’re not going to the third one, we go directly to the last one” I repeated to make sure that was indeed the plan.

Oh, how easily was that plan ruined!

We were in the water, not even resisting the current as there was no point in trying to steer since the last bar was a bit further away. As we were passing the third place – which, once again, we had agreed not to go to – the people working there started throwing us ropes, as they simply couldn’t read our – determined, strictly determined! – minds.  Out of four of us, I happened to be on the side of the river furthest from the bar but it didn’t matter anyways as going there wasn’t our plan. Nevertheless, my three friends, probably impressed by the accuracy with which the ropethrowers (it will become an official word soon) worked, caught the ropes and immediately changed their minds.

“We’re going!” I heard them shout and so I looked up right away waiting for my rope to be thrown just as accurately. I could see that rope flying towards me, coming very close to me, and…remaining around 50 centimetres away from my reach.

“Steer, row, c’mon!” my friends shouted for no reason. Why for no reason?

“Definitely, me in a tube, trying to row with my feet is a fair match to a mountain river” I thought while waving to my friends.

“See you at the last bar!” I shouted, turned towards that bar and…got scared.

That’s it. If I miss that place, tubing will be over right then.  I will be peacefully floating towards the place where some people from the tubing service help you get out of the river, and then go home. Surely, I would be enjoying amazing scenery, have time to reflect more on my whole trip, and simply relax. But maaan, that wasn’t what I wanted at the time! I’m reflecting on everything right now; at that time I just wanted to reach that bar safely and continue my “look at me, drinking by a river” time.

I focused my attention to that last pub and started steering. How ridiculous that must have looked I don’t even want to imagine, especially how focused my face seemed in a place as chill as Vang Vieng. I was already seeing myself floating alone in the river, meeting up with my friends in the evening back at our hostel, and asking them about how the rest of their evening was. Asking, and pretending I’m not jealous of their answers and not mad because of that broken “we’re going straight to the last bar” promise.

Thus, nothing and nobody else could have made me happier than simply catching that damn rope!

And, fortunately, I did. Thanks to my intense steering and the skills of the ropethrower who I stopped myself from hugging and thanking for some minutes.

I walked up to the bar, looked around, saw no-one I knew, so I just came up to a couple of guys, and said:

“Hi, it seems I have just lost my friends. Can I join you?”

To join them was as simple, easy, and basic as tubing was supposed to be.

My friends rejoined me and my newly discovered tubing buddies half an hour later, we had a good laugh at my forced separation, and celebrated our reunion with more drinks.

So it is not only impossible to travel alone. It is impossible to go tubing alone, too.

 

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