Grandma Goes River Tubing in Vang Vieng Laos! (with video)

As we made our way through Laos, we followed the typical backpacker tourist path, but not necessarily the backpacker style.  We started our adventure with the two day slow boat on the Mekong, but we kicked it up a notch and didn’t take the standard public boat. We arrived in Luang Prabang, Laos and this 3 generation traveling family found our travel groove.  The colors and sights were wonderful and we fell in love with this town.  Next up was Vang Vieng!

3_generations_tubing_Vang_Vieng

I wasn’t too sure about this destination, as it was known as a backpacker party town.  As it turned out, we loved it so much we stayed for 10 out of our 23 nights of accommodation in Laos. So why did we stay so long?  We loved the surroundings, the nature and yes the tubing!

Bar hopping in Vang Vieng

I am sure you have all heard of a pub crawl or bar hop, where you go from bar to bar and have a drink or two at each along the way.  Well in Vang Vieng, that was the thing to do, but your transport was tubing along the river.  Back in the day, the bars were hopping and the tourists would swing from ropes, jump from trees and enjoy drinks and activities along the way.  Of course if you mix all of this together, bad things are bound to happen and they did.

In 2012, the town cleaned up their act as the locals didn’t even want to go into the river because of so many injuries and deaths.  Many of the rope swings and “toys” are long gone and just a few bars remain open.  As a family of 5 with 3 generations, we thought tubing would be fun, but we just weren’t sure if the partying had really stopped.  Oh don’t get me wrong, we love a good party, but not overboard while floating on a river.

We decided to give it a go and yes, Gma Bev was up for it too!  She can’t be out in the sun all day, so we made sure she was covered head to toe.  She was wearing her water shoes, long flowing pants, a light weight long-sleeved shirt, sunglasses, sun screen and a pink floppy hat.  Of course all of this was accented with her umbrella, for the extra shade.

Just wait to see how adorable she looked on the river!  Yes, adorable with umbrella for shade and all!  I just loved it and it was very easy for us to spot her along the way.

Tubing in Vang Vieng with kids and Grandma

Tubing Taxi

We started off by venturing next door to one of the towns two tubing stations, about 11am.  We paid our 55,000 Kip each ($7.50), along with the deposit and we waited in the tuk tuk for a full load.  The tubes were secured up top and off we went on our 7 km drive up the river.  In no time we were at the drop point in the river and it was time to hop in our tubes and float away.

walking from tuk tuk to river

We visited in late November and this time of year the trips takes from 2-2 1/2 hours without stopping.  Not to worry, there are plenty of places to stop and have a bit of fun.  In fact, it is all self-paced, so you plan your day.  Just remember to have those tubes back before 6pm for your full deposit to be returned.

Getting into our tubes

Getting into the tubes and trying to keep all 5 of us together was quite the comedic process.  It was good fun and once we had Gma Bev situated, it was time to wrangle the kids in.  Alan and I hopped in ours and away the 5 of us floated.  We quickly realized we were not all going at the same speed.  Depending on where each of us was floating, we would catch different currents.  We were all good swimmers, so we decided to just let the river take us where it wanted.

Lars getting stuck in an eddy

Lars drifted a little closer to the left bank and several times was at a dead stop.  It was great watching him try to catch up to us and learn his tubing groove.  He didn’t think it was the greatest that his entire family kept floating by and didn’t wait for him.  Not much we could do, other than try to paddle ourselves against the current.  He had to just figure it out and stay relaxed.

Gma Bev tubing in Laos

Gma Bev tubing in Laos

Just at that moment, we noticed music booming from the 1st bar and 3 men along side the river with a water filled plastic bottle tied to a long string.  We just passed on by and waved at them.  Of course we were curious about the men and their plastic bottles.  It was fun trying to figure it out and then Ding!  We figured it out!  This is how they “fish” the tubers into the bar.  Brilliant!

I had done a little research and read that the 2nd bar on the trip sold pear cider.  We soon approached the second bar and were fished in by the locals by plastic bottle and rope.  Well, it was just as much fun trying to get out of the tube as it was to get in.  The kids managed to get out, but forgot to hold on to the tube and one went floating by, along with a bottle of water that was dropped.  I dove over to retrieve them both and all was well with the Wagoners.

Selfie at bar 2 tubing Vang Vieng

We stacked our tubes on the river banks and climbed up the muddy path to the bar.  They had pear cider!  Alan and I are big fans of cider and haven’t been able to enjoy pear cider for years.  Of course we had to have some.  Gma Bev enjoyed the music and sights, while the kids partook in many of the activities.  They had ping-pong, beer pong (kids didn’t do this), darts, jousting and so much more.  It was a party waiting to happen.  We of course wanted to be “responsible” parents, so one drink and a little play time and it was back to tubing.

We all figured it out how to get back in the tube and were far less concerned with departing together.  Once we were in the tube, we were off.  For some reason Gma Bev was about 100 feet ahead of us, but not to worry, we could spot her umbrella from afar.  It was so quiet and peaceful we could still speak with her too.  At one point we were in a slow-moving section of the river and were so relaxed and we were all near each other again.

Limestone Mountains Vang Vieng

Oh the scenery was to die for!

River Tubing Vang Vieng

We were gently floating along the river and it was just that magical moment.  Here we are 3 generations and having fun tubing in Laos!

How many people can say that?

Surrounded by incredible creations from mother nature, with mountains of limestone protruding from the earth covered with jungle.  Occasionally, we would pass by the odd goat, water buffalo or cow, but basically, the river was ours.  There were also times when other tubers or kayakers would venture past and they would have a bit of fun with us.  Other than that we had the river and surrounding nature all to ourselves.

Kayak Splashing Anya

Time for a little Tubing Panic!

As with any river, there are sections that move at a snail’s pace and of course you also have little bits with rapids.  Not to worry, nothing our tubes couldn’t handle.  As this was the dry season, the river was quite low in places.  We could hear the rapids long before we entered them.  The first set of rapids were quite fun and our group of 5 again split off in all directions.  Gma Bev seemed to find the fast lane, while the kids were lagging behind.  Alan and I were near the kids and then quickly took off in a current.  We noticed Lars passed Anya and then realized Anya was beached on a rock!

She was in a bit of a panic, while the rest of us rapidly floated on.  We instructed her to gently nudge forward.  She gave it a try, panicked a little more and then eventually broke free of the rock. She too was whisking along and caught up with the rest of us. A little shaken, she requested to remain “attached” to someone else for the rest of the rapids.  We were in full agreement.

We thoroughly enjoyed our tubing afternoon.  We even avoided the “get out end of tubing” scam.

The Scam
At the final bar before arriving in town, you will see a hand written sign that reads “End Tubing”.  You will then be called over via megaphone, by a local wearing a vest which reads “tubing staff”.  He will be very adamant that you will float on to Thailand if you don’t get out now!  What they are really doing is getting you to stop at the last bar and then take a very long walk back to town or hire a local tuk tuk.  Don’t fall for it!  Just keep on going and you will get out to the left of the bridge, just across from “The Other Side Bungalows”.

We continued past all of this commotion and hopped out by the bridge.

All done tubing in Vang Vieng

This day received a thumbs up from all 3 generations and was high on the list for a repeat.  We never did do a repeat, but we should have.  What a great day, enjoy another video created by our 12 year-old Lars!

Video of Tubing in Vang Vieng Laos, with kids and Grandma too!  

Have you been tubing in Vang Vieng?  Tell us about it.

Read more about our
Adventure333 (3 Generations, 3 Months, 3 Countries) 
Laos, Vietnam & Cambodia

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About Heidi

Heidi has a passion for travel and has been exploring the world with her husband and 2 kids, since August 2012. She's visited more than 50 countries and loves to write about their family adventures, mishaps and costs. She has been an inspiration to others wanting to live their dreams. Her travel tips, planning posts, cost breakdowns, accommodation, and product reviews are also very popular. Her current home base is in Spain.

19 thoughts on “Grandma Goes River Tubing in Vang Vieng Laos! (with video)

  1. I thought they had banned this! Glad to see it is still going. We did it in 2008. OMG SO MUCH FUN!!!!!!! I can see why it was dangerous though. We were some of the few people to make it to the end (most people stayed in the bars along the way and ended up not taking the river back), and it was so hard to get out and I was there in the dry season. Even in knee high water the current was so strong and I was so drunk that it was a massive struggle to get out!

    Hopefully the town has improved. I found it creepy. Cafes everywhere filled with stoned backpackers watching Friends. It was like I had entered an unsettling alternate universe.
    Sharon recently posted…Your BEST travel souvenirsMy Profile

  2. Must have been fun having the whole family (3 generations even!) doing the same activity in a far-away country, like Laos!

    And oh gosh, a swinging and jumping pub crawl – a total recipe for disaster – never knew something like this used to exist! Thanks for the tidbit of information 🙂
    Yidian recently posted…3 Close Shaves while TravellingMy Profile

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