Absinthe and Rapids

Vang Vieng, Laos is a lovely place surrounded by stunning rock formations. But that’s not why people come here.

Basically, the only reason tourists come here is to get shitfaced and go tubing down a river. In its heyday, there were 30 bars dotting the banks of the river. Alcohol and a fast current do not make for a safe mix and roughly 1 tourist a month was dying. It was closed down for about a year and recently reopened with only 2 bars and a few more safety regulations (you’re required to wear a life vest).

It had been raining for about a week prior to my arrival in Vang Vieng so the tubing place was closed. I think that perhaps this is a sign. Maybe drunk tubing and I aren’t meant to be. Each morning, I would check to see if it was open but to no avail.

I had given up hope and was laying in my bed one morning when a friend of mine came in and told me that tubing was on. Signs be damned, I was going tubing.

I hauled ass over to the place and get in line to rent a tube and a life vest. When I’m handed the tube, they put a weird marking on my hand followed by a number. I assume this is so they can identify my body.

Arrive at the first bar where there are about 50 people drinking. Meet this hilarious Irish guy with a thick accent. After each drink his accent becomes slightly more indecipherable. Our interaction deteriorates into him mumbling something, me nodding and laughing, and then buying another round.

He's the fella in the neon green tank

He’s the fella in the neon green tank

We discover that they serve absinthe at the bar and decide to give that a go. For those who don’t know, absinthe is brewed with wormwood, which is supposed to give it a hallucinogenic quality. I have a few shots and observe no difference.

Look to my left and see two eerily similar looking girls. Is this crap making me see double? Walk over and talk to potential mirages.

Turns out they’re real enough, although they sound like something from a dream. They’re Dutch sisters and they’ve Robin van Pierced my heart. Australians are dead to me.

I talk to them, but the language barrier proves tough to overcome. Sarcasm doesn’t translate and my Holland hopes slip away. Whatever. Orange is a stupid color anyway.

Although you would think that absinthe and dangerously high water levels should combine for some interesting stories, not too much more funny stuff happened with tubing. We went down the river without a hitch, played mud soccer at the next bar, and returned home safely.

Singing our respective national anthems before the soccer game

Singing our respective national anthems before the soccer game

Actually, one of our friends missed the stick that you grab onto at the end and was swept downriver a ways. That was hilarious for me. Not so much him.

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About the author

Hi my name is Nick Holke

I'm 24 years old and I'm from California. Currently, I'm teaching English in Madrid.

If you wanna know a bit more about me and the website, click here.

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