Nay, we could not resist the “tubing ritual”, but resourcefully made it part of a day trip that also took us to various caves, and needless to say an ethnic village, which always seems to be part of an itinerary. Of the four caves we visited, Tham Nam, the Water Cave, was the best fun. This cave filled with water reaches far into the mountain and its accessibility depends very much on the water level.
The fascinating part is how you explore it. At the entrance, which was hardly noticeable due to the water level being so high, you climb into a rubber tube and pull yourself into the cave on a rope. We literally had to duck at the entrance and lay flat on our tubes to get in without banging our heads. Soon, there was more leeway for our heads and we worked our way deeper into the cave for another 100 meters, with the current getting stronger and stronger. Our guide told us that due to the high water, we could not intrude deeper into the cave, which during the dry season is possible. So holding on to our rope, we leisurely drifted back to the entrance.
Before we entered the Water Cave, we were equipped with ancient looking headlamps. They were attached to a giant battery that dangled from a shoulder strap. This tool worried Heidi all the way through the cave: all these wires, cables, batteries and us in the water! She kept imagining a mass electrocution, but we all stepped out of the water unharmed…
The other three caves were far less adventurous, two caves had Buddha statues at their entrance and one was just a big cave, but awfully difficult to access since the terrain was extremely slippery. Unless somebody likes crawling through slippery mud in order to see a big cave, we would suggest to simply skip it!
After a delicious lunch in a Hmong village, we were taken to the tubing station. By then it was raining and the temperature dropped considerably. We felt little enthusiasm to climb into a tube and get even wetter and feel even colder. But knowing it was our only chance, we held our breath and just did it. It was great fun with and without the rain, which stopped soon. We even arrived in Vang Vieng in bright sunshine.
To float past this breathtaking scenery is an unforgettable experience. Unfortunately, there are only few stretches where you do not hear the blasting music from the numerous bars along the river. Obviously tubing and drinking in between got boring, so a new attraction was introduced: swings like in a circus. After climbing a wooden tower-like-construction, you swing down across the river holding on to a trapeze. Eventually after a few swings back and forth you let go and plunge into the river. The way some people move on these things clearly indicates they must have practiced a lot!
Strolling around the city center, we watched the” tubers” returning from their run and we assumed from the loud and overconfident talking that many must have stopped at more that one bar along the route. Even though tubers should return at the latest by 06.00 pm, many kept arriving late into the evening, in a rather animated state.