In Vang Vieng? Try Tubing the Nam Song River!
A highlight for backpackers while passing through Vang Vieng is the chance to tube down the meandering Nam Song River. If you’re hesitant to try it, here are a few good reasons why you should go for it and give tubing the Nam Song a try:
1) Tubes are readily available for tourists to hire.
There’sno problem finding a tube for going down the river. Since so many travelers are interested in trying out tubing down the Nam Song river, locals are ready and waiting to connect them with this popular activity. For about $4 you can find a tube and a tuk tuk ride to the launch point on the river from the tubing office in central Vang Vieng
2) Tubing down the Nam Song River is like a floating party
With local beer available for about $1 from enterprising locals eager to make sure you’re having a good time, tubing down the Nam Song River is likely to turn into somewhat of a party scene right there on the water. Whether or not you partake in the drinking is entirely a personal choice, but there are safety considerations to be made. The current can get strong and fast during the rainy season, which can lead to problems whose response time and judgment is impaired.
Keep in mind that, even if you want a more serene substance-free ride down the river, chances are good that you will cross paths with rowdy backpackers tubing down the Nam Song for the party atmosphere more than for the scenery. If you’d rather avoid the revelers, try leaving a little earlier – around 9-10am would be perfect.
Also, the trip isn’t very long without all the stops at the makeshift bars that have been set up alongside the banks. Without stopping, it takes about an hour from start to finishduring a couple of months in the rainy season when the river is really fast. For most of the year it will take 2-3 hours without stopping.
To prolong tubing down the Nam Song river into an activity that will fill the whole afternoon, the idea is to stop and drink. Locals will reach out to you with bamboo poles, offering a parking service of sorts for your stop at their drinking dock.
Be sure to wear sunscreen and hats when out in the sun for long hours of the day.
3) Swings and jumps!
Apart from the makeshift bars that line shores as you tube down the Nam Song river, another perk is the variety of river swings and jumps to be found all along the way. Docks are a good place to start for making a splash entrance into the river. For the fearless who want to take the plunge from greater heights, there are a number of swings just waiting to be tried.
Tubing down the Nam Song has been built up to accommodate young travelers with their ideas of fun and fancy. It is almost like a big-kids playground on a sunny day. While it can be a fantastically fun and totally memorable experience, make sure your expectations are in the right place. The swings and bars along the river have very little to do with local culture. Tubing down the Nam Song river has very much become a tourism production, so don't expect an encounter with off-the-path local life on your way down.
Accidents do happen. Medical care in Vang Vieng is not to international standards and this should be kept in mind when participating in any activities. Life jackets are available and are highly recommended.
Jumping off 20-30 foot (7-10m) platforms or rope swings into a moving river can have disasterous consequences at the best of times. The Nam Song River is not traditionally very deep - the bars have dug out sections of the river underneath the jumps to make it deep enough - however if you jump into areas that have not been deepened, or come off the rope swings in areas not expected, accidents can happen.
This video was made as a safety video by a tuber following their friend's accident. It is recommended that everyone going tubing watches this first. Be advised this video contains graphic images.