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IMPORTANT INFORMATION: Tubing 'finished' by Laos.

The Laos Goverment shuts down all 'Tubing' in Vang Vieng

overcast -30 °C

(Note to fellow Travellerspoint.com users: please excuse disruption to my blogging order, but this may impact your travels)

As of the last week, the Communist administration of LAO P.D.R have been closing down the popular 'Tubing' town of Vang Vieng. This would explain why my sleeper-bus avoided my stop there and instead took me to the murky capital of Vientiane. Fantastic.

In search of answers, I have been asking around for information. Yesterday I was having a chat with a Kiwi lad I'd met at our guesthouse in Vientiane. He was on the river last week when Communist police and army elements arrived at Vang Vieng. According to him and a few other, separate eye-witnesses I spoke to (all sober and English-speaking), the following details have emerged:

- Rumours began to circulate last week of a new Tubing-related death. This apparently gave the recently bolstered police presence in Vang Vieng a mandate to close down the area.

- Whilst many zipwires and jumping platforms have been closed down in the last year, the final few remaining attractions were shut down last week by the Laotian Tourist Police.

- Police forced all the bars to switch their music off; many raids on 'Happy' restaurants resulted in the arrests of tourists for eating there ($600USD fine or no passport back).

- Following this, the old ex-Soviet helicopters of the Lao P.D.R army were hanging over the Tubing spots of the river screaming through megaphones at the tourists to get out.

- The inner tube rental syndicates were shut down.

- Most of the restaurants and guesthouses were ordered to close.

- Expat staff were told they could no longer live or work in V.Vieng; tourists were heavily encouraged to leave the town ASAP.

For the confused: In the last decade, Vang Vieng has become an infamous backpacker party destination, drawing hundreds of thousands of travelers each year. The 'Tubing' itself involves renting an inner tube and drifting down the Xong (Nam Song) River, stopping at the many riverside bar shacks throughout the day. Bracelets, bodypaint slogans and tequila shots are all offered at these stop-offs, with some boasting 'flying fox'-style zipwires or huge wooden platforms to jump into the rapids below. Many cafés and restaurants offer 'Happy' items on the menu containing opiates, pills or weed.

Heavy investment by developers from China and Korea have led to many (officially denied) reports that the government of Laos is being persuaded (¥¥¥¥) to clamp down on the area's most lucrative side-business. New hotels, such as the Riverside Boutique Resort, are intended to modernise the river for a wealthier type of tourist, usually from China/Korea/Thailand; does this latest move by the police and military signal yet another temporary stop to the backpacker haven, or that tubing is no longer welcome in Laos at all?

As far as fatalities are concerned, this has never moved the Laotian government before. On average, one 'Tuber' dies a month: in 2011, there were over 22 fatalities and many more serious injuries as a result of revelrous activities on the river. The danger of 'Tubing' is well-known, with some suggesting that it adds an extra level to the excitement of the area.

Those most immediately hit by the closure will no doubt be the Laotian businesses themselves. A local co-operative of 1500 families owns and runs the rental of the inner tubes on a quarterly rotation; guesthouses catering to backpackers employ (mostly) local staff.

Lately, it is also industrial activities by Laos' new best mate that have caused widespread alarm in the area. A common story by visitors to the river is the heavy and very distinct smell of sulphur drifting across the banks of the river every day in the late afternoon from the new cement factory the Chinese have built with the government here. If the factory is dumping industrial waste in the river, then surely this is of greater concern to the safety of the local community and eco-system?

In any case, here are some links to keep you informed:

Info Guides

http://wikitravel.org/en/Vang_Vieng
- The standard first port of call.
http://www.tubinglaos.com/
- This is one of the 'official' info sites. Official being used in the loosest of terms, as there are few P.D.R emblems or Hammer/Sickle sigils to be seen (if at all).

Recent News

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/travel/news/article.cfm?c_id=7&objectid=10598855
- This Seems to give the most information. In the article, it suggests that an Irish man was the most recent casualty. The Kiwi who wrote this clearly had his sensibilities ruffled by the hardcore party atmosphere. Lock up your backpacking daughters, New Zealand, lest they go to this terrible place.

http://news.ninemsn.com.au/world/8520588/tubing-bars-in-laos-shut-down-amid-deaths
- A bit general, looks like it most of the news is second-hand, despite claims.

http://www.cnngo.com/explorations/life/24-signs-partys-over-vang-vieng-965782
- scrapbook of earlier articles, with an update on the crackdown.

Earlier hints

http://www.cnngo.com/explorations/life/vang-vieng-backpacker-heaven-or-tourist-hell-994621
- Is a good all-rounder with 'action' shots, and the journalist (Matt Bennett) writes engagingly. I think it covers the different points of opinion well.

The new resort on the river

http://bk.asia-city.com/travel/news/vang-vieng-gets-posher-with-riverside-boutique-resort
- A Thai-Ezine welcoming the development. Then again, it would, being supported by Thailand's hotel operators and department of Tourism. Make of it what you will....

A Chill-out Heaven or Backpacker Babylon?

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/southeast-asia/laos-shaping-disaster-prone-tubing-mecca
- Global post has done several articles on Tubing: this is the latest one to 'piggy-back' off the previous reports. Written earlier on in the crack-down

http://visual.ly/6-destinations-bad-boys-go
- Naughty, but it puts the more unchained side of things into perspective along with other infamous 'bad boy' locations.

Posted by Jamie V 02.09.2012 23:31 Archived in Laos Tagged parties rivers travel river drink china laos party tubing sex drunk communist weed vang vieng drugs communists partying vang_vieng expat expats lao_pdr in_the_tubing laopdr lao_p.d.r. partied xong nam_song

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Comments

I really wish u all had a clue there pulling the wool over your eyes and you dont even know it.

14.09.2012 by stuart davidson

RIP VV.

17.09.2012 by Michael Visser

well a number of factual errors here
the tubing HAS NOT been shut down
most of the guest houses and restaurants are business as usual
however all the bars have been shut down and most have been demolished on the river and the Island.. all the swings zip lines slides etc are stopped the music is stopped now the town sleeps
and there appears to be a hit and miss curfew in place still plenty of places selling unwise amounts of Alcohol but not on the river
there is a purge in place.. checking documents finding fault.. heads must and will roll
The cement factory is downstream from Vang Vieng there are two cement factory's operating a third larger factory is under construction However most of the air pollution comes from the original cement factory number one ..and of course the karsts are being blown up to make cement to build guest houses for the tourist industry which depends on the beauty of the karst!!
The comments about expensive resorts may have some validity .. but to get into the tubing monopoly you needed money to buy a share the very poorest aint in it thats normal capitalism ..
Vang Vieng isnt dead its just going through a quiet period...we trust.

17.09.2012 by joe foley

Thanks Joe, good information! I have just written a quick post to try and keep people updated. Best of luck down there! Now back to the usual blogging.....

18.09.2012 by Jamie V

Yes this article has erroneous information. Everything is open now in V V except the river and island bars and you can still "tube" but not get drunk along the way. So now it's like it was 12 years ago - floating down the river taking in the beautiful scenery. If your only reason for coming to V V is to get drunk and parade around in your swim suit this town no longer wants you. Have a nice day.

18.09.2012 by Captain_Bob

La puta que los re mil pario!! la rompia el tubing amargos!! jajajaja

18.09.2012 by PePo

That's wonderful news for the people of Vang Vieng. The tourists of Vang Vieng were the most despicable and disgusting group of people I've ever seen in one place. No respect for cultural values or recognizing your a guest in another country. Everyone flocks there to just get hammered and act like children. Only place I've ever seen tourists trying to fight the kind hear ted Laotian people. Now maybe people can go here to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the area. This news just puts a smile on my face. Now maybe all the clowns you see across SE Asia with their stupid tubing shirts will disperse and allow the area to develop
some sort o tourism sustainable both with the environment and preserving some culture in the area. I like to party as much as the next person but that place was like vegas. Everyone went to just act like hooligans and I was embarrased to be a westerner when I was there. Good riddance.

19.09.2012 by Will K.

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