I was a little nervous about Activities Day in Vang Vieng, but I needn’t have been. I’m not the most active person, sure I like to walk, but anything that requires actual strength and sporting prowess is really not up my street. But as is the theme of my trip, YOLO and all that, I figured I would join in with the majority and agreed to the 10K kayaking, tubing through a cave and some zip-lining across the Mekong.
I have never kayaked, nor tubed, nor rock climbed (but we’ll get to that reference in a minute), I have zip-lined before in the UK, I went on a Hen Party to Go Ape, and incidentally, Activities Day turned out to be 21st January – which is the Hen’s Birthday. Spooky, right?
When we got to the place where we were due to start kayaking, we had a safety talk from our group leader, and we all paired up. We had been told to make sure there was a more experienced person in the back, so we did a quick bit of jiggling about and got on our way. After all my apologising that I would be a terrible kayak-mate (if that’s even a thing), we made excellent time. We started at the back of the group and arrived almost first. And nobody from our group capsized, which was a major plus! We did witness a cap-sizing, and it was not pretty; a group of Chinese tourists were clearly not listening to their group leader and went careering into each other and some rocks. Honestly, I didn’t think it was even possible to get it so wrong…
The tubing was definitely an interesting encounter, and now that I’ve done it once, I’m not sure I’d really care to repeat the experience. I got on board with the concept of “lazy river”-ing through the cave, but I think by giant rubber ring was maybe a little too big for me. I think I needed a child-sized tube! What with trying to stay on top of the tube and dragging yourself along in the dark (we had head torches on) I wasn’t really feeling too comfortable. In hindsight, there actually wasn’t that much tubing, and it wasn’t that taxing when you compare it with what came next. We had to navigate out of the cave that we were in; the floor was slippery with a clay-like consistency – not ideal if you were barefoot, possibly worse if you had flip flops on. The rocks ranged from being a smooth and muddy mess to having some serious texture and a few jagged points.
Half way through the cave, there was a bit of a hold up, and we heard panicked voices from the front of the group. We’d just managed to climb some steps, with a nice secure bamboo railing that didn’t wobble in the slightest (!), and it was still pretty dark. Turns out, there was a tiny little gap that you have to get through, kind of head-first, and we had a couple of people who were feeling a little claustrophobic and that they might get stuck. With some encouragement from both sides, and the promise that much larger humans have passed through without a scratch, we managed it, with 180.5cm worth of German lankiness bringing up the rear and we were treated to a burst of sunlight through the rocks above. Only a short climb to go, and that bit was at least an easy stretch of rocks. We decided that the tubing experience should be renamed to something like “5 minutes of tubing followed by 25 minutes of evading treacherous death in the dark”, but obviously we were just being melodramatic and it really was quite entertaining with the lovely bunch of people that we were, all willing to help each other along.
After lunch, which was BBQ’d chicken and vegetables with a hearty smothering of ketchup with a side of veggie fried rice served to us in a cute banana leaf parcel followed by fresh fruit, it was time for zip-lining. Oh jeez, we had the responsibility to brake on certain lines, except they didn’t let us know until a little too late. I went colliding into this tiny little Laotian man, and it’s a very good thing that I’m not a huge person myself or I could have done him some serious damage! But I still maintain that it was the fault of the guy who sent us off on that particular line. He didn’t warn us there would be some DIY along
the way! Naturally, Mr I-Will-Capture-All-Embarrassing-Moments-On-A-GoPro managed to catch almost everyone grappling for the brake whilst being yelled at from all who had already completed that line. We kayaked back, obviously not upstream, but we found ourselves at the back entrance of the hotel, which was handy, laughing about all the monkeying around and looking forward to a shower and the chance to wash our hair! Plus, a chance to download of all the GoPro footage…
Dinner was an incredible affair that night too, with half the group opting for Lao-Austrian and the other half going for Mexican. Even thought they were both rather tempting, I went for the latter because the cheese cravings won out in the end! And when we got there and saw there were special spiced margaritas on offer and rum balls for dessert on the menu, I knew I’d made the right decision. The food was really good, but it took a really long time for us to be served, and one of our group suffers from hypoglycaemia, so low blood sugar didn’t just make her mildly irritable and “hangry” like most of us, it was a serious medical problem. This was something that I hadn’t really thought about too much myself, but we did go extraordinary lengths of time without the opportunity to eat, and Asia is a bit rubbish for snacks that you can keep in your bag. You can’t find cereal bars and chocolate would melt within 15 minutes. You can’t keep an apple or a banana with you because it would just ripen and attract ants.
Later on, some people decided to head back to the Irish Bar we’d discovered the night before, and some decided to call it a night. My roommate had been feeling a little dodgy for a few days now, and she was managing to eat, but not managing to keep any of it down. We added it to the list of ailments we’d collectively experienced so far, chalked it up to a dodgy tummy and didn’t think too much of it, chatting about the day on the short walk back to our beds. We came to the conclusion that although it really was a great day, fantastic mix of action, food and drink and chill-out time, this was a day that you could experience on any holiday, anywhere in the world. It didn’t feel particularly Laotian, but I guess we were treated to the Asian prices, so we did win out there.