The dangerous pursuit of cave tubing in Vang Vieng

Tubing in Vang Vieng is still available, the style that Vang Vieng is best known for, the activity that quickly put the small town on the map for backpackers with the invitation of drugs, cheap booze and all night parties is no longer.Cave tubing in Vang Vieng is still available, though the style of tubing that Vang Vieng has it’s reputation for, the activity that quickly put the small town on the map for backpackers with the invitation of drugs, cheap booze and all night parties is no longer.

Since the government put a stop to tubing down the river visiting bars for cheap 80 proof Whisky back in 2012, the disappointment felt by the locals has had to be transformed into a new Vang Vieng, with adventure more the mainstay available today. Vang Vieng is a shadow of it’s former self still, but there is so much beauty to explore that visiting here should still be on your list.

With the ability to rent a mountain bike and explore the limestone caves, estuary’s, zip lining, kayaking or tubing down the still flowing Nam Song river, there is plenty to do and see to keep your spirits naturally high.

When I arrived in Vang Vieng after my Visa Run to Vientiane,  there was one main activity that I said to myself I had to do. With my interest in exploring caves, the pursuit of exploring a cave with water flowing through them was too inviting to pass up.

Tubing in Vang Vieng is still available, the style that Vang Vieng is best known for, the activity that quickly put the small town on the map for backpackers with the invitation of drugs, cheap booze and all night parties is no longer.After speaking to the front desk at the hotel I was staying, I had directions to make my way out to the Nam Song river, close by the Elephant cave to tackle this potentially dangerous proposition.


Upon arrival, you see the small opening for the cave, with water sodden rope disappearing inside. The river bank is littered with black inner tubes, baking in the hot sun, and a local man is eager to rent you a cheap head lamp and encourage you towards the waters edge.

A bus had arrived with Korean tourists, who for obvious reasons also received life vests, though the need for them is beyond my comprehension as I discovered shortly.

I had previously purchased a small water proof duffle bag, so I put my phone, wallet and dry shorts into it, strapped the GoPro to my wrist and picked up my inner tube and made for the water.

Now to say it was cold is an understatement, but that instant freeze was soon gone as you make your way towards the cave opening. All you start to think about is manoeuvring your tube so you can grab hold of the rope, and try and float your way inside into the darkness without hitting your head on the rocks.

Tubing in Vang Vieng is still available, the style that Vang Vieng is best known for, the activity that quickly put the small town on the map for backpackers with the invitation of drugs, cheap booze and all night parties is no longer.Inside the echoes emanate from other eager people in the cave as you float deeper and deeper into the darkness. This is not an experience for someone with claustrophobia, the rock ceiling it merely inches from your head in sections, and the chilling water appears to be deep and black.

After pulling myself on the rope for what seemed like an eternity, you reach an area when you can jump out of your tube and explore the cave further. I hoped into the water from the safety of my tube thinking I would swim over, only to discover that the whole tubing experience was in water that was only chest deep.

The splendor inside the cave was everything I had hoped for, and taking your time to explore can give you some uninterrupted time inside as the tour groups tend to just enter then exit promptly.

Is the whole prospect of wobbling on an inner tube into a dark cave in freezing water safe? Well it is by far safer than other risky ventures that are available along the banks of the Nam Song river in Laos. Given the fact the caves are full of people, not overly deep and if you follow the rope you end up at the exit, what could possibly go wrong?

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