In Vang Vieng, a tiny town halfway between Luang Prabang and Vientiane, a crowd of backpackers a few years ago discovered a mountain-bound oasis from the heat and disorder of traveling in Laos. A small river flows among hills composed of limestone karst, and enterprising locals have gathered a stock of tractor tires to rent out to tired travelers with which they can float effortlessly through the mystical landscape. In a stroke of commercial genius, they’ve also constructed bamboo platforms like something out of the Swiss Family Robinson, spaced nicely along the banks, at which “tubers” are greeted with complimentary shots of Lao Lao homemade rice whiskey and chilled Beer Lao for $1 a bottle. Sputtering sound systems blast Bob Marley and the like (and this was the first context in which it’s felt appropriate and less than grating that I’ve encountered since at least sometime in high school), and the hideaways also feature various kinds of jerry-rigged swings and zip lines. Braver people than I took turns jumping into the river using these apparati, but I was, unsurprisingly, content to drink and watch my temporary traveling companion, an enthusiastic law student from Slovenia, abandon caution and leap into the water.
You can see him in action by clicking play below.