Not only is Hanoi good for shopping, but it also has a lot of good bars and restaurants to offer. People with straw hats carrying fresh fruits is a common sight, and the main roads are full of motorcycles with three to five passengers on them. We were also recommended a hostel that we found very pleasing called Mary V Hostel (not to be confused with Mary V hotel, which is just across the street). Here we were offered great rooms with excellent value. They also ran a travel agency on the ground floor, with a lot of interesting trips, that we would have to do next time we visit Vietnam.
In between Vientiane and Luang Prabang, we stopped in a small city in the middle of the Lao mountains called Vang Vieng. The city has grown bigger because of one thing you can do there: “tubing”. The city has totally given in to the backpackers coming by, and when you walk down the street, you will find dozens of places selling fake Ray Bans, restaurants with pizzas and pancakes playing simpsons or friends all day long.
Tubing in Vang Vieng is supposed to be one of the greatest parties on the planet and a mandatory stop on the South- East Asia backpacker trail. We got there in the peak season, when the rivers had almost dried out. This was not a bumper in the fun we were about to have. We arrived at the lake, carrying nothing but a inflated tractor tube and a waterproof pouch for camera and money. The music was loud, and the bars on the lake were crowded with people dancing, running down water slides and zip lines, jumping on water trampolines or just straight into the water taking flips and tricks for pictures that would serve as memories since their brains seemed more or less shut off.
For those of you who do not know what “tubing” is, I can explain it very simple. “Tubing” is an activity which involves riding an inflated tractor tube down a rived full of bars. At every bar there is a man throwing a line with a bottle at the end, trying to drag you in by tempting you with free shots and meals and so on. There are too many to visit in one day, as a lot of the time is being spent just relaxing in the tube, with beutiful Lao scenery in the background. We drifted down the river for about two hours (not including our visits to the bars) and were told that we had only reached halfway through the river. Even though you are not interested in getting drunk, it is a fun activity to do. It is a playground for adults, and the whole vibe around it makes it a fun place to be. Even just drifting down the river in the tube through the Lao nature is a unique experience and is worth the few bucks it costs to rent the tube.