Vang Vieng

I slide into the river, pushing off the stone-wall behind me because the rock bottom is jagged and I can see it’s not far away.  I’m trying to hold my beer above water and my shoes are strapped around my wrists so I wont lose them.  I look back to see if anyone else is moving on to bar two.  Above me Bobby the Brit is swinging 25 feet over the water and on the third swing he drops in.  The crowd sitting at bar one applauds his dismount and two guys from Q bar with scorecards give him an “8” and a “show off”.  I spin back around and as I’m floating I try to keep my entire body as close to the surface as possible so I’m not just another asshole with bandages all over me in town tonight.  I’ve passed the halfway point. Now Eric from bar three, Mojito Bar, is throwing an empty plastic bottle at my head.  I duck and grab the rope attached to it so he can pull me in.  I’m sipping on my beer as I reach the platform and let go of the rope to climb up to the bar.  The song is saying, “tonight’s gonna be a good night” and it’s obvious to me how few of these people are actually going to make it out tonight.  Of the scantily clad masses half have red or white headbands or armbands on, advertising Oh-la-la Bar or Sunset Bar, nearly all of them are wearing the daily colored piece of string from some other bar on their wrist, and all of them are either spray-painted or written on by a friend.  The writing is vulgar. “Touch these their real” or “My other ride is your mom” usually misspelled and some fading from days before.  On the platform overhead Tony, wearing an Osama bin Laden mask, is pouring a bottle of Tiger whiskey into a funnel someone at the bottom of the ladder is about to pound, while at the same time two girls behind him take off on the zip line and forgetting to let go before the stopper, flip heels over head into the water.  Buckets are being passed around.  People are dancing on tables.  Another day at the river, same same, moment for moment, the movie Groundhog Day comes to mind.

This town is too much.  Party all day and party all night.  After a few weeks of that you are bordering on all systems failure.  It takes me nearly two weeks but I finally wake up one morning and know, I either get out now or I get stuck here and waste the rest of my three-month trip.  So I walk down to the nearest travel agent and buy a ticket on the next bus out.  I don’t tell Joker Bar I’m leaving, I don’t say goodbye to anyone, I just pack up my bag and step onto the minivan.  As I get inside, there is a guy in the backseat applauding.  It’s Tony from Mojito Bar; He made it out too.  We end up hanging out and sharing a room in Vientiene.  Neither of us really let the Vang Vieng party die for a long time.  It’s a hard habit to walk away from.  Dancing all day and night, raging till the break of dawn.

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