There are some things that you don’t want to go home having not done. In Laos the number one activity is Tubing in Vang Vien. Don’t go home without the singlet. Generically, worldwide, the second activity is loosing your camera. I would like a bonus point for achieving both on the same day.
I’d heard about the tubing in Vang Vien from several people who had made it back from Laos, once in Laos it came up regularly in conversation and you learnt to judge how trashy a backpacker was by how many days they went tubing, and how much they loved it. The pretense is you hire an old truck inner tube and jump in a tuk tuk. They drop you in a bar 3.5km upstream and you drink your way back downstream floating between bars. The bars are all competing for supremacy which they do by having the most fun toy (rope swing, static surfboard thing, highboard to jump from or water slide) and providing the most free local whiskey which they tip straight down your throat as you climb out of the water. The combination of waterslides, fast flowing water and booze has safely delivered all but 16 people this year to the final destination.
You can love it or hate it and it seemed much easier to love than hate, so I took that option. It was haloween so there were people in dress ups, we were helping a friend we’d made along the way celebrate her birthday and there was sunshine, bikinis, rope swings and beer. How could you not love it. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that this party that we were loving was the same as yesterdays party and the same as tomorrows. 365 days a year there were people who worked in this reality defying little slice of river and it can’t be good for your mental state. As for backpackers that get lost in the town for weeks on end, I worry.
Towards the end of the day we realised that we had a lot of river to go still and not much daylight left. Time to float the rest of the way back to town. My waterproof camera was safely in my pocket with the velcro closed. I took some photos along the way, each time my camera went back in the pocket with the velcro safely closed. Then I looked down and my pocket was open and my camera gone. The last back up I’d done was nearly a month before. We were floating in fast-moving muddy water. There was nothing I could do, no body to get angry with, nobody to blame. Some things just happen. End of story. I bought a new camera in the next town.
So my claim to fame is that in one day I completed Laos prime tourist attraction and became yet another traveler to lose a camera.