I should start by stating that this post is meant for entertainment purposes only and is not an endorsement of this activity. While I want to share my personal experience, there are risks and dangers involved with trying laughing gas balloons. Everyone should do their own research before making an informed decision on whether or not trying it is right for them.
I breathe in continuously as the nitrous oxide enters my lungs. I look up at Jim who is sitting across from me with a video camera. “I don’t feel anything,” I say disappointed. “Try taking a deep breath and holding it.” I try again, and after two deeps breaths I look up. Jim is staring in anticipation, and I can feel a smile forming on my face. My smile grows bigger, and suddenly, I can’t help but giggle. Another breath and full laughter takes over. I can barely make eye contact with him without being hysterical.
So how is it that I ended up at Rose Bar on Cat Ba Island taking hits off a laughing gas balloon? My friends and I met Jim, a video producer for livingoverseas.tv, on a boat in Halong Bay. Our cruise didn’t quite live up to our expectations, so we decided to ditch it and stay on the island where it dropped us off. We ran into Jim while exploring, and he asked if we’d be willing to try some laughing gas balloons on camera. A couple hours later, and we were in a bar that serves balloons at happy hour.
Entering Rose Bar felt a little unreal. Have you ever read A Clockwork Orange, or maybe seen the movie? To be honest, I don’t remember much except that they get high off of milk. This felt a little like that. As we walked inside, you could see a woman behind the bar blowing up giant clear balloons. To our left, someone had tripped and fallen over. An explosion of laughter overtook the music booming through the stereo. People walked around smiling, giggling, and dancing with balloons in hand. Strobe lights distorted movements, and an array of different colored lights gave the room a party atmosphere.
After getting my balloon from the bartender, we grabbed some seats and began our little adventure. As the initial high hit me, I could only produce one word to describe how I felt. Happy. I waited for my friends, Lisi and Pat, to join me at the table. As I waited, the high quickly disappeared. The effects only lasting about 30 seconds. I took another hit from my balloon, and again, the light feeling entered my brain. My mind felt empty, my body at ease. The music felt louder, and my face had a mind of its own. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t stop smiling. I looked over at Lisi who had taken her first inhale, and all I could do was laugh. There was nothing funny, yet I couldn’t help it. I felt pure unexplainable joy.
After three or four good inhales, everyone else was on my level. Jim had a giant grin. Pat looked happier than I’ve ever seen him as his high hit fast and hard. Lisi couldn’t stop laughing at how the balloon tickled her mouth every time she inhaled. I closed my eyes and watched the lights flash behind my eyelids, changing colors every few seconds. I swayed with the music and smiled until I could feel the effects wearing off again. Each time I started to come down, I took another deep breath and held it, letting the nitrous oxide enter my lungs.
After getting the hang of it with our first balloons, we decided to get a second round. The bar began to fill up with a mix of those drinking and those inhaling. Some doing both. The feeling of euphoria was easy to keep with the second balloon, and I was able to make mine last a long time. My mind felt free of hassles, and it filled with simple thoughts. The lights bouncing off the walls were pretty. I felt good vibes in the air. The world was a simple place, and all I had to do was live in it. Everything felt so easy. So uncomplicated. And just as quickly, I could come back down to reality and feel balanced again.
Unlike alcohol or other drugs, you could swiftly end your high without a lingering effect or hangover. “How many balloons can someone have in a night before it’s bad for them?” I asked. The answer was unclear, but it seems that balloons don’t have a high enough concentration to really hurt you unless you do a lot at once or use them regularly. Of course, like with any drug, it can be misused or things can go wrong. You should be really careful about using laughing gas recreationally and should only do so at your own risk.
Nitrous oxides short term effects can make it habit forming as the high doesn’t last very long. You shouldn’t breathe the nitrous back into the balloon for reinhalation as it reduces the amount of oxygen and can cause deprivation. People have died from misuse of this drug. Often those deaths are associated with inhaling directly from the canister or from suffocation with the use of a plastic shopping bag being put over their head. If used over a long time, you could cause brain damage. Recreational use of laughing gas is also illegal in many countries.
Would you try laughing gas balloons in a foreign country? If you have, what was your experience like?
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Michelle Della Giovanna
Writer at Full Time Explorer
I’m just your average New Yorker who quit her job in the fashion industry to explore the world. Come find out what it’s like to trade in five-inch heels for squat toilets.