I am out of nursing school for a quick two week break before jumping in for my third semester, so I am hoping to knock out some posts this week from SE asia to my recent Iceland trip and even some races I have done over the past few months in my absence of writing. But first, Kuang Si…
Completely land locked, Laos is surrounded by mountains. Luang Prabang in particular runs between two rivers as referenced in my LP post, making it a particularly good place for swimming and water play. LP is also visited for the infamous Kuang Si Falls, located 29km (about 18 miles) from the city center. Gas up your moped and head out! You can also take a taxi or tour bus but I say take a ride on the wild side, the view along the way is not to be missed. Passing kids walking to school, giant buddha statues, dirt roads and small roadside stores, we made our way to Kuang Si (it is very clearly marked and hard to miss!)
When first hearing and reading about it, I was sure it was going to be a tourist trap, as so many well advertised attractions are, and many times end up incredibly crowded, expensive and the furthest thing from authentic. I believe due to the fact that laos is the least full of tourists of the four SEA countries, that is less the case overall. I still recommend getting there early though, as more tourist groups get there, the more difficult it is to sit and enjoy the natural sounds of the falls and snap pictures. After parking our moped and paying 20,000 kip or $2.50, we entered the falls. The first thing you pass upon the ascending walk to the falls is the moon bear sanctuary. They are an endangered species, as their bile is used in Chinese medicine. The sanctuary holds over 20 bears!
After passing the bears, you make the walk to the falls. You see pools on your right as you climb upwards towards the peak. The higher you climb, the closer you get to the large drop off. We missed the memo, because we never actually made it to the top of the falls. We stopped at the bottom pools and made our way upwards. There is a bridge near the top, which allows for a great view of the top of the falls. We stopped because we saw a tourist trap of a restaurant, and thought that was the top! nonetheless very impressed with the amount of falls we did see! Guess thats a note in our book not to stop just because we are skeptical.
The story behind the majestic beauty of the falls goes back to a folktale. A elderly man summoned the water for the falls from “digging” down to reveal the water for Nam Si river to provide the water for the falls. Then, a deer made a home underneath one of the large rocks that the water runs over, but when it comes down, splashes on the rock to make noise which was loud enough for people to hear in villages as far away as China! This was how the falls were discovered as a place of beauty and as a water source for surrounding villages.
The water is cool and perfect for cooling off in the hot laos heat! We managed to occupy ourselves for almost 2 full hours just walking,swimming and climbing on the rocks. Matt found a rock to jump off of, and I probably took enough gopro photos to last a lifetime trying to get the “perfect” jumping picture. Don’t worry, I got it. We also took a few minutes on one of the rocks to take in the surroundings and the beauty of the electric blue water. Climbing over the rocks and doing our best not to slip was quite the challenge and not recommended. It is also sharp and there are fish in the pools so if you do choose to do it, wear water shoes! I had my chacos, but Matt was all barefoot (whose surprised?). You can mostly see, but not in the deeper areas, so its always better to play it safe.
We did not bring lunch with us, and the Clif bar was not cutting it, so we eventually headed out, grabbing some snacks at the food options located just outside the falls before making our way back to LP for a late lunch and afternoon before we headed out to our trek the following morning! Visiting Kuang Si was one of my favorite memories in SEA. from the tale to the moped ride to actually swimming and playing in the falls, I felt like I was 10 years old all over again.