Finally by our third day in Luang Prabang the sky had cleared up and the first weak rays of the sun started to peak through.
The previous afternoon we had hired a tuk-tuk driver to take us to Kuang Si Waterfalls. The driver charged us 40000 kips each (£3.30) for the return journey to the falls based on sharing with 4 other people. We just had to trust the driver to solicit his other fares. Luckily he managed to do it and the following day we were picked up from our guesthouse with 4 other passengers already sitting on the benches of the songthew. They were a couple from Israel, an Australian girl and a girl from Germany. Again, I found that in the backs of these songthews, in such close proximity to each other conversation starts flowing easily. Inevitably we all start recounting our travelling histories: where we’re from, where we’re going, how long we’re travelling, and various funny or horrifying travel tales will be exchanged. The journey to the waterfalls took around 50 minutes each way, so plenty of time to get to know each other, ask for tips or get ideas for new destinations to visit. We told tales of our journey down the Mekong and collected wisdom on our upcoming trip to Vietnam.
We finally arrived at the entrance of the park where we agreed that we would meet again in 2 hours time. The 2 hours were suggested to us by the driver as he was going to wait for us and take us all back to the city. This is a routine way of visiting Kuang Su, but if you are ever in this area, let me give you a tip: arrange for at least a 3 hour visit. There is a lot to see and you will want to hang around, explore, swim, take some pictures, have a picnic, etc. Of course we had no idea what it was going to be like. We thought we’ll just walk into the forest and there will be the waterfalls. Actually Kuang Si is a collection of many waterfalls and lagoons and you will want stop at each and every one of them. If you do, it will take much longer to get to the main falls. There is also a bear sanctuary right at the beginning, that you may want to visit. We also climbed right to the top of the waterfalls and so we had no time left for swimming. So if you don’t want to have to rush, you will need 3 hours at least.
The entry fee into the park was 20000 kips each (around £1.60). We hadn’t had time to grab some breakfast before getting on the songthew this morning, so our main priority was to find something small that would see us through the next 3 hours, until we were back in Luang Prabang. Luckily, just like any other attraction where tourists congregate, there were plenty of souvenir and food stalls set up right by the entrance to the park. We found these amazing chicken skewers, that were basically a quarter of the chicken (and only the best part of it) secured into a stick of bamboo that had been split in the middle to allow for a tight hold on the big piece of meat. The chicken was then barbecued to perfection. This cost 25000 kips (£2), but it was exactly what we were after. And it seemed this little doggy also fancied a bit of it and he followed the scent of the chicken for a while. Adam teased him a bit. He did get a little chicken just for being super cute.
We set off on our walk to the waterfall and the first attraction we passed by was a little bear sanctuary which was home to some rescued Asiatic Black Bears and some Malayan Sun Bears. We saw quite a few of the bears play-fighting with each other or having a lunchtime nap.
We also by chance spotted the biggest spider I had ever seen dangling right in front of us on a string of its web. It was about the size of my palm and I don’t think this picture gives back just how big this spider was… We quickly moved on…
As we walked further and further on the woodland path the waterfalls and lagoons started appearing. The water was such beautiful turquoise, it looked almost Photoshopped! 🙂 There were some people bathing and swimming in the blue lagoons, but we decided to carry on towards the main waterfalls.
After a 20 minute walk following the direction of the path and the smaller waterfalls, we finally reached the 60m high waterfall cascading down over the rocks. It was absolutely beautiful, and it could be admired from a wooden bridge erected in front of it. The bridge was already heaving with tourists taking in the beautiful sight and taking photographs.
Once we crossed the bridge we noticed that the signs pointing to a narrow path that disappeared up the hill. We decided to follow the path and climb up to the top of the waterfall. The path turned out to be really slippery and steep and I was glad we had the good sense of wearing our trekking shoes!
Some people attempted the climb in their flip-flops, I don’t know how they did it!! We hauled ourselves up on the steep path with the help of the branches and roots of the trees growing on the hill, hooking our feet into the roots, pulling ourselves up by the branches as if they were ropes. Eventually we made it up and were already scratching our heads thinking about the way down!
At the top of the hill it was so quiet, you would never have thought the serene blue pool of water would turn into a rumbling waterfall just below..!
Unfortunately we didn’t have time to explore at the top much as we were running out of time and had to rush back down the slippery way we came up! Luckily the way down was nowhere near as bad as we had thought it would be. We also bumped into the American couple, Zack and Laura, who we had shared travel stories with over some bottles of Beer Lao a couple of days before! They were on their way up, we were on our way down.
We got back to our tuk-tuk and our group in time and headed back to the city.
If you are visiting Kuang Si waterfalls, there is a butterfly park 300 metres down the road from the forest towards the village. Negotiate enough time with your tuk-tuk driver so that you can visit here as well! Unfortunately we didn’t have the time as the rest of our group weren’t interested in the butterflies.
Back in Luang Prabang we spent a leisurely last afternoon drinking lovely coffee and arranged for our onward travel for the following day – talk about last minute!