The falls are about 45 minutes outside of LP (by tuk-tuk, other modes of transportation are available!) and are definitely worth the trip! We were told to get there early to avoid the crowds, but that didn’t actually happen, despite our best intentions.
So, with our plans foiled on that front (see post Delicate Negotiations in Laos for the reasons why) we got there just before midday and made our way into the park. After paying the entrance fee of 20,000 kip, we followed a group through the gate and followed the signs towards the falls.
The path meandered through overhanging trees which shaded us as we ambled along. It was humid and I was worried about mosquitoes eating me alive in these conditions! I thought I’d better top up my mozzie repellent and stopped to apply some more.
I rooted around in my bag and then looked at my partner in horror….I had forgotten the repellent!!!
This was a major disaster.
Let me explain why using a few pictures (apologies for the foot picture! And I promise the photos get better from here!):
This is what happens when I am bitten! Of course, I’m also worried about catching some sort of disease, but the bites themselves are a nightmare. For some reason, mosquitoes love me and go for me over anyone else I’m stood with. I also react to the mozzies in SE Asia in a pretty dramatic fashion.
So, I was a bit hysterical at the fact that we were spending all day in the jungle, and by water, without any!
Well, that is a lie, we had one repellent wipe between us…which I was not going to waste! I intended on going for a swim later so I would save it for after that activity!
I spent the day in slight state of anxiety because of this oversight, but in the end it was fine and I didn’t actually get bitten once…absolute miracle!
Anyway, our first stop were the bears. We passed the Free the Bears sanctuary as we walked towards the falls. There are quite a few bears housed here who have been rescued from the illegal wildlife trade and bear bile farms. Bear bile is used in traditional medicine and the methods to extract it are beyond cruel.
This little sanctuary gave me a fleeting insight into a practice that I knew nothing about beforehand and it outlined what a barbaric and cruel life it is for the bears who are subjected to this practice. If you ever do visit, please consider donating what you can to support this initiative who try to provide a better life for the bears.
We took a bit of time to watch the bears relaxing and playing – they were very entertaining!
On leaving this section of the trail, we worked our way upwards towards the actual falls. the first sighting of which were nothing short of stunning.
The waters were a powdery blue, cascading down small steps towards us. Cue many photos taken!! It was definitely one of those moments!
There were quite a few people around, but it wasn’t nearly as busy as I had feared.
We passed different pools along the way, some quite big, where a few daring tourists had jumped in to bathe.
And then we neared the top – what a sight! Beautiful! Cue many more photos! In this section there were also many more people, some trying to capture that perfect shot of the falls cascading down towards them, some having a wail of a time frolicking in the ice blue water, some picnicing on the sidelines.
But everyone was drawn toward the scene in front of them. Truly stunning!
Now, we had heard rumours of a ‘secret pool’ that can be found at the top of the waterfall. A pool where you will find no other tourists, a pool with crisp, clear water, a paradise… it was like ‘The Beach’ in its mystery and legend!
The first person who told us of this, was a lady who we met at the Elephant Conservation Centre. We filed the information away to come back to later. Then, the two girls who we shared a tuk-tuk with to the falls, told us they’d heard of it and they were intent on finding it.
We kept it in mind, but got too caught up looking around and taking photos, to traipse off on a hunt for the mystical pool.
We did however take off up one of the (very slippery!) paths to the top of the waterfall. It’s a fair climb, but we took it easy and stopped along the way to catch our breath and take in the scenery that stretched out before us.
One thing that I noticed there seemed to be an abundance of, was butterflies. They were everywhere, happily fluttering around. I tried to take photos of them. but only succeeded in capturing a few shots, the darn things would fly off just as I took the photo!!
Once at the top, we were greeted by a fairly stagnant looking pool of water (this can’t be that secret pool everyone was talking about – no way would I get in that water!!), but great views over the top of the falls.
We ambled around at the top for a little while, but there wasn’t that much to see apart from the views, so we soon made our way back down again.
It was then time for that swim! I had worn my swimsuit as I was hoping that I’d be able to take a dip under the waterfall…something I had never done before.
I chose a smaller pool a bit further away from the main pool, where we had bumped into some of the people we had met at the Elephant Conservation Centre with (this was one of the things I liked about Luang Prabang – we would bump into people we had previously met all the time whilst wandering around the city! It was lovely!). This pool was quieter with only a couple of other people swimming there.
I stripped off and made my way gingerly towards the edge. It was muddy and very slippery and I had to negotiate sharp rocks and tree roots to actually make it into the water…it was a bit tricky, but I made it into the water a dignified(ish!) fashion!
But wow! Once in, it was heavenly… blooming freezing, but heavenly!! The water flowed over a small fall at one end and I swam around luxuriating in the coolness of the water. It was such a relief after the heat of the day. I couldn’t touch the bottom though, so there was a fair amount of treading water to do!
I bobbed around for quite a while and then reluctantly decided it was time to get out. I was cold and we were on track to be late meeting our tuk-tuk driver! I swam towards the edge and then realised getting out would be as difficult at getting in!
Somehow I managed it without falling over, or cutting my feet open (hurrah!), and I dried off whilst trying (and failing!) to keep my feet free of mud!
Whilst gathering our things together, our travelling companions found us. We were supposed to rendezvous to meet our driver to take us back to Luang Prabang… we were now officially late, oops. But none of us could drag ourselves away any earlier!
We hurried back to the entrance and out into the car park, to find a very grumpy driver who told us off for being late.
On the way back the girls told us that they had found what they thought was the secret pool. It was in an area which has been roped off as no entry, however, it seems they weren’t the only ones who had been searching for it. When they got there they found quite a few other tourists had beaten them to it. They weren’t lucky enough to have a dip though as a guard came and told them all to leave. A mini adventure though and it was fun hearing about their search!
Kuang Si Falls is a wonderful place and definitely worth taking the time to see if you are in the area. It wasn’t as crowded as I thought it might be and a swim is a must. That cool water is just so inviting on a hot day!
We were there in dry season, so it would be interesting to see what it’s like in full flow in rainy season – I imagine swimming would be out of the question!!
There are other falls in the area which we would have also like to have seen, but we didn’t manage it due to time restraints. It does give us yet another reason to return to explore Laos some more another time…like we need an excuse though!