Without a shadow of a doubt, the most popular and impressive attraction in Luang Prabang is Kuang Si Falls. During the six weeks that I spent in Luang Prabang, the only day that a tuk tuk driver didn’t ask if I wanted to go to the waterfalls was the day that I was bed ridden with food poisoning. Around 29km outside of town, you can either hire a motorcycle to get there, or get together with some travel companions and do the trip via tuk tuk. I contemplated cycling there but after a long tuk tuk ride I was kinda pleased that I didn’t. But don’t let me put you off – you can hire great mountain bikes in Luang Prabang, and if you are a keen cyclist with sturdy legs, then the journey is definitely doable even if it is a challenge. You can book a heap of tours that will take you there too, but for a povvo backpacker like me, that’s out of my budget. If you get a group of people together in a tuk tuk, the journey should cost you no more than 30,000 kip each – the drivers will start high so make sure that you negotiate down.
A ten minute walk within the gates of the waterfall and I was confronted with multiple tiers of cascading aquamarine water – the kind of pure azure colour that makes you stop and take a short breath. The tiers of the waterfalls seem to go on forever and look so perfectly formed that it is astonishing that they are naturally formed. At the falls, you’ll find locals and tourists alike, splashing in the water, swinging from a rope into the pools beneath, and enjoying picnic lunches with each other. The entrance fee is only 20,000 kip – totally bargainous for such a breath-taking site.
If you want to add a bit of adventure to your Kuang Si experience, then you can hike to the top of the waterfall. This hike only takes around 15-20 minutes, but it is steep. Dave and Vicky from ACoupleTravelers and I braved the hike to the top, but we were wearing flip flops and boat shoes, feeling for rocks and branches on our way up to keep our balance. If I was to do this again I’d pack some walking shoes, but actually I wouldn’t because the view from the top was a bit of an anti-climax. The drop from the top of the falls is so sheer that you can’t look over the edge without, well, falling to your death.
Kuang Si waterfalls are spectacularly beautiful, but on the grounds they also have a bear sanctuary making a visit to Kuang Si Falls even more special. All of the bears have been rescued from illegal poaching and trading, and it’s pretty awesome to see the bears looking so happy, eating honey covered sticks and playing in the sanctuary together. I had never seen a bear up close before and it was quite something – big, beautiful animals that deserve the life they have at the sanctuary.
And that’s Kuang Si Falls – I hope you manage to get there!