Hot day, bored couple who wants to do something “travelly” and not hang around our clean, but extremely boring, hostel all day. Time for a waterfall visit.
If you’ve ever been to Luang Prabang, then you’ll know that one of the main tourist attractions seems to be the Kuang Si Falls. And for all those who are intending to go to LP and are doubtful of visiting somewhere that is so often touted by tuk-tuk drivers, don’t be so easily fooled. The first time my family and I visited LP, we avoided heading to the falls for a while because we figured it was the typical tourist trap that you normally see in SE Asia. One pitiful waterfall and a bunch of overpriced stuff. We were SO wrong.
Kuang Si Falls are about an hour’s tuk tuk ride away from the centre of Luang Prabang. You can motorbike there, or rent a car, or even use a bicycle, but tuk tuk is the cheapest and easiest option. If you head into the centre of town, there will be swarms of drivers practically begging to take you. We went with two girls from Norway (total strangers) so the price went down to 60,000 Kip there and back. The downside of going with a group/people you’ve never met is you need to agree on what time you want to leave, and you need to make sure the people you go with are on the same page as you. If you’re looking for a 30 minute photo-taking adventure, you’ll be upset if you end up with people who want to spend the whole day there.
Entry to the falls is 20,000 Kip. This also gets you entry to the barely-advertised Bear Conservation Centre, a place that rescues bears from becoming trophy pets or part of strange medicinal practices. And for once in my life, I can see bears in captivity that aren’t showing signs of extreme stress or depression, which warms my heart to now end. The bears here have space, friends, and lots of the right kind of activities to keep them entertained and healthy. You can give donations, or buy a shirt, a bag, a water bottle… you get the picture, to support the centre and allow them to keep rescuing bears.
After cooing over adorable bears, we went along some slippery dirt paths to the falls. There’s many levels to the falls, and they’re all equally impressive. The lower falls have beautiful, milky blue-green water, and the biggest fall that comes down the mountain is seriously impressive in itself. We walked to the top and snapped the obligatory photo between making a very important choice. Climb giant boulders and try to reach the very top of the fall, or go back down the hill to the lower falls and swim. For two lazy people, it wasn’t a hard decision.
Since we went in the afternoon, the crowds were pretty intense at all of the levels. Most people recommend going earlier in the day to avoid crowds and I would echo that advice – it’s just more relaxing. And many photo opportunities are ruined by two hundred other people milling on the edges of each pool. We found a relatively uncrowded pool, and decided we’d finally take our Nikon AW1 in the water. It’s waterproof to 10M, and we were still extremely paranoid about even splashing it. But it turned out fine!
Be warned, the water is pretty freezing. But it’s nice for a day out and the falls are absolutely gorgeous. This is an especially good outing if you’re finding yourself a little bored with the laid-back town of Luang Prabang, or if you need a break from all the temples – of which we saw a total of zero. If you want to go swimming but milky blue water ain’t your thang, or you want something a bit closer to town, check out the La Pistoche Swimming Pool & Bar.