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Andy’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 17 Jan 2007

Location: Luang Prubang, Laos

MapLUANG PRUBANG - KUANG SI FALLS
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Walking around Luang Prubang we came across a sign - 10 things to do in town.

High up the list was a visit to one of the three waterfall in the surrounding countryside. Originally we planned to combine elephant riding with a trip to see Kuang Si (the most spectacular of the falls) but that entailed a tour groups and timetables which i try and avoid as much as possible.

Instead we hired a tuk tuk. Ten dollars to rent the entire vehicle for the 32 km trip along a bumpy, dusty dirt track, across rickety bridges and through the rolling green scenery which is standard in Laos.

Kuang Si waterfall is the archetypal tropical waterfall. It was straight out of a Herbal Essences shampoo ad. Yelling out, "Yes, YES, OH YES" and mimicing an intense, organic experience took up most of my energy for the rest of the day.

Surrounded by lush verdant rainforest Kuang Si is a many-tiered, multi streamed waterfall cascading in large frothy volumes, across mossy rocks, through shrubs and trees, and down into clear turqoise pools.

We stood on the bridge linking the two banks of the main pool for ages admiring this cliched paradise. Ruth and I suddenly found ourselves repeating the same words. Our vocabulary had shrunk.

"Amazing".

"Beautiful".

"So amazing".

"So beautiful".

"Really amazing"...and so on.

We made our way, slowly, to the very edge of the falls where a thick mist of water wetted our faces and the constant thundering rumble of the falling water drowned our voices.

Far above us, where the water from the main shute began its descent i could see further levels amongst a cove of trees; the water throwing up moisture which defined the sunlight shining down through the foliage. It was a slippery, steep and narrow mud path to the top - under fallen logs, across tiny pools made by thin trickling offshoots of the main waterfall. One wrong step and we would join the waterfall. But what a last sight!

The view from the top was... how can i put it...well...amazing and beautiful.

Afterwards we ventured back down to the where the water forms wide stepped turqiose pools. In many of the lower ones people are allowed to swim so we both jumped in and sat on the lip of a small, four or five foot cascade, cut in half by a clump of bamboo growing on a tiny island. Our surroundings were stunning, like Typhoon Lagoon, but real. We even lost interest in the mozzies.

The next swimming hole was even more spectacular, though slighty busier. A twelve foot high fall crashed into a wide, creamy-turquoise pool. Large trees spread their boughs over the water and groups of tourists were jumping from the branches into the water below.

At the edge of this pool people lay in the inch or so of water that rolled over small lumpy rocks. Just beyond this, on the walk back to our vehicle we passed a bear and tiget sanctuary which we donated to. The charity attempts to stem the tide of poaching which is having a devastating effect on the Asiatic Black Bears of the area. If you want to help or find out more please visit:

http://www.bearlao.com/laosbears.htm

On the ride back to town children walking home from school shouted "Sabaidee", waved vigorously and giggled when we replied. I love the people here just as much as the countryside. they complent each other perfectly.

It is still relatively early days for tourism here. I hope the country and people are not embittered, like Thailand, by an unfettered influx of foreigners. It will be tough with attractions such as Kuang Si drawing more and more people to Laos.

Pictures up soon.