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Kuang Si Falls
Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrKuang Si Falls are a magnificent attraction set within the tropical wilderness of Laos’ northern Luang Prabang Province. Of all the natural, cultural and historic gems of this small, unassuming country, this collection of cascading travertine falls arguably rate as the most known, as well as the most impressive, of them all. An easy half-day trip from nearby Luang Prabang town, Kuang Si makes for a refreshing reprieve from the at-times stifling heat and a rewarding adventure spot comprising sparkling waterfalls, turquoise swimming holes, gorgeous hiking trails and even a bear sanctuary to top it all off. With an abundance of services and eateries just outside the gates, spending a full day in this gorgeous haven is well worthwhile.
What There is to See and Do at Kuang SiThe part of the protected reserve open to the public is compact and easy to navigate on foot, although be sure to wear non-slip shoes as the hike to the top of the highest fall can be both steep and slippery.
Once you enter the complex, you’ll be greeted by rescued Asian Black Bears (also known as ‘Moon Bears’) happily living out their retirement at the Kuang Si Bear Sanctuary, a beautiful initiative which aims to rescue and rehabilitate black bears, most of whom were either illegally kept as pets, or orphaned as young. Usually, you’ll find these gorgeous creatures chilling out on specially-made bamboo hammocks, climbing their wooden exercise contraptions or relaxing whilst chewing on their favored snack: sugar cane. The bear sanctuary shares a space within the park but does not receive any money from admission, so if you like the work they do (find out more info on-site) feel free to make a donation or buy a T-shirt for a few dollars.
Once past the bear park you’ll come across the lowest sections of the waterfalls, a superbly turquoise swimming pool, layered over the limestone rocks and framed by verdant green tropical forests. The consequential color of the water is spectacular beyond words.
This is the shallowest part of the falls and the first swimming section you’ll come across. Do note that Laotians are conservative people and, if they go swimming in public, they will do so wearing T-shirts and even sarongs. Although bikini-clad tourists are commonplace in Luang Prabang, showing a bit of decorum will go a long way in respecting the local culture. On this first fall section is where you’ll find the one and only set of wooden-hut changing rooms.
If you head here at first light, something many tourists choose to do due to increasing heat and crowds from midday onwards, you may still find it a bit too cold for a first swim. The forest canopy and mountainous streams makes this by far the coolest place in Luang Prabang, and the most visited at high summer season. As the sun emerges over the jungle top, this spot becomes increasingly ideal.
As you continue along the walking trail, you’ll come across further falls to photograph, and swim in. As you pass the next section, you will cast your eyes on the highest falls in the park, which seem to simply spring from the forest roof at a height of 60 meters.
A collection of wooden walkways will guide you past the falls and plenty of stoned steps will help you reach the base for a close-up look and a photo op.
On either side of the falls, you’ll see a trail leading up to the top of the hill, something which we highly recommend you follow. The track peters out and turns into a steep stint of mild rock-climbing; although you may find it hard work, know that what awaits you at the top is incredibly rewarding. Only a fraction of the visitors to Kuang Si ever make it all the way to the top, making it a superbly relaxing place to visit. The pool and forest area at the very top, and the source of the waterfalls, is a stunning place for a picnic and a longer rest. Complete with picnic tables and even an ingenuous stand selling cold drinks, this is thought by many to be the hidden gem of the whole park.
Kuang Si Falls are an insanely beautiful attraction and a great chance to swim and enjoy a gloriously sunny day in Luang Prabang.
Admission CostEntry tickets are ₭20,000 ($2.40), with the money being used for the upkeep of trails.
Opening TimesThe gates to the park open at 8a.m. every day, with most crowds arriving by mini-van and tuk-tuk from 10a.m. onwards. Gates close at 5.30p.m.
How to Get ThereKuang Si Falls are about 30kms southwest of Luang Prabang’s city center, along a windy but very scenic riverside road. The drive there normally takes 40 minutes. There is no public transport which makes scheduled trips, so your transport must be organized from town.
By Tuk-TukA ride in an open rickshaw-type vehicle costs between ₭150,000 ($18) to ₭200,000 ($24), depending on your bargaining skills. The more tourist you can convince to join you, the cheaper the price per person.
By Scooter/BicycleAn extremely popular option, whereby tourists rent scooters or bicycles for the day from LP and ride to the falls on their own. The added independence is ideal for those who want to be at the gates when they first open (no tuk-tuk rider will ever get up that early!) yet dangers are substantial. The road is in bad condition for certain parts and many tourists are not used to cows, chickens, pigs and donkeys constantly darting across the road.
What to BringThere are no food or drinks stalls within the gated grounds of the park (the lady at the top pool is only ever there half of the time) but you will find a lovely but slightly overpriced cafe' selling omelet or chicken-filled baguettes. Stock up supplies from the myriad of stands just outside the gates and you'll get better quality food for a lot less kip.
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Author: Laura Pattara. Last updated: Jan 30, 2015