Luang Prabang: Not the least bit crappy.

Luang Prabang Travel Blog

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Just hanging out. Rescued bear, doing well now.
Here it is already: our last day. Too soon! If we didn’t have paper tickets for a flight tomorrow morning, I would arrange to stay longer.

Steve felt better in the morning but decided to take a round of “just in case” antibiotics. I had arranged for an elephant trek for today, but it seemed a really bad idea for him to spend time in the sun. So I took the shuttle to town to cancel our trip (we lost a 50% deposit) and buy more water and food for the day. On the way back, an old man asked  me, “tuk tuk to the waterfall?”  Hmmm. It was a nice day.  Maybe…

So I arranged a trip to Tad Khuang Si (waterfall), 25 km from town, for $25. We could stay as long as we wanted while the driver waited, and we could stop at a rice field and visit a village on the way home.
The rescue bears seem to be enjoying their new home.
Plus, it is shaded and cool there near the falls, with picnic tables. Sounds great!   

The driver gave me a ride back to the hotel for no charge, stopping at a gas station along the way. It was closed. “Closed on Sunday?” I asked. No, he said, sometimes they just run out of gas. The next station was out of gas as well! Things were not looking good for our trip. Finally he found gas just outside of town. We were both relieved. “It’s not good for the drivers when the town runs out of gas,” he explained. Yeah, no kidding!

When I walked into our nice, cool hotel room I realized Steve should probably just stay there all day and take it easy. Even if we spent the whole day in shade, it was really hot out. And he seemed none too keen to go out, so I met the tuk tuk driver and traveled by myself to Tad Khuang Si.
Information sign for Phet the tiger, who died 5 days ago.
I rode in front, and his younger brother (about 17) rode along in the back.

Well, I had a great day, and was constantly saying to myself, “Oh! I wish Steve were here! He would love this.” First I visited the Asiatic Bear Rescue center located near the entrance to the falls. The bears were rescued from a bile farm. At these farms, their gall bladder bile is “harvested” regularly while they are kept (barely) alive. All for “Chinese medicine.” It’s a terrible story! These little bears were thriving though… they had a wonderful environment with a small river, a rope swing, and other structures to play in. They were running around and having a grand time, and two of the frisky ones had found a spot for a little intimacy -- the top of the tallest platform.
Tad Khuang Si waterfall.
A man standing nearby helpfully told me they were “making a baby.” Um, duh. Thanks.  

There had previously been a rescued tiger as well (of course, in a different enclosure). A large sign showed a picture of the baby tiger, when it was rescued -- no hair, malnourished, and near death. Another photo showed the magnificent creature it had grown into. Unfortunately a letter was posted over the board saying the tiger died of center nervous system disorder on May 20, 2008. It’s very, very sad news for the local people and the people who have been caring for the tiger for the past 8 years. Heart breaking. The letter was well written, and long, with a full explanation of the tiger’s life and her disease. I read it with a heavy heart.  

Then I followed the path to the waterfall.
Tad Khuang Si waterfall swimming area.
My first peak was of the lowest swimming basin … absolutely incredible! There were several levels, and people were swimming in the bright blue, super clear water. I climbed to each level, and after visiting the biggest fall at the very top, I was joined by the tuk-tuk driver’s brother, Phet (I don’t think I spelled it right). He asked if he could join me and practice his English. Yes, of course.

He then took me on a “secret route” up the right side of the waterfall that was very steep and slippery. Not much of a path at all! It was hard work and very hot, but it was worth it when we got to the top and I got to peek right off the top of the waterfall! Then we had to cross to the other side, and that’s where things got hairy. We waded over rocks and through water, and then came to a deeper area filled with standing water, dirt and leaves.
The top photo is the log "path" across the top of Tad Khuang Si Waterfall. The bottom photo is me, right after I fell off said log into the mucky water!
In order to cross, we had to walk across several logs. It was quite a long expanse… with no handrails.

Well, if this was a test of balance, I am ashamed to report I received a failing grade. Off the slippery log I slid, right into the leaves and muck. (I am sure thankful I gave my camera to Phet, who dashed over with no problem at all!) Phet looked horrified, even when I laughed and instructed him to quick, take a picture! I was a complete mess. See photo. At least the water cooled me off.

From there, the “secret route” took us through some undergrowth that we had to cut through, until finally we came to the stairs…this is the route everyone else takes. Since I was a filthy mess, it was definitely time to go swimming!

Things had really picked up and many of the swimming areas were packed with people.
Phet and other swimmers, Tad Khuang Si Waterfall.
We went down to the bottom terrace, where four Americans (a rare sighting…we haven’t met many at all believe it or not) were playing. Phet jumped in, jeans and all. I waded around and did some swimming, but didn’t stray too far from the edge since I was concerned about my camera with all the people around.

I reluctantly left the waterfall, and we headed back, stopping to look at a sticky-rice field on the way. There was a small covered platform on stilts near the edge of the field, and a lone girl sat in there. She must have been about 3 years old, and was very grubby. I said hi, but got no response, not even a smile.   

On the way home, the driver told me the local area was experiencing a real problem. The government had sold the rice fields used by five villages to “some Koreans.
Sticky-rice field.
” Now the villagers had nowhere to grow their rice. He said, “no rice, no eat. It’s very bad.”

I asked him questions about his life. He said he and his wife and their 5-year-old live with his parents. In total, 14 people live in the house. Someday he hopes to “make a home for his family,” but for now it is not possible. He told me these things matter-of-factly -- he was not making a play for sympathy or looking for a handout. He was just telling me what life is like. When you are sitting in a nice café in a nice town, being served by kind, smiling people, it’s easy to forget what hard lives the Laotians actually lead. This area is very, very poor. The people are so kind and gentle here, I badly want good things to happen for them. (Bottom line: please visit, and spend a lot of money when you are here! :^).
Ooops, we over-ordered again.


In the evening, Steve (who was feeling well again after another day of sleep) and I went to town for some shopping and dinner. As we walked along the mellow street, he exclaimed, “This sucks! We have to leave and it’s so NICE. It’s not crappy at all!”  (These are high accolades from Steve, who tends to be a little more pessimistic and critical of the places we visit). By “crappy” he was referring to the dirty garbage-filled areas every town seems to have, and we always seem to inadvertently run into. He’s right… I have walked all over this town and have yet to see any trash and ruin (poverty, yes. Filth, no.). I don’t know where they hide it, but the overall effect is quite nice: a beautiful, clean village with lovely streets and shops, and a market where no one harasses you. Yes, yes, you can probably tell by now: I am completely in love with Luang Prabang.   

yasuyo says:
I am planning to visit there look so nice! Can't wait soam myself in this beautiful blue! You're lucky to get a good guide:)
Posted on: Apr 13, 2016
STK3 says:
thank for sharing
Posted on: Oct 09, 2012
cmgervais says:
Yes, it was great. Thanks for your tip!
Posted on: May 28, 2008
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Just hanging out. Rescued bear, do…
Just hanging out. Rescued bear, d…
The rescue bears seem to be enjoyi…
The rescue bears seem to be enjoy…
Information sign for Phet the tige…
Information sign for Phet the tig…
Tad Khuang Si waterfall.
Tad Khuang Si waterfall.
Tad Khuang Si waterfall swimming a…
Tad Khuang Si waterfall swimming …
The top photo is the log path ac…
The top photo is the log "path" a…
Phet and other swimmers, Tad Khuan…
Phet and other swimmers, Tad Khua…
Sticky-rice field.
Sticky-rice field.
Ooops, we over-ordered again.
Ooops, we over-ordered again.
Tad Khuang Si waterfall.
Tad Khuang Si waterfall.
Looks fake, like a hotel or someth…
Looks fake, like a hotel or somet…
Picnickers at Tad Khuang Si waterf…
Picnickers at Tad Khuang Si water…
The big one -- top of Tad Khuang…
The "big one" -- top of Tad Khuan…
Tad Khuang Si waterfall.
Tad Khuang Si waterfall.
Tad Khuang Si waterfall.
Tad Khuang Si waterfall.
The secret path up Tad Khuang Si…
The "secret path" up Tad Khuang S…
Phet and the secret waterfall pat…
Phet and the "secret waterfall pa…
A path at the top of Tad Khuang …
A "path" at the top of Tad Khuang…
Making my way across the top of Ta…
Making my way across the top of T…
The path gets a bit rough... the t…
The path gets a bit rough... the …
Making my way across the top of Ta…
Making my way across the top of T…
Phet dashed across the slippery lo…
Phet dashed across the slippery l…
Swimming terrace at Tad Khuang Si …
Swimming terrace at Tad Khuang Si…
Swimming at Tad Khuang Si Waterfal…
Swimming at Tad Khuang Si Waterfa…
Swimming at Tad Khuang Si Waterfal…
Swimming at Tad Khuang Si Waterfa…
Closed for the season.
Closed for the season.
Biker pup.
Biker pup.
Luang Prabang market at night.
Luang Prabang market at night.
Luang Prabang
photo by: oxangu2