Floating Helplessly Down the Mekong and The Stunning Kuang Si Falls

Luang Prabang Travel Blog

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So, here we are.  We were supposed to wake up for the monks service, but that was never going to happen.  Instead we rose at 10am and went to visit the cave temples of Pak Ou (Tham Ting).  The drive to get there was another tough one though.  It was almost a single lane dirt path for two-way traffic.  When an on-coming vehicle approached, both vehicles have to budge right over.  It’s a pretty steep drop on the side as well, so these drivers have to know what they are doing!

 

There are two caves at Tham Ting.  The upper cave is a steep and strenuous walk up what seems like an endless amount of stairs, and is it worth it?  Maybe.  I personally am glad I did it, but it’s one of those things I’ll never do again. 

 

The upper cave is deep and dark and has a fat, jolly Buddha sat just outside it’s gate.  There’s also a dragon carved into the walls, but due to the difficultly dim light, it’s very touch to see all the Buddha’s in the cave.  When your eyes readjust, it gets easier, but it’s certainly hard to do. 

 

The lower cave is more entertaining (and a darn sight less strenuous to get to!) and has a more enchanted appearance from the outside.  It is a much more shallow cave, but appears to contain significantly larger amount of shines donated by the worshippers.  I guess this has something to do with accessibility and the superior lighting. 

 

There are no dragons in this cave, but there are some lion statues.  These are said to guard the caves.  Well, that’s enough descriptive writing for now; I’ll go onto a story: We were just finishing looking around the lower cave, when all of a sudden some strange music was being played from an arriving ‘Venga’ boat.  I thought it was a bit disrespectful until I realised it was boat full of monks all dressed accordingly in their orange robes!  We took a few photos, but to add to the surrealism, they took pictures of us too!  Obviously this was in jest, but it was funny.  We kind of realised it much be a prayer time or something of the like and so promptly left so as not to disturb them further.

 

To get across the Mekong to the temples, we had to hire a long boat to get us there, wait for us, and bring us ‘safely’ back.  On the returning journey, about the mid-point of the crossing, the boat’s engine cut out!  We were left floating down the Mekong!  Well I guess we’ll be in Vietnam sooner than expected, but what could we do?  I felt pretty useless as the driver only had one oar and did his best to paddle over to some rocks.  He was a healthy man, but he wasn’t exactly a spring chicken!  I would guess he was well into his sixties!!!  There was nothing effective I could do, but he struggled away whilst I prayed the reaper wasn’t around to give a cardiac arrest. 

 

He did make it over to the rocks though and anchored the boat in firmly.  A second boat came and picked us up and got us to the dry land.  Here we stopped for some lunch before getting back into the car and onto Kuang Si National Park and Kuang Si Waterfall.  

 

On arrival at the park, the first thing you come across is a gorilla sanctuary.  I took a few moments watching them bathe in the sun before attempting the hike up the falls. 

 

We found the water almost instantaneously and it was a brilliant turquoise/sky blue colour.  It was absolutely picture perfect and you can just imagine it being on a postcard to show off Laos.  This was just the base!  The whole are had dedicated swim zones and so many people were playing, diving, and splashing around in the deep pools.  I wanted to get in, but Mark told us that at the top it is just spectacular and certainly worth the hard work of the hike ahead.

 

There are two pathways, and one is more challenging than the other.  As Mark had done the simpler one with Naj the day before, we all chose the more gruelling of the two.  Wow, it was hard work!  If I had the choice again, I’d still take the difficult route though as it gives such a sense of reward when you do reach the top and can look of the edge of the 60 ft drop into the splash pool below.  From here it wasn’t a simple climb down to the pool, but a tricky downward route, almost a fall!

 

Towards the pool, you can dive in off the rim and you’ll have no danger of hitting the bottom.  It was brilliant fun and all of us together float with the current to the second waterfalls edge to pear downwards at yet another 100-120ft sheer drop!  We weren’t in any danger at all doing this, but you do get the nervous butterfly in your stomach looking over, it’s possibly not for the faint hearted. 

 

Each of the small falls on the return journey were stunning as well.

  I’ve never seen a waterfall quite so pretty anywhere I’ve been in the world, and believe me, these photos do it no fair justice at all!

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Luang Prabang
photo by: oxangu2