About 36 km southwest of Luang Prabang is a well-known waterfall called Kuang Si. We had read about the falls, and virtually everyone we met asked if we had gone or were going – usually raving about how nice it was. Thus, we rented a motorbike to drive out and see it for ourselves.
The ride was pretty and peaceful, as the city rapidly disappeared and was replaced by pastoral farmlands and hillsides full of dense, green vegetation on either side of the steep, winding road. We encountered a number of bridges along the way, spanning small streams and rocky gullies. They never ceased being a small adventure, as the typical path provided for vehicle tires was 2 or 3 two-by-sixes laid side-by-side, many of them broken or warped.
Our underpowered motorbike struggled a little on the steep hills, but we eventually arrived at a small town where we parked the bike, paid the entry fee (20,000 kip, or ~$2.50 USD per person), and headed up the path towards the falls.
After a fairly short walk, we emerged from the path next to the lower pools of the falls, and were immediately impressed by the beautiful, azure water against the rich green backdrop. Neither of us had expected such vibrant colors, sitting underneath tier after tier of small cascades. Since it was still early, we only shared the trail with a few people and had the opportunity to take plenty of photos of the lovely pools before they filled up with swimmers. As we walked up the trail, a new waterfall seemed to appear around every corner, until we rounded a final bend and found ourselves at the bottom of Kuang Si – a 60 meter cascade, tumbling down into the turquoise pool beneath. The falls are fed, in the dry season, by a freshwater spring located upstream, whose minerals provide the rich colors of the water; in the rainy season, the volume of rainwater overwhelms the spring water, diminishing the colors.
Not content to simply view the waterfall from the bottom, we stopped to take photos and then proceeded up the steep and slippery track, and along a precariously narrow path that wound around some rocky outcroppings. We had completely lost sight of the waterfall during the ascent and suddenly, we appeared at its top – a natural infinity pool, where you could cool off in the blue-green waters while enjoying an unimpeded view of the falls below.
After spending all morning exploring, lunchtime arrived and the falls started to get quite crowded, with large groups setting up picnics and swimming to escape the midday heat. We headed back in the early afternoon, content with our quiet morning and ready to flee from the increasing foot traffic. Along the way home, Jenn was noticing that local women all rode side-saddle as passengers on motorbikes, rather than facing forward. This looked far classier than being hunched over the driver’s back, and had the added benefit of allowing her to wear a temple-appropriate long skirt. For the rest of the afternoon, Jenn – ever ladylike – was perched elegantly in her elephant-print sarong with ankles crossed on the back of the bike.