The city of Luang Prabang is nestled next to the Mekong River, and although the city is one of the larger onesin Laos it has a beautiful charm about it during the day and never ending night markets during the evening.
As a tuk tuk driver on every corner will tell you, the must do activity for visitors to Luang Prabang is the nearby waterfalls. Too far (and hot) to bike, we signed up for the hour long minivan ride to Kuang Si Falls. From the parking lot we walked the ten minute trail to the falls and pools that we desperately wanted to dip into, but were distracted along the way by the Sun Bear Sanctuary that was impossible to pass by without stopping to admire the bears. Most Sun Bears were rescued from poachers, black markets, or bear bile farms – used in medicines and ointments. The bears new home was fairly large and packed full of streams, pools, and stimulating toys such as tire swings and platforms.
After pulling ourselves away from the playful tumbling bears, we made our way to the bottom pools of the waterfall. In 40 degrees Celsius it was a dream come true, cascading pools of turquoise cool water beckoned us to jump in and we did not hesitate. Small fish nipped at our toes as we waded through the picture perfect scene, surrounded by lush plants, twisting tree roots, and bamboo.
There was a consistant splash in the main pool as visitors took advantage of the rope swing hanging from a tree that reached over the pool of water. On the way to the large waterfall was pool after pool of water, each separated by a mini waterfall and each more beautiful and secluded than the one previous.
We spent so much time swimming and relaxing in the smaller pools that we almost didn’t have time to walk to the end of the trail to visit the main attraction, Kuang Si Falls. As we rounded the final bend in the trail the large waterfall revealed itself and we wished we had made our way here sooner. Even in the current dry season it was impressive; towering above us was an intricate design of rocks, mosses, and tree roots with a refreshing flow of water falling over and down to the pool below. We admired the beauty of the falls and snapped a few photos before scurrying back to catch our minivan ride back to Luang Prabang, swimsuits still damp and fully refreshed.
Luang Prabang would be the last large city we planned to see for a while so we spent one day checking off a shopping list (toiletries, batteries, etc.) and exploring local attractions. We visited a temple located at the top of a long white staircase that claimed to have an imprint of Buddha’s footprint as well as crossed the bamboo bridge that creaked and sagged under each foot step.
In the evenings we walked down the night market that took over the downtown area with stall after stall of jewelry, scarves, clothing, trinkets, and souvenirs in a colorful display. Even after half a dozen trips down the market it was still enthralling to glance over the many different (yet same) items, and pleasantly the vendors did not harass you to buy.
Our next stop is the very small town of Muang Ngoi Nua, accessible only by boat and with electricy available for a short 3 hours each evening. We plan to put our feet up in hammocks, take in the scenery, and relax on the riverside (and of course explore any nearby caves and waterfalls).