Laos is mostly known for its natural beauty of verdant rolling hills, vast mountainous regions and a crazy amount of waterfalls (like hundreds). But none even come close to the enchanting, captivating and absolutely breath-taking Kuang Si Waterfalls. I kid you not – I had never seen such a beautiful natural setting! The three-tier waterfall dramatically cascades into natural pools of water of the truest, clearest turquoise. The late-afternoon/early-evening sunlight shone perfectly through the towering trees. It was unbelievable how amazing this place was!
The Kuang Si Waterfalls are less than 30 km from Luang Prabang. Some people hire a tuk-tuk or shared taxi but we rented a motorbike to give us the freedom to visit other sites outside of town. We did come across people who pedal-biked but this really isn’t a good idea no matter how much of an “adventure” you want to have. The road is not a long, straight, flat stretch. It promises to be labour-intensive if you’re biking (also keep in mind rental bikes are not in the best shape no matter how much you think you are). It’s a spiraling road that can be hazardous even while riding a motorbike. The road rises slowly but surely; not to mention the excessive heat and the pounding sun. It took about 45 minutes to get there by motorbike cautiously navigating each sharp turn; I have no idea how long it would take by bike.
The ridiculously nominal fee of 20,000 kip (less than $3) is incredibly cheap for what you have access to. Kuang Si Waterfalls are worth so much more than that but please don’t tell the authorities! In fact, the waterfalls are part of a protected natural ecological park with picnic tables, a restaurant, a small sanctuary for rescued black bears and a number of hiking trails. I realize that doesn’t sound very eco-friendly but the whole area is exceptionally well-maintained despite the high number of visitors it receives every year.
We arrived just slightly before the closing time of 5:30 pm. We were very, very lucky the admissions officer was kind enough to let us in (yes we begged a little). Honestly, I expected the waterfalls to be overrated; you know the kind of place saturated by a bunch of overly edited shots. But it wasn’t the case at all – this place was genuinely mesmerizing (fyi none of these photos are edited).
At first glance, I thought the pristine, aquamarine pools were man made. I had to take a second and third look to make sure they were, in fact, quite real. It seemed almost too good to be true but there I was! I’d be lying if I said I didn’t swell up with a few tears. I’m not even saying that for shock value – I really, truly did – that’s how wonderful it was! I was so grateful for being there (I thought of the poor souls back home in the middle of Winter).
The best part about arriving so late (though I don’t suggest arriving that late) is that we had the whole place to ourselves making it feel even more surreal. We had time to climb to the top of the waterfalls (a slightly strenuous climb) and get close enough to witness them dramatically crashing below. We had time to take it all in without any distractions (except for the time restraint to make it back out before it closed). And all our pictures are photobomb-free! The downside was that everything was closed: no restaurant (we probably wouldn’t have eaten there anyways) and no bear sanctuary (I would’ve liked to see some rescued bears).
Visitors are allowed to swim in only some of the basins as long as they don’t wear sunscreen in the water. We didn’t have time to take a dip but it didn’t bother me. I was more than satisfied to just gaze at and admire the falls and its surroundings. I think we should just be grateful for the chance to see and experience such a natural wonder without having to disrupt it. Anyways, personal philosophy aside trust me when I say the Kuang Si Waterfalls are a must-see!
I’m fully aware that I most probably wouldn’t have had the same wonderful experience and that my perception of Kuang Si Waterfalls would be completely different if we went while there were a bunch of people obstructing its natural beauty (and my zen-like state). The fact that we were all by ourselves definitely enhanced our experience both visually and emotionally.
Ok enough with the narratives, I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves.
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Have you had the pleasure of visiting the Kuang Si Waterfalls? Were you in awe like I was?