Near Luang Prabang is one of the most impressive waterfalls in Laos – the Kuang Si waterfall.
You can reach the falls either by private transport, songthaews, motorbike taxi or if you like a challenge by bicycle (it will take around 1-2 hours cycling, including a few hills). Private transport is probably the most comfortable way, but also the most expensive one. If you prefer getting there by songthaew and want to find others to share the cost head to the square outside the tourist information on Sisavangvong Road. In front of the sandwich stalls are plenty of songthaew, and there you might find some other tourists looking for fellow people to share one to keep costs down. Another plus side is you meet new people as well. With a little group the price per person should be around 30.000 Kip per person for the return trip. Also, do not let the driver rush you. Some would like to tell you that you have only one hour. If someone says this get another songthaew or insist on a longer stay. Also, in some instances they might offer you a cheaper fare, but mention that you can pay 10.000 Kip extra for the ticket. At the time I thought it was a scam, but the entrance tickets are really only 10.ooo Kip. Agencies try to get rid off not used tickets.
The approximate 30 minute drive to the falls is actually very pleasant, heading into the rural area, passing some little villages, rice paddies and little rivers you cross via suspicious looking bamboo bridges. If you have a good driver he will stop at a few places with some great views.
At the entrance of the fall there are several shops and food places selling water, snacks and proper meals. So you can last minute items.After the ticket booth the path leads directly to the main tier of the waterfall, the water crashing down from quite a height. This si one of the most popular place for taking pictures, and you can get closer to the fal by climbing over some little rocks – though you might get wet feet. At the pool you could go for a swim, but there are better places in my opinion.
From here there are two options. Either follow the water to the lower tiers, or turn left and cross the bridge (nice view of the falls). Follow the path and after short while an even smaller path leads up the hill. Careful here, as the path can be slippery if it has rained, and you might need to cross a few little streams. As a reward of the climb is reaching the top of the waterfall. You can get a great view over the surrounding area, and even have a dip in the upper pool. I was surprised that they had a security fence there to avoid falling down – though you could still have easily walk to the edge. In my opinion the walk to the top is worth it.
Back at the bottom of the first tier you can follow the stream who go down some little tiers before you reach the most popular place to swim. The bottom tier is a larger pool with enough space to swim, and at the larger toilets you can change if needed. You can jump down the the little fall, or use the swing to jump into the water. Small warning though, don’t be surprised if you feel something biting your feet – there are little fish who like dead skin as food. But it is not dangerous. This is also a nice spot for a little picnick.
From here you just follow the path towards the exit. However, before you reach it you will pass a a caged area which is the home of a bear sanctuary. From a platform you can get. Nice view of the few bears who have been rescued and given a new home.
Overall I would highly recommend a trip to the Kuang Si waterfall. It is a beautiful area and especially in the warmer month it offers some spaces to escape the heat and to freshen up in the water. And if you visit the falls make sure you walk up to the highest point – the view makes up the hard work to get there.