Are Kuang Si Falls the Best Waterfalls in Southeast Asia?
Yes. I could end this post right there and just point you towards the photos, but since I’ve already abused the photo essay phenomenon in a previous post, I’ll spin you a story about this wonder of Southeast Asia.
Heading out onto the Laotian highway, with a faint idea of which direction I was going, I came across one of the LEAST impressive waterfalls I’d ever seen. I don’t think they even had a name; they were just a feature of what looked like a future restaurant/resort. I knew they couldn’t be the falls that everybody was raving about, so I continued turning the wheels of my gear-less bicycle, on the long road towards waterfall fulfillment.
That fulfilment would have to wait, as I had greatly underestimated how far 29 km actually is. Probably about 15 mountainous (maybe not mountainous, but they were at least hilly) kilometres later I hit a wall and my bike hit the ground, refusing to push on any further. The next vehicle along the road stopped and asked me if I needed a lift. I threw my bike into the back of the truck/tuk-tuk thing, and, probably looking like I’d just escaped from a North Korean prison camp, proceeded to rattle off all the excuses I had to the 2 amused British passengers.
Those final few kilometres were some of the most relaxing I’d ever experienced.
After a short walk past a bear enclosure and through some jungle, a pool of bright blue water hit my eyes, and straight away I knew I was in a pretty amazing place. I’d never seen water that colour before, and that, coupled with the thick jungle setting, gives the place a really magical atmosphere.
We continued walking, hoping to see the falls themselves, but kept coming to pool after pool of bright blue water. There was one that was really popular; it was full of people swimming, jumping from a rope swing and generally enjoying a respite from the scorching temperatures outside. The pools really do make for a refreshing escape, but we kept pushing on.
Onwards, through a restaurant, picnicking locals and more sparkling water, until I finally saw the main waterfall. It was alright, but a bit disappointing after the spectacular build up. It’s also hard to get a decent photo of it, on account of all the other people trying to do the same thing. My saviours from the hard bike journey and I decided to try and get right to the top of the falls, so we started the gruelling climb. That was followed by a peaceful walk through a butterfly filled forest, but the sound of roaring water was getting further and further away. Needless to say we took a wrong turn, so we headed back.
On the way back to the car park we stopped at one of the numerous small shops just outside the entrance to the falls. It was a pretty crazy little village, filled with sleeping tuk-tuk drivers, shops full of tourist tat and pieces of chicken roasting on sticks over fires. It’s also a good place to buy a few beers, as lounging around pools in the jungle can be thirsty work.
Kuang Si Falls makes for a great day trip from Luang Prabang, which itself is one of the best small cities in Southeast Asia. If you are with a group it is probably a good idea to hire a tuk-tuk; its way easier than cycling. If you hire a decent bike (with gears) it’d be OK, but it gets hot outside and tuk-tuks aren’t that expensive.
Have you been to Kuang Si Falls? Do you think they are the best waterfalls in Southeast Asia? Let me know!