The biggest natural attraction in Luang Prabang are the Kuang Si waterfalls. About 20 miles out of town, we hitched a ride on a tuk tuk (LAK 50k pp about $6 USD, a private tuk tuk is LAK 200k) with five other travelers. Our Lonely Planet didn’t make a huge deal of them so we were pleasantly surprised with the experience.
When we rolled up to the falls, there was a surprise enclosure of rescued sun bears. They were so adorable and kept really busy with lots of obstacles, pool play and hammocks to relax in. They did a great job posing for pics, bearing their white chests, while we watched them play.
They were rescued from the Chinese medicine practice of collecting bear bile where the bears are put through extreme pain in order to extract bile from their liver. The bile is meant to be used for medicinal purposes but can actually be very harmful to people. So, while it’s a little sad that they are not in the wild, they are living a much nicer life than before and looked like they had no complaints.
From there is was on to the falls. The waterfall starts out as a staircase of cascading mini falls, creating natural pools and swimming areas. It was a really beautiful, peaceful place with creamy blue water.
We went in for a quick dip to cool off – it was COLD – but eventually became refreshing.
We didn’t jump off the tree into the water as we had heard that a chinese tourist died the other day while diving in head first into shallow water. Yikes. So, we watched other jump and encouraged them not to dive!
The actual Kuang Si falls were impressive but I think my favorite part was the series of cascading falls leading up to it. All in all, it massively overshot our expectations and we had a nice day out. The ride home through the Lao mountains was the icing on the cake.