When in Luang Prabang, a trip to Kuang Si Falls is a must. We hired a driver to take us by tuk tuk out to the falls for 240000 kip (around A$40 for the day).
The falls are the centrepiece a little national park about 30km out of town, along a pretty good road that winds through farmlands and villages. We even found some rice paddies in action (a rarity in the dry season in Laos).
There are three main things to see out at Kuang Si Falls, and you can spend most of the day enjoying the surrounds.
1. Tat Kuang Si – Falls
This is a brilliant spot, but it’s not a secret. Tat Kuang Si is a popular a tourist spot. It’s 20000 kip (A$3) entry – free for kids. Try to get in early to avoid the crowds. You’ll be rewarded with this:
As you climb up the hill from the entry, following the stream. A series of turquoise pools become more and more spectacular.
Some are designated swimming spots – much needed on a humid April day in Laos!
The water colour is created as the stream flows over limestone and the minerals wash into the pools.
The biggest drop is 25m from the top waterfall.
The best view is from the footbridge.
If you’re feeling energetic, walk up the tracks to the left or right of the falls – a steep 10-15 minute hike through the jungle to the top. The view is not great, but you can say you did it! It’s mostly a dirt track, but in some parts, steps make it a little easier. It would be slippery in the wet season.
From the top, a further 3km leads to a cave and a spring, for the even-more-energetic. We were too tired and hot, so we headed back down for a swim.
2. Free the Bears Rescue Centre
Near the park entry, inside the park, you can’t miss the bear rescue centre, which provides a home for Asiatic Black bears, Sun and Moon bears that have been rescued from poachers throughout south-east Asia. Sadly, the bear trade is still going strong. Bears are still kept in cages in China and south-east Asia, drained of their bile, served as delicacies in restaurants. (Here are Blake and Phoebe imagining this horrible life for a bear.)
Rather than release them back into the wild to face the possibility of re-capture, the bears are protected here. Find more info at Free the Bears, an organisation established by Australian Mary Hutton, and now working throughout the Asian region. Note that the bear rescue centre receives no funds from entry to Kuang Si Falls, so consider a donation while you’re there, or buy a T-Shirt, to support the excellent work they do.
3. Kuang Si Butterfly Park
On the way back to town, stop off at the nearby Kuang Si Butterfly Park, a breeding sanctuary for many of Laos’ native butterflies. They’ll talk you through the life cycle of the butterfly, starting with these hungry caterpillars.
Through some sparkling cocoons.
To all manner of stunning butterflies.
This one’s my favourite. Now that’s a tongue.
There were info sheets for the kids to ID the different varieties, which they loved.
The great thing was, that afterwards as we travelled through Laos, the kids could identify lots of the butterflies we saw. We know that this, for example, is a glassy tiger (though we think it should be a glassy leopard).
And a fish foot spa along the way – also a highlight!
Any guesthouse or hotel in town will hook you up with a driver for the day to visit Kuang Si. You can also rent your own motor scooter, or join a tour group. My advice, head out early on your own and enjoy the serenity!
More on Luang Prabang? Check out my post on visiting Phu Si.