Monday, 8 February 2010

Cycling and the Kuang Si Waterfalls

Straight up and go! Today was a big day and we wanted to make the most of it! We had prepaid for bike hire the day before, so at quarter to nine sharp, we went to collect our hogs! They were mountain bikes with gears, which is a change to what we have been used to in Asia. We set off in search of breakfast, but were laid back enough to suggest getting it as we saw it. Just a few kilometres outside of Luang Prabang was a lady sitting on a tiny stool, deep-frying some gorgeous looking banana and pumpkin fritters.

We stopped to enjoy them and Jon went to the “restaurant” (it was little more than a garden shed really, but very atmospheric) to ask if it was possible to buy rice and vegetables to take away in a banana leaf. The Lao man looked puzzled and said “Ummm…. Deutsch?” It was obvious at this point that this gent couldn’t speak English, but his German proved to be very good!
Jon asked again in German and found that it was not possible to take food away because he was only serving noodle soup. He was very curious about what we were doing today and about our country, so the three of us conversed for ten minutes or so before getting back on track.
Shortly, we approached a huge hill but we made it to the top nevertheless and appreciated an extremely rewarding five-minute acceleration down the steep mountainside. From then on it was a gentle undulating bike ride through rice paddies, woodland, and small rural villages, where children were playing happily and people were cooking up great-smelling grub!
We arrived at Kuang Si about three hours after setting off from the town centre and parked our bikes. We were able to pay the guard a small fee to watch them for us whilst we walked into the park.

First thing’s first! Stopping off to observe the Asiatic Black Bears in the rescue centre was just awesome. It was possible to see the bears play fighting, resting, swinging in hammocks… You name it really! It was great knowing that they were all perfectly happy and under protection.

We proceeded up hill towards the waterfalls. We arrived at the first pool at the bottom of four more tiers of these lagoons. It was very picturesque as the water was really turquoise blue, cool, and nestled cosily in the middle of the forest. Some would describe it as a jungle oasis. There were many giant blue butterflies, just like our day yesterday on the Nam Ou river. In fact, there was a whole range of insect species that were both beautiful, and eerie. Jon was climbing on top of one of the waterfalls and walked into a tiny spider’s web, and the spider was bright yellow!

One of the pools had a few backpackers around it and many were making use of the ropeswing that had been put there. My turn! Jon climbed up the steps (planks of wood that had been nailed into the tree: the top one was very wobbly!) to reach for the rope. One, two, three… JUMP! It was like being Tarzan! It was great to cool off in the water below as well!

Later, Simon took a dip in a pool lower down. Refreshing!

We made it upwards to the larger waterfall, and then finally made the steep ascent into the rainforest and up to the vantage point. Below us lay the valleys and rice paddies of Laos, with the mountains in the background. Spectacular!
The journey back didn’t seem like the 30 or so km of the outward trip. The picturesque villages with their painted wats, wooden and jute houses with corrugated roofs, cooking fires and friendly dogs seemed to whiz by, and the hills seemed less severe. The sun illuminated the landscape, piercing through the haze surrounding the distant mountain peaks, each one with its own tone or hue in a layered effect stretching as far as the eye could see. At the highest vantage point it was possible to look in two different directions: north to the sacred confluence of the Nam Khan and Mekong rivers, where in the far distance we could see the UNESCO world heritage town of Luang Prabang nestling at the foot of Phou Si hill. Nearer, someone had lit a large bonfire on the side of one of the hills and the smoke gradually filled the sky across to the right. The vista in the opposite direction was even more dramatic: the mountains and jungles of northern Laos. Simon was ecstatic! Up until our visit to Luang Prabang, his favourite destination had been Equador. But now he has found a country even more beautiful, more compelling, more thrilling in the views, more exciting with the exotic flavours of the food, more fascinating in the architecture and heritage of its ancient cities.


  1. Simon, Can you check your emails, and reply to Anna? She needs a reply fairly soon, Thank yoiu

  2. Around the world, from the seat of a bike, in 800 dishes!

  3. Teddy Bears want to know if you took some pictures of real teaddies for them to look at. They find all these words a bit tricky, but they did recognise the word bears, so think that you must not really have eaten the cake ones! Grrrrrr!!xxx

  4. erm I'm sorry to have to break it to you ... but those are not real bears boys.

    The only thing is TARZAN didnt have to hold in his tummy :))..., pot kettle etc ;

  5. I just love the pic with "feeding the bear" and the panda! :D And I can imagine how cool it must have been to swing on a rope and swim in such a beautiful place! :)