Hi, my name is Carla from @mychickenworld. In this article I would love to share with you my experiences in Laos and tell you about one beautiful place in particular: Kuang Si Falls! But first, allow me to introduce myself.
I grew up in Mexico City with Japanese, Indonesian and Lebanese roots. My passion for travel and photography definitely came from the influence of my father who (since I was little) instilled in me the love for other cultures.
Thanks to his work we had the opportunity to take road trips in the USA, Canada and South America. His fascination for getting to know little corners recommended by locals and discovering hidden gems inside touristy places taught me that every culture has something in common.
After finishing my bachelors degree in International Commerce in Mexico, I moved to Germany to continue my studies and start working in the music and fashion industry. Since then, I have been an expat living between Germany and Switzerland where I live together with my husband. We both share a curiosity of exploring new places and meeting new people.
Visiting Kuang Si Falls on our Five Day Trip to Laos
Over the past ten years we have visited many countries in Southeast Asia including Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam and Cambodia. We left Laos for the end because we didn’t want to rush exploring its culture and nature.
A friend from the UK told us how wonderful it was to travel to Laos and walk through those green fields. We imagined meeting tranquil and tolerant people in a beautiful country. We also wanted to experience the Lao New Year (Songkran) and visit Luang Prabang and its surroundings.
We had five days in Laos where we would observe the local life and notice the similarities to neighbouring countries (albeit Laos has a less commercial culture). Luang Prabang, which is the former royal capital of Laos, is a visual feast of Buddhist temples, French colonial mansions and picturesque houses nestled amid groves of swaying coconut trees.
We flew from Bangkok with AirAsia. It took approximately one and a half hours. Upon arrival, the people asked for my arrival visa form and generally the procedures at the airport were easy. The airport is quite small. There is no chance of having any troubles if you arrive by plane. The places we visited in Luang Prabang during our five days included:
- Phousi Hill
- Kuang Si Falls
- Pak Ou Caves
- Phosi Market
- Mekong River
- UXO Museum
- Wat Manorom
- Wat Wisunarat
- Nam Khan River
- Wat Xiengthong
- Laos Buffalo Dairy
- Royal Palace Museum
- Kuang Si Butterfly Park
- Vat Nong Neighborhood
- Morning and Night Market
- Le Cafe/Bistro Ban Vat Sene
- MandaLao Elephant Conservation
- Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre
- Tak Bat – Morning Alms Giving Ceremony
- The Living Land Farm: An organic farm that supports the local people.
First Impressions of Kuang Si Falls
Before coming to Laos, we did some research on Google Maps, TripAdvisor and Instagram. We came across Kuang Si Falls and learnt that they were one of the top falls in Asia. They became a must-visit for us in Laos!
After a 45-minute drive, we arrived early in the morning at Kuang Si Falls. The waterfalls are located 30 kilometres south of Luang Prabang. My first impression was – wow! They were magical. In fact, it’s a three layered waterfall with different colored water depending on the season.
The main waterfall has a drop of 60 meters, the water temperature is cold the whole year round and the humidity in this part of Laos is high. I have seen many amazing waterfalls around the world but I was amazed by this one! The untouched nature here reminded me of the Cascadas de Agua Azul in Chiapas (Mexico) and the Kawasan Falls in Cebu (Philippines).
Tips for your Visit to Kuang Si Falls
Whether or not you take a tour to Kuang Si Falls will depend on your budget and how fit you are to make your own trip. There are many transport options to get to the falls including: car, minivan and tuk tuk.
Our hotel arranged a pick-up/drop off service at the airport and our driver, Mr. Bounty, stole our hearts. I spoke with him and he decided to drive us to the falls together with his wife. He showed us different spots on the way to the falls! The humbleness of how people treat their guests in this country is incredible. This was a way for me to support his job too.
We arrived at 8am. The parking lot was empty, local shops were closed and the whole area was just for the four of us. At around 9:30am/10am the Kuang Si Falls area started to get busy with Chinese tourists and locals.
It doesn’t matter if you visit Kuang Si Falls during the dry season or wet season. I always recommend coming early in the morning. This way they can arrive before all the other visitors come. Try to avoid coming during holidays/weekends since many locals take the opportunity to have a day trip here with their kids – having picnics and swimming.
Also, be aware of the fact that there are some spots which have strong water pressure. You want to avoid accidents while visiting. Some of the pools are considered sacred too. Therefore, follow the signs and only swim where permitted. Whatever you do, don’t litter. Respect the environment! Below are a couple more tips for your visit to Kuang Si Falls:
- Look after your belongings
- If you can’t swim then stay in the shallow waters
- There are a few jumping points but I would be careful about that
- Always watch your steps – the surrounding rocky area can be slippery.
- The entry fee for Kuang Si Falls is around 20,000 kip and the falls are open daily from 08:30am – 5:30pm. The price may be different in 2021.
- If you are a drone pilot, please be aware of the restrictions. Remember, once you lose signal then your drone is more than likely gone!
My Favorite Places at Kuang Si Falls
One of my favourite places on our trip to Kuang Si Falls was our stop at Laos Buffalo Dairy. In fact, it was one of the most amazing experiences I have had in Asia. For those who have visited this part of the world, you will know that these animals are of primary importance to agriculture. At this farm you learn about these animals and their importance.
Another incredible place was Free the Bears. We didn’t know about this place but after you pay your entrance fee to the falls you start walking through dense forests up to the main waterfall. Along the way you will find some incredible vegetation and then all of a sudden a place with sun bears!
Despite having mixed feelings about animals in any form of captivity, the bears looked happy, adapted and in good condition (especially when compared to the harsh reality of being hunted or poached). You will have to make your own mind up about the place after visiting Free the Bears.
Of course, the highlight was seeing the majestic view of the Kuang Si Falls. Walking across a picturesque bridge brings you from one side to the other. You arrive at a beautiful new viewpoint and can get closer to swim.
I must emphasize that during the dry season the water takes on a blue hue due to the presence of minerals. In the wet season, the water becomes a deep green and you can hear the waterfall well before you see it.
Top 3 Things To Do in the Luang Prabang Area
- Tour Kuang Si Falls, Laos Buffalo Dairy and rice fields in a day.
- Take a day trip to Wat Xiengthong, Wat Manorom and Phousi Hill where you will have views over the Mekong River. At night, head to the Royal Palace Museum and have a night market experience including delicious street food and a lot of handicrafts to browse through.
- Visit the Mekong River and have breakfast at one of the restaurants close to the Nam Khan River, take a trip to the Pak Ou Caves and visit an elephant sanctuary if you haven’t seen one in Southeast Asia yet.
You shouldn’t forget that Luang Prabang was the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in Laos. This was due to its mix of traditional Lao and French architecture. It was no wonder that tourism was booming here before 2020.
Many of the hotels have received tourism awards and the city itself has too, due to the big effort of maintaining a sustainable and clean way of life. That is partly why you must plan your trip to Laos to include this wonderful city and not just visit Kuang Si Falls while forgetting the rest of Luang Prabang.
One thing that surprised me about Laos is that we saw many places – including at restaurants, temples and museums – with announcements and signs for foreigners to show respect to the Lao people.
It was peculiar if you compare it with Thailand or Myanmar where we didn’t have this well-illustrated information on avoiding any kind of disrespect to the locals. I personally think it’s fair in order to maintain the right balance between visitors and local people who consider this place their home.
Staying at Maison Dalabua Hotel
There are many accommodation options in Luang Prabang suitable for every budget. I have searched for the best and it was difficult to make a decision. Most of the places have so much to offer from incredible pool areas, to stunning atmospheres, excellent staff and spacious rooms.
We booked our stay at Maison Dalabua Hotel. This magnificent place is just a few minutes walk from one of the main streets of Luang Prabang. It was awarded as one of the world’s most luxurious hotels in 2019. Don’t be scared when I say luxury and think it’s too expensive. Trust me, everyone deserves to be pampered after taking such active tours!
Need to Know Before you Go
If you are obsessed with foreign languages like me then learn some Lao: Sai Bai Dee = Hello, Doi = Yes, Bo = No, Khob Chai = Thank You, La Kon = Goodbye and Sok Di = Good luck. Even just learning these phrases will help!
Change your money as soon as possible or look for an ATM on the street. Avoid scammers – we all know this happens. Respect the locals and their culture. We all want to visit again. Get ready for some gastronomic delights. Laos cuisine is poetic with every bite. Don’t miss the alms giving ceremony. For transport options, here are my recommendations:
- Shared Tuk Tuk: One of the cheapest options and you can normally accommodate up to 10 people. You will see tuk tuks all around Luang Prabang. You can ask the driver first if he is driving to the falls and then you will probably have to wait a bit until the tuk tuk is full and ready to go. However, if you want to have full control over your trip, I suggest taking a private tuk tuk, car or minivan. Also, check the return times since you have to decide at what hour to return to Luang Prabang.
- Private Tuk Tuk: If you are a group of friends or simply want to have your own schedule then you should definitely choose a private tuk tuk. Make sure to ask for the price first. If you have back problems then a tuk tuk isn’t the best option. The road to the waterfall is bumpy and the tuk tuk only makes it worse! The advantages, though, are that you can manage your own schedule and plan your day as you please.
- Car or Minivan: If you are looking for a private driver to get to the waterfall, I recommend asking at your hotel. They might be able to help. Renting a car is convenient because you can manage your schedule and it’s comfortable at the same time. One advantage is that you might be exhausted after your trip to Kuang Si Falls and at night you still want to be able to go out and experience the delicious street food at the night market! This means you can relax on your way back from the falls.
- Motorbike: Although going to Kuang Si Falls by motorbike is do-able, I don’t recommend it. The first reason is that Laos is well known for its motorbike scams. Secondly, the road to the waterfall is not in the best condition. If you are a beginner at driving motorbikes, I wouldn’t risk it.
I hope this article made you interested in visiting this remarkably well preserved city. The blend of rural and urban developments over several centuries including the French colonial influences have enhanced the city’s atmosphere. I repeat – it’s certainly an underrated city. I’m sure that you will have a great time visiting Luang Prabang and Kuang Si Falls!