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Laos (Day 24) Kuang Si Waterfall Wonders

Today the kids insisted on getting up at 5:30am to see the Giving of Alms. In case you are just joining us (though I have no idea how you would land directly here), we could not get the girls up the previous morning to go see this most sacred Lao tradition - Tak Bat (giving of alms, morning collection of food from the faithful). Well after seeing the pics and video that we took without them, I was surprised to find that they most definitely wanted to see it and actually woke themselves up. It was a little harder for me to get up since I had already done it the previous morning (kids never synchronize). 

Quite chipper at 6am

We took them near the same spot where we had sat the previous morning. Not sure where the crowd forms, but there was nobody at this end of the road.

Caitlin and Molly both seemed to really enjoy the procession as they watched intently. Out of the corner of my eye, I realized that they were waving to the younger monks and trying to get a wave or smile back. The girls probably didn't realize that they were actually drawing smiles from the older monks.

We watched this group of monks in front of us chant and bow before re-entering their wat.

As all the monks returned to their wats, we wander and observed them tidy the grounds by sweeping. We caught glimpses of the younger monks playing around teasing one another good-naturedly. It is good to see that children, no matter where they are from, are still children. I pointed them out to my girls, see they are children like you. Different, but same. 

Instead of returning to Mekong Riverview for the complimentary breakfast, we wisely headed straight to the Morning Market for a breakfast of champions (noodle soup, spicy for me). Again, I took a million market pics, but I will spare you. This time - hahahaha.  

After breakfast, it was STILL early morning.  We had planned to go to Kuang Si Waterfalls after we returned from our stay at the elephant sanctuary, but I thought we should take advantage of the clear weather. Who knows what sort of rainfall will most likely arrive in the next days. So, we asked Mekong Riverview if they could arrange something for us immediately. They were able to set us up with a driver for the day ready to take us in under an hour.

We went in a very nice van. The hotel also packed us carry bags with plenty of towels. We made great time finding ourselves one of the first to arrive in the parking lot. The negative was that Molly promptly threw up as soon as she exited the vehicle from carsick. She was fine after walking in the fresh air, but I saw the driver's face and knew we wouldn't be taking those curvy turns at the same speed on the return trip. We made our way to the entrance excited to be the only ones approaching. I've heard that it can get quite crowded later in the day.

First, you pass through a bear rescue sanctuary. These bears were born in captivity, so can't survive in the wild, but their sad story of being abused in the bile trade is ended and they appeared to be well looked after here and are protected from poachers. 

We then followed the trail to the series of waterfalls, 3 of which are swimmable. The falls are a three-tiered waterfall beginning in shallow pools atop a steep hillside and ending with a 60 m main cascade. We arrived at the first pool and immediately plunged into the shallow water. It was exhilarating! Nature's playground delivered top notch views. 

After some time, we gathered ourselves and made our way to the second swimmable area. This section of falls had deeper water. There were a few friendly people here and they encouraged us into the water. Caitlin actually jumped off this protruding edge after seeing Rob survive the jump. 

I lost years off my life watching her navigate across the slippery rocks to get to the ledge.

The falls are usually a spectacular turquoise blue (they get their color from the travertine - a form of limestone deposited by mineral springs), but we came after heavy rain and they had a brownish hue, so that was a little disappointing. However, they were still very impressive! 

Next, we wandered to the largest cascade. It was a spectacular sight - oh so stunning and powerful force of water!

Crossing the bridge brings you right into the mist of Kuang Si Waterfalls. Rejuvenating for the soul. Its spray tickled our faces. Sheer joy!

Around the side of the large cascade is the path up the mountain. It was a slippery steep mud hill and we had to work hard to get up it. There was even talk of abandoning our efforts (kids whined a bit), but we trudged on determined. Midway, we abandoned our bags of shoes (we were all wearing our water shoes at this point) and towels (mom and dad grabbing one towel each around our necks) with plans to gather everything on the descent. Do you think we made it to the top?

Why yes, yes we did! And, you can too :) It's worth it!!!

This is the top edge of the waterfall where it flows in the large cascade down as you see in the earlier pics. Surprisingly, it is calm water up here and you can swim.

At the tippy top, we scooted across a rickety bamboo structure to stand on top of the world. Looking down, can you spot the bridge with people looking up? When we had stood on the bridge below, we had no idea that we would later be standing dead center OVER the TOP of the waterfall! What an exciting experience - be careful hiking up as it's a bit tricky with very little path in many sections but don't worry, you can do it!

Can you see the bridge down below with people?

There was such a cool vibe up here mountain top. Just a few other tourists, but everybody was very friendly. Just a great place to hang out and chill in nature's glory. Eventually, we decided to head back down. Now, there are two ways up - the path we took and an "easy" path. We could have stayed together and gone back down the same way we came up, but I wimped out and said I would take the girls the "easy" way while Rob retraced his path to retrieve our abandoned stuff on the hill. We made "nice knowing ya" jokes and laughed at Rob.  Told him we would wait for him at the bottom at least until we got hungry - hahahaha and then we set off. You know what's coming, right?

Looking just like the other path, I started to think that we might as well have just stayed together. Oh well, at least we will get our adventure going down. Let's continue...

And then... I aged 10 years coming down what I thought was supposed to be the "easy" path alone with the kids. 

Whew! We made it and I don't know how but we managed to stay upright all the way down! 

We found Rob napping on a bench when we finally reached the bottom. I asked him why he didn't come look for us when he didn't see us. His response was that he had no idea where we would pop out, so thought it best to stay put. I had a large Lao Beer at lunch to calm my nerves. Speaking of which, there is a wonderful cafe near the large cascade waterfall. With waterfall view, we lunched on delicious Laotian dishes and people-watched the steady stream of people just arriving.  We delighted in our good luck to have had a full morning enjoying this stunning landscape all to ourselves, especially as we exited past our now busy shallow swimming pools. I've read that most people don't make it to the top, but THAT is the best part!! I'll never forget standing in the center at the top!! It's tricky getting up there after rain, but do make the effort if you are able. And, get here early!

We found our driver waiting for us in the parking lot. We loaded back into the vehicle and began the ride back to town. Nearby, our driver pulled into a butterfly park. Ummm, okay. Sure, we'll go check it out. It was a nice little park and the kids seemed to enjoy it. They were given papers of the butterflies that they might see and enjoyed searching for the various types.

We certainly enjoyed the natural fish spa. The fish nibble on dead skin. Go ahead, dip your feet!

We arrived safe and sound back to Mekong Riverview where we reflected on our magical day enjoying the beauty that is Luang Prabang! 

We took it easy in the evening packing up for the upcoming very REASON we came to Laos. It was our most anticipated experience of our entire trip.   

Sunset at Mekong Riverview

Up Next: Camping with Elephants!

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