when we arrived in luang prabang, the city was still pretty chilly in the mornings and evenings, so we decided to save the famed kuang si falls until the end of the visit with hopes for warmer temperatures and the chance to swim.
our gamble paid off. by the end of our week in luang prabang, it was hot!
instead of our usual motorbike mode of transportation, we decided to hire a tuk tuk to take us the 17 kilometers outside the city so we could kick back and enjoy the ride to the falls. upon arriving, ting was instantly put-off and quite frankly, annoyed. the ride was great and the scenery was beautiful, but as we neared the falls we were surrounded by swarms of tourists, tour buses, tuk tuks and an entire pop-up city of people hawking trinkets and snacks around the falls. oh, and did i mention the entry fee? to be expected? yes, but hear me out. it is a little discouraging when you’ve seen beautiful falls and water adventures in their natural forms (grand canyon’s havasupai, hawaii falls off the road to hana, etc.) and then watch as gorgeous natural beauty is exploited and development pushes right up to the edge. seriously, they make it so you can essentially park your car next to the lagoon. i get that beautiful things are going to become attractions and absolutely should be enjoyed by people, but how about a “beauty buffer” that surrounds the area? perhaps put the parking lot 100+ yards from the water so you have to work a little bit to get there? nope, park & dive.
then, as we turned the corner after a 2-minute “trek” to the base of the falls, we were surrounded by hundreds of tourists (primarily Chinese) snapping photos of rope swingers with their intense camera equipment. i swear i took a photo of this, but i can’t find it. it was bad.
alright, now we’re getting somewhere. the crowds had all stopped at the final marked path, but ting insisted we keep going. so we did. and what we found was the mouth of the falls that was only accessible by climbing up a waterfall. we saw a group of canadian backpackers who’d done it, so ting was determined to find the route and do the same.
it was pretty intense. this was the view looking up – water under you and over you – but slow and steady won the race.
don’t look down!
as we reached the off-the-beaten track falls… it was a feeling similar to rounding the bend at Havasupai. AWESOME!
one, two three, JUMP! we did it together and it was so fun. the best part? we have it ALL on video!
the view while swimming in the lagoon.
in the end, it was completely worth it. all it took was some courage and willingness to explore a little beyond the path that was carved out for us. in fact, as we were in the middle of scaling one waterfall, i stopped and had a moment. i was standing under a waterfall in the middle of laos and realized that in that second, nobody in the world had any clue where i was or what i was doing. it was just us and we were in it together. it happened to be january 31st, which marked 1-month since we’d boarded the plane (can you believe it?!) and took this leap of faith. as the water gushed down, i thought about what i would have been doing on a normal day, and reflected on what i was doing instead… what we’d done in the past month. i yelled out to danny to tell him to stop, look around and reflect with me. it was an absolutely exhilarating feeling.