Tag Archives: amazing

A trip to the Kuang Si waterfalls

Getting to the Kuang Si (or Kouang Si) waterfalls, 30Km south of Luang Prabang, was an adventure in itself.

27 of us from the same hostel were booked on the “minivan option” to get to the waterfalls. Only to find out that ‘minivan’ meant ‘tuk tuk’ and that we had to cram into only three tuk tuks…And that was just the beginning!

Roads in Lao are very bumpy and badly maintained, potholes are the size of a buffalo, and drivers are as mad as those in Vietnam…To add to this, the road to the Kuang Si waterfalls is quite winding and hilly. When the engine of the tuk tuk I was in stopped working as we were on a steep road, the driver didn’t beat an eyelid.

He engaged the emergency brake and put two small rocks behind the rear wheels as extra safety measure.  Then tried to start the engine again. It started but the tuk tuk didn’t move. After a few times we started sliding backwards (small rocks can’t hold a tuk tuk!) and I pictured myself in a newspaper article titled “Backpackers accident in Lao”.

But no, that didn’t happen. The second tuk tuk reached us and 3 of us were told to get on it. That meant 12 people plus driver! After a few more failed attempts everyone had to leave the broken tuk tuk and redistribute between tuk tuks and minivans driving past.

This time I got the minivan!

Eventually we arrived to the Kuang Si waterfalls.

These falls are made of a succession of beautiful pools and waterfalls, with turquoise blue waters. It really is such an amazing scenery!

It is possible to swim in most of the pools, and trails and walkways allow for easy walking between them.

The biggest waterfall is at the very top and a slippery climb to the highest pool seemed the favourite for dozens of young monks (novices) who were there to swim and dive in the pools. Whenever they saw us along the trail, they encouraged us to join them to the top!

I did not make it to the very top but I could still see (and hear) the monks having  a great time :-).

The journey back to town didn’t involve broken down tuk tuks. But the driver decided to entertain us with some Formula One racing down the hill, overtaking trucks on bendy roads and ignoring any plea to slow down. Thankfully we made it back safely .

The amazing landscape around Ninh Binh

When Tom and Norma, whom I met at the Nguyen Shack homestay in the Ninh Binh area, asked me if I wanted to join them for a half day trip to Trang An I said Yes even if I had no idea what was there to see. After all I had no plans for the day.

We rode our bicycles for about 5Km on very muddy and rough terrain (Tough Mudder, here I come!) and when we arrived at the Trang An pier we paid 150,000 dong entrance fee and got on a small boat, joined by a Vietnamese men.

For the following two and a half hours, our boat woman took us around (rowing sometimes with her hands and sometimes with her feet!) amongst amazing limestone hills. We visited several grottoes, where we often had to duck down, we got off the boat to see pagodas dotted along the river, but mainly we enjoyed the fantastic scenery.
This is Ha Long Bay on land!

Inside one of the grottoes
Inside one of the grottoes
On the river
On the river
More limestone hills
More limestone hills

There were several other boats on the river, but overall it wasn’t busy. The area is mainly visited by Vietnamese tourists, while Westerners seem to go to Tam Coc instead.

After the boat tour, we cycled further to reach Hoa Lu, the ancient capital of Vietnam (10th-11th century), but we decided not to visit. We had been advised that there was not much to see there. So instead we turned into a side road and through two tunnels to reach the “secret valley”. In front of us another set of limestone hills like a natural theatre. Absolutely stunning!

Your travel blogger in the "secret valley"!
Your travel blogger in the “secret valley”!

After this, I think I will give Ha Long Bay a miss! ;-)

Update 27 June 2014: at the 38th session of the World Heritage committee (15-25 June 2014, Doha) Trang An was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.