Tag Archives: water

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 .

Lao New Year (Pii Mai Lao)

I knew that Lao New Year was going to be wet.
But I didn’t expect it SO wet.
And I am not talking about rain. I am talking about people throwing buckets of water at each other in the streets for hours each day. Water fights. Streets as battlefields.

Organised “posses” of locals driving around town in vans and trucks to deliver their attacks. Tourists fighting back with waterguns. Water everywhere. If you don’t want to get wet do not go outside. For at least three days. Because it’s “no mercy” out there!

Lao New Year (or Pii Mai Lao) is celebrated around mid-April each year. In 2014 the key dates are 14-15-16 April, although in Luang Prabang the celebrations last over one week. There is a long program of activities during the week but the main theme seems to be “water”. Water is a means of wishing long life and peace and good luck so when someone throws water at you they mean well!

Since I was completely soaked in water for 6 hours a day for 2 days I am expecting to have the luckiest year of my life. Or – given the not-so-clean water from the Mekong river used – I am more likely to get ill….

Apart from getting soaked, which gets annoying after a while despite the relief provided from the 40C degrees heat, Luang Prabang had: an elephant parade, an incredibly busy morning market on 14 April (which was the main day of the festival), a very interesting performance of Lao ballet theatre, a Miss Lao New Year beauty contest, and the purification of Buddha images and statues in the temples.

But the most interesting one for me was the parade/procession from Wat Thadnoy to Wat Xieng Thong (the two main temples). Monks, ethnic minorities, performance arts groups, university students, and lots of locals, mostly wearing traditional costumes, paraded for hours in the unforgiving sun.  Amazing show!

Enough words for now, let’s get the images to do the rest of the talking.