Life is good, life is very, very good!
12.01.2011 - 12.01.2011
After the disappointment of yesterday’s Tak Bat, I was whisked off into the mountains south of Luang Prabang and encountered a magnificent national park of Tat Kuangsi (Kuangsi waterfalls). The park is nestled in the misty limestone peaks at the top end of a small village (Ban Thanpene). The drive out there is a good hour from Luang Prabang with the never-tiring scenery of agricultural land at the base of mist and cloud caressed limestone peaks.
If you have time, I’d highly recommend staying at Vanvisa at the Falls. While not in the national park itself, it’s only a few minute walk from the entry gate and the waterfall continues right outside your guesthouse so you can keep enjoying the beautiful light turquoise green waters, misty mountains and fresh, leafy, green jungle. Far from the maddening tourist crowds, this guesthouse and the national park (while still speckled with tourists) is a delightful step back into nature.
Fortunately, Kuangsi waterfalls is so big, that even with crowds, you can still manage to evade them or have enough space to quietly enjoy the superb surrounds. There is a good hike up to the top of the waterfalls which is mainly along a natural path. There is a decent path with some wooden stairs and grooved natural stairs to the left of the waterfalls. Feeling ambitious and needing to get away from the crowds, I took the road less travelled across the first bridge and went up a very natural path to the top. I saw very few people and it was great to be enveloped by the green, live jungle. I spent hours exploring the place, from the bear sanctuary, to the top of the falls, to the incredible amount of rock pools and cascades of the waterfall.
It was nice not having to rush back into town. After wandering the falls I meandered around the village watching the daily activities. Seems like another wedding took place recently, as there was a group of young men disabling a large marquee in an area that had a temporary wedding like sign (the glitter gave it away). I slowly made me way through the back street of the village to my guesthouse to recline on the deck to the soothing sounds of rushing water. In the evening I was served a fresh brew of lemongrass tea before a sumptuous feast of cabbage soup; a minty, nutty, eggy salad; bamboo stir fry and steamed rice. Way too much food for 1 person! It was all elegantly presented and delivered right to my deck. Life is good, life is very, very good.
I do not recommend attempting the 3km hike uphill to Phalesi cave, source of spring water for Kuangsi Falls, unless you’re happy that it might be closed to the public after you arrive there. I was not happy to discover this, but I did enjoy the hike up.
Woke up this morning and headed back to Luang Prabang and rented a bicycle to get around the town faster to see the wats and everything it has to offer. I spent more time off the bicycle than on. I’d go 2 metres and see something else I’d want to stop and look at. The small laneways were charismatic and there was so much to enjoy aesthetically. Then there were the wats. Once you get onto Sisavong Road away from the National Museum and Mount Phousi, the wats neighbour each other so it’s easy to swing from one to the other. I stumbled into one and pulled up short when I saw there was a monk already in there meditating or praying. I was a little taken aback so I respectfully knelt near the door frame and meditated a while myself. I wasn’t sure what the etiquette was! The wats were all different and were all living wats with plenty of monks wandering around, studying praying, playing. I only wish I had more time to wander around this quaint town. I missed quite a few things due to timings.
I highly recommend donating blood at the Red Cross. They happily took my blood (which is rejected in Australia on the chance I might come up with Mad Cow’s disease at some point from having being in England around ‘that time’). Seems they really need blood donations there and you get to watch really bad Thai movies while you donate.
I ended the day enjoying a sumptuous feast of Lao food at Tamarind, with great dinner companions due to communal seating. They serve a taster menu so you can have the mandatory sticky rice, while trying buffalo jerky, miang (lettuce wrapped parcels of full flavour) and pickled vegetables. They educate you about Lao food and how to eat it. Quite a charming restaurant and very popular with tourists, I saw quite a few being turned away!
It’ll be sad to leave Luang Prabang tomorrow – even if it’s a bit touristy, it’s still a lovely town to walk around, flanked by rivers on either side it has plenty of character and sustainable tourism initiatives!