Kuang Si Falls
Get up early, haggle, beat the crowds, and trek for a bit
and you'll get the most awe-inspiring waterfall to yourself
During dry season in Laos, the landscape drastically changes. Water levels in the rivers drop to expose hidden islands, the ground turns the color of manila folders and cracks under the constant pressure of the sun, and to many tourists' dismay, most of the waterfalls dry up. Lucky for me, Kuang Si was still flowing in March.
Somehow, we coordinated a group to wake up early enough to grab one of the first songthews an hour outside of town to get to the falls. Honestly, it won't be nearly as nice if you leave town later than 8am. Get ready to aggressively haggle with these guys, they're ruthless and will definitely try to overcharge you or undercut your time there. A fair price is around 30 kip per person round-trip and you'll want minimum 3 hours there. Remember what your driver looks like because you'll have to find him for your ride back, and pay only upon return to town.
On the walk up to the waterfall, you pass by a rescue center for the black bears formerly used in the inhumane bile factories common around all of Asia. There's a large jungle gym set up for them to sleep in hammocks, climb around, and play. They're small and adorably furry- it put everyone in a light-hearted mood to giggle at the lazy little bears lounging about like giant cats.
You start the hike right at the base of the falls. Immediately you're taken by the bright turquoise pools and cascading down each step like a beautiful woman taking her time descending the staircase. As you walk up further and further, rocks and trees give way to yet another pool of falling water somehow more and more striking than the last.
After snapping quite a few pictures of the falls (without any people in them at all- the perks of going early) we started hiking up to the very top of the largest part of the waterfall. There's a path but no steps so there was a little rock climbing involved before we reached the summit. We relaxed a bit in the pools up there and found a rope swing. At the top, there's a nice 3km trek to a nearby cave but we were pressed for time at that point and preferred to go for a swim.
By the time we hiked back down, it was around noon and we had become really, really warm. It was time for a well-deserved dip in those gorgeous icy pools. The water's cold but refreshing and if you stay still long enough, those little "fish spa" fish naturally living in the water will come nibble at your feet. We had a blast climbing part of the cascades, cannon-balling off a fallen tree trunk, and swimming around. Could not have been a more perfect day in Laos!