Saturday, December 9, 2017

Day Trip to Kuang Si Waterfall, Luang Prabang

Kuang Si Waterfall is located around 30 kms south of Luang Prabang. The journey took around one hour by car. Traveling in a group of four, we decided to use tut-tut. Our advice- try to get the price from a few tourism companies to get the best offer. We took the package from Phone Travel Co with the price of  250,000 Kip for 4 people.

The road was not in very good condition, especially after leaving Luang Prabang town area. But still, the journey was not very rocky for a tut-tut truck. There was literally no signboard on road, thus it might be hard to drive there by our own (not sure Waze could be used or not). 

8:30 am sharp, Mr. Teng, the representative from Phone Travel Co came to our hotel together with the driver. The tut-tut was in fact a small truck with two rows of seat at the back (upper right). The road was good in the town area (upper right), but getting worse when we traveled out of the town (lower right). There were nothing much to see along the road, except huts and farms.

We reached the entrance of Tat Kuang Si Park at around 9:30 am (upper left). Kuang Si Waterfall is located in the park. The entrance fee was 20,000 Kip per person (upper left). There were a few rows of shops selling souvenirs, snacks, and drinks beside the ticketing counter (upper right). Kuang Si Bear Rescue Center was right beside the entrance of the park (lower right). Several black bears which were saved from the local poachers lived their good life in the center. The bear rescue center was a part of the waterfall conservation area, thus no extra entrance fee required. 

Souvenir shop at the rescue center.

It might be too early for the bears to entertain visitors. They were sleeping. We could hear the sound of splashing water from the conservation center. The whole center was not big. We could see everything there in less than 10 minutes. There was a path that led us from the center to the bank of the stream. The 50 meter high Kuang Si Waterfall is located some 100 meters away upstream. 

Turquoise green colour water flows through green forest is picturesque. Pools are formed in between waterfalls. Visitors can take a dip in the water in two of these ponds.  

We came across several smaller waterfalls when we walked upstream.

Water flows rapidly in certain area.

A beautiful multi-layer waterfall. There was a restaurant beside the waterfall.

We continued to walk upstream following the path. The thunderous sound of water were getting stronger. We finally saw Kuang Si Waterfall two minutes later.

A bridge was built to provide the best view to the visitors.

Visitors were taking photo from the bridge.

Second and third layers of the waterfall could be clearly seen from the bridge.

Kuang Si Park was clean and the walking path was safe for sandals (upper left). Picnic tables and benches were prepared along the walking path (upper right). Changing area was available as well (lower right). There was a restaurant in the park. The food was a bit pricey, but well, that's the price to pay if we want to take a meal beside the waterfall. The restaurant was located nearby the waterfall.

Ta Kuang Si Park is worth a visit (unless you can find something else better to do in Luang Prabang). The park was clean, organized, with clear signboards reminding visitors to stay safe and stay clean. There was literally no mosquito in the park (at least none of us were bitten). There was no food and beverage sold in the park, except Lao Green Jungle Cafe and Restaurant. The food there was a bit pricey, so you might want to buy some snacks and drinking water at the entrance of the park. Wearing slippers or sandals are advised, and there is no dress code for those who want to swim in the pools. Last but not least, we would have more privacy in the morning, as most visitors would arrive at the park in the afternoon (usually around 11 am - 1 pm). The park would be very crowded in the afternoon.

Well, Luang Prabang might be our last destination for 2017. What's next? We have not decided yet, but, there are a few in our wishlist. We hope you enjoy reading our sharing about Luang Prabang.




Accommodation, Food, Transportation and Shopping in Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang is not a big town. The unique heritage town with French and Laotian architectures were harmonized by green surrounding, fresh air, and slow-paced town life. We would like to share our experience about where to stay, what to eat, transportation and shopping in Luang Prabang.

Accommodation

First, where to stay? Our recommendation- somewhere in vicinity of the Royal Palace Museum. The town would get busier to the south of the Royal Palace Museum with more locals on the streets. Moving to the north into the heritage area, you would find the town get quieter with more tourists roaming around. 

We stayed at Rim Vang Guesthouse (RimVang or Ringvang Guesthouse in some websites). It is located at Ounheun Road, right beside the Royal Palace Museum. From there, we could walk to the night market in 2 minutes. Royal Palace Museum, Vat Mai, entrance of Mount Phousi, morning market, several grocery shops and nice eateries along Mekong River were around 5 minutes away, while Vat Xieng Thong, Vat Visounnarath, and Traditional Art and Ethnology Centre were around 15 - 20 minutes away.

Rim Vang Guesthouse is at the corner unit of a two-storey wooden terrace house.

The guesthouse was well decorated (upper left), with heritage wooden-themed interior design (upper right). The dining area was just in front of the reception counter (lower right). The breakfast was prepared by the owner of the guesthouse. We had free flow eggs, local fruits, home made yogurt and bread, cereal, coffee, tea, and milk. 

Ounheun Road from Mekong riverside. Royal Palace Museum is located at the other side of the road. We can see lush-green Mount Phousi far behind the buildings. The end of the road connects to Sisavangvong Road (the location for the night market).

Food

Eateries are available all around Luang Prabang. We can either take a quick meal at a noodle stall, or a sumptuous dinner at one of the beautiful restaurants beside Mekong River. Road side stalls selling local food and beverages provide wide range of choices to the visitors as well. We like the food in Luang Prabang, very much. The local food were a bit different compared to Thai, Vietnamese, or Cambodian food. Well, let us show our photos.

Top in our list- Lao noodle. We found a nice stall on the edge of the night market, right beside the junction of Kitsalat Road and Sisavangvong Road (upper left). Both khao piet or wet rice strand (upper right), and khao soy or hand cut rice noodle (lower right) were nice. The stall was full with people and we had to queue to get an empty seat. Raw vegetables and special sauces were provided to enhance the taste of the noodles. Like Vietnamese noodle, free flow of raw vegetables were given. Basil leaf was given raw instead of adding into the cooking soup like Cambodian food.


There was another place where we could get nice Lao noddle- a shop nearby Indigo House along Sisavangvong Road (upper right). We tried a few dishes there, including seafood fried noodle (upper right), fried rice with pork (lower right), and noodle soup. 

We could find several nice restaurants beside Mekong River. We tried two of them- Vision File Restaurant at 177 Khem Khong Road was the better one. The best part of Vision File- nicely decorated (upper row)  with nice view along Mekong River (lower right). Anyway, we found mosquitoes around the area. We should bring some insect repellent to avoid the pest.

Mekong River from Vision File Restaurant. We could see people rowing dragon boats, ferries transporting commuters, and fishermen towing their nets along the river.  

Mekong River weed with special sauce (upper left), raw vegetables with minced pork (upper right), sticky rice, which was served in special container (lower right), and Lao-style fried rice were several dishes that we tried at the restaurants. Mekong River weed is a must-try food in Luang Prabang. The weed can be eaten together with sticky rice. 

We tried several dishes at Tamarind Tree Restaurant Mekong. The restaurant was located beside Mekong River, not far from Vision File Restaurant. Stir-fried mushroom in coconut water with seafood was special (upper left), while deep fried pork (upper right), fresh spring roll with peanut sauce (lower right), and Lao salad with egg were just average.

Food district is a narrow street beside Indigo House. It opens from 6 pm till 10:30 pm. We could find several stalls selling fruits, local products such as Mekong River weed, and a few stalls selling roasted fish, chicken, and pork there (upper left). The street was busy (upper right). Taste wise, the roasted food just average (lower right), but the papaya salad was nice. The portion of food in food district was small, with average price of 15,000 - 20,000 Kip per portion.

We found extra-large coconut in Luang Prabang at Vision File (upper left). Lao coffee (upper right) and local orange juice (lower right) are highly recommended. The orange juice was sold at the roadside stalls. 

Transportation

Taking taxi from airport to our hotel nearby the Royal Palace Museum, the fee was fixed at 80,000 Kip. Quite expensive. We used tut-tut for the trip from our hotel back to the airport with 50,000 Kip. We rented a tut-tut to Kuang Si Waterfall with 80,000 Kip. For the rest of our trip, well, we just walked around on foot.

"You don't have to rent a bike, just walk around, why you are in a hurry?" That was what our hotel staff told us. He was right. We found no issue walking around within the old town area.

Luang Prabang International Airport is not far away from the heritage area. However the taxi fee was not cheap. We paid for taxi at the ticketing counter, then went to the waiting area to get a taxi. The process was smooth. The staff at the ticketing counter could speak in English, but not the driver. So we requested the staff to write down our hotel's address in Lao for the driver.

Souvenir and Shopping

The best place for shopping- Luang Prabang night market at Sisavangvong Road. The market was not big, around 100 meters long. Clothes, key chains, fridge magnets, handicrafts, alcoholic drinks, shoes, sandals, snacks, kitchenware, drawings, and decoration items were sold along the night market. 

Bargain? Yes, we could get up to 40 - 50% of discount on some items. We should compare the price of the same or similar item as the price was varied from one stall to another. The market starts daily at 6 pm and closes around 10 pm.

The market is located at Sisavangvong Road, in front of the National Palace Museum.

Stalls at Luang Prabang night market.

Wine brewed with poisonous insects and snakes (upper left), decorative bowls (upper right) and masks (lower right) were some of the items available in the market. Key chains made by metals taken from the arsenals left by U.S. army could be found as well. For the wine, you could actually pay to take just a small cup of them. We bought a few fridge magnets and food from the market.

Morning market is located along the lane behind Vat Mai, which can be accessed via Sisavangvong Road, Khem Khong Road, and Kitsalat Road. The morning market starts at around 5:30 am and closes at around 10:30 am.

Morning market is a place where locals gather to buy their daily needs. There are some souvenirs (upper left) and snacks (upper right) for tourists as well. Local vegetables (lower right) and exotic food such as little maggots can be found as well. Visit the market early is important to avoid hot burning sun. The snacks were quite cheap. We could bargain if we bought in bulk.

D & T Super Market- a place where we could buy imported food and beverages from China, Taiwan, Japan, and Korea, together with Lao coffee, tea and Lao beer under one roof. The supermarket is located some 50 meters from Dara Market. About Dara Market, it was not more than a few rows of  rundown stalls, selling some imported clothes, shoes, and electronic products. Our advice, skip the place.


More about our stories in Luang Prabang are available:



Luang Prabang Old Streets and Temples

Luang Prabang is a small town located at the convergent point of Mekong River Nan Khan River. The town is surrounded by green tropical rain forest, with friendly town folks, quiet and peaceful streets, and slow-paced lifestyle. Unique Laotian-French embedded old streets and well-maintained wooden religious structures are the main attractions that lure thousands of visitors. The area has been inhabited for thousands of years. It was once the capital of Laos, and remained as the royal city until 1975.

We visited Luang Prabang in August. Like others, we were attracted by the well-preserved old streets, but nothing amazed us more than the wooden temples that remain standing for a few hundreds of years. Out of 33 temples around the town, we visited several of them, including Vat Xieng Thong, Vat Mai, Mount Phousi, and Vat Visounnarath, which were famous enough to be mentioned in tourist's guidebook. If you move fast enough, you can finish the town tour in one single day. However, we decided to stay a bit longer to experience the lifestyle of this ancient town. 

Luang Prabang town has three main streets- Khem Khong Street beside Mekong River, Kingkitsarath Street that stretches along Nam Khan River, and Sisavangvong Road, or the main street that locates between these two streets. The town is not big, so the best way to roam around is on foot.  

We can see different types of buildings along the streets- old and very much untouched buildings (upper row), or restored according to their original designs (lower row). 


French style concrete structure (upper left), wooden shops (upper right), the houses which have been resided by generations of locals, and the well-renovated gardens to catch the attention of tourists, all can be found in this old heritage town. It was a great experience to walk along the streets with lines of trees while watching the folks live their life. Well, the town brought us the feeling of walking through the tunnel of time.

With a total population around 24 thousands within the UNESCO Heritage Site, Luang Prabang town was quiet, even with the significant supplement of roaming tourists.

Vat, or temples are scattered around the town. We can see them here and there in along the streets.  These temples are made by wood. Click on the photo for bigger panorama view. 

Vat Xieng Thong is located at the northern side of the town, some 15 minutes walk from the Royal Palace Museum. The white-coloured entrance can be easily spotted from Sakkaline Road (upper left). The architecture of the entrance is different compared to other temples (upper right). There are two other entrances located at Khem Khong Road and Kounxoua Road. We need to pay entrance fee of 20,000 Kip per person. Vat Xieng Thong looks like a beautiful small wooden palace in the middle of a quiet village. The vat is opened to the visitors from 8 am to 5 pm.

Vat Xieng Thong was built in 1560, and remained as a royal temple till 1975. It was the place where the kings were crowned. A monastery for monks was built nearby the temple. The monastery is one of the oldest in Luang Prabang. Click on the photo for bigger panorama view. 

Vat Xieng Thong exhibits typical Laotian fine art and craftsmanship. Click on the photo for bigger panorama view. 

The tree of life is illustrated at the outer wall (upper right), while the inner wall was painted with Buddhism-related stories in gold colour, such as the law of Karma (upper right). There is a royal funeral chapel located opposite of Vat Xieng Thong (lower right). The naga ceremonial barge was used during the funeral of the kings. It is now stored in the funeral chapel. 

 We took a rest at Viewpoint Cafe to enjoy the scenery at the meeting point of two rivers- Mekong and Nam Khan. The cafe was the best place to see the convergence point of these two rivers. The rivers were not big at that meeting point. The view, nothing spectacular. However, we enjoyed the peaceful environment very much. Then, we took 15 minutes to walk to Vat Mai. 


Vat Mai is located beside the Royal Palace Museum. Vat Mai means new temple- not a very appropriate for a temple which was built in 1796. The temple is famous with the drawing on the walls that depict daily life of the locals. The four-tier roof is a traditional Lao architecture. The vat was opened to visitors from 8 am to 5 pm, with entrance fee 10,000 Kip per person.

The front lobby of Vat Mai with well-decorated wall and pillars.

Royal Palace Museum is located beside Wat Mai. There are two other structures in the palace's compound- the Royal Temple and Royal Theater.

Royal Palace Museum was completed in 1909 as the residence of the King Sisavangvong. Bedrooms, living room, dining room, and special rooms used for royal activities were well maintained in their original state. The place brought us the memory of the Independent Palace in Ho Chi Minh City. There is nothing much to see in Royal Palace Museum, but worth a visit. The entrance fee was 30,000 Kip.  The palace operates daily from 8 am to 11 am, and 1:30 pm to 4 pm every day. It is closed on Tuesday afternoon.

The ticketing counter is located on the left side of the entrance (upper left). Royal Ballet Theater is located on the left side of the palace (upper right). The palace is the storage room where we can keep our bags for free. We can't bring our bags into the palace museum. There is a big pond in the compound of the palace museum (lower right). The most striking structure within palace's compound is the royal temple. It is gold-clad and can been seen from the main road. We can get more information about the palace museum at Tourism at Luang Prabang website.

Wat Visounnarath (or Vat Visounnarath) was built by King Visounnarath in 1512. It is in fact the oldest still-in-operation vat in Luang Prabang. However, the temple was burnt to the ground on 1887. The one that we can see today is the not-so-real replica built in 1898. We can see the original Vat Visounnarath via a drawing by Louis Delaporte. Walking from Royal Palace Museum to Vat Visounnarath took us around 15 minutes. Wat Visounnarath was opened to public from 8 am to 5 pm, and the entrance to the compound was free.

The stupa in front of Vat Visounnarath was built in 1515. It was named That Pathoum, or Stupa of the Great Lotus. Now, the stupa is more popularly referred as Watermelon Stupa due to its shape.


Mount Phousi is right in front of Royal Palace Museum. It is just a hill. In order to visit the vat and enjoying the view at the top of the hill, we need to take the challenge- climb the stairs. The ticketing counter is located at the half way up the hill (upper left). For those who dare not continue their trip, they can take a rest under the bodhi tree a few steps away from the counter (upper right). The tree was given by Indian Government as a token of friendship. The stairs looked intimidating, but it was not that scary when we put them under our feet. The entrance fee of the hill was 20,000 Kip, and it was opened to visitors from 5:30 am to 6 pm.

The temple on the top of Mount Phousi.

The view from Mount Phousi towards Nam Khan River.

The view towards Mekong River.

Luang Prabang Traditional Arts and Ethnology Center is located beside Kitsalat Road, around 7-minute walk from Royal Palace. The center consisted of two major rooms with clothes and some traditional tools on display. The entrance fee was 25,000 Kip per person (free for Laos Citizen), and it was indeed quite expensive, compared to the information and exhibits available. We just need to take less than 20 minutes to see everything in the center. But still, we would encourage all to visit the center, as the entrance fee contributes to the development of the ethnics around Luang Prabang. The center operates from 9 am - 6 pm daily, from Tuesday to Sunday. 

Sample of the decorative beads for the visitors to touch. 

Luang Prabang is a small town. If you walk fast, you will finish visiting all the places of interest before sunset. In order to blend in and enjoy the lifestyle of the town folks, we stayed in the town for four days. We stayed in a small guesthouse beside Royal Palace Museum. We spent a day at Kuang Si Water Fall, which was 1 hour away from Luang Prabang heritage area by tut-tut. We will share our experience there, and of course, the food, shopping, transportation, and accommodation in Luang Prabang in our next posts.

More about our stories in Luang Prabang are available: