Luang Prabang is a delightful town, but there are only so many wats you can visit. During our three days in Laos, we took two little side trips out of the city.
Our first outing was to Pak Ou Cave. In my opinion, the best part of the excursion is the 3 hours you spend boating down the Mekong River. The trip starts in Luang Prabang at a street side hut. It’s one of those places that you wouldn’t notice if you weren’t looking for it. We showed up and put our names on a list. After about 20 minutes, Lao men started yelling ticket numbers and were taking groups of 6-8 tourists off to boats. The long boats have a motor attached to them, but some are definitely faster than others. Our boat had chairs which appeared to be ripped from old cars; we settled in and started upstream.
It took about an hour and half to get to the cave. Along the way, we were able to see wats on hillsides, naked children swimming, and fishermen. We stopped for gas, and the boat next to ours pushed off and turned on the engine just as it was next to me. Nasty Mekong water flew into the boat and splashed onto me. I immediately thought of a terrifying documentary I saw in college about river parasites that got into this woman’s eye and how she could see a worm crawling across her vision. Obviously, nothing that bad happened to me, so we will just count it as a happy edition to my immunity. Along our boat ride, we stopped at a little tourist trap called the Whiskey Village. They made local whiskey with a variety of snakes and scorpions in the bottle, but I was much more intrigued by the women using ancient looms to weave cloth.
The cave has two sections, though neither are very deep or exciting as caves themselves. The draw of the Pak Ou Cave is that it is filled with Buddha statues, almost every flat surface has a plethora of Buddhas in various sizes. On it’s own, it’s nice but not really the most exciting attraction.
Our second excursion was to the Kuang Si Waterfall, the largest waterfall in Laos. We hired a tuk tuk to take take (haha, I never get tired of that joke) us the hour there and back. We went through a checkpoint (Oh yeah, we’re in a Communist country, aren’t we?), and just enjoyed seeing the countryside. The waterfall is in a park, so we had to pay an entrance fee. The walk leading to the waterfall passes by a bear rescue habitat and several small cascading pools. The walkway goes through a forest that is full of enormous trees and plants, which I found impossible to capture the beauty of in a picture. I actually enjoyed these little pools far more than the waterfall. I’ve seen several waterfalls, and they are always nice, but I really haven’t seen anything like these pools before. The water was a shocking turquoise color, and looked so refreshing. We walked to the falls, and decided not to hike to the top of the falls. While Jared took pictures, Stephanie and I decided to try swimming in the pools. ICE COLD. We swam through some deeper water before finding some rocks with only an inch of water on them, and sat down to enjoy watching others. Jared joined us and we explored different pools for awhile before meeting up with our tuk tuk driver who took took us back to Luang Prabang.
Of the two, I’d say Kuang Si was my favorite, but I think both excursions are worth the time in Laos. Get there!