A must see natural wonder near Luang Prabang, Laos is Kuang Si Falls. With its beautiful turqoise waters plummeting down into gorgeous pools, it will remind visitors of the Elvish kingdom of Rivendell in the Lord of the Rings. The comparison will not last long because Laos is freaking hot. I do not remember seeing Bilbo or Boromir in a swimming suit.
Where to find a Kuang Si Falls tour in Luang Prabang
The question should be more like where can I not find a Kuang Si Falls tour in Luang Prabang. Tour packages and tour options to visit the falls are omnipotent. You can purchase the tour at your hotel, at a tour agency, from passing moto-bike drivers, at the market, at a bar, and many more places. It is not difficult to find a tour to see Kuang Si Falls as it is the most popular tourist option outside of Luang Prabang.
I stayed at Villa Mahasok on Kingkitsalat Road. I walked toward the river and soon found a travel agency near the market. Arriving in a pool of sweat, I booked the tour for a half day for around $30.00. In retrospect, I feel the half day was the perfect amount of time to spend at the falls.
Meet at the travel agency
The next day, I returned to the travel agency and soon a van came and picked me up. We made the rounds around town picking up other travelers, and soon bounced are way on the bumpy road to Kuang Si Falls. It took about a half hour to get there.
Park entrance and trail to the falls
Our driver told us to be back in three hours and then let us go. There is a paved trail up to the waterfall that took about 15 minutes. The upper falls are spectacular. A bridge crosses the upper pool right in front of the waterfall, so that is a great place to take pictures. There is also a clearing to the left, which is great for photos.
There was a trail that went up some stairs to one side of the falls. I began to follow this trail, but it soon narrowed and went up the mountainside. I did not find any good vantage points to take pictures from up here as it was in the middle of the jungle. It was so hot that I was soon sweating so much, that I lost interest in everything except finding a way into the swimming section.
Find the lower pools for swimming
I stumbled back down the stairs in a humidity stupor looking for a swimming hole like a drunk longs for another gin and tonic. There is a trail that follows the river down the mountainside into a series of turquoise pools. They were all pretty, but I did not care as I thirsted for some cool water all over my body. The first set of pools are off limit to swimming.
Not too far down the trail, I ran into the swimming section of the falls. A gorgeous pool right below a lower waterfall was thronged with people enjoying the cool water. There is a couple of wooden tables for putting backpacks and shirts on, so I put my things there and jumped in.
Swimming in the lower pools
I definitely would recommend coming with a friend and having one person swim while the other person watches personal items. I had my camera and wallet in my backpack, so I was nervous someone might grab it. The likelihood of someone being this bold is pretty slim, but you do not want to put yourself in a position to lose your camera or money while traveling.
I jumped in the pool and was immediately refreshed. I swam toward the lower falls and let the water cascade over my body. The water was surprisingly cool and refreshing despite the intense Laos heat. It was the perfect remedy for the cauldron like temperature. Even though I was visiting in the wet season, it was still insanely hot with mid 90s every day with max humidity.
If you stopped moving for one bit, little fish would nip your feet and flesh. They were harmless, and in fact, some people pay good money to get fish massages. At Kuang Si Falls, the fish massage is free.
What to bring to Kuang Si Falls
Since you can swim in the falls, you definitely want a swimming suit, and footwear that is wearable both on the trail and in the water. You do not need hiking boots unless you are interested in doing some serious trekking on the trails above the waterfall. The trails to the waterfall and along the river are well maintained or even paved.
There are plenty of bathrooms and changing rooms if you want to wear something other than your bathing suit. Other than that, all you really need is your camera, suntan lotion, and some money. There are stalls at the entrance where you can buy drinks, food, and other tourist items.
Picking the right tour
I thought three hours was the perfect time at Kuang Si Falls. There are some tours that stay there longer and some that are shorter. You can also arrange transport in town and go on your own. That way you can leave when you want. I preferred doing the regular tour as there was no haggling or hassle involved and the tour was the perfect time frame for me.