Luang Prabang in Laos
Days 76-78: Jess is a Wanderer flew to Laos to meet some good friends. I met Kye and Paige (from Bristol, UK) in Slovenia in 2016 and they visited me in Egypt earlier this year. Now, the three of us are hanging out in the UNESCO town of Luang Prabang.
After a sleepless night in Kuala Lumpur airport (I was being frugal with accommodation spending so opted for a night on the benches of KLIA2), I arrived at the hostel and almost immediately, we set off to Kuang Si waterfalls. The tuk-tuk cost us 180,000 KIP (less than £20) for a return trip with each way taking just over an hour.
The falls were busy but totally worth bracing the crowds for. A short walk from the first level to the 'top', there are many vantage points and fabulous opportunities for photos. There's also the chance to swim at various points throughout but do pay attention to the signs as some parts are rockier and have a stronger current than others.
At the top, I was literally blown away by what I saw. I've never seen such an impressive waterfall. It was definitely worth the continued walk. We even caught a glimpse of a make-up company doing a photo shoot for a new advertisement. It was hilarious to watch!
Our second day took us to Tad Sae waterfalls. This also cost 180,000KIP to get to, taking just less than an hour each way. Upon arriving at the river, we each paid 10,000KIP (around £1) for a ten minute boat ride to the other side.
On the other side there was an elephant camp where you can ride the creatures (which I don't agree with but that's a story for another day). If you can get past the elephant riding, do persevere into the jungle as the waterfalls are more than magical. It costs 15,000KIP (£1.50) to visit the falls and it's the best £1.50 I've ever spent! And I've spent a lot of £1.50s.
There are three waterfalls set in the jungle. There's a variety of terrain to cover from rocks to mud and even steep slopes that need to be climbed using vines and branches. It was quite the adventure. Good footwear is definitely required. I opted to wear my flip-flops and carry my trainers (I can't explain why I did this?!) which resulted in lots of slips and near-fall-overs!!!
Two hours into the trek and we'd passed Waterfall One and Waterfall Two. We'd also sweated buckets, seen some giant spiders, been caught peeing in the bushes and seen a massive stick-insect. All that was left was the third waterfall. There was a sign informing us that we weren't technically allowed to go any further - but I've always had a rebellious nature and we weren't giving up easily so we proceeded onwards. A fantastic decision as what awaited us around the corner we never could have imagined.
Except, we sort of could have because we could hear how powerful the falls were but couldn't actually see them. In order to see them, we had to climb down a mini waterfall (which I did with about as much elegance as an elephant) and then swim around to the main event (which I screamed about like a baby because the water was so cold). It was incredible. We really genuinely had a brill time and were so glad to have made the extra effort to find the third waterfall.
Day three involved a 5am wake-up call. Each morning, the monks walk the town as part of the Alms ceremony. They collect their food for the day from visitors and locals alike. People purchase sticky rice, biscuits and cakes and kneel down along the roadside. As the monks pass, offerings are collected. The procession is great to see - it's an age-old tradition carried out in silence. The only downside was the mass of terribly ignorant and (sorry to say it) downright rude tourists. It was shameful to see the number of people interrupting the procession to stick a camera in the monks' faces.
One of my favourite things in the whole of Luang Prabang was the night market. The atmosphere was fantastic - people selling homemade crafts and traditional wares. However, the highlight was definitely the food. So much on offer - snacks, main courses, vegetables, meat and all sorts of puddings. I could have spent all evening, every evening sitting and stuffing my face. The prices are all extremely reasonable too. You'd find it difficult to spend £5 and leave feeling hungry! The early morning fruit and vegetable market is also worth a visit just to see all the bustling activities of the local sellers. There are also less tourists around so you can just sort of stand and take it all in.