Two of the main attractions outside the historical town of Luang Prabang are Kuang Si Waterfall and Pak Ou Caves. They can be done on the same day but we chose a more relaxing pace of them on two separate days.
The drive to Kuang Si Waterfall outside of Luang Prabang took about 45 minutes or so through small villages and rice fields and gave us a glimspe of the simplicity and unspoiled beauty here. Kuang Si Waterfall is a three-tier waterfall where the water collects in numerous layered pools as it flows downstream. Unfortunately, we visited towards the end of the rainy season and there was still too much water and sediments to take a dip in the pools. Also we were unable to see the normally turquoise blue pools that are so often featured in travel magazines. But regardless it was a magical place. The name Kuang Si came from Kuang meaning deer and Si meaning dig. Legend has it that a wise old man beckoned the waters by digging into the earth. After the water arrived, a golden deer came and made its home under a protruding rock from under the new waters. On our walk along the trail to the falls, we stopped at the bear sancturaly where Asiatic black bears whose bile is used in Chinese medicine are rescued. They are rescued from a life in cages and can now roam the area and are quite well taken care of.
We were told that there are many other beautiful waterfalls in the area and hopefully when we return someday, we will have time to explore them all. Our next visit outside of town was to Pak Ou Caves. We boarded a longboat from Luang Prabang opposite Wat Xieng Thong for the 2-hour upstream ride along the Mekong river. About hour and a half later, we took a pit stop at a Whiskey Village which is a bit of a tourist trap in my opinion. We arrived in the afternoon when most tourists have already came and gone and the whiskey making demonstrations were finished for the day. We tasted some of the whiskey and wine made from glutinous rice before returning to our longboat to continue to Pak Ou Caves. Pak Ou Caves are made up of 2 limestone caves: Tham Ting, the lower cave, and Tham Theung, the upper cave. Pak Ou translates to “mouth of the Ou river” as it is situated where the Mekong joins the Nam Ou River. This is one of the most respected Buddhists sites in Laos and is packed with about 4,000 or so buddha statues or all sizes and styles. The shrines here are ceremonially cleaned every April and repainted and people also bring their Buddha statues here to be washed in holy water. Worshippers have been coming here for hundreds of years to donate their buddha statues. Tham Theung (upper cave) is larger but less spectacular. It is also completely dark inside so make sure to bring a flashlight or rent one at the entrance. Tham Ting (lower cave) is the one that is visible from the Mekong River and has over 2,500 buddha statues scattered through its interior. Some of these statues date from 300 years ago. The best time to visit Pak Ou caves is around 2pm when many of the tourist tours have left and you can catch the sunset over the Mekong River on your boat ride back to Luang Prabang.
Until next time Laos :)
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