The Kuang Si Waterfalls quickly turned out to be the day trip of choice in Luang Prabang. There was an option for another waterfall, a cave full of Buddha statues, and a mahout (elephant rider) course that I was curious about, but I figured I could do that in Thailand (…haha).
The catch with the Kuang Si Waterfalls trip was that you wanted to get a group of about 5 people together so that you could get a favorable price with the tuk tuk driver. It was day 2 in Luang Prabang and I was 0 for 2 on this score: the friend I had made on the bus from Vientiane had made alternative transportation arrangements, and the odd Spanish fellow from Si Phan Don was interested but non-committal.
So I was eating breakfast at my hostel, mulling over this problem when I struck up a random conversation with the person sharing my table and eating breakfast with me. He turned out to be Korean and we had a rapid fire Korean conversation in which I learned that his name was Kim. Yes, like 60% of Koreans. So for the rest of this article, we’ll refer to him as the Korean Beefcake, as a tribute to his excellent guns. Yeah, sorry ladies, I have no pics. We later learned that the Korean Beefcake wanted to be a Navy SEAL, which sounded like a great fit for him except for the sticky part where he wasn’t an American citizen.
Perhaps more importantly for the purposes of this story, the Korean Beefcake wanted to go to Kuang Si Waterfalls and was also looking for people to go with. We instantly teamed up and hatched a plan to find 3 other people for our trip.
By lunchtime, the Korean Beefcake had found K and R in his dorm room and convinced them to join us. K and R do not get nicknames, but do get plenty of bonus points for being a pair of fantastic people hailing from Vancouver, Canada in the Pacific Northwest. That is pretty much the easiest way to get on the shortlist of “People Cat Instantly Likes,” right after “being an adorable baby with huge eyes.”
We were saved from having to find a fifth person by finding, instead, a tuk tuk driver who had already contracted his services to a gaggle of Korean girls who were also going to Kuang Si Waterfalls. The boys agreed to pay 50,000LAK per person for which I gave them a LOOK. At four people, we had the bargaining power in the situation and the tuk tuk driver dropped down to 40,000LAK easily. Perhaps a little too easily, we could’ve pushed him for more.*
Anyway, the bargaining gods appeased with this little tidbit, we all piled into the tuk tuk with the Korean girls. The Korean girls didn’t speak much English so I was left with the boys for company. Terrible, I know. The tuk tuk driver seemed quite used to spiriting a pack of party-crazed 20-somethings because he was ready with the Laotian dance clubs jams. We’re talking about bass-thumping, deafness-inducing music… that was strangely reminiscent of mariachi bands.
The tuk tuk driver also helpfully warned us that, with the impending Laos New Year, there was a high chance we would get targeted by locals with water guns we met along the way. We carefully packed up our electronics in plastic bags so that they wouldn’t get wet. He would also helpfully slow down for the locals so that they could get a clear shot at us in the back of his open-air tuk tuk. Smh.
We arrived at the site of the waterfalls in time for lunch. The Korean girls split off to do their own thing, while the boys and I decided to climb to the top of the falls. Nobody warned us about how tough it would be, the only “steps” available being little indents in the side of a muddy, minimally-sloped climb. The Korean Beefcake, of course, tackled this like it was nothing, while the rest of us struggled with our bottles of beer and barely adequate flip flops. I had to ask him to wait for us a few times. We did make it up and then down, and the view of the falls and its surroundings from that angle was well worth it.
(Photo credit: Karsten)
We celebrated by heading further down the falls, trying to find an adequate place to swim. There were a few spots and we tried all of them; my favorite was a large open area that had a tree everyone climbed and jumped from. It was daunting to look at how far you had to go, but taller people were jumping without too much damage, perhaps a brush of the bum against the bottom of the pool. Each person in my group managed at least one jump, though the Korean Beefcake enjoyed it so much he did several and would later surface some distance away looking like a very pleased puppy. Seriously, the Navy SEALs should help him out with that citizenship question.
(Hopefully I can post video here soon…)
Our tuk tuk driver gave us four healthy hours at the falls, at which point we met back up with the Korean girls and piled back into the tuk tuk for the ride home. We barely got out of the parking lot when the locals deluged us in a surprise attack– what was even the point of putting my shirt back on?! We spent the rest of the trip back to Luang Prabang, vigilantly on the look out for water guns and buckets. (Sadly, we had no water guns with which to retaliate.) We managed to escape a few, teasing them about not having the water loaded… but mostly, they got us. They got us good.
[This post was originally published on May 27, 2015. It has been backdated for the sake of tidier, chronological organization.]