The Kuang Si Waterfalls near Luang Prabang (32 K or 20 miles south of LP) are quite possibly the most beautiful natural setting in the country, if not the region.* The long, windy hour-long-ish journey from Luang Prabang is serene and scenic in and of itself.
Caveat: This is a photo-dominate post! I feel it’s best to let the images speak for themselves!
Once at the falls (entry cost: 30,000 kip), a paved road takes you through lush, verdant jungle. The flora and fauna express the most vibrant color palette.
Side note: There is also a Bear Rescue Center at Tat Kuang Si. I will cover this very important project in a separate post.
The picturesque, multi-tiered waterfall tumbles over limestone rock formations into crystalline jade and turquoise-colored pools. The encroaching, wild jungle completes the look and feel of being in an untouched oasis.
A trail ascends along side the waterfalls to a an idyllic second tier with a pristine swimming hole. According to my Lonely Planet book, this area is usually fairly private, save for thousands of butterflies (we didn’t hike very far up the trail).
The main cascade is 60 meters (200 feet) high. Tat Kuang Si is apparently a typical tavertine waterfall (more on this in a bit).
I’m not sure why I want to keep using the TripAdvisor reference, but Tat Kuang Si ranks #2 of 29 sites to see in/near Luang Prabang (see the list and reviews here). I also found this blog post that mentions Tat Kuang Si by Many Moon Honeymoom, reposted by Lonely Planet’s blog.
How Are Those Pools so Green?!
The preternatural aqua-turquoise-jade shades of Tat Kuang Si’s pools can be easily explained by geology. Back to that above-mentioned term, Travertine falls….
Travertine is a form of limestone deposited by mineral springs, often having a concentric or fibrous appearance, and is formed by a process of rapid precipitation of calcium carbonate. The rich blue-green water hue emanates from light reflecting through the high levels of calcium carbonate deposits in the water.
Travertine formations occur in white, tan and cream-colored varieties. They are familiar to me. I saw the white travertine terrace in Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone. However, what I was most reminded of at Tat Kuang Si was a place I’ve never visited but have seen countless photos of: Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia.
Warning: Photo Overload
I did mention at the beginning of this post that I went a little heavy on the photos, right? I just couldn’t help myself. I loved this spot THAT much, and I want you to love it too! I want you to read this post, see these photos, and immediately book a flight to Laos because you want to go there that badly! OK, so I know that’s an unrealistic goal, but at least put it on your short list of places to see, will ya?
I love that these emerald pools are surrounded by lush jungle. It almost seems like it was professionally landscaped (kind of like the hot springs at Arenal in Costa Rica)!
A Bug’s Life
Just to mix it up a bit, here are a few macro insect shots…
Come for the Falls, Stay for the Pools
To me, the highlight of Tat Kuang Si was not necessarily the stunning, three-tiered waterfalls. I was most impressed by the geological travertine layout of the cascading turquoise pools amidst the lush jungle fauna. I think I easily could have spent the day there, swimming, picnicking, and relaxing with a book or some friends. Plenty of people seemed to be doing just that, but we didn’t really have the time budgeted to spend more than a couple of hours there.
There’s Even a Rope Swing!
I mean, come on!! Why didn’t I bring my swimsuit? Oh, that’s right. I was told that I couldn’t wear a swimsuit without covering up with a shirt. Hmmm, I did see plenty of women in bikinis. Cultural faux paux? Maybe. (In Southeast Asia, it is considered rude to bear shoulders and knees). Should I have gone for it anyway? Probably.
I just settled for snapping photos of my friends enjoying a swim instead.
Tips and Takeaways
- If you’ve never been to Laos, Go. Just do it!
- Make it a point to visit Kuang Si Waterfalls.
- Make it a point to spend at least half a day there.
- Bring a bathing suit. Don’t listen to anyone who says you can’t swim in a bikini (But bring an extra shirt to wear over your suit in case you feel uncomfortable). If you’re a dude, bring an extra shirt, too. I would say it was about half and half, modesty vs. immodesty. When in doubt, air on the side of cultural sensitivity!
Thanks for stopping by!
*This statement is completely subjective, and I do not claim to have seen Laos or other countries in the region in their entirety.