Luang Prabang, Laos – Day 1

June 15, 2016 5:23PM JST

Upon arriving at the hostel, I talked to the receptionist, barely a boy of coming age, around or under 20. I quickly looked through the booklet with options in the area, and also talked with people. I found a couple of people also interested in the tour the next day. Actually, I found two groups of people doing different things. So on the day after I arrived in Luang Prabang, I was determined to join people.

Day 1 was relaxing. Some people woke up very early to see the traditional praying of monks along the street, giving rice to people as prayer. I refused to wake up that early since I have just arrived and needed good sleep. I woke up and joined one of the people I talked before I went to sleep. Most of the people I talked have arrived on that day and most were planning their trip the next day. A group of three men, I supposed, left without me, starting their full-day journey. I remained at the lobby, enjoying the breakfast that came with the stay at the hostel. The couple from Belgium and another girl, Eve, from Malaysia, and I decided to visit the famous Kuang Si Waterfall by Tuktuk. I also talked to David from UK (who was sleeping at the time and I asked him if he wanted to join us; David and I talked into going to the Waterfall together, along with Eve, right after my arrival the previous night) into joining us but he wanted to sleep in and go there at 1PM, which we all came into conclusion that it was too late to go there. After seeing the two scheduled times (11AM and 1PM – the one David wanted to go, lasting 4 hours each until the pick up) that depart from the hostel, we decided to depart at our own time, since the price for the Tuktuk person was not so different when we looked for the tuktuk. After having sandwich for lunch, we gave up after asking for the cheapest price as possible, since all of them were virtually same. We found a Tuktuk whose driver told us that there were others he was waiting and they would come after their lunch. We negotiated with a price significantly lower than the original price he offered. We later realized that he lied about the people as he was obviously asking around and looked for people. Later on, a young family of Chinese consisting of two parents and an infant girl, and a couple from Malta joined us.

The ride was not as rough as we were expecting – it felt quite nice actually, with cool breeze rushing and getting rid of the mad heat. The ride was only about 30 minutes. The road was initially full of houses and changed into woods.

The parking lot was packed with Tuktuks and cars, as well as tourist buses. As we neared the entrance gate, just like any other tourist attractions, it was lined with souvenir shops. Food shops killed me as the smell was too sensitive for me, though I must admit they looked very tasty. Barely able to handle the smell, I quickly walked over with hand coupled on my nose. After quickly explaining that the smell was too strong for me to David and Eve, we quickly bought entrance tickets and entered with excitement.

We first crossed a fenced area with orphaned sun/moon bears. It was a bear rehabilitation centre, called Free the Bears Rescue Centre, with grand thatch. I did not read much or asked for information on where the bears were from or how they became orphans, but I assumed it was probably because hunting and poaching or tragic deaths of their mothers.

As we reached the first part of the waterfalls, I (well, all of us) was surprised with the stunning turquoise-colored water. All of us eventually wondered how the water became such amazing but perfectly pristine and of natural colour. As a travertine (a form of limestone) waterfall, it is very common to have the water to be turquoise. The color is resultant from carrbonate mineral precipitation. Hot spring is one example of such phenemenon.

The first two sections of waterfalls were a part of the actual waterfall. The lowly formed waterfalls flowed from top to bottom at the lower elevation and the water is collected from the top part of the region. The first part of the water chain was prohibited for people entering the water. The second part, however, had people jumping in, though most people just walked by (mostly Asian tourist groups and I would imagine they had limited time and could not swim and simply did not want to swim). We decided to go swim in when we were on our way back.

As we reached farther into the park, there was the main Kuangsi Waterfall, a huge waterfall very similar to the grand waterfalls in Japan. Because I am being to these waterfalls in Japan (there is a list of 100 famous waterfalls in Japan), I wasn’t so tremendously amazed but the visitors were staring the waterfall and talked aloud excitedly, posing pictures together and taking selfies.

The trail did not stop at the waterfall. Eve, two couples, and I decided to go up the waterfall since we had an hour left, after asking a uniformed park employee for an approximate time to take to hike up and down. There were bat caves en route, but sadly, we did not go due to lack of time, as one way to bat caves took 10-20 minutes. Therefore, we took a shortcut and ended up in a section with patches of pond (?) with fallen logs (or artificially placed) placed over the water surface. Not many people climbed as it seemed. The hike itself was not difficult, but rather steep, and it was probably too much for unfit (or zero fit) people. All I saw were young Asians but the only older people were Caucasians. We explored the area and decided there was not much view to see, so we climbed down not soon afterward.

Climbing down was difficult for me as I was wearing wrong shoes and I had knee problem, but nonetheless, I made down, delaying a little after the group.

With about 30 minutes remaining, we quickly jumped into the waterfall after changing into swimming wear in a changing room near the ‘pool’. We posed for pictures while I had a waterproof camera and the couple had a Go Pro. The water was quite warm, just little chilly.

After the swim, we got out of the park and the Tuktuk driver was waiting for us. We got back and relaxed. While everyone relaxed, I looked at the booklet with tour options and booked one full day tour that included elephant ride and visiting Buddhist cave.

Because we arrived a little early, before sunset, we decided to venture to a local bar called Utopia overlooking sunset and have a few drinks and snacks before going off to dinner. David joined us. The bar was recommended by the hostel receptionist and other travellers. The bar was indeed was very well decorated, with western style. The view outside the bar was beautiful as well, with a red bridge as key landmark in the viewpoint. Because all the seats near the view were taken, we sat inside. We were disapppointed that the sunset was on the wrong side when we arrived. We later learned that the location was best for sunrise, instead of sunset. Eve knew that the bar hosted morning yoga sessions and she really wanted to practice yoga so she was determined to go there the following morning at 6AM. The Belgian couple was interested too since they had never tried yoga before. They said they would try and go if they could but they never did and only Eve did go, as I learned the next day.

I went to dinner with the same people plus Dave, who I later learned slept in wholly and did not even go to the waterfall, after all. Dave had Lonely Planet guide and so he suggested a local cheap restaurant and showed us the way. Because it was a little late, about 8PM, we discovered the restaurant was closed when we got there. The restaurant was located off the touristy area so not many people were nearby. Across the street, the temple was bright with lights and I quickly looked at it and joined the group, and everyone else were not interested in seeing the temples as they declared they had seen enough temples during their travel. I admit that the temple had the design that looked exactly like the ones ‘Wat’ in Thailand.

Since that particular restaurant was out of the option, we walked the way we came from and followed Eve since she was familiar with the roads as she was in Luang Prabang one day earlier than me.

At last, we found the restaurant that we were did not mind trying as the price was not so bad for local food and the location was on a major tourist road. Not many people were there. I supposed the reason was because it was not high season.

The restaurant that picked served amazing Lao food with some other cuisine on the menu as well, notably Thai and Vietnamese. Although the food tasted somewhat Chinese, it nevertheless had authentic taste. I wanted to try everyone’s food so I asked the lady of the Belgian couple but she refused, stating that she did not like sharing her food with others. Because I am from Canada and associate with the North Americans, I learned that Europeans are quite different. It seems that there are much less Asian influences in Europe than North America. A great lesson learned, as I felt very bad when I asked the question too boldly. David did not seem to mind though, but maybe it was because he was from UK, which is quite diverse, just like Canada/US.
On our way back to our hostel, we passed night market. The couple said they already toured the market the previous night so they went back to their rooms and relaxed. David, Eve, and I enjoyed touring around the marketplace. Eve was definitely a city girl and took while to shop. I followed her and decided to buy clothing as well, though I did not have to. Throughout the day, I bought two Lao (or typical Southeast Asian textured clothing) pants…while she took a long time to decide the exact texture that she liked. Because I am not a shopper and I don’t like shopping in general, I made my decision very quickly. David, well, as a man, he just followed his own routine and just followed without buying anything.

Excited for the full-day trip, I quickly went to sleep once arriving at my bunk bed.

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