Laos: Kuang Si Falls & Late Night Tuk Tuks

There is supposed to be a beautiful waterfall half an hour outside Luang Prabang so we decide that today is a good day to go see it. We couldn’t get a hold of the boys this morning, who are staying at a different hostel, so after a quick breakfast we find a tuk tuk to take us out to the waterfall, and ask him to make a stop at the boys’ hostel to see if we can find them. Our driver agrees to stop, acknowledges that he knows what hostel we’re asking him to go to, and somehow still manages to ignore what we asked and just drives us straight to the waterfall without the boys. Thanks bro.
The drive is long and takes us around many hairpin turns, through a gorgeous country side with green mountains all around us. When we make it to the national park, we walk another 20 minutes up through a trail in the forest to reach the falls. Along the way there are lots of mini-waterfalls and a couple swimming areas. We walk up to one swimming spot and find the boys already there, jumping off waterfalls and swinging from hanging ropes into the pool of icy blue water. It looks similar to the Blue Lagoon in Iceland with its opaqueness, but it’s much much colder here. We all get in the water, which really is just absolutely freezing, but it’s refreshing in comparison to the constant humidity I’ve become accustomed to. There are small fish that are invisible beneath the surface, who nibble on my feet without my consent. It’s very uncomfortable and I hate fish but I do my best to keep moving my toes and pretend it isn’t happening. There’s a small waterfall in the swimming area where the pool below is deep enough to jump into. I am SO terrified but I do it anyway, I jump. We try to use my waterproof camera to get a picture, but the sun is a little too bright and the lens is clouded with water droplets. Some of the pictures do turn out okay though, which I’m happy about.

After the swimming area we head up to the main event, Kuang Si falls, which may be the most beautiful one I’ve ever seen. It’s at least 75 feet high, maybe 100, and has numerous levels at which the water pours over rocks down into the icy blue pool below.

We walk back down to our tuk tuk and go back to the hostel. We take a quick shower, and head back out to meet the squad for dinner at 7:30.

We go to the same bar that we were drinking at last night, but this time we get dinner. Ilona and I share a traditional Laos barbecue dinner, which most of us have ordered in some way or another. The restaurant has special tables that open up a hole in the centre where they can put a small cooking device in the middle for everyone to share (not all 14 of us but maybe every 4 people). They bring separate plates of raw meats, vegetables, eggs and glass noodles for us to cook on the barbecue, with spicy peanut sauce for dipping. The whole thing is pretty cool, and it tastes good so that’s what counts.

By the time we’re finished dinner we are approaching the hour at which all the bars close. We go over to a bar called Utopia that allegedly stays open later than all the other bars… by a whopping 30 minutes. It’s a cool bar, on the river with lots of big tables and a beach volley ball court attached to the left of the bar. There’s a big line for beach volley ball so we can’t play but we hang out and get a couple drinks before it closes down. By 11:30 they’re closing and everyone gets kicked out, so we all head over to the bowling alley again. I have no more patience for bowling, especially on a Friday night when it’s SO busy at this after hours place, so I just watch, I don’t play. Late into the night some of us start getting tired so we all go back to our hostels, we plan to drop the boys off first but when we get there we all think it’s a great idea to stay up a little later, and hang out in their common area outside for a while.

Ilona leaves before me to go back to our hotel across the town. By 4am I know I am going to die if I don’t sleep, so we flag down a tuk tuk (which are not as abundant at this hour as I’d like them to be) and ask him to take us to our hotel. He nods, as all tuk tuk drivers do, and acts like he knows where it is. We don’t 100% know the way from their hostel to ours, but it becomes pretty obvious that neither does our driver, which is kinda the important part. He keeps pulling over at random places on different streets and looking at us like we’ve arrived and… we certainly have not. He doesn’t speak any English at all so we are relying on the fact that the name of our hotel is the same in English as in Laotian. He drives us all around the area but has no clue where he’s going. After all the lefts and rights and u-turns this guy has made, we don’t know anymore either. We try asking some people on the street but no one seems to actually know where this place is. We know that it’s close to the night market so we try asking about that, but no luck. No one understands. At some point the driver pulls over on the side of the most random street, comes around the back of the tuk tuk and motions for us to get out. We’re not at our hostel and don’t know where we are, but he doesn’t care and tries to PULL one of the girls out of the tuk tuk. Then he has the audacity to start asking us for money…not cool. I tell him there’s no way in hell we’re paying anyone to drive us around, making us lost in the dark of a strange city at 4:30 in the morning. He doesn’t understand, we’re just yelling at each other in two different languages, but he eventually gives up, gets back in his car, and drives off. We still don’t know where we are and at this point we’re exhausted. The streets are dead, so we just start walking off into whatever direction we think the hotel might be.

From a rare passing tuk tuk, I hear a voice call out, “how am I actually seeing you guys right now?!”. It’s none other than my Errrona, who had the same problem we did trying to get home. We are SO lucky to have found each other or god knows where and when we would have arrived at our hostel. We get in Ilona’s tuk tuk who says he knows where our hotel is…which is a lie because he does not, and pulls the same driving around in circles game for 10 minutes. It’s a nightmare. This is my eternal hell. Stuck on the streets of Laos driving around in circles until I die. Which feels like it could be any minute if I don’t get some sleep. This driver is better than the last because he at least manages to find someone who DOES know where we’re going. We finally get back, safe and sound, by 5am. People are literally coming outside with baskets of food for the monks by the time we are arriving at our door.

For those of you who don’t know, monks rely on the kindness of others to feed them. They do not value money and therefore have no way of buying any goods, so every morning at 6am families and shop keepers will come out to the streets offering whatever they can spare for the monks in town. It’s a beautiful, generous practice that I find really interesting. I have only learned a bit about it in my short time here but I do plan on finding out more, and maybe getting up early one morning to offer them food myself. 

No more late night tuk tuks for me.

Next time, I think I’ll just sleep on the ground under the pool table at the boys’ hostel.  Much easier.

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