Kuang Si Waterfall is a beautiful series of dozens of connect pools, many of which you can swim in. It's about 30 minutes drive outside of Luang Prabang. Beautiful blue water, Laotian countryside, surprise sun bears. What more could you want?
Getting transport out to the waterfalls is no problem. Walking around central Luang Prabang you'll get asked if you want to go at least a couple of times a day. Some friends went in the afternoon and said that it was pretty jammed with people. Morning it was then.
We're usually pretty reluctant to go to anything that we get hassled about repeatedly. However our friends assured us that it was actually worth going to. We got chatting to another couple staying at the same place as us who also wanted to visit Kuang Si. They acquired a tuk tuk, we split the cost and we were on our way. As it turned out we weren't going very far though before we stopped and were transferred to a ute/pickup with seats in the back. Apparently the driver is the tuk tuk drivers cousin (naturally) and he would take us.
The drive was scenic and it was nice to see people just going about their business. I can't remember the last time I saw groups of children riding bicycles. In Thailand, bicycles have long since been replaced by scooters. In Australia, they've been replaced by X-Boxes and being driven around by mum. I've officially become an old man reminiscing about the good old days.
Once we arrived our driver waited in the car park area surrounded by food and drink vendors while we went inside. He asked how long we would be and we said an hour although we really had no idea. As a rule of thumb I'd say that an hour and a half would probably be more accurate if you are going to swim.
Entrance to the waterfalls was 20,000 kip each. They are open from 8am to 5pm. Go early to avoid the crowds.
Once inside we realized that there was a free bonus attraction. A sun bear rescue centre is located right next to the falls and there are a number of enclosures and a raised viewing platform from which to observe the bears sleeping, eating and generally being bears.
The waterfalls themselves are pretty spectacular. The water is a beautiful light blue surrounded by jungle. As the system of interconnected pools is so large, provided its not super crowded, its not too difficult to find a spot that you can have all to yourself.
There is a restaurant near the top as well as changing rooms scattered around. It is safe to swim in the water although it is very cold.
You are reminded that Laos is a very conservative country so it pays to dress on the conservative side. I don't think you'll have any issues while actually swimming but once you're out of water cover up. I took my shirt off to swim but dried off and put it back on as soon as I got out.
People congregated around one of the larger, deeper pools. There's an overhanging tree and a length of rope to swing from for the particularly adventurous. Be warned that its not a diving pool and there are rocks in the water. No one hit any with enough force to do any damage but if you jump from the tree you will likely touch the bottom.
Once we'd had a look around and I'd had a swim we wandered back to the car park. Tanya decided against swimming once she realized how cold the water was. From there it was just a short drive back to town. It was a very enjoyable outing.